Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It wasn't easy, but I have a car!

I found a car on our bulletin board at work! It's an F Reg (89) Honda Civic and it's an automatic gearbox (transmission). I went and looked at the car Saturday, April 16 and bought it that day. But, I did not have insurance yet and the car didn't have Road Tax so I had to get all that set up before I could actually drive it home. I tried to set up the insurance that day but had to make a deposit with a credit card to set up the payments. Since the UK banks will not let me have a credit or debit card here yet, I had to sort that through my American account. I got that taken care of and then had to get my road tax. Road Tax is essentially equivalent to registration costs and covers road improvements, etc. The registration plates on a car typically stay with the car here and change owners, so it always has the same registration number. I tried to get my road tax sorted after work that following Tuesday and planned to pick up the car that evening. However, when I went to the post office to get my sticker and pay the tax I was told, "Sorry, love, you have to go to the DVLA (aka DMV) in Birmingham to get your road tax." The reason was the previous owner had the title registered under a disabled class and I could only get it changed in Birmingham. My supervisor agreed to give me the afternoon Thursday and got me to the train station to head to the DVLA in Birmingham. The DVLA in England is basically just like your local DMV back home! You take a number and wait for what seems to be an excessively long time given there is only about fifteen people sitting in the waiting area. I even had the pleasure of observing an irate customer inappropriately take out his frustrations on the worker who was assisting him, just like the DMV back home! Once I got to the counter, it was quick and easy and I had my road tax (It's the white label on my windshield). I picked up the car the next Friday evening. I drove quite a bit over the weekend and cheered out loud when I survived my first ring road. Then came Monday morning (two days before Mom arrives)....I had spent Sunday afternoon on the motorways to gain comfort for when I picked mom up on Wednesday morning and was feeling good. Monday morning, as I got in my car to go to work, I pulled the choke (manual level to assist with gas flow when starting the car) apparently too far out and it stuck! Worried I would flood the engine, I stopped the car and managed to push the choke back in. Once it was in, it wouldn't come back out! After freaking out a little I managed to make it to work a half hour late and then one of my co-workers followed me to the mechanics. I had had the car for just over 48 hours and was already taking it to the shop! Such is my car karma!!! It appears I did not have a good understanding of how to use the choke appropriately and it may have been my fault. But, it is now fixed and although I wasn't able to pick mom up from the airport, at least I'll have the rest of the time she is here to frighten her on the roads!

His name is Rusty!
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A week of ups and downs

It's been awhile so I thought I should let ya'll know what I've been up to. This has been a weird month...It's gone by fast yet I have been counting the days until Mamasita gets here on the 27th. I am now on Duty by myself and my manager put me on twice a week in order to help me get used to being on my own. In addition to being front line twice a week, I have somehow ended up being the back-up duty worker once or twice a week as well. So, as you can imagine, the responsibilities of Duty have dominated my working life this month. My manager is purposely maintaining my caseload due to all this time on duty, but any child protection investigations that come in while I'm on likely become allocated to me. Last Monday (11.04.05) I received a referral from a school that a little girl had said her mom had strangled her and she had some slight marks on her neck. From then on the investigation was mine and my week went chaotic. I had to do a joint investigation with the police as part of the UK's "Working Together" policies. The problem sometimes with "working together" is that social services and the police have very different procedures and ideas about what should happen. It was clear, I felt, after some investigation that the mother did not intend deliberate harm and it was an isolated incident. The kind of situation that would warrant some sort of safety plan and maybe a few supports, but I did not see a need to remove and I did not think the evidence validated taking it to conference. The police (FPU) felt differently. They felt that the children should be removed until the children could be best evidenced interviewed (video taped interview by an officer) and more investigation could be done. They encouraged and it was decided that the children would go to their grandparents' home for the time being. The children were so emotionally distraught that it was clear there was an attachment with their mother so strong that it would be more of a disservice to the "best interest of the child" to remove them than to let them stay. There was no relative assessment done on the home they went to, only a background check of the adults in the household! I voiced my discomfort with these actions and my manager agreed but it was overruled by FPU. The children are now home but the family is, reasonably so, very unhappy with the way things went down. My intention is to try and resolve and assist the family as best I can and to close....Police are saying they want to go to conference. Here's the kicker: I learned after the fact that essentially the parents let their children go to their grandparents' voluntarily and they had the right to refuse. If they did and the police really wanted to remove they could have placed a Police Protection Order (PPO), but I doubt they would put forth such effort with this situation. The family could have also refused to allow their children to be interviewed. Now I know, but at what cost to these children who now see social services and police as a threat, not as services that can support their safety and well being.

Don't get me wrong, I have had some great experiences collaborating with the police department here. I feel this occasion was no different, the officer I worked with was friendly (to me) and professional and was doing what her protocols called for. What I have a problem with is where those protocols clash with the best interest of the child involved. Where do we find the balance between covering our ass to avoid another Victoria Climbe and continuing to see the strengths in families and remembering that incidents happen? One incident doesn't mean that the children are necessarily at long-term significant risk.

I'm not sure if it was the stress of all this or just the fact that I have finally gotten settled enough to let the emotions come to the surface, but by Thursday last week I lost it. After getting off the bus in the wrong place and walking for about 45 minutes Thursday morning in attempt to find a school to meet with a teacher of one of my other clients-leaving me in a completely unfamiliar area about a mile (at least) from where I should be, I eventually gave up and found my way to the office. Once I sat down, I lost it...All the stress of the last four months of moving, setting up house, orienting to a new job/home/people/country hit the surface. Fortunately, I have some supportive people on my team who realized a good cup of tea and delivery of greasy comfort food were in order! And then Jackie took me shopping Friday!

The week continued to end on a good note, though. I spent a late night at the Robin Hood Friday night, bought a car (more details to come) and got a fresh new haircut!