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!


Emily said...

Wow, Lisa! What a month/week! It's about time all that stress came to the surface...about 4 months after I moved to Oregon to be a VISTA is when the same thing happened to me. My whole outlook changed after that, though. Sounds like you are lucky enough to have some supportive co-workers. I have been thinking about you a lot lately. Post some pics of your new haircut and your car and you and your mama when she gets there. Love and miss you...Em

T said...


Thanks for sharing!!! I am a Social Worker in the United States who is also seeking employment in Croydon, Egland United Kingdom doing the exact same thing as yourself. I have a daughter and a dog who will be coming with me. I have a mixture of emotions. I hope that I will be able to take the pressure when emotions "come down" on me. Thanks for forewarning me. I'm sure that this will be quite an experience!!! Take care.