Thursday, April 09, 2009

What lies beneath

I consistently have to remind myself lately to keep an open mind and wait until I hear the full story. I have always believed that you have to hear someone's full story before you can know where they coming from. I don't think you ever "walk in someone's shoes." Each person's journey is individualized not just by what they experience, but how they perceive these experiences. You can do your best to understand and empathize, but never completely feel what that person is feeling or know exactly what they are thinking. But, I have had to remind myself of these beliefs a little more often in the past year because I have had some very difficult children and families come into my working life. Change is not easy in the community I work in, so I have to be careful as the change agent to not get too burnt out or jaded.

I was reminded and reflecting on these beliefs a lot this afternoon. I did an assessment on a new client. He is a kindergartner, cute as can be. I have interacted with him a little already because I already work with a few other kids in his class. One of my first interactions, I was helping the teacher manage him and the class while we had a speaker visiting the entire student body. His adorable big eyes immediately had me, but then I became quickly annoyed by the thumb sucking. I don't know why it bothers me so much, but I am determined to break that habit. If you are in school, you shouldn't be sucking your thumb. Of course, I also realized not knowing the child well this could be some regression for whatever may have occurred in his life. He was also very clingy to me at our first meeting, which was another big red flag for his needs.

This child is the same child I was concerned about in an earlier post relating to my frustrations with CPS. Before I met mom, I felt prepared to be a little more confrontational than usual, try to get the bottom of the child's injuries a few weeks ago. Then mom came in and started talking. She shared with me in detail some of her own history and emotional neglect as a child, due to her mother's alcoholism, her experiences with the child's father of domestic violence and the child's abuse by the father. She shared her goals and it was clear she was working hard, by going to school, working and raising her only child, to create a better life for her child. She seemed so open and honest, I didn't even go there with the questions about the injuries. At that point I think it would have come across as an attack and I could have lost the rapport I seemed to have quickly developed with her. I liked her. Maybe I had the wool pulled over my eyes, but I believe in my insight. I've always been good at reading people and have gotten better through the years as a social worker. I believe this woman does the best she can with the cards she's been dealt.

Here's hoping I am right.


oregonamy1972 said...

It is always difficult to know, for sure, that our instincts are right. But, sometimes that's what you have to work with and trust yourself. I hope you're right, too.

SocialWkr24/7 said...

Such a difficult situation - I know how you feel. It can be so hard to "trust yourself" in this field.

As far as the thumb-sucking goes - don't bring attention to it. Its likely due to anxiety. Just engage him more when he's doing it - the more comfortable he feels, the less he'll need the thumb!