Friday, November 20, 2009

Questions and Answers: Part 4

Seriously, you guys are so awesome! I would NOT have made it this far through NaBlPoMo without you!! Keep the questions coming!

Question 4: What types of people make poor social workers?

Tricky one! It also depends on the field of social work - so, I can really only speak to child welfare and mental health/therapy. I'd say the people that make the worst kind of social workers are those that are judgemental. I know that no one likes to admit that they are, but I'd tell anyone going into the field to examine themselves VERY CLOSELY and be brutally honest with themselves.

If you can not imagine what would drive a parent to hit their child, or shake their baby, or go back to their abusive husband, or have 6 kids when they have no job.... then child welfare just may not be for you. These people do not need your judgement - they need someone who can understand how they got to this place... and someone who can work with them to move out of it.

As far as working with children in foster care - I'd honestly say that one of my pet peeves is when I see a social worker who is afraid of the kids. These kids need someone who is not going to be afraid of the kids and their feelings or behavior. I have seen people who really truly LOVE children... completely fall apart around foster children.

These kids (understandably!) have some pretty huge feelings - and they need someone who doesn't try to "talk them out of" those emotions. Too often people tell children "it will be okay" or deliver platitudes that really serve to make the adult feel better - but they don't usually help the child deal with their feelings about the situation. Also, many children in foster care display behavior that is out of the norm for other children their age. I'm not even referring to children who are aggressive. But they have usually heard and will repeat offensive language, don't know appropriate boundaries, and a myriad of other things that will rip your heart out. But they don't need a social worker who just wants to take them all home and make it better.

For mental health/therapy - I'd say that impatient personality types may not fare very well. Therapy is a sloooooww process for most people. It requires a lot of baby steps, backwards steps, and no steps (days/weeks/months where your client can't even GET TO therapy!) - and it is completely out of the therapist's control. This is the client's journey - not the therapist's.

Also, I'd say the best therapists are ones that can tolerate just being with their clients during some really intense, negative moments. Sometimes, clients need to know that you can sit with them and just BE with their emotions. It is not comfortable for the person feeling them, but they need someone to help them experience them in a safe way - so that they can begin to understand and gain some measure of control over them.

For both positions, I'd say time management and organization are also KEY - and I admit they are not my strong suit! But they are desperately important - social work is an insane job a lot of the time. And as much as we will try to tell you it is all about the 1:1 time with our clients - the documentation IS important for many, many reasons.

These are just some of the bigger issues that I see social workers struggle with (and have had to work out for myself)... but I am sure that other social workers have other things to add! Come on all my SW Bloggy friends - what characteristics are key or personalities that you've noticed don't seem to fare well in YOUR branch of social work?


  1. Therapy is a sloooooww process for most people. It requires a lot of baby steps, backwards steps, and no steps.

    So you mean it's not just me? Or not just a few people, but MOST people? That makes me feel SOOOO much better. Especially now. The baby steps/backwards steps I get, it's the no steps thing that just gets so old, and honestly I thought going so long with it was just me...

  2. Those who don't have their ego in check seem to have problems. Also, those who are rigid and not adaptable.

  3. >> What types of people make poor social workers?

    One who becomes indifferent to the job they do or the feelings of the people they work with.

  4. I wish that the SWs I work with were compassionate. I wish they didn't find it so easy to rip kids out of a place where they feel loved and cared for and have a supportive community, to throw them into a RTC without any particular reason other than convenience. I wish they had more kindness, concern, listening skills.

    I wish they would stay in their job for more than a few months, so they could get to know their clients.

    I wish they'd bother to get to know the people they work with.

    I'm talking about the foster care caseworkers here. It has been one of the worst experiences of my life working with these people.


Join in the conversation! Please leave a comment!