Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Calling All Social Workers!

I came across this poem the other day and had a strong reaction to it... I'd love for my fellow social workers (and any other followers!) to read it and tell me what YOUR reactions to it are... mine will be coming soon!

What do Social Workers Make?
(based on "What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali )
by Regina Brett

Social workers, like most teachers, don't make much.
Or do they?

What do they make?
They make an infertile couple celebrate a lifetime of Mother's Days andFather's Days by helping them adopt a crack baby no one else wanted.
They make a child fall asleep every night with out fear of this father's fist.
They make a homeless veteran feel at home in the world.
They make a teenager decide to stop cutting herself.
They make a beaten woman find the courage to leave her abuser for good.
They make a boy with Down's syndrome feel like the smartest kid on thebus.

What do they make?
They make a 10-year-old believe that he is loved and wanted, regardless of long he lasts in the next foster home.
They make a teen father count to 10 and leave the room so he won't shake his newborn son.
They make a man with schizophrenia see past his demons.
They make a rape victim talk about it for the first time in years.
They make an ex-convict put down the bottle and hold down a job.

What do they make?
They make a couple communicate so well they decide not to get divorced.
They make a dying cancer patient make peace with her past, with her brief future, with her God. They make the old man whose wife has Alzheimer's cherish the good times, when she still remembered him.
They make forgotten people feel cherished, ugly people feel beautiful,confused people feel understood, broken people feel whole.

What do they make?
They make more than most people will ever make.

Feel free to tell me if you don't want your comment published - I just want your opinions! :D


  1. i loved it..sometime we see nothing but the crap of our jobs it is hard to see the good we do..i love being reminded of the positives in the face of a 16 year old who finds out he is being adopted by the family he has grown to love or the pure joy and excitement that is in the face of a family who is successfully reunified.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I will be sure to refer to it when I feel jaded or burned out.

  3. now i want to go back to school ;) become a social worker!

  4. I think we often forget this -- thanks for the reminder!!!

  5. That is really nice, and very true. I just think people also need to be able to make their house payments too. Social work is one of the most undervalued jobs in this society and is waaaaaaay under teachers both salary and respect-wise. JMO.

  6. I didn't like it at all... I almost stopped reading at the "crack baby" part.

    My problem is that I think the attitude of the poem maintains a system in which social workers, who are predominantly women, are expected to exchange tangible financial reward for intangible emotional reward. Women in general are expected to make this trade-off in a way that men are not. And that's the main reason so many social workers burn out and the turnover rate is so high... because intangible rewards will run out at some point. This exchange system doesn't benefit social workers, and it doesn't benefit they people they are trying to help.

    Let's say I had a choice between dealing with these two social workers:

    A) Has a normal, human amount of empathy but doesn't get a big emotional reward out of doing her job. In it for the paycheck. Puts out average effort. Does mediocre-to-good work. Is paid highly, acts professionally, and is expected to conform to a standard. Has done the same thing for at least a decade and expects to stay in the same career.

    B) Passionate. Superhuman empathy. Loves her job. Doesn't have much experience. Goes above and beyond for everyone she is helping, and accomplishes great things... but gets increasingly disappointed by the ones she can't save, or that won't listen to her. Burns out when she stops feeling the passion. Quits halfway through my case.

    I would pick A) in a heartbeat.

    I know there are social workers who combine all qualities: experienced, passionate, professional, stable. I just think they're very rare.

    This may be a somewhat counterintuitive perspective, but I hold it because the current system is deeply flawed, and it's going to stay flawed as long as social work keeps chewing up idealistic young women and spitting them out. I think you need idealism and passion to start off with but there has to be something else as well.

  7. That can be true....I've seen both sides now, though.

    And, at bottom....even when the good things happen.....you realize "she was paid for doing that".

    Can you tell I have hit the limit of visits with our Family Counselor? Can you tell I am realizing that we WEREN'T friends; she is NOT really "there" for me, that everything might NOT be all right, that I DON'T always have someone to talk to...etc. There are limits, even at the best of times.

  8. atlasien said she'd rather have the uninvolved professional... We had both - in fact, I wondered how so many social workers could be chewed up and spit out (or whatever happened to them). But, it was vastly better to have someone who listened and who understood and then disappeared than someone who clearly didn't listen, didn't care, didn't know who we were.... They are the ones who make me doubt if we want to be foster parents again.

    And as far as being "paid" in something other than money - the same can certainly be said of teachers, childcare workers and other typically "feminine" professions - but also of police officers, parole officers, fire fighters and other typically male professions, too.

  9. "They make a dying cancer patient make peace with her past, with her brief future, with her God. They make the old man whose wife has Alzheimer's cherish the good times, when she still remembered him."

    A Cliff notes version of my job but touching nonetheless.

    "They make forgotten people feel cherished, ugly people feel beautiful,confused people feel understood, broken people feel whole."

    That is what I strive for every day. I think when this job becomes just a job, it's time to find a new calling. Thanks for sharing this.

  10. I have mixed feelings because it seems to be putting the social worker at the point of the person 'making the change' when really the process should be not about beneficience but rather enabling and empowering people to make the changes for themselves. In that way I share some of atlasien's concerns.
    Of course, it's always nice to be appreciated but in some ways I think it is more setting the profession up for a fall. After all, what is a good social worker? Empathy and compassion definitely, but also confidence, effectiveness and skills in advocating. This seems to emphasise the 'fluffiness' a bit too much but then, I'm used to battling with my own agency and managers 'behind the scenes'. Of course, I know there's such a thing as poetic licence but it seems a bit too head-in-the-clouds and doesn't really reflect reality. Now, there's another point of whether 'reality' is ever the purpose of the poet!
    But it seems to place the social worker in the position of the angel. That's a hell of a high pedestal to be knocked down from and it's awfully giddy standing up there when there are people with basket fulls of rotten fruit waiting to throw up at us!

  11. Being the "jaded" soul that I am, I don't believe I make that much difference. I believe the people I work with either chose to make changes or don't. I just point to a window of opportunity. I do think that social workers should get more recognition than they do simply because we work hard whether we're type "A", "B" or a combination of both social worker. I hope I'm a combination of both A and B, but I suspect I lean more towards being the "A" type of worker. I do invest myself completely in what I'm doing at that moment, but I do that in every aspect of my life. In my case, I think that comes from losing my mother to a violent crime at a time when we weren't being very kind to one another.
    So while I try to be emotionally invested, I don't hold many illusions about "what I do". I certainly don't mind setting professional boundaries that help protect ME.(Please don't call every single day with issues you are completely capable of resolving and especially not during Sunday breakfast etc). I think it's very tough for anyone in the social work profession to find a balance that works for them. That's why we have supervision LoL. As to the poem, I liken it to chain mail, some people will be touched by it, print it, frame it, some will simply delete it. I'd fall in the delete category, but at the same time, think it's nice to attempt to recognize one another.

  12. This was beautiful... Thank you, Thank you... :-)

  13. I said I leaned toward type "a", but meant "b" just to clarify. I'm a dork.

  14. I too almost stopped reading at "crack baby" What sticks with me about being a social worker is something on a pin my prof gave me in undergrad "Social Workers help others help themselves"


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