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A snippet of what it means to be a social worker

28 September 2005

National Social Workers Day – what it means to be a social worker

Today is the second National Social Workers Day. Child, Youth and Family employs over 1150 front line social workers. Below is a short article about the role.


A snippet of what it means to be a social worker

By Shannon Pakura, General Manager Service Development
Child, Youth and Family

Imagine this:

“I had little success in reaching the client by phone. When I finally did, the mother told me ‘f**k off—I’m sick of ‘all you people’ ringing up.’ I can’t say that my feelings weren’t hurt, but it’s all part of the job.” This is the reality of social work.

Dealing with the darker side of society can be an anguishing and thankless job. Social workers see the painful and deep-seated realities of danger, violence, emotion, anger, substance abuse, and poverty—just some of the myriad of issues that impact on families. Despite the complicated nature of these problems, social workers are expected to make critical life decisions, often with scant information, sometimes in high-risk situations, and under extreme time pressure.

Over the past two decades, social work has been the subject of much public criticism and blamed when tragedies occur. Sadly, social workers receive minimal acknowledgement for the thousands and thousands of times they make a positive difference to children and young people. These cases largely go unnoticed.

Get it wrong and it can be all over the media. Get it right and usually few but those involved notice.

So why do social workers continue to turn up at their workstations every day?

Hope.

As social workers, hope is our stock in trade. It’s about believing you can effect change in your life. Hope isn’t a passive state; it requires energy and a commitment to yourself. It’s faith in a better future. Hope is a drive to set a goal and see it become a reality. Without it, we cannot promote change.

People can and do change—we see it happen every day. Every individual, every family, and every community offers an array of talents and wisdom that form the foundation of change. Social workers must unlock these attributes and build strength in the family, drawing upon their own stock of personal resources to enable change in others. Their own strengths and coping mechanisms develop and become stronger as they gain confidence in dealing with difficult situations.

Resilience and hope are both a social worker’s tools to empower others and the means by which we realise our own professional hopes.

A strong sense of hope does not negate the harsh realities a social worker must face. But however harsh the present is, the future can still be what one makes of it. Because social work can make a contribution to defining the kind of society we live in, it must by definition maintain a level of optimism. That in itself is heroic.

ENDS

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