I just thought about how different a typical day in my life would be from someone in a different field of social work than mine. So i thought what’s a typical day in the life of a residential social worker like…. for those in different areas of social work who might wonder!!! Well first of all a day in my life is a blessing and a curse..all in one.
What is residential care one might ask?This is when a social worker works with children or adults who are in an institution such as a children’s home or shelter. This means the child/adult resides there and the programme caters for their accommodation needs as well as all their other basic needs. So im one of those social workers fortunate enough to be office bound and working with children residing on the premises until they can leave care. My particular residential care programme caters for behavior problem children….which makes it all the more interesting and different from someone dealing with regular kids. I shall explain….
So i wake up in the morning, if it is a Monday i cant wait to get to the office because I have no idea what was taking place all weekend. In most cases its chaotic during weekends considering my age group 11-18, yes your adolescents!!!! So i get to the office and before i even get a chance to get my first cup of coffee im greeted with an incident. Two girls absconded over the weekend!!!!*sigh* Now this is a normal occurrence in residential care. When a child absconds they go off the premises without permission and they do not come back. When i first started my first thought would be “are they missing”, “we need to find them”!!!! Until i learnt that these young adults are so eager for freedom that they go out on weekends to have some fun and come back late Monday afternoon. So then I stopped worrying so much about searching for them, but what if one day this is not the case??? What if one day something has in fact happened???
Anyway so i have a discussion with the child care worker on duty and find out what went on during the weekend and all the other details. I take time to read the record book, which contains the record of all the happenings everyday. My task then is to inform all the outside social workers of the absconders that the children are gallivanting around town somewhere and need to be found and brought back( lucky this is not my task, the external social worker has to do it). So then I inform the families and ask them to keep a look out but these children seldom run back to their families. Its usually boyfriends and friends they run to. This takes me about 2 hours to complete (discussion, reading and then phoning around). Lets not forget explaining to the external social worker how the child managed to abscond in the first place…oh joy!!!!they never get that these children ask to take an ïnnocent walk” to the shop and then never come back.
Finally i can have a cup of coffee and get on with the day’s work. My day then consists of ensuring that the children remaining in care are all fine and there is nothing that needs following up ( medical check-ups, school, social work reports, letters to organisations for various things,intake meetings with social workers bringing children who want to be placed). I do this and sort out any loose ends. The phone calls also come in during all this and I have to address the same concerns from schools, external social workers,parents and guardians. And then before you know it its lunch time.
Do i get a lunch time in a children’s home? Yes about 30mins if i leave the premises. But if i do not leave then my lunch hour is filled with phone calls, dealing with any concern a child feels needs attention now and not 30 mins later. If you are present then you are there, deal with it. I don’t complain, i love what i do.
After lunch is probably my best time.., counselling sessions with the girls. This is our bonding time, our time to share the emotional and the good. This is when the tissue box comes for the tears or when we are having quiet sessions drawing or writing how we feel. i love this time. This is when I feel useful to the children i work with, this is when i dig deep and get to the source of why the child is not at home with the parents and deal with whatever feelings come out. Its also when i feel most drained if i cannot do anything to take away one’s sorrow, but sharing always goes a long way. So i can see about three an afternoon, 30 mins-45mins each and the day is done.
This is a typical good day by the way….without the tantrums, without the suicide threats and emergency trips to the hospital, without the fights and having to spend hours breaking them, without the irrational external social workers who come and make decisions for the children that are not in their best interests,without having to answer questions like why did my mother die,without the moods from the teenagers when they are on their period and having to be sworn at.
This is definitely an example of a good day.
- Still smiling……