I am deeply motivated by children who have been through traumatic situations yet they still find a way to smile and get through the day. I have seen children who have been raped so many times that they think it is normal. I have encountered children whose parents have abandoned and rejected them. I have sat and had a chat with children who have relatives that cannot take care of them because they feel it is not their place to do so. I have been with children who do not know what it means to be loved or hugged by their parents. When they hug a professional caregiver they hold on so hard that it is painful; that is how you know. I have seen children who have known abject poverty yet they are grateful to just be alive, have a roof over their heads and a warm plate of food. These children basically have nothing and yet they still make it through the day smiling and playing. Granted there are bad days but seeing them survive in spite of it all is amazing. The resilience that they have is inspiring and some adults need to emulate this.
It must be the innocence of childhood. It may just as well be the knowledge that once they are in a place of safety like a children’s home; then somehow someone is handling all their problems. As a social worker I am fulfilled to at least know I am taking these huge burdens away from my child clients. I had a thought recently about a common occurrence. What happens when a child has hope that all that has gone wrong in their life is being fixed but in the end they realize that nothing is taking away the huge gap that the absence of their families left? Like no matter what anyone can do in a day’s work you cannot return a mother/father to their child if the mother is dead or has gone AWOL. Is it the child that has unrealistic expectations of the service being provided or is it the caregiver taking on more than they can handle? I figured the way to handle it is to not make promises from the onset. Just be there for the children as much as you can. Be a comfort for them but refrain from giving hope of things that may not be possible. Saying “I will do my best but I can’t do more than that” might take some of the pressure off. Social workers are not miracle workers after all. We aim to avoid burn- out at all costs, where we can. After five years of working with children I can vouch for this. I may get stressed out but I am not suffering from burn-out.
You’re not God; you can’t solve all the problems; you cannot prevent every infection; you cannot save the world. Give yourselves permission not to be perfect. Pierre Brouard in his training sessions for carers at Soweto Chris Baragwanath Hospital
Each day brings its own small victories. It is important to take stock of these moments no matter how insignificant they may seem. In my experience just the fact that the children can smile,dance, do their homework after school, act like the normal everyday child means I am doing something right. Even though we cannot fight world poverty or stop abuse of children we can try to make one child’s day and that is still making a difference.