Below the Surface

Today has been quite an eventful day. I don’t know really how to go about processing it but I felt that I need to talk about it one way or another.

I’ve been working for DCF this summer as an intern. I recently got assigned secondary on a new case in the unit. This family is quite complex and the child is an adolescent, which that in itself is hard to handle sometimes. The child is on the Autism spectrum and suffers from bipolar and PTSD. Today, I and another worker were scheduled to meet the child for the first time. Now, this boy is 15 years old and weighs about 360 pounds. When we arrived, he was having an episode. These episodes consist of him locking himself up in the bathroom and destroying property, sometimes he is physical with his mother and sisters. The cops and EMT eventually came to get him because the mother did not feel safe with him being in the home any longer. The boy had already packed his bags and was ready to go to the hopsital. He actually loves going to the hospital and acts out as a method to be brought there. When he was told that he could not bring anything with him to the hospital, he started to get little aggressive, which resulted in the three cops that were present to restrain him and cuff him. Even when the crew was bringing him to the EMT van, the boy was still trying to push back against them from entering the vehicle. According to the mother, this is the first time he has ever gotten physical with the police.

When sitting back down and talking to the mother, I empathize with her greatly. The family had lost a son more than 4 years ago due to gang involvement, a nephew who had died this past november, and another son who died this past december. The mother sat there and talked about how her son use to not be like this. She talked about the good times when he would laugh and they would talk to one another. I am not a mother so I could not speak on her behalf for her feelings but watching her was painful and her sadness, I could physically feel it in my chest.

Being at DCF this summer has really opened my eyes and my heart. I had a feeling that I was getting myself into some tough stuff but it’s not even the physical things that I see and hear that are tough, it’s the emotional component that has affected me the most. When the events have passed and I’m left with the thoughts afterwards. The hardest part I think is working with the families that when after running around in circles and having exhausted every outlet, and still nothing can be done. I haven’t learned how to emotionally handle those cases yet. And I don’t know if I ever completely will learn how to. This family seems like one of these cases. There is such an unhealthy and vicious cycle of destruction and unsafe behaviors that I don’t think any one route will ever stabilize them. It’s a tough thing for a new social worker in the field to realize that you can’t always do a family good. That sometimes, it’s not about figuring out how to fix everything but rather, it’s about making the best out of the situation. I would like to satisfy every client that I have but I can’t always do that. And I think right now, it’s hard on me to come to terms with that.

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img_2300In a meeting with my field advisor today, he talked to me about the concept of detachment. I had heard of the word before but did not know exactly what it was. He explained to me that often, people tend to get too emotionally invested into the lives and problems of the people around them. For instance, someone who is the friend of an alcoholic may be too invested into their friend’s addiction, to the point where it is causing them distress. Detachment is when a person can be apart of someone’s life but not get too emotionally attached to that someone’s problem.

I had been struggling in my field placement for a couple weeks. The workers in my unit are extremely burned out. They are excited about getting their cases transferred because then they don’t have to deal with the family anymore, they talk down on the families, they focus on the negative, they would rather work with the “good” clients, etc. As a new worker coming into the field, I have been extremely distraught being in this environment. Especially coming from an undergrad program where social workers were so positive, I feel like I’ve been thrown into a whirlpool. But speaking with my advisor, and learning about the concept of detachment, I recognize that I really need to focus on that. I can’t focus on the negatives that I am hearing or else the environment will drag me down as well. I love the work that I am doing and I still believe that CPS can do so much. But, I also do understand that a broken system that is lacking in many resources can be frustrating to be apart of. I think about the reason why I want to be a worker though and I just can’t let go of wanting to work in this frustrating system. If everyone gave up on this system, children would be left to be even more vulnerable and parents would never learn how to be better parents.

And so, from now, I choose detachment. I choose to not let the negative bring me down. I choose to be positive and strength based. Because if I let the enviroment take away my passion, then I’m not doing myself justice. I would be letting myself down and I know that ten years down the road, I will regret not having stuck with my passion. And if the road ends up burning up in flames, at least I tried.