Originally my plan after leaving university was to become a journalist. But when I heard about Frontline I was drawn in by the idea of being able to hear about people’s journeys and support them along the way. I found that each stage of the assessment process saw me become increasingly interested and fascinated by the role of a children and family social worker.
Everyone I told I was going to become a social worker was supportive but this often came with a clause, ‘there will be some really hard days, but the great days will make the hard days’ worth it. I mostly managed to keep that response in my mind and I’m glad I have because I find it’s been accurate.
The programme is incredibly diverse and that’s one of the great things about Frontline and being a social worker. On a day to day basis I am in schools talking to children about their family life at home, or at the park playing football and chatting about how they find or school or visiting family homes. I work very closely with other agencies including the mental health team, gang specialists, special educational needs teams, the police, domestic violence programmes, drugs and alcohol teams and schools. Working with so many agencies helps me understand the family’s experiences and support the children and parents on a day to day basis.
My consultant social worker has been incredibly supportive. One of the main pieces of advice she gave me is the idea of change and the compass model. Sometimes I can feel frustrated by the lack of change when working with families but she encouraged me to think about it like a compass. One small movement in the centre of the compass, if continued on, can completely alter the ship’s final destination. Small changes which we see in families now can lead to huge changes later on.
The thing I most enjoy is direct working with children and families because it allows me to provide support in creative ways to evoke beneficial change in complex situations in the hope of vulnerable children reaching their full potential.
The most rewarding experience I’ve had involved working with a child which involved me creating a story board explaining why the child had to leave his family home and stay with another family member. I had to explain the mother’s mental health difficulties in a way that was accessible to the 10-year-old chid. After I had explained the story board to the child, he said ‘oh, I understand it now’ and then asked his Mum a number of questions about her mental health. The Mum said it was the first time she had been able to have a conversation with him about it. I loved that I was able to collaborate with the mother to help the child understand his life story in a way that was accurate but also age appropriate.
Every social worker brings their own personality to the role and that’s one of the reasons why it can be such a great job.
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