Before applying to the Frontline programme, I spoke to a previous colleague who had worked as a social worker in various local authorities. I was worried about how I would be able to cope on the programme and wanted a realistic picture of what social work was like in this day and age. My colleague told me the raw, gritty realities of social work, the current climate of the sector and the challenges that I would face. Despite hearing about these difficulties, I still wanted to go into social work and I wanted to challenge myself to overcome these hurdles in order to make that lasting impact on children and families.
I knew children’s social work would be tough, and I knew that families didn’t have a positive view of social workers. Since joining the programme though, I’ve found people are more grateful for the work you do with them. Sometimes, they just appreciate having someone to listen to them.
I’ve worked with young people and children, from assessments for unborn babies, to young children and teenagers. I’ve worked with issues such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and disabilities, forced marriage, neglect and poor home conditions to name a few. My work has been city wide and has involved me working with foster carers and agencies, doctors, police officers, solicitors, schools and adult social workers.
What I enjoyed most about the programme was the teaching we received. I really enjoyed learning about systemic family therapy and motivational interviewing and how to use both in my practice. As a social worker, I see growth in individuals and in families and I see growth in myself. Constantly learning is really important to me and I feel myself learning something every day, about myself, about systems, about procedures, about communities and families.
I’m naturally quite a caring person and I find it easy to empathise. I’ve found this really useful when listening to families, making sure they feel heard and letting them decide their own narrative, too. I’m also quite an introvert, and thought the “social” part of social work would be tiring. However, I’ve found that I have my own style when interacting with families and like to take in what they say before saying my bit. I’ve found they appreciate being given the chance to say everything they want to say, especially when they’re going through a process that’s intrusive and difficult.
A really rewarding moment that stood out to me happened about a month before qualifying. The day was rife with challenges – a young person was engaging in activities that were harmful, there were disgruntled parents and a number of professionals to give important information to. It was a day of meetings and reports and paperwork and phonecalls. It was the day I noticed that my practice has improved and that as long as I keep trying, and encouraging the children and families I work with, to keep trying, then change can happen. Even if it’s a small change. The moment wasn’t rewarding because I felt I had made a huge difference to someone’s life, or because a significant event happened that made the job feel all worthwhile. It was rewarding because I could see how having positive relationships with the families I work with, makes all the difference in their lives. I realised it’s not only what you do, it’s how you do it.
Self-awareness is so important, to learn if this is the right path for you. If you’re successful, you’re in for a really exciting, difficult yet rewarding and fulfilling journey.
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