“When things are not going well at home that starts to restrict so many aspects of a child’s life” Frontline fellow, Miles, wrote the following blog before the current lockdown, but his words have been at the forefront of our minds recently. For families who were already facing difficulties, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to exacerbate these. At the same time, their ability to access crucial support – from schools, youth workers, family – is severely limited. Despite the challenges of social distancing and building relationships remotely, it is more important than ever that social workers continue to protect vulnerable children and support families to keep making the little changes that make all the difference.
Social work is making sure a child has the potential to be as happy as they can be; to be the person they want to be.
Social work is about working out a way to make life better for a child in a difficult situation, using whatever resources you have available. That could mean working with the family, the child’s school, youth workers and the police. This also means understanding the child’s current situation and really getting to know a child and what is happening in their day to day life.
Often the children we work with don’t have a voice – they might not have the words or they may even be afraid to put it across. As a social worker, you have to work out the signs in that child’s life that indicate what is going on. Sometimes, you help a child say something they have been wanting to say and needing to say for a long time but have never been able to.
Perhaps I see social work as so important because so much starts at home – when things are not going well at home that starts to restrict so many aspects of a child’s life – their ability to make friends, enjoy school and get what they can from education.
Social work has taught me to really celebrate the little successes, both to keep myself motivated, and even more importantly for the families I support. These small successes or tiny changes can make all the difference to children and families. Breaking that pattern, even just once, can be an enormous part of a process forward. Finding that one day at school where a child felt “okay I can do this”, or that one day where a parent was able to reconnect with their teenager in a way they hadn’t been able to do for years: that can be the start of an important process of change for a family.
It can take a long time for a family to reach their end result. As a social worker you may never see that result. But, when you are present for a moment that changes the direction of a child’s life, when you kick-start a process that means they can be safe, it’s quite a privilege to say you were a part of that.
Knowing that someone thought “okay, I can tell Miles what’s worrying me”, that’s special.
At any time, helping children achieve those small successes requires creativity and humility. Social workers don’t have all the answers and families know more about themselves than a social worker ever can. Under the current pandemic, with their resources and methods severely limited, social workers must trust families to be the experts in their own lives and find creative means to support them to make positive change.