Before I joined Frontline, I was a secondary school science teacher. One day, when I had to break up a fight between two pupils – a 14 year old homeless boy and a pregnant girl – it quickly dawned on me that I was trying to tackle their behaviour without dealing with the root cause of the problem. At that moment I realised that to really help children like them, I needed to be working in their homes alongside them and their parents. I needed to be a social worker.
When I was thinking about changing career, what helped me was thinking longer term about where I wanted to be, and what I wanted to help other people achieve – and I knew that Frontline was the way for me to do that.
Since starting the programme I’ve worked on a number of challenging cases, but you get a lot of structured support, and working in a unit of four means you also get a lot of informal support from other participants too.
On one occasion, I had a difficult case where a child I was working with did not seem willing to open up to me. I discussed this with another participant and we agreed that it often takes time for a child to feel secure enough to do this. Getting support from them really helped me to lay the groundwork, and to build a relationship with that child where they felt comfortable enough to open up. It’s always a real privilege when a child or family allow you into their lives.
As a social worker, you need to put yourself in other people’s shoes, to communicate with different people and get your message across, which is what you need to be a good leader. In a leadership role, whatever you’re doing, you’re always trying to bring about change in something, or lead a team to achieve a new vision, which is what you’re doing as a social worker with families. So when you’re learning to be a social worker, you’re learning to be a leader too.
There’s a real mix of people on the programme. There are some who’ve known they wanted to be a social worker for quite a long time, and there are more people like me, who hadn’t ever really considered social work, and then saw Frontline as a opportunity to make real change.
Everyone has a different story, but we all share a passion for helping vulnerable children and families. We’re all here for the same reason.