When I started working towards my Bachelors Degree in Social Services, I had dreams of saving children. A single mom of two, my children were my world and I suddenly understood that overwhelming fear that my own mother had experienced while raising me. The outside world is dangerous for children and I was bound and determined to do my part to make it a safer place for my children.
My first year, I really enjoyed my classes. Psychology has always fascinated me and I was thrilled to learn I had to take 3 different psyche classes. My social work classes were very interesting and eye opening and even helped my parenting skills as I learned to put myself in others shoes and think more about why some people think the way they do.
When you’re an aspiring Social Worker, your professors job is to get you to see the world thru others eyes. I’ve always been a compassionate person, so I didn’t think it would be hard for me. I seldom pass judgment on others because I know that I myself have done things in my life that some may find undesirable. I realize I am human, as everyone else is, and sometimes our choices aren’t right or right for everyone else. But in the case of a Social Worker, you are bound to encounter people that engage in actions that your mind just cannot fathom. For me, not only did I not want to fathom some of those issues, I could in no way “put myself in their world and see things thru their eyes.”
So, when my social work classes became more intense and started dealing with very serious issues, I began questioning whether or not I would be able to deal with such scenarios’. I remember questioning one of my favorite professors about whether she had ever had such troubles during her years serving as a Social Worker. She replied, “It’s hard sometimes but you will learn to put yourself in that mindset.” I felt that I would be sick. I didn’t want to ever be in such a mindset.
The final straw was my social work class in which we basically reviewed cases and wrote a paper on what procedures we would follow. There were a few tame cases and I was beginning to feel more confident. Then I would receive a real life case that would absolutely rock my world and prove to me that I just don’t have the tolerance for such a job.
We walked into the house, rented by parents of four children. We were let in by a 2 year old little girl that was so filthy and her diaper hung to knees. We’ll politely say it was beyond full. She was hungry for affection and immediately snatched at my pants and began crying, wanting me to pick her up. I was looking around at this house and at these children and was completely mortified. While their children sat in filth with 2 large dogs using their floors as bathrooms, they were in the back of the house fighting over who had snorted the last of their sons’ ADHD medicine, clueless that we were even there.
Further inspection of the home would find pest infestations that would cause me to feel creepy crawlies for weeks. The carpet had been ripped up because the last Social Worker had instructed they remove it due to the dogs poor housetraining. Now the bare flooring was black from everything imaginable. It was so bad that we would have to scrape our shoes when we left the home. They had no hot water or heat because the gas had been disconnected. The children were infested with horrible cases of head lice, malnourished, and two receiving monthly prescriptions for Ritalin and not taking it. Their parents were snorting all their childrens pills and then using whatever money they had to buy even more.
The children were removed from the home. But what was so shocking to me and so sickening was that this was the second time it had happened. And six months later the courts would say they had proven themselves rehabilitated if they complied with everything and put the children back in that home. I was appalled.
As the semester was ending, I met with my counselor about arranging my classes for the following semester. Being retired from the Social Work field, she knew that the classes were getting more in depth and she asked how I was handling it. I cried as I recounted the situation and then admitted to her that it took every thing in my body not to grab that woman, shake her and yell, “What in the hell is your problem?” I wanted to grab those children up and walk out with them. I told her I was furious to know that they would end up going back into the home, a home that had already proved dangerous to them. She was aware of the case and told me she understood my feelings but, “It’s obvious they really do love their kids. But their drug addiction is giving them poor judgment.”
You know, I come from a family that has dealt with abuse and drug/alcohol addictions. There is no excuse for abuse and outright neglect. I may be open minded about a lot of things but, this area is very black and white for me. I have seen all to often the damage done by abuse and physical and/or emotional neglect and I can think of nothing that excused or condoned it. Okay, they are products of abuse and are living what they know. But when they have been informed and even punished for their actions and then do it again, I have to question the depth and even safety of this so-called “love” we’re speaking of. Sometimes love truly is not enough…or healthy enough.
I bow down to Social Workers everywhere. It has proved to be more than my soul can even bear. I know that I would take my work home nightly and would drive myself to mental insanity. So, after much counsel and consideration, I made Criminal Justice my major. While I’m now playing therapy mom to my Autistic toddler, when he begins full-time Kindergarten I plan to reenter the working world as a Juvenile Probation Officer. Then maybe I can catch them before they make the real big mistakes that are just to unfathomable for me.