Showing posts with label rewards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rewards. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Thriving in the Midst of Stress


During my second year of employment with the agency, I was managed by a verbally and emotionally abusive supervisor. The supervisor was demoralizing and introduced themself as "A Control Freak" and " A Bitch." They were also boisterous when addressing staff. This supervisor usually delegated several tasks with short deadlines. This was overwhelming. I felt that I was being put in a situation to fail. I began to second guess my ability to do the job. I felt pressed to seek other employment outside of the organization to get relief. But was told by a co-worker to, "Hang in there!" The supervisor was not supportive and continued to assert power by threatening to give out negative performance evaluations stating, "Because I can."

I spoke with upper management and asked to be reassigned due to the supervisor's unprofessional behavior.  I was told the request had to be in writing and that I could not state anything negative about the supervisor. I managed to get reassigned to another supervisor.

My new supervisor was incredibly supportive. This supervisor was a great leader and worked with each staff member by considering their independent ability and knowledge. The supervisor was compassionate, authentic, encouraging, and inspired staff to go back to school to obtain their Master's Degree in Social Work. While in the MSW program, I learned about leadership styles and working in the public sector. It was brought to my attention that public child welfare agencies utilize business strategies. They treat the employees like robots assigning multiple tasks. I was able to put a name to the nonsense I experienced at the job. It is bureaucracy.

The organization functions much like a business more focused on hierarchical abuse of power. They are concerned with dictating job functions for monetary reasons. The agency shows a lack of care for social workers. They just want the job done. After seeing how statistics were heavily involved, I realize the focus is more on numbers than working with families.  They monitor a social worker's performance through measured and firm guidelines, data-driven processes, administrative intimidation, high caseloads, and little to no self-sufficiency. It has less to do with the actual hands-on work done with the families. I also realize that the job's humanitarian aspect, which drew me to social work, is a minuscule aspect of the job. It is also apparent that without outstanding leadership, you can quickly drown in this organization.

The one outstanding leader I had ended when my supervisor left the field. As a result, I gained a new supervisor who was prone to dictating instead of providing support. When needed, this supervisor was never available and did not have much knowledge. When able to ask questions, they would always have to seek the answer from upper management. They would only make themselves available when they needed to relay or retrieve information to the higher-ups. The supervisor was also not a good listener and only wanted to be heard.

Another drastic change that occurred was on the administrative level. This change included noticeable bias, much micromanaging, verbal abuse, and intimidation. This was worse than when I started with the agency.

Overall, these changes led to burnout and feelings of defeat. Once again, I found myself seeking to flee the organization for the sake of my health and well-being.

I remember a fellow social worker once told me, "They say they're about the well-being of the children, but what about OUR well-being?" To be honest, I am not sure either is a priority to them.

A previous supervisor once told me, "This job is not for you; you better get out before the pay gets good." Looking back, I wonder if I should have taken heed of this warning. After more than a decade, I am still in the same position.

There must be a solution to this madness… but what?

Do not get me wrong, working as a social worker and helping families can really be rewarding. It is gratifying when you help children remain safe, return home to their families, or be adopted into a loving and caring family. This makes you feel good holding the title. To me, helping people is not a task. It comes naturally.

Saturday, March 6, 2021


I am a social worker and have been employed with a government child welfare agency for over 20 years. During my employment with the agency, I experienced a lot of barriers. These challenges included poor leadership, high caseloads, lack of support, extreme paperwork, and other job-related issues. I have also witnessed a lot of turnovers and staff go on medical leave due to the job demand and stress.

There were times when I wanted to quit my job. The stress of the job and lack of support became overwhelming.  However, those rewarding experiences kept me at the job, I enjoy helping children to stay safe. Also, connecting them and their family's with resources and services to promote reunification. When families succeed I feel gratified knowing that I have made a difference in their lives. 
In the meantime, I want to share my story and find a way to create awareness for those who plan to start a career in social work, including with a government agency. I want to connect with others to create an environment where we could discuss issues related to social work and possible solutions. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

A Rough Start in Social Work


My first year as a social worker was an adjustment period. I was proud to have the position and felt good about the families and children I served.  It was rewarding knowing that I was making a difference in the lives of children. I also enjoyed giving their parents the resources and encouragement needed to heal their families. I am not saying that I could make a difference in every family I encountered. However, I felt that my job was still important and could change the lives of many families.

There was still a lot to learn in this position, and I remember a co-worker telling me that it takes at least 5 years before you know the job thoroughly. I thought to myself, "Wow, I have a long way to go." 

I learned that having a supportive supervisor and management team can make or break you in this position. My first supervisor was a Training Supervisor whose staff consisted of newly hired social workers. I learned a lot about my duties and what was expected. But I also learned that this supervisor appeared to have his own agenda and set of rules.

In one example, I worked with a family who had successfully accomplished their goals to reunify with their children. Although I provided my supervisor with proof of the family's progress and change, my supervisor continued questioning their ability to parent their children. This was my first experience of stress on the job. This family did everything possible to change their situation to ensure that they could provide their children with a safe and stable environment. However, my supervisor still questioned their abilities and disapproved of their children being returned to them. I discussed my frustration with some veteran social workers. I was told that the supervisor is from "The old practice of social work." My co-workers advised that supervisors were so scared to return children home and reunification was not a priority in previous years. This was due to the large crack epidemic.  I was told that my supervisor still holds that mentality. The supervisor feared the approval of any children returning home to their families because the supervisor feels that families cannot change. Another co-worker explained they experienced the same thing from this supervisor. They stated that once I am moved out of the training section, I would obtain much more relief working with another supervisor.

The co-worker was correct because once I was promoted from the training section, I got a supportive supervisor who understood that families can change.

My new supervisor was incredibly supportive and understanding. The supervisor demonstrated concern for the families and wanted them to succeed. The supervisor offered support by volunteering to go with workers out in the community to meet with families. The supervisor listened to the family's needs and tried to connect them to appropriate services and resources.

I witnessed this supervisor's ability to adjust to any situation regarding each worker's demeanor and handle a matter accordingly. The supervisor was flexible and change leadership styles as needed to get the best out of the staff. 

This supervisor made me feel proud to be a social worker. I thought that I was making a difference in the lives of children and their families. It also made me believe this was my purpose in life.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Prepare Yourself for a Career in Social Work

I wanted to create a blog about my experience as a social worker employed in the public sector. I was uncertain whether I wanted to really write about the job's challenges because I did not want to discourage others from considering a social worker position with a public organization. However, I not only wanted to share the challenges I experienced but also the rewards. I also want to prepare future social workers for some of the issues encountered while working in the public sector.

While growing up in the inner city full of poverty, I witnessed domestic violence, high murder rates, and drug abuse. At a young age, I realized that I wanted to help the people in my community, especially the children. I witnessed children suffering from their parents' negligence and the disregard for their safety, emotional and physical health by exposing them to their drug use and violent behaviors.

At around 16 years old, I used to go through the neighborhood on early weekend mornings, gathering the children because the weekends were when their parents' partied the most. These parties included drugs and violence.  I wanted to save these children. I wanted them to have a refuge, a place where they were safe and protected.  I never knew about the social work profession, but looking back, I feel that I was a social worker in the making.

When entering college at 17 years old, I was unsure of what career path I should take. I only knew that it had to involve working to help children in some type of way. I first thought of being a pediatric nurse. After taking biology for the medical field and the fear of giving a shot to someone, I decided that field was not for me. Then I thought of being a child psychologist, but at that time, I felt I needed a career that did not require me to be in school for a long time. I decided to be a teacher.

I worked with preschool-age children for a while and decided to move into the public sector. So, while scanning the county job announcements, I noticed an opening for a Child Support Department position. Initially, I thought I was making a significant impact in getting the children the financial support they needed to meet their basic needs. That was great for a while, but I asked myself, "Is this enough? Am I really helping children?" After working in that department for 5 years, I realized I was just a bill collector. I desired a position that involved working closely with families in situations where children were at risk. I wanted to keep children safe as I did when I was that young girl. So, I applied to be a social worker.

Once I started my career as a social worker, I experienced and witnessed the challenges of being a social worker and employed with a public agency. 

There has been a cycle of child welfare social work burnout due to job demands, stress, and inadequate supervision. There has no appearance of any resolution of the issues causing staff burnout.

Those interested in this career should not be discouraged but should be prepared to learn how to prevent or deal with all the possible impacts the job can have. This includes the effects on their personal lives and the lives of the people they serve. 

I further believe that the child welfare organization leaders are part of the driven force responsible for ensuring a supportive and healthy work environment. Management must take some responsibility to initiate ways to make work more manageable for staff and adhere to staff's needs and feedback. It is also essential that social workers recognize their limits, feelings of being overwhelmed and practice self-care. They should also feel appreciated, supported, and encouraged. After all, social workers should be pleased with what they do. 

So, this blog was created to share the rewards and challenges associated with the social work profession. Also, to be able to share in a supportive environment and to discuss other issues related to social work.



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