Wednesday, 16 October 2013

And so it begins

Mid-week and the pace has definitely picked up.

I was given a few extra cases this week and I stupidly decided to do 3 home visits with the intention of carrying out initial assessments, all in one day as all were fairly urgent. Big mistake, at least for a newbie anyway.

The first visit was about little lionheart who was given up for adoption by a mother with a drug addiction when he was a little baby. I went to visit his adoptive parents who are struggling to cope with his behaviour in school, he lashes out at people aggressively because he has a sight impairment and struggles to see and understand things. He also had a tragic accident when he was a toddler which left him mentally scarred, has severe attachment related issues and can't cope in noisy and crowded environments. I left that house an hour and a half later, after mum poured her heart out about her difficulties and his complex needs; it seemed she really needed someone to talk to other than her husband. I felt a little drained after the meeting but confident about certain pieces of work I could do with the family as well as school to help little lionheart communicate his feelings and understand what's going on around him.

Visit two almost made me cry, luckily I went with one of the student social workers who, despite being inexperienced, knew his stuff and actually put me at ease. Mum had experienced domestic violence and after being held prisoner with her daughter by this man, plucked up the courage to stand up to him and boot him out, leaving them with nothing. The damage had been done however, and it was clear even in this first meeting that mum had no self esteem and felt worthless and ashamed. Mum appeared frail having severe arthritis and is barely able to care for her self, so daughter blueyes is caring for her almost full time alongside school and has become unable to cope, self harming in the process. The point that got to me most was when the student and I commended them both for being so brave going through so much, and coming out at the end of it still fighting, to which she remarked that no-one had ever said that to her before. She broke down.

Final meeting, which resulted in me coming home at around 9pm: a mother with depression who was not adequately caring for her daughter, a daughter who previously claimed she single-handedly looked after her two little siblings, bathing them, feeding them, as well as cleaning the house, and as a result was struggling with her school work. This claim was something that I was advised to be weary about without getting both sides of the story, though I had a gut feeling that she was telling the truth.

Upon the home visit mother openly admitted this to me and following a claim from the daughter that she had been regularly hit by mum, I challenged mum on both parts. This I found surprisingly easy to do. As the evening progressed and I saw the girl alone, and then the parents, I began to get a clear picture of how resilient this young girl had been, because she had to be. What finally set the tone of the evening was mother stating that she believed this resilient young girl had been sexually abused by her violent ex partner when she was a child, who was eventually discovered to be a paedaphile. She had not discussed this with her daughter, nor had her daughter disclosed this information. This happy, bright, resilient girl had become so resilient that she had fooled everyone, including herself, into thinking that she was ok, that she would be the rock for everyone around her and everything would go on as it was.

She did not see how people had failed her, including those closest to her, she could not see what I could now see.

Having gathered all the relevant information from my visits, I prepared mentally for the initial assessment process on my drive home, thinking about the case notes I had to write, and what the best plan of action would be for all 3 cases. I had no idea where to start and knew I needed my manager and colleagues for support.

I couldn't help but feel powerless to change lives for the better. I thought to myself: the damage has been done, what can I do to help someone turn their life around, what can one small person like me realistically do?

As I pulled into the drive I took a breath and suddenly felt overwhelmed, I knew I was emotionally drained from the day's meetings and remembered being told to try to distance yourself from cases as much as you can. But I also remembered wise words someone once said to me, when you stop caring about a case, when you start to truly emotionally detach yourself from your work, that is when you need to leave the profession.

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