The New Social Worker Magazine

Hi all,

Sharing below a new article of mine published in the New Social Worker Magazine today. Enjoy and check out the rest of the magazine for some great content! Be sure to comment and let me know your thoughts!

 

Beyond “Fixing” It: Finding Strength in Your Limits as a Social Worker

new social worker

Music for the Social Worker’s Playlist

Anyone who has met me knows I think a lot about music. I like to play it, create it, and enjoy it. Lyrics from certain songs have had a significant impact on how I see the world and have also helped me to process emotions.

I keep an ear out for songs that have social or emotional value, as well as musical beauty. The song featured below checks all those boxes. Her message to society and those who have experience sexual assault is clear, as well as empathetic. It is a connection point to those who may have experienced assault or walked a friend through such an experience.

As someone who works in the homelessness field, the song is especially poignant for me. You don’t have to work very long in the homelessness field to hear story after story about those assaulted while just trying to find a safe place to sleep each night. That’s why it is on this social worker’s playlist.

Boys will be Boys- Stella Donnelly

 

 

What songs have had an impact on you recently?

Mandy

Out of sight…

The work social workers do could often be summed up this way…working to remind society of those that tend to be forgotten.

Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement, said it this way-

“We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.”

So we remind them. And, we remind ourselves.

In my undergrad years, I did an year long BSW internship with a home health agency. I worked with their LCSW. One day we got called out to a rural area to meet with a senior who was recovering from heart surgery. The visiting nurse thought a social worker should be involved.

His trailer was pretty dim due to the thick nicotine stains in the windows. We sat on a couch to start the visit and I remember the ash that had built up over time covered every surface. I realized there was soiled laundry piled on the ground.

He was nearly blind. He was a veteran, but unconnected to VA services. That first visit consisted of assessing the various areas of his life while on hold with the VA, whose physical office was a 2 hour drive away.

During that wait time, we found that the only food in the house was a half-eaten box of doughnuts. We found that every month he paid his space rent, bought cigarettes, and then gave the rest of his disability check to his grandson, who had just had a child of his own and was struggling to make ends meet.

Importantly, we found that giving this money to his grandson was the one act that still gave meaning to his life. It was the one reason he still wanted to be alive.

As we drove away , with a splitting headache from the copious amounts of second hand smoke, I wondered how someone could have flown totally under the radar of all the social systems and even the natural supports usually in place. As I continued in the practice of social work, I would learn that for seniors, and many other populations, it is not uncommon to be totally out of sight to mainstream society.

It was also an important lesson in how to connect with the inner purpose that makes someone want to get up in the morning, to let the work flow from there.

It was one of those cases that you never forget. It made me look at my community differently. It made me wonder what the lives behind each door in my neighborhood were really like.

Mandy

p. s. I would love to hear what case has had a particular impact on you. Drop me a email.

 

Pocket Resource: Strength’s Perspective

Last year, I visited Mount St. Helens with my dad. You can still see a clear path of the “blast zone” from the giant 1980’s eruption. While recovery is slow, remarkably the area has shown great resilience in rebounding from the cataclysmic event.

In social work, every day we encounter people that have  their own personal  version of a cataclysmic event.

In my area of practice, this event is usually a slide into homelessness. Among all the tools we have as social workers to assist each client in their own personal recovery effort, use of the Strength’s Perspective is one of the most effective. With that said, I have created a quick pocket resource guide social workers can use to incorporate strengths into their work.

*Side note: I have also used this pocket guide when I worked in medical social work to educate my medical field coworkers about how to work from the Strength’s Perspective with patients.

Link to the file for download below. Hope you find it useful!

Mandy

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Strength’s Perspective Pocket Guide

Turn-Away

I knew there was a good possibility that when I walked home I might see him wandering the neighborhood. Setting a boundary was hard enough in this case, without having to see it first hand, on my way home, when I was supposed to be “letting work go.” A healthy goal, not always so easily achieved.

He was a smart, good-natured, 19 year old kid. He had been hanging around the Community Center I worked at during that time on the West side of Chicago. The younger kids loved when he came by. I got to know him when I heard drums playing upstairs and saw that he was playing alone in the music room. After talking awhile, he asked “So are you the social worker here?”

After explaining my role as the MSW intern, he said ” so can you help me find a place to sleep tonight?”

He had been sleeping in an abandoned building down the street. I knew the house well- it was on my route home. It looked liked a house that had been condemned for good reason. He couldn’t go back. Last night he had a close call with the police and a trespassing charge was the last thing he needed.

Over the next hour, he outlined the neighborhoods that would be dangerous for him to be seen in, which left us with only a handful of shelter options. After some calls, we were in the Community Center van driving to a shelter on the Westside. I waited in the van as he stood in line waiting to be checked. A few people before him, the shelter reached capacity and he had become a “turn-away,” the name given to those who there is no room to shelter each night.

I drove him back. We had reached the end of our options. I knew there were certain police stations one could sleep at until shelter could be located. We talked about it, but he refused due to violent experiences he had with people in those neighborhoods. By that time it was after 8. I was supposed to go home a few hours ago. I gave him a blanket and asked him to come see me again tomorrow.

I’ll admit, I wanted to let him sleep on my couch. It was one of the most difficult times I had to set a boundary.

But I did have an important take-away from this turn-away. It made youth homelessness a real, living, issue to me. I hope this post makes it more real to you too.

Who serves homeless youth in your neighborhood? How can you support them? #NoMoreTurnAways

Mandy

Something Worth Keeping

I want to highlight this fact: It is possible to end homelessness.

In the meantime, there are people in your community who may die on the street this year. It happens , all the time. That means we have to capitalize on the solutions we know work.

One of the most proven tools to ending long-term homelessness is the Housing First idea-basically an apartment, no strings attached.

60 minutes has a must watch video if you want to understand how this idea works. Here is a clip of the most essential footage.

 

“We are paying more as tax payers to walk past that person on the street and do nothing than to just give them an apartment.”

I have worked in the homelessness field for about four years. I have seen this idea work and I am convinced that it is the most successful model to end long-term homelessness.

The most surprising part about working in this field was the anger from communtity members I would encounter when I explain this idea. The anger is stemming from the idea that persons in these programs are receiving an apartment that they haven’t earned or somehow don’t deserve. To my constant surprise, I’ve been  harrassed and called names for advocating this model.

But at the end of the day, I think about those persons experiencing long-term homelessness that I was with on their move-in day. Many have the same reaction. They stare at the key to their new apartment. They remark how strange it is to have a key and how long it has been since they had something that required a lock, something that belonged to them. Many that do have challenges with mental illness, addiction, or other issues are motivated, sometimes for the first time ever to seek help.

They are motivated because now they have something worth keeping.

Mandy

P.S. I will be posting ways to support Housing First services and funding in coming days. Keep an eye out!

 

Do you know a Social Worker you want to Thank?

March is National Social Work Month. Being a social worker is a great life and a career choice I do not regret. And while I do not want to play into the idea that being a social worker means a miserable work/life balance and days full of stress, often without support, there are times when I think we can all relate to the meme below.

social work meme

 

So throughout the month of March, let the social workers that inspire you know that someone else is getting that warm feeling too. Send me a message through the Contact page with the first name and email of a social worker you admire. They will receive the following message and attached certificate in celebration of Social work month.

Happy 2018 Social Work Month!

You are receiving this email because someone submitted your name as a social worker that inspires them. In the hurry of your day, take a moment to realize that you work is essential to the community and you are appreciated.
Attached is your certificate of appreciation (because we can’t give you a bonus) to help remind you that your work is valuable and makes an impact. 
Sincerely,
Mandy
The Social Worker’s Companion Blog

certificate

 

P. S.

If you want to submit your own name, I won’t tell ; )

Mandy