The difficult part was the service users that I worked with had their own diverse values and that is where I experienced some tensions and dilemmas as to what was the right thing to be doing came up. Different people had different views on what creates risk. In my position as a Social Worker it needs the ability to identify and balance values of benefits and harms, taking into consideration where one’s own value base impacts on the decision making and where we can support people to achieve the best outcomes, using professional rather than personal values.
However we are guided by the purpose of the organisation we are employed in, as well as the legal and policy parameters of our society. Additionally, it would appear that the focus of social work has moved over the past few decades by changing the current situation to coming up with ideas that are long term and avoid possible harm in the future, supported by Taylor (2010). The idea of making grandparents part of the plan as safeguarding carers and to supervise Ms ND’s care of RR was to introduce boundaries around the systems that nurtured Ms ND’s response to RR as her son without threatening her maternal feelings and identity.
This is supported by Minuchin 1974 who acknowledges that clear boundaries around systems are important but very rigid boundaries influence against adaptive change whilst entangled boundaries terrorize independence and individuality. I was also supporting the idea of the child being brought up in the same culture so he would not lose the identity and values they believe in. As I worked with the families my personal values have played a big part in the way I worked with them as I treated them with respect and took into consideration how they felt. I took time to listen to them and I would take time to discuss reasons for the decisions made.
I always contacted them to find out their availability and would come to a compromise if that did not suit my schedule. I always kept families updated on what was happening and provided them with contact numbers for them to call if they needed help or to talk to me. There was a time when my personal values would clash with the different cultures I worked in a multidiverse area. Different cultures had different beliefs which I had a family that expected me to take off my shoes as I entered their house not because it was clean but it was their culture.
It was difficult for me as the house was not in a good state for me to walk bare footed. I had to follow what the family wanted but ended up wearing socks that I took off as soon as I walked out of the house. I have been challenged by my work colleagues and my manager for being too lenient and soft as I spoke to people but I said to them I did not believe in always shouting or threatening as a way of challenging but it is how you put across the information but getting to the same goal.
Conclusion Thompson and Thompson (2008) describes empathy as being emotionally aware or sensitive to what people are experiencing without allowing their emotions to affect us. As a parent myself this has challenged my emotional intelligence but I had to seek continuous support from my colleagues, practice educator and manager so that I would not end up being too emotionally involved and in turn affect my practice. This showed how vital it is to communicate with people.
I believe that this year in practice has consolidated my style of social work as a relationship based practitioner and know that my strengths are in my ability to communicate and engage people with this approach. I have explored alternative approaches – behaviourist and solution focussed and have been able to incorporate these within my practice and these are delivered in a relationship based way. I can recognise the impact this has on my emotional well-being and am aware of vicarious trauma’ and the feelings of anxiety this can bring to my work.
Vicarious Trauma or ‘Compassion fatigue’ is the personal damage and stress that is caused by helping or wanting to help a person involved in a traumatic situation, Community Care (2014). Ruch et al (2010) and Cooper (2010) all examine the reasons why the use of self and relationship based practice might be challenging. Social Workers in the 21st century are more likely to work within a ‘huge and diverse range of stings in an often ‘complicated multiprofessional network’.
In addition to this, those employed with a local government are likely to be subjected to working amidst a backdrop of national agendas fuelled by public concerns over high profile cases and serious case reviews’, Ruch et al (2010:24). These pressures are added to the day to day work of a Social Worker engaging with distressed people and distressing situations and practice that involve providing interventions that deal with both the psychological and social difficulties which the people they are working with are experiencing.
The work entailing social issues facing the service user often appear to be the more straight forward part of the work, but the Social Worker will also be dealing with emotions and feelings requiring the Social Worker to have the necessary skills to be able to draw on ‘internal, often unconscious dynamics to make sense of these professional encounters’, Ruch et al (2010:26) For the benefit of reflection I feel that decisions should be reached before the families reach a crisis point to enable the children to reach their full potential through early intervention.