As a social worker you’re in it because you want to help people. You want to make a difference. And every social worker whether at a school, hospital, shelter, or family resource center exists within a system. Systems are build as a means of allocating resources to meet a need or solve a social problem. Therefore while the social worker is given resources to help people; those resources are finite. The system then is set up to say x,y,z and resources are for a,b,c clients. If a client comes to you with g, k and s problem guess what that client is SOL.
If a social worker is worth their salt, they will have an ace up their sleeve and be able to redirect the client to another agency and system that can help them. Yet, something happens in your soul when you have to tell a client. “I’m so sorry but we can’t help you, you have to go to somewhere else”. You look them in the eye and the disappointment, frustration, desperation is palpable. Over the years,
veteran social workers can become dissentized, or construct a narrative like “that’s the way things are” or worse shift the blame to the client for an arbitrary reason we can’t help them. Lately I’m realizing the cognitive dissonance of going against your primary instinct to help over and over. I’m learning to sit with those limitations of myself and the systems. Because if we can’t be in touch with our own feelings how can we hold onto to empathy? How do we hold onto to our humanity? Yes, people need food, shelter, therapy, legal services etc but they also need us to be human. I remember being in a rough spot financially and applying for food stamps the worker never looked me not once. He kept his eyes between the computer and his paperwork. I remember feeling like nothing. The old saying is true; people will forget what you say and what you do; but they will never forget how you made them feel. Let’s reconnect with ourselves, our humanity and our higher purpose.