By Katie Pemberton
I’m an Advanced Practitioner working with children and families who are experiencing difficulties or living chaotic lives and need the help and support of Children’s Services.
On my first visit to a family my primary role is to assess whether the needs of the children are being met and to form a professional judgement about whether they are safe or whether further safeguarding steps are needed.
I think that the social work role is really important in supporting parents with personal difficulties, these can range from mental health issues, substance misuse, learning disabilities or domestic abuse – sometimes families experience a number of these at the same time. I work with parents that all too often had little or no experience of good parenting themselves, my role is to help to equip them with the skills and confidence to better parent their children. Without the support of social workers, it’s highly likely that the children we work with would be subjected to long term neglect, or be at continuous risk of harm or in many cases experience actual harm.
There is no doubt that being a social worker is a physically and emotionally demanding role, but it’s one that is also rewarding, especially when you know you’ve helped keep a family together or kept a child safe from harm.
On a typical day I arrive at the office at 8:30am and my first job is to print off documents for meetings that I need for the day, my next job is to catch up with my students to make sure they’re aware of their diary commitments for the day and know what they need to do for each task. It’s then time for my first meeting of the day; today was a core group meeting for four children subject to a child protection plan. I then did a couple of unannounced home visits on two different families, one on a child in need plan and the other a child protection plan. By lunch time, I was back in the office for a quick bite to eat before meeting with one of my students for supervision where we discuss the cases she is co-working and how this links to theory such as child centred practice and being solution focussed.
The toughest challenge in my role is diary management and meeting deadlines. This means that I have to be flexible with my working hours to meet all of the deadlines when needed to make sure I don’t cause any unnecessary delays for the children and families I work with – and don’t even get me started on court reports deadlines!
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing parents making positive changes and seeing the children’s behaviour and happiness improve as a result of this. Not every case has the same outcome though, despite trying hard to help some families, they don’t or can’t make the necessary changes for the wellbeing of their children. This leads to children being placed with other family members or were this isn’t possible they are placed in long term foster care. Depending on the ages of the children, as a last resort it can lead to them being placed for adoption if that’s the best outcome for the child. A lot of work is done to determine whether this is right for each child before that happens though.
Ultimately, I feel a sense of satisfaction and pride knowing I’ve helped keep children safe and whilst my primary aim is to keep families together, where this isn’t possible, it’s really rewarding when I see children thriving in foster care or with adoptive parents. I know then I’ve made the right recommendations to my manager and the courts and that’s why I came in to social work – to make a difference in children’s lives.