My Profession: The Reality Behind Social Work vs. What People Think I Do.

As I sit here, killing a sinus infection, there is not much to do besides knock off some Netflix, rest, drink water, and sleep again. Needless to say, I’ve been getting some writing done and this post has been sitting around for years. I decided to finish it up.

I can spot it right away. I’m at a social gathering and I’m telling someone I’ve never met what I do for a living. I tell them I’m a social worker. “Oh..” is their response. When you’re as good at reading people as I am, you try not to laugh at how blunt their reaction comes off. “Oh..” translates into, “Right, so you take people’s kids from them. You make almost no money. You’re a male in a female dominated profession. Wait…why are you a social worker?? You could do anything??”

Sometimes it’s only a few of these I pick up on. Sometimes it’s all of them, haha. Still, it concerns me that this is what people think I do, and why I chose to practice Social Work. The public perception isn’t generally a good one. They’re right. When you think of a social sorker, or there is a social worker in a movie, generally the kids parents got shot and they become a ward of the state. CUE THE MOPPY LOOKING SOCIAL WORKER to take the kid into the Evil System. Or, the parents are screwing up at home, so the social worker comes to the house and tells the parent that they have 2 weeks to clean up their act, or they’re going to take their kid away from them. Think of an example, and it’s likely that social workers aren’t portrayed in a very positive light…ever.

There’s rarely a social worker who is shown finding a foster kid a great home to live in, or a social worker helping a troubled teenager with their depression at school and preventing a suicide, or a social worker sitting with a patient in a hospital in their last hours on this earth. I get it. It’s easier to pin the trope of the Evil Social Worker on this profession. Most of what we do is ugly, hard, and right there in the mud with the people going through it. Still, the image needs to change.

Here’s a dose of truth: Social workers often work in dangerous conditions for low pay. In New York, it is a felony to assault a nurse. However, social workers are not afforded the same safeguard under the law. Social workers provide a voice for the marginalized. That type of work and the individuals who are strong enough to do it speak volumes about the humanity of care. Sherry Saturno LCSW, DCSW had this to say about her exposure to this reality in the field of Social Work:

I have seen my colleagues threatened and exposed to violence in the field. I have read with a heavy heart accounts of fellow social workers who were murdered while performing their duties. I bore witness to a shooting on the job. Every one of these acts failed to obliterate the intent of the work that was being accomplished….There are so many things that cannot be explained: the senseless acts that inflict pain upon each other, and the unexpected compassion of strangers. Even in times of darkness, social workers affirm the power of good in the world by not giving up.

To choose a profession that doesn’t pay well, a profession that is dangerous at times, a profession that takes more from you than it gives back at the end of the day, isn’t a choice that one makes on a whim. To become a social worker, you have to care, you have to endure, you have to keep moving. What we do is a thankless job and an under funded career. We created a thing called, “self-care,” because what we do almost liteally sucks the life from you. I’m being dramatic. Sort of.

To give you a final idea of what I jumped into; when I moved back to Illinois, I had hoped that my home state had gotten its act together and paid attention to the cries of the people and government workers. Instead I returned to a state that was in crisis. Their response to their massive financial woes was to cut programs of the “least importance.” A band-aid for an amputation. What were those programs? Social Services. They sent a message loud and clear. “If you’re hurting, if you need help, if you got that help from Social Workers, go somewhere else. Gone Fishing.” I needed a job, and Illinois was surely not going to help me in that arena. So I left.

A long time ago, I wrote a post on why I do what I do, and in it, I explain that people who are struggling with depression and suicide have always been on my heart. Really, it’s been the underdogs that have been my drive. The people that society counts out, ignores, makes fun of, see no value in…these are my people. These people are why I do what I do. I don’t do it for money, I don’t hold my breath to be thanked, and I certainly don’t do it because it’s easy. I do it because I’m good at it, someone has to, and I’m tired of having no answer to the question, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”

There’s a song by Matthew West, it’s not a new song, but the lyrics to the song, “Do Something,” pretty much wrap up this final concept. There are problems out there and we’re the ones who are going to fix them. We are. You. Me. We.

So the next time you’re talking to someone and they tell you that they are a Social Worker or Counsellor, thank them and give them a pie. They don’t get that a lot….the praise I meant.

President Donald J. Trump Explained

He’s arguably one of the most liked and equally disliked people in the country right now. I know reading back on this, that fact might change either way, but as of January 2017, at the beginning of his Presidency and first term…he’s made some very bold and unfavorable moves.

Continue reading “President Donald J. Trump Explained”

First Christmas Back

It’s been some time since I’ve been able to have a white Christmas with my family. For the past three years, Christmas has been 90 degrees, shorts, sand, some sunscreen, your jandals, and a bach to hang with your friends in. Paradise, some of you may be thinking right about now. Well, I found these versions of Christmas to be rather…unfulfilled. Where’s the snow? Where’s the pine tree? Where are the snowmen? Why do ALL Christmas songs feel so hollow when heard on a tropical Island? Continue reading “First Christmas Back”

Travel and my Extroverted Trips Away

The month was August. I know because I was sweating, but I wasn’t really doing anything but sitting down. It’s the kind of heat that makes you get up, but if only to find a colder climate. I’m sitting in a chair, wicker, and thinking about the marathon I’m about to take part in. Part blessing, part excitement, part energy maintenance. I knew what I was getting myself into, and maybe that’s what made me crazy. Continue reading “Travel and my Extroverted Trips Away”

Are you…?

Alright people, [deep breath]. I really appreciate your interest in my life and I can’t really thank you all enough for those who helped me get where I need to be in my journey to New Zealand. STILL, I think this post is very necessary considering how out of the loop everyone seems to be. I am sorry for that. I had no idea.

Are you in New Zealand?

No, I am not…yet. I know this can seem pretty confusing considering I had a party to raise money to get me into the country, and then I dropped off the face of the earth months later.

So, you’re not going to live in New Zealand?

Not yet. The reason for this is because I moved to Grand Rapids to find a job, pay off loans and live with my best friends. That plan went south after about 4 months. I wasn’t making enough money and my loan payments started to come in fast.

So, you’re not going to New Zealand?

No. I AM going. The plan was always to eventually go, but I need the paperwork to go through FIRST. I need a visa to move into New Zealand and work there as a resident. I have been working on the paperwork since the beginning of graduate school, so it’s been over a year now, and still counting. It’s a long process, and I think I am very close to getting the visa. The plan to move is sometime in January.

I am only getting a job here to pay off loans until the paperwork goes through, which is going very well. In this down economy, I chose to go with the fast option and try to get a job in a job field I only recently came out of. Needless to say, they loved me and gave me a job. I will be delivering pizza for Sarpinos Pizza off N. Aurora St. in Naperville. The pay is very good, and the hours are likewise good.

Are you using the money you raised? What happened to that?

Well, I raised that money because the flights over to New Zealand are really quite expensive and the visa paperwork is equally expensive. The money has been set aside and will not be used until I need to use it to pay for the paperwork expenses and document verification. Again, I can’t thank you all enough for the generosity you displayed in helping me get to where I needed to go. Thank You.

Are you living back home?

Yes. I moved back in with my parents in Montgomery, IL to get a part time position that pays more and doesn’t hace the added variable of ‘rent.’ I love my family, and No, this is not a painful mistake that I made. It was the right one.

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I hope that I have answered your questions, and yes…these were real questions that I would get very frequently in conversation. Sometimes I was lucky and received ALL of them at the same time, or most of them at least.

Yours Always,