Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oh dear.

People don't know what they don't know, of course, but once in a while my social worker positive regard slips a little and I have a "what are you THINKING?" moment.

 I wish I could quote the letter a client's mother wrote for him because, well, I read it in little bursts, unable to process entirely how wrong it is. It was at once somewhat funny and very disappointing since I really, truly can't use it, and in fact it's so off track for what you'd want to write to a judge to say good things about your kid that I don't know if I can even really call and say "could you leave in X and take out the rest?" because all of it I've read so far is unusable.

 I have a sheet of suggestions I send people home with sometimes, and I think one thing I'm going to add to it is: don't use big words, and try to write mostly in short sentences. I don't know how else to say it without coming off as a horrible snob. Of course what I mean is "don't be fancy unless you're very sure of what you're doing or you're just going to sound like a dope."

 Ok, I read the rest of it. Some of it is fine and most of it is not. And it lists a CC to the Assistant District Attorney which I hope is just another affectation and she didn't actually send it because augh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oh hi

I guess I abandoned this altogether. I'm back, maybe, because I'm thinking about some job transitions and also a mad burnout case and may need space to "ventilate affect" if that term can be expanded to include screaming and setting things on fire. Exasperation du jour: The fact that my job puts me in the position of being brittle and officious to wage slaves in records rooms is taking some years off my life. I just said "it's a little bit troubling to me" in the smarmy tone you would expect for those words to someone who was being perfectly pleasant because it appears for the millionth time my release for information to help with someone's court case, a thing that has a specific date, has fallen into the void. I would hate to work in a records room. It sounds like a nightmare, like that David Foster Wallace story in the New Yorker where he works for the IRS, checking people's tax forms. I didn't make it through that and I wouldn't make it through a month working in a records room but this does not really help me when I'm on the other end of the equation, sending releases, calling repeatedly, having people do the telephonic equivalent of staring at me helplessly and blinking, and then I have to go back to an attorney and say "I don't have the records yet." This should be simple. This should be the mindless part of the job. Instead it is the ruinous part. Today I'm calling a different records room and offering to go up there physically and pick up the records because they simply don't seem to care at all. My fax cover sheets have gotten more and more huffy. Did I really just say that? Is that what my job has turned me into. My fax cover sheets have gotten more and more huffy. Does anyone have a match?

Monday, January 10, 2011


You know what I hate more than anything else in working life? Reading a 2000-page stack of ACS records is what I hate more than anything else in working life. And they always seem to come in 2000-page stacks.

Nothing good can come of any endeavour that generates this kind of paper trail.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

That day will come.

I imagine this to be the perfect lyric expression of my client's experience.

To this we've come,
That men withhold the world from men
No ship, no shore for him who drowns at sea,
No home nor grave for him who dies on land.
To this we've come,
That man be born a stranger upon god's Earth
That he be chosen without a chance for choice;
That he be hunted without the hope of refuge.
To this we've come. To this we've come.
And you, you too shall weep
If to men not to god we now must pray
Tell me secretary tell me, who are these men?
If to them not to god we now must pray
Tell me, secretary, tell me:
Who are these dark archangels?
Will they be conquered?
Will they be doomed?
Is there one, anyone behind those doors
To whom the heart can still be explained
Is there one anyone who still may care?
Oh, the day will come I know
When our heart's a flame
Will burn your paper chains
Warn the consul, secretary, warn him
That day neither ink nor seal
Shall cage our souls
That day will come.
That day will come.

[Patricia Neway performs Magda Sorel's aria "To This We've Come" from the Giancarlo Menotti's The Consul. It is a melodramatic reading but I can't find much fault in it. It ends around 7:50 but the poster has included more of the piece.]

Today I met with two of those clients who remind me that my purpose is little more than to answer the question: can this person find a place in society? It's about capitalism as much as it's about anything. The fellow this morning is caught between his inutility the cost of containing him. He's cognitively barely there and reads as likely having no impulse control, not things you can do a lot about at age twenty. He's fucked. His day will not come.

The one this afternoon is pretty likely to die in prison if the ADA is having a bad day. It never really comes down to risk of recidivism--I'd be a fool to make many pronouncements on people's future--but this guy looks too frail to do much now. He's here because, I don't even remember fully, some kind of squabble with someone else the ADA and the aggregate vulnerable public would doubtless recoil from. The fear is not what they'll do to each other, but whether their bullets will go astray. We punish them mostly to exorcise the fear, because unless you're going to throw almost everybody in jail, it's going to happen anyway. And I think you kind of have to leave 51% of us unincarcerated or things get tricky.

This squeak of anguish brought to you by my day. Perhaps I'll try and blog a little more here again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This space not quite abandoned

There's work stuff that is asking to be blug, and the nonSW blog seems like the wrong place so if this mic is still on...

I'm always a little curious if other social workers get, oh what is it called, Impostor Syndrome? I was talking about this phenom with someone who recently began law school at a Very Prestigious University and apparently people get there and feel all This Is A Giant Mistake and probably have dreams where they show up to class without their head or whatever. It's dumb to think of this happening in social work because, for reasons that are another post, it's a complicated field populated by a fairly high percentage of people who aren't what you'd call brilliant (is this a terrible thing to say?) so why would you feel like an impostor?

Hang on while I redeem myself for a sec. I'm not saying I'm brilliant. I'm probably, in some way I should possibly be frowned at for, saying at times I feel more intellectual than a lot of people who do this work. And maybe that's fine, because what's more useless than an intellectual? It's possible everyone I'm talking about would, if told this, shrug and say: your point?

Anyway it's probably a good corrective when I have a day where I am confronted with the great usefulness meter that constituted by unexpected situations and one's readiness to deal with them, and the needle on the usefulness meter swings from sewing machine to houseplant as I step on the scale.

I think of myself as being on the front line sometimes, because I deal directly with clients and their families and the verkakte systems they have to deal with. But. I have carved out a niche for myself wherein I see a small swath of the systems part, and when I'm outside that niche, I can sometimes be rather helpless.

We have a calendar of who handles "ER" cases here when our supervisor isn't around, i.e. cases where the attorney needs a social worker right away rather than long-term. Today was my lucky day, and they called me over to the courthouse for an ER. I go into the court part and talk to the attorney for a second who says the thing I least like to hear, which is some form of "just talk to him for a minute and see what's going on with him." Answer in head: ok, I talked to him. He thinks the writing on Friday Night Lights has gotten a little slack but that Connie Britton's ability to inhabit her character and her improved accent as well as the ever elusive possibility that Matt and Landry might one day do it have become reason enough to lament its cancelation. Would you like to try again, and be a little more specific?

I got her to clarify that the guy seems to want to be hospitalized and that they might not set bail if we can make that happen. I talked to him in back hall after being sort of insistent with a court officer. "I'd like to be able to talk to him without whispering, ok?" He presented like your average falling-apart, probably mentally ill person. Not quite able to engage, in what feels like non-performed distress, and what I was once encouraged to include in progress notes under the relatively polite terminology "malodorous."

What next? Well, I had to call a colleague. Because the last time I was the person who had to have someone hospitalized was five years ago, and I simply didn't know how to go about it. The answer was: if they'll let him go, bring him back to the office, call 911 like you would any old time you want to hospitalize anyone, and wait. But I was all "does it need to be at a particular hospital? Do I escort the guy to an ER?" etc etc the answer to all of which, from the universe if not my colleague, was "no, and get a grip."

This is a basic thing. People are hospitalized all the time. Maybe there's some resistance in this, in that I think of hospitalization as running the risk of "warehousing" and also of putting a bandaid on the more systemic factors that mean people have to go to hospitals when they're not fitting nicely into the economy. But shut up, me. Doesn't matter. Being a social worker and not knowing some of these basic ins and outs is really not good. It's one of several things that should be reminding me that it's time to figure out whether I'm in or out, profession-wise.

So, that happened.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Oh hey so

Out of the depths of the interwaffle I have conjured or I suppose I should say begun conjuring a group blog on no particular topic. I haven't exactly given up on social work blogging but I think I am for the moment likelier to blog over there than here. I may actually blog about similar topics, but without the restriction of only writing about work-related things. Check it out if you're looking for new reading material. My friends, they are really smart and know many things. Let me show you them, or however that meme goes.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Mustard Bath

I haven't posted anything in two weeks and I'm having my doubts about whether I'm going to keep doing this. It seemed like a great idea when I started it and for a while thereafter, but right now I can't imagine what I ought to write about.

Some of this, too, is spillover doubt about my place in this field, I'd imagine. There are days when I think I'm not accomplishing a damn thing, and on those days, I look around at other jobs a little, and they all sound unappealing.

Do you have days where you'd rather do something else completely? It's tough because I'm still on board with the idea that jobs that chip away at the upfuckedness of the world, even impercetibly, are better than jobs that contribute to it or do nothing. But then I also daydream of work that pays me enough to wipe out my debt.

Maybe inspiration will strike. We'll see.