I am catching some flack, on Twitter – @sonyakeith, FaceBook, and in blog comments, for being a Social Worker who is not sorry for my clients and not sympathetic to their situation. I also get attitude whenever I tell a client that I won’t be their friend… in real life, on FaceBook, I won’t follow them on Twitter and No, they should not try to text me.
Am I heartless? No. I am successful at what I do, and being your friend is not going to benefit you at all.
You have friends, you have people to cluck and coo over you and hold your hand, and tell you how bad they feel for you. You don’t need me for that.
I believe in you. I don’t need to get wrapped up in your drama or feel sorry for you in order to do my job. I know that some events have gone horribly wrong in your life or you would not be hanging out with me. You don’t need me to feel sorry for you, and you should not want me to. I am a drama-Free Zone and I don’t do Deliberately Pathetic People. (Jenifer, are you listening – you big Drama Drop!)
My job is
- To help you out of your situation,
- to step back, out of your circle of passions and see you as you are placed in the surrounding world. I need enough distance and perspective to help you find paths you don’t see.
- I will show you that you HAVE problems – and that YOU ARE NOT YOUR PROBLEMS.
- I am your cheerleader: if I did not think I could help you – I would walk you right out the door. (believe me, I have done that several times. I won’t waste your time or my energy on someone who is not trying to achieve or maintain their idea of personal success).
Am I cold hearted? Not at all. My personal work space is bright, covered in pictures of current and past clients, my personal friends and my daughter. People who have seen me at work will tell you (I assume, because they tell me all the time) that I am unexpectedly hysterically funny and irreverent, and warm and friendly. They will also tell you that what looks like playtime in my office is some hard core change at work.
I think everyone gets to define their level of personal success and should be able to live their life however they want and no one else should tell them what “success is” – it can not be measured in dollars and cents and a man who is content living in a cardboard box is more successful than a man who is miserable in his mansion. Success is not financially measurable. Success is personal. I will be happy for you is you are happy. I will work with you to keep that level of stability and success – if that is what YOU want. What I want is not an issue - I am a social worker to help YOU out, not to get a power trip and feel all controlling and mighty. I don’t have a God complex – although I am pretty awesome.
But get this. If you are at my desk, you are here for my skills and abilities – and they way I help you is that I expect you to act like the grown up you are. I expect you to ba accountable for your own current and future actions and choices. The past is the past – and if the past is still weighing heavily on you : I will help you find the mental health or domestic violence, or substance abuse therapy you choose to use as a tool for your future success and peace of mind.
Everywhere I have worked offers services to folks who walk in and ask for the help. I don’t force anything on you. The help you are asking for may come with strings attached – but I will show everyone of the strings and caveats, and rules you are agreeing to – to you. I will always tell you your rights, and your responsibilities. I will show you how to complain about any mistreatment or with holding of services. I will treat you with dignity and torture any social worker I see disrespecting you.
What you do on your own time, and with your own money – well: that is up to you. Don’t break any laws and do what you see fit to do.
What you do with the time that we have agreed you will spend on the plan YOU and I created: that’s a whole ‘nother deal. I respect you and expect you to keep your word as best you can.
- If I ask you to achieve small goals – and you say you will try: I expect you to spend the agreed upon amount of time trying to keep your word.
- If I give you funds for a specific purpose – to buy clothes, diapers, food, transportation, etc and you accept those funds and agree to spend them accordingly – I expect you to do so and will be shocked if you don’t.
- Also, though, if you misspend the funding, I will expect you to be accountable for your actions and I will tell you to pay it back. This is true if you are my personal friend and I give you money for new tires but you get a manicure and go to the club (*ahem, Isabel), if you are my kid brother and I give you money for your telephone bill but you buy your girlfriend dinner instead (Kenny), and if you are a client who has asked for transportation money for a bus pass but buys weed and alcohol with it.
There is something called an “Opportunity Cost” in Economics. You choose the opportunities you will take and sometimes that means you are not able to make other choices you want to make at the same time.
The opportunity cost of asking anyone for money, time, or assistance, is that they will expect you to use those commodities in rigid specific ways and will not just blow it off if you make other choices.
If you want to spend $7.00 a day on weed (for sanity) and beers – recognize that the weed is illegal and accept responsibility if you are arrested, ticketed, or removed from a program with a no-tolerance rule. And, buy your beer and weed with your own money that you earned – not public or private assistance funds that are not intended for alcohol and drugs (if your brother gave you money for your Miller Time – have at it!).
I don’t want anyone to get good at being homeless – unless that is their personal goal.
I want the men, women, and children I see in my day job, my volunteer work, and every day life to be resistant to being walked all over. Demand to be treated with dignity and addressed as a thinking, capable human being. In return, I will expect you to act like one.