I went from Information Management to Social Worker to I.T. Director back to Social Worker. Yesterday was my official 7 year anniversary in my job in the Welfare system as a GAIN worker .
What do I really do?
I solve people.
( and then I fill out a gang of forms that have nothing to do with what I did )
Sometimes clients don’t make it out of the lobby. They don’t want help and I don’t have time for them until they do.
Some people unzip their souls and spill out all over my desk, self hatred and hopelessness oozing like ectoplasm containing microbeads of hope.
These are often the reason I know the Burbank Police Sargent so well.
Others come in to break up with me. (these are my favorites) they are working or engaged in something that will take them off of public assistance.
Most often, my first meeting is with someone who is terrified by the right angles, ugly color scheme and sterile environment over illuminated by the worst florescent lights in existence.
My typical client is a single mother who has been in a long term game of dodge ball with family, friends, and strangers hurling insults and preconcieved ideas at her. She is emotionally bruise from the hits.
I wander down to the lobby with coffee in hand, and Instead of calling her from the doorway I walk into the room and ask for her. I meet her at her lobby chair and shake her hand. If she has her child and parenting paraphernalia I offer to help her carry the burden.
We talk in the elevator about my daughter and her kid (s) and I selfishly stop in front of the photocopier and ask if there is anything (paystub, schedule, fan letter to Justin Bieber) she wants me to copy before we walk the Green Mile to my desk.
I have a secret box of toys under my desk where only the rowdy crawlers will find them after escaping their mom. I have bubbles by my keyboard and washable markers for desk drawing. My client faces the window and my computer screen is turned so she can see everything I do. I have no secrets. I tell her that she has all the power and is in charge … essentially I blow her mind.
And then I destroy her.
I tell her all of my shallow judgements because she needs to know that she is articulate, eloquent, poised, good with her child, has nice handwriting, can problem solve etc. These statements vary by the individual and are always accurate. I won’t lie to anyone, but she will suspect me of deception because no one else has told her these things since before she was poor. She has stopped believing them.
I do this because I have hired staff before and I would not hire someone mired in self doubt. Also, we are currently being told to not tell girls they are smart because then they won’t work out problems. .. This is some crappy science and it doesn’t work. The noise of parenting and poverty drowned out the inner voice of self confidence.
Being faced with huge problems like how to put your baby to bed in a box behind a store and stay safe all night can make anyone feel stupid.
As I set this person on the Los Angeles County prescribed program of self sufficiency I do what Sherry Hays and Joleen Swenson did for me in highschool. I cheer them on with a smile and genuine optimism . I am a pep squad of one.
When I drop her off in the lobby again there is a handshake or a high five and then I want to take a nap but I do it all again for 9th hours a day,