Social Worker burnout… not just talk

When I read the former Minister of Community Services’ response to Child Protection Social Workers’ circumstances and the concerns that the Union has identified I had to speak up.

“We want to make sure our social workers are well supported and we believe they are,” – Kelly Regan

I have kept quiet long enough.

I was reluctant to speak out after ending my permanent employment with the Dept. of Community Services for fear that I may jeopardize things if someday I wish to regain employment with the Province. After reading the former Minister’s comments about the supports in place for our Social Workers, and her absolute lack of concern for their wellbeing, I felt compelled to speak out and likely end all possibility of returning to work for the Provincial government.

I was so stricken by the lack of empathy, compassion or UNDERSTANDING demonstrated by Kelly Regan.  The practices of our current government and its restructuring have done little but exacerbate an already dire situation.

I’d challenge the Minister to go back and conduct exit-interviews with the MANY social workers who left permanent government positions in the last several years (including myself) for jobs with less so-called stability and much lower pay grade before making any further speculation about the support provided to our social workers. In my small office alone I counted 4 of us who did just that during the time immediately surrounding my own resignation. Perhaps it would also be enlightening to spend just a few weeks sitting in the chair of today’s child protection social workers – it wouldn’t take a day to see just how undervalued social workers are.

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Who am I? …in 500 words or less?

Me - swimming with the jellyfish

Me - swimming with the jellyfish

I’ve been through this exercise a number of times in the past few years, only looking specifically from the perspective of my location in society and what power or privilege I have or lack depending upon the situation. The anglophone, Caucasian, heterosexual, able-bodied, educated, middle-income me. The female, student and (once) single mother. I know what my location brings to my (and my children’s) benefit. I know where we struggle due to the same.

I’ve also done the inventory of roles I play or have played. The list is long and in-exhaustive: mother, daughter, sister, wife, ex-wife, spouse, girlfriend, friend, woman, employee, employer, co-worker, mentor, boss, manager, director, team leader, chairperson, supervisor, early childhood educator, consumer, activist, advocate, facilitator, writer, reader, photographer, researcher, archivist, runner, cyclist, swimmer, triathlete, cook, cleaner, launder, driver/chauffeur, book-keeper, storyteller, caregiver, nurse, confidante, counselor, learner, student, teacher, navigator, planner, coordinator, social worker, volunteer, organizer…

But I do not define myself in such concrete terms. Who I am is difficult to capture, and more difficult to describe. I am a big-picture-visionary sort of person always looking at things from the perspective of change. How can this situation be improved upon, and how can I be the change-agent or catalyst for such change?

I am forever seeking the ultimate balance, and forever uncertain it can ever be attained.

I have an idealist way of looking at things, yet I struggle with putting it into practise.

The greatest priority in my life is my children, yet I know I must take care of myself first in order to be available to them to my fullest ability. There is a constant battle within me as to whether one takes away from the other.

I often take on too much, always wanting to be/do more than I am.

I speak my mind, and often at the risk of loss, in the hopes of the greater good prevailing.

While I could never be mistaken as an extremist, I always try to do what is consistent with my ideals, without fear of stepping outside of the accepted norm.

I love to read, enjoy my garden, prefer the simple things in life. I have a constant desire to be more creative, yet a need for greater order and structure.

I try to lead be example in my life. Convinced that the best way to raise socially-conscious, compassionate, caring children is to live it myself.

Above all, I like to consider myself a genuine, honest person. I seek the company of those who are real in every aspect of their lives.

I am a dreamer.

I am a doer.

I am me.