Slow Starts and Small Successes

Many people who begin their careers as social workers have very little, if any, training. Often in their first week they are thrown into too much work, too quickly, headed for the road to burnout.

This was not my experience.

For one, I had just finished five weeks of Children’s Corps training, which, if nothing else, gave me a really great idea of what I was about to get myself into.

And then there was my first week. I found myself being stressed because I didn’t have enough to do. I was given eight cases, and on the first day, my supervisor told me to send introduction letters to all the birth and foster parents on my caseload, letting them know that I would be their new worker. Okay, easy enough. Now what?

On day two, my supervisor said, “Well, maybe you should call them; it will be nice for you to let them know before they receive their letters.” I did this for two days, and I was only able to get into contact with three people.

By Thursday morning, I was panicking. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and I knew that there were some major pieces that I was missing, but I was so lost that I didn’t even know which questions to ask. And then Rebecca showed up.

Rebecca and I share an office, but she had been on vacation for my first three days of work. Recently, my agency switched to the “Child Success” model, and so she had been working on my cases before I started at the agency. She returned to the office that Thursday, and I simply turned to her and said, “Rebecca… I have a question. Umm… I don’t know. What do I… Where do I… I’m lost. Help!”

She asked if I had any specific questions, and by the look on my face she seemed to know exactly what to do. In a matter of seconds she was forwarding all of the information she had on my upcoming court dates, FTCs, PPCs, permanency hearing reports, court action summaries, all the things I needed to know.

Every day I find a million new questions to ask her. If she minds, she hasn’t told me; she is always so patient, and seemingly happy to answer my hundreds of daily questions.

Now, at the end of week two, I am finally starting to get into a groove here. I can finally pick up the phone and manage to keep my heart at a steady rate, I have done several home visits by myself, and I’m really starting to get into my cases and feel out what the best things for these families might be.

Once I started to meet the families and get to know them, everything started falling into place. Last Thursday, I received a tip about the whereabouts of a birth parent who has been AWOL since before I started. Friday morning I spoke with that parent on the phone, and she told me where she is, where she’s been, and where she will be. I know I will have many failures in the future, but right now I’m celebrating my small successes.

I am only two weeks in, and already I know that I love this work.

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