Social workers have a difficult job. They are often vastly overworked and underpaid for a job that is extremely emotionally taxing. County social workers in some states are so overworked that its all but impossible for them to perform even the most basic requirements for their job. Some social workers may be grumpy with you and some may be difficult to get ahold of in person or via telephone. It’s important to remember, though that these people have a difficult and complex job to perform and they’re often working with a large number of families besides just yours.
Social work is littered with frustrating tasks and social works have a never-ending supply of them to do each day. They may attend court in the morning and testify regarding their opinions about a particular case and then head out into the field to do monthly foster home visits. Later in the day, they may need to go and remove children from a home, an experience that is sometimes dangerous as well as unpalatable. When children are removed from a home in the middle of the night, the social worker has to get up and start making phone calls to find a place for that child.
As foster parents, it’s hard to imagine that anyone else on the team has a more difficult job than you. Indeed, you might be right in thinking that yours is the most challenging job. But social work is perhaps a close second with it’s many unexpected twists and turns and ups and downs. Social workers deal with families who are angry with them, families who are disappointing them, and unresponsive attorneys or resources.
Social workers must take the entire situation into account and listen to the input that they get from multiple sources in order to make a decision. Though their decision on a particular case may seem flippant at times, it’s important to remember that social workers work with a lot of children and families during their tenure and have special insights that they bring to the table regarding the way the system actually works. Foster parents may be frustrated with decisions that social workers make about the children in their home, but the system seeks to reunify children with their birth families if at all possible. It is the social worker’s job to make reunification possible using the resources that he or she is able to find to repair the family unit. Sometimes reunification is simply not possible, but the social worker needs to be able to demonstrate that he or she made a valiant effort toward this goal in order to keep a job.
When you become frustrated with your social worker, just remember, that theirs is a difficult task. Social work is not really a cushy office job with lots of perks. Most social workers go frantically from one appointment to another, trying to fulfill the bare requirements to be able to formulate an opinion about each family’s welfare. Though their opinions may not always be in line with your own, keep in mind that they may have more data to work with to make their decision and that they usually have everyone’s best interests in mind.