Category Archives: Social Work

The Joys of Pneumonia and Stress

In May, I had to take time off work for two vacations. The first was a long weekend to travel to North Carolina and watch my cousin get married. The second was a full week to go to Florida and celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday in Disney World. This was at the end of the month, meaning June started out with my playing catch up on all the cases that had blown up while I was gone.

I have to say that I have noticed a pattern. Typically, a lot of things happen when I am gone. Also, everything seems to happen at once. I have spent the first two weeks in June just playing catch up and tying loose ends. This week, the plan was to do all the referrals and paperwork and home visits that had to get done THIS month. Then I got pneumonia.

When it comes to taking care of myself I am terrible at it. In fact, when I started coughing a ton and feeling faint, I figured I was fine unless it continued for two weeks. My mom took my temperature on Monday evening and said it was 101 and I should go to the doctor. I agreed, so Tuesday I worked on getting an appointment, was told at about 12:00 PM that I had pneumonia and given antibiotics. I decided to let them work for 24 hours and was back at work yesterday afternoon.

I didn’t think this was a big deal because I don’t feel exhausted. I’m kind of tired and I cough a lot. If I exert too much energy, I feel I’m going to pass out, but that’s not terrible. And there is a lot for me to get done and a lot of court for me to cover. Yesterday afternoon was fine, but today was much more difficult. There were multiple times where I had to tell myself to go slowly, that I can’t handle going this fast now. I did the best I could, but now that I sit here the room is spinning and I’m wondering…can I do social work while this sick?

I mean, it’s a very stressful job, to be sure, but is sitting at a desk and getting stressed resting? Or is it not? These questions would matter if I could take more time off, but I have two court appearances to make tomorrow and a ton of home visits next week. I will drink my water and rest tonight and hope the weekend recuperates me enough to get back at it Monday.

Social Work Versus Paper Work

When I was in undergrad, there was a lot of emphasis on the amount of paperwork social workers had to do and how little time they had to do it. I realized how true this was in my first internship, when myself and the other social work students were asked to do filing for the supervisors. It was a little like waving through a sea of paper and trying to make sense of it all. The internship was torture, but it made me decide that no matter how busy I got as a social worker, I would never ever get behind on my paperwork.

Oh, how young and  naive I once was.

There are days where I feel like I have to choose between the importance of the kid on the phone crying and the report that needs to get to court before the end of the day. Other times, I have five home visits that need to get done and files that have not been touched. There are deadlines for my paperwork and there are more important deadlines for making sure that children are safe and in the best place, bio parents are getting the services they need, and caregivers are also getting needed services. Frankly, it’s pretty easy to know which of these is more important.

I am proud to say that I’ve been meeting all timelines. As of now, I have not yet had a late report and I have gotten things into court on time once I realized what on time was (with the exception of the report that needed to get sent on a day that I was in court all day without my laptop…). I have made the monthly home visits for all of my children and the unannounced visits every quarter. I’ve also been managing at being the type of caseworker I wanted to be and called on their birthdays and met with them sometimes extra. I have consistently made contact with bio parents and caregivers. My Myers-Briggs J has been helping a lot with my job.

But there is one area that I have a hard time with: filing. I don’t know what it is, but putting papers in files makes me want to bang my head against my desk. I try to set aside a day a week to do it, but that rarely happens. Today was my filing day and I ended up giving up part way through and making phone calls.

I got into social work for the social side of it. I can handle reports because I’m writing, which I love, and I’m writing about my clients, which to me relates to social work. However, when it comes to actually getting things into the files, it’s mindless and only exists to keep things in order. I have a system for what happens with papers before they’re officially filed, and it’s fine for me, but it’s apparently important to keep my files updated.

Anyone else a social worker out there? How do you handle the paperwork part of the job?

Four Weeks Down, Five to Go

The State of Michigan requires that any child welfare workers complete nine weeks of training through the Child Welfare Training Institute (CWTI) before they can begin managing cases on their own. I was enrolled in the CWTI on May 16 to begin this process. The first week was completing homework while working at my home office. I did online assignments and shadowed different workers. It allowed me to learn quite a bit more about the ins and outs of foster care.

The next two weeks consisted of classroom training with about 300 new hires. This included people with the state who were in CPS, foster care, and adoption. Also, there were private agencies there that were going to be doing foster care and adoption. There were some things that were helpful to learn, but some other stuff was just review to me. If you’re interested, you can check out our swearing-in ceremony here.

This past week was back in the office to do more homework. What was really nice about it was that I found out about a few cases I’ll be getting when I’m done in mid-July. This meant that I got to meet at least one of the families and talk to them. I also read up on some case files. It was very informative and it’s good to know about what I’ll be doing specifically.

The next three weeks I’ll be in Lansing for classroom learning on the specifics of doing foster care (namely the paperwork). Then another week in the office, and my final week will be a mock trial and a big test. As you can tell, my updates have been sparse, and probably will continue to be. Hopefully it’ll be a bit more regularly in July once training and class and interning are wrapping up.

My First Week of Work

It has been a while, I know. First I had finals, then it was my me time, and then it was my first week of work. However, even though the next few months are going to be insanity with a full-time job and 8 credits, I am going to work hard to write once a week. That is my promise.

Anyway, I thought some of you may be interested in my first week at the Department of Human Services. I arrived at eight in the morning along with another new hire. We were shown around the building and I was told that they actually moved me from a foster care caseworker to a children’s protective services (CPS, get used to that abbreviation) caseworker. This was fear inducing, as I like the idea of longterm cases from foster care. The in-and-out idea that exists in CPS makes me sad. I want to get to know my clients.

As I was trying to wrap my brain around this new change (while doing paperwork), another person came to tell me that they may actually move me back to foster care, however I should stick with CPS until I was told otherwise. So I spent all last week shadowing CPS workers and realizing that, if need be, it is a job I could actually do. The people were great and my supervisor cared about my well-being and learning. However, I still wanted to be in foster care.

Luckily, today I found out that I was switched. I got to read through a case and now I’ll spend the rest of the week shadowing foster care caseworkers. Hopefully next week I’ll begin the nine week training and then be able to get actual cases. Even though last week I learned a lot about an area of child welfare that I won’t be working in, I also learned a valuable lesson about myself. I often believe that I can’t handle something without trying it. In reality, it turns out that I can handle a lot more than I think. That’s nice to know.

Tomorrow I have four hours of class after work and Wednesday I have internship supervision and some interning, so, naturally, my weeks will be insane, but hopefully I’ll be able to handle all of it.

I’m Bi-Winning

A lot has happened in the last week (and two days, but the specific amount of time is not really the point). The last time I wrote to you, I was 22, and now I am 23, but frankly, that’s the lowest level of change. On my 23rd birthday, I was offered a full time position with the Department of Human Services as a foster care caseworker.

Those of you who keep up with my blog should know about the giant DHS recruitment that I went to a few weeks ago. At that recruitment, I was told it would be 4-6 weeks before I heard anything, which made me assume it wouldn’t be until the end of the semester. However, on March 16 I got a phone call offering me the position, which resulted in me jumping up and down, incredibly excited to know there was a job waiting for me in August.

However, as I called the county office to discuss getting a drug test, I found out that they would need me to start no later than the beginning of May. They were basically saying I could finish up this semester, but I’d need to figure something out about school for the Spring/Summer semester. Suddenly everything was different and I felt I needed to choose between the 12 credits left to get my MSW and a full-time, full benefits job. And I was panicked…

Now, for those of you who don’t know me, you may not know how much of a planner I am. I plan out my life and my days far in advance…I like knowing where I’m going and when. Throwing a kink in that chain is incredibly anxiety provoking for me, and none of this was in my plan. The goal was to get my MSW in August and have a job waiting for me, not to get a job and have to choose between that and my Masters, but alas, this was where I was. After a lot of thought, planning, and research, I chose to take the job and finish my MSW requirements by December instead of August.

So, the past week has been a lot of phone calls, emails, and paperwork, and it’s still not done. However, I think I’ve figured out what my classes will look like and my finishing my internship will look like. Basically, all that’s left is registration and financial aid, and the latter of those is basically out of my control (though I do have one last form to fill out and one more phone call to make). Slowly, carefully, things are falling into place, and the next six months are going to be crazy, but things will get done and I will be okay. I’m hoping to even move out of my parents’ house in early September and get my own apartment.

So, enjoy this crazy journey with me. Also, I received Rob Bell’s book on Monday and have begun to read it. Keep a look out for a full review sometime in the next few weeks.

*Note about the title: In case you don’t know, this is a Charlie Sheen reference. It is not supposed to mock anyone who is bi-sexual or bi-polar…just to mock Charlie Sheen…

The American Idol for Social Workers

It has definitely been a while since I wrote last, and for that I apologize. This week is my spring break and I have been constantly running around (first finishing up last-minute homework, then visiting my sister, then going to my job interview). Finally, I can write, and I can tell all of you about the recruitment I attended the past few days.

Tuesday was the first day of the recruitment for child welfare workers. We all gathered together in a room for an hour and a half presentation by a panel. Questions were asked about job specifics (and some even asked what child welfare really was, which was just sad) and they explained to us how the process was going to go. We then signed up for our first round of interviews based on whether you wanted to go in the morning or in the afternoon. I signed up for a 10 am slot and handed them my resume and transcripts. Then I gave another copy of my resume to a private agency that was there to get a few applicants (after all, it never hurts to apply).

Wednesday I arrived a bit early and was handed a writing exercise and a map of Michigan counties. We were to pick our top three counties to work in and complete the exercise and then we handed them in. After they were completed and turned in, I waited for my name to get called. Frankly, it felt like I waited far too long. Finally, I was called back and was asked two questions and sent back to the waiting room. She had to score my answers and review my writing exercise to see if I had a high enough score to come back the next day. It turns out I did and I signed up for a second interview at 10:30 today.

Today meant a lot of waiting in the waiting room. When I arrived, I was handed a sheet to fill out for a background check and then I waited for my name to be called. Eventually it was and I met with two people. I was asked eight questions and then asked them my own questions about specifics of the job. Now, I wait. Apparently, what happens first is they score my entire packet. If my score is high enough, they will notify me that I am in the applicant pool for my first three counties. Myself and any other applicants in the pool will be ranked and sent to those counties in order of ranking. We will then be notified as to whether or not we got a job. This could take four to six weeks…

In the meantime, I plan to join sites like Monster and Linked In to try to do some networking and apply to other jobs. I also receive fairly regular emails from the school of social work listing different job availabilities. Does anyone have any recommendations for job websites? Whether they’re broad or specifically for social work, I don’t mind…

I Led Group Today…

…and it wasn’t the greatest. I’m certain that I’ll get better at it with practice. So, next week is another week and hopefully it will be better than this one. Tomorrow I get to go to court with a client. We’ll see how that goes.