Friday, April 27, 2007

A relatively uplifting day...

It's no secret that when you work in social services as a whole, you're dealing with the bottom 1% of the population 99% of the time.

Basically, when these people eventually have their kids taken away, it is because EVERY SINGLE other option has been exhausted due to total and utter failure. And a large portion of the time they are NOT happy to see you, and they don't want to have anything to do with working with you, or the system that you represent. Today was a little different.

I work with one client who (in the scheme of things) was doing well initially. Her drug tests had come back clean for long enough that her social worker had wrangled her a spot in a shelter that was willing to allow her to live there for up to two years to really get herself established before making her do it all on her own. They were willing to put a roof over her head, help her to save money for her future costs, they were willing to feed her, clothe her, provide her with free daycare once she got her kids back, and see that she got a full-time job that she would actually like. Basically she really had it made in comparison to most of the folks who we deal with. The only real rules she had to abide by? She had to do a daily chore, she had to keep her room clean, and she had to remain drug free.

Well, she blew it.

And since then, she has been technically homeless, sleeping on the couches on acquaintances and just kind of living moment to moment, not to mention hand to mouth.

Since that MAJOR setback, we've been working in baby steps. Getting her food from food banks, clothes from charitable clothing centers, working on appropriate child discipline by watching videos on parenting. And while those steps are worthwhile in meeting immediate needs, the fact is that they were doing little to make progress in the big picture... meaning that going to a food bank for a week's worth of food, while feeding her now, isn't something that a court looks too highly on, because she is still overly reliant on the system to support her. And so, when I met with her this morning, I went in with an agenda... but to be nice, I asked her if she had anything she wanted to work on during our session. Luckily she bought right into my plan. She wanted to look for a job. She wanted to have a real income. And so I told her, "GREAT! We're going to go and get applications from every place that you would be WILLING to work in a certain designated area." And so we went. And we got applications from something like eleven different places that were currently hiring. We even got her an interview at a telemarketing firm. And toward the end of our session, there was a small string of places that she hadn't considered. I offered them up. She said she wasn't sure. I told her, "Hey, if you don't go and ask, the answer is always 'No,' so you might as well give it a shot." And in that final string, she went in, she filled out an application, she interviewed, and she was hired on the spot.

She came out with the biggest smile, and gave me a double thumbs up. She was so excited, and I was excited for her. It might not be the most glamorous job, and it seem like such a small step, but for her is was so huge! And for that moment I was so thrilled for her. She was making an effort to get things moving in the right direction all on her own!

That was the best part of my day... And really, the best part of my week. (Maybe even longer than that.)

But then, of course, I had to move on and deal with other, less compliant clients, who are still in the less-than-thrilled to see me phase. Ones who have nothing standing in their way but their own stubbornness.

If there were some kind of medal for people who decide to be obstreperous, and stick with it, I've got a couple of clients who are totally up for medal contention on a professional level. (The Olympics are for amateurs... THESE folks are DEFINITELY PROS!)

And that drags me down a little bit.

But then I talked to my supervisor about this progress, and she noted that it really was a big deal, and that she was thrilled we were making this kind of progress with that particular client. She also noted that with the other clients, "you can lead a horse to water..."

But all in all, I'm willing to put today in the win column. I actually feel like I've gotten through to her, and I'm getting her to realize that there is a lot that she can do to help herself, she just has to TRY!

And upon completion of my work day, I celebrated by drinking a couple of bottles of wine... YAY.