Monday, February 09, 2009

The Poop House Chronicles (Part Eleven): You don't even have to go in for it to ruin your day...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been remiss with regard to a few things entailed in my position as a social worker. It should come as no surprise to you that these things escaped my attention when we had more pressing matters to address, such as the deplorable living conditions of these people in modern day USA... Conditions which one state in particular seemed to be entirely too eager to approve of and allow. The propagation of the animals and bugs seemed pretty important to mention too... But you need to learn a little more about the background of the employer in order to really get a complete picture of the appalling bullshit that I had to put up with during my time shoveling shit in hell.

First off, I need to address the wage I earned for all this torment. I've told you that it was a paltry pittance... I wasn't lying. I've talked to friends about my income and they have always been beyond shocked at the measly sum which qualified as my paycheck. Since my company was sub-contracted by the state to do all THEIR leg work, the most reasonable thing to do would be to compare my wage to theirs. Since state case workers have government jobs, they get all the state benefits. They still get what we would call the lowly social worker wage, but they get health insurance and 3 weeks paid vacation from day one. They also get all kinds of state holidays off. Meanwhile, my company elected to keep us on the poverty line by paying us roughly $10,000 less annually than the state workers, (YES, you read that right, we're the ones doing all the hard work, and the get $10,000 LESS...) and they gave us NO paid holidays, unless of course you really WANT to work on Christmas day, (without receiving any bonus compensation,) 1 week of vacation earned only AFTER you've been there a year, and to be used over the course of your SECOND year on the job, (and if you bail out before the end of your second year, don't count on getting those unused vacation days in your final check, because that won't happen.) Let's also keep in mind that the state case workers only have to see their clients once a month. Meanwhile I'm fully expected to go into the poop house EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. $10,000 LESS for seeing the clients 25 times MORE... Figure that one out.

If you're not appalled by the wage described for the job you already know about, you should be.

Let's now address the working environment. This is a company which SPECIALIZES in providing therapeutic mental health services. And they constantly lecture to the workers that they should find outlets to deal with the job. (Of course, when they randomly drug test, and keep us on call 24-7, the most obvious outlets are out.) They then get upset when the workers hang around the office talking to each other, and they get REALLY upset when the workers are at the office talking to each other about anything work related, ("Because you never know who is walking around the office. And we don't want to offend any clients." ...More on that in a moment.) The logical solution to the problem would be for the company to provide an outlet for the workers, right? I mean it isn't like they don't have therapists available. But no, if we wanted to talk to anyone on a professional level about how to cope with the mental toll of the job, we were expected to PAY FULL PRICE to meet with anyone... And the mental health services are not covered in the crappy insurance plan that you have paid for out of your aforementioned tiny paycheck. (Unlike the state, who provides therapeutic services for their social workers free of charge.) *It should also be noted that the crappy insurance plan also doesn't cover birth control, despite the fact that if there was ever a job that would drive a person to want birth control in any and all forms, this is it!

That covers the compensation and benefits portion of our program, but there was an important point buried in there somewhere.

Oh, yes... "We don't want to offend any clients." That's a REALLY important point.

To normal people, like us, we find it pretty easy to stay on the right side of the law. We have stayed out of jail for the most part, (aside from perhaps a paddy wagon ride for some drunken/ disorderly conduct, or other misdemeanor shenanigans.) Those of you in my readership who are parents, have managed to maintain parental control and guardianship of your kiddos as far as I know. Congrats! To my knowledge you do not beat them, molest them, neglect them, or use drugs around them, (or while pregnant, ladies). At the office we were constantly told that the clients that we deal with are generally the bottom 1% of the barrel. So we're not offending 99% of the population by default, simply because they don't walk in the door, largely because, much like you, the upper 99% don't abuse their children. (I would include myself in that statement too, but I have no children.) But despite the fact that we are dealing with a tiny fraction of the population, and that this tiny fraction of the population is only in contact with us because the state has AT LEAST somewhat substantiated allegations, though in most cases SIGNIFICANT PROOF of abuse and/or neglect, we are expected to go out of our way to NOT OFFEND them.

Absorb that for a moment before we move on.

I mean I understand that it is important to establish a rapport with people that you have to have a working relationship. I understand that it's important to go through life doing your best not to offend people in general, (though sometimes it is an incredibly good time to be offensive). But we were fully expected to go above and beyond, often to the tune of defying natural biological responses our bodies volunteered. This means that if you are forced to sit in a room with a known child molester while he visits with his kids, despite the rage you can feel building within you, you are not allowed to beat him into unconsciousness and then kick him in tender places so that he won't be able to molest anymore. It also means that if you walk into a house so foul that your body spasms and you feel that there is no doubt that you will wretch and vomit, that you have to control that involuntary response, and you have to choke back anything that might come up... Because if they are willing to live there, you being so repulsed that you have to vomit would likely offend.

We were constantly told that we had to do any and everything possible to avoid offending this tiny insular group, even though the behavior that landed them on our roll call is highly offensive to anyone with even the most remote sense of decency. And as a bluntly honest person who is rather used to just telling it like it is, this is the task with which I struggled the most... Well, that and not blowing chunks every time I had to set foot on the premises at the poop house.

So when payday rolled around every two weeks, and I looked at that measly little figure that had been added to my checking account, my day was ruined without ever setting foot in poop house territory.

But when we left off, I was confronted with a clog in the poop house kitchen sink consisting solely of dead roaches. And although it's been more than a month since that last poop house post, let's really contemplate how bad a roach problem has to be that you have SO MANY roaches running around that your sink is SOLIDLY, INEXORABLY, and UNFATHOMABLY HOPELESSLY clogged with NOTHING BUT DEAD ROACHES. That's a little bit beyond a significant roach problem.

So when I contacted state case worker "Dave" he basically had the same reaction as you fine folks... But then brushed it off in a way that I was beginning to find all too familiar when it came to the state's manner of handling this case.

"...So he plunged the sink and nothing came up but dead roaches... and he said they've been working on plunging it for something like three days, and it's still totally clogged. They can't do dishes. It's revolting."


"Yes, that's one way of putting it."

"So other than that, how's the house looking?"

"Are you kidding me? Their sink is clogged with dead roaches, they can't do dishes because their sink is clogged with dead roaches, and you think there's going to be improvement elsewhere in the house? Have you gone mental?"

"Well, I thought I'd take a shot."

"Poor choice of timing on that shot."

"So, how does her room look?"

"It's every bit as sad and repulsively-smelling as the rest of the house... My concern is that since they are having plumbing issues that they will collectively bathe less than usual, and that's a rare enough occurrence as it is."

"Hmm... Yeah."

"Well, as helpful as this conversation is, that's really the most up to date information I've got for you... Oh and she doesn't have cancer, so they dodged that bullet."

"Oh, good."

"Have a nice day, Dave."

"You too!"

As I hung up, I marveled that this was his response, and that this lack of response and lack of action made considerably more than I did, and he only had to spend about a half an hour with them once a month versus my daily trek into hell for hours on end at times.

Clearly there is a gross inequity in there somewhere.

Without ever stepping foot on the grounds, my day was once again ruined.

But then again, it was a working day... I would still have to go there. I would still have to figure out how to fix this plumbing issue... Man, I must've missed this in the brochure.

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