I am a qualified social worker who moved from field work to
residential child care six weeks ago. I have been made welcome by
an established team who get on well professionally and personally.
The problem is they are such a close team they hardly need words to
communicate, particularly when there is a crisis. By the time I get
up to speed it’s too late. I have experience with the client group
but feel like a fish out of water and my confidence is ebbing away.
Perhaps skills are not as transferable between field and
residential work as I thought?
It’s early days yet and the discomfort you feel is less likely to
be about transferable skills than familiarity, team dynamics and
the change itself. A word with your manager should prompt him or
her to set up some team-building activities and to create a safe
space for you to express how you feel as a new member of such a
It may be that you are expecting too much of yourself too soon. In
residential care there is no hiding place from the needs and
demands of young people and exposure as the new kid on the block is
inevitable. It is different in field work, where new workers can be
allocated cases in keeping with their confidence and experience.
Just imagine how a residential worker transferring to field work
would feel if catapulted into care proceedings and courts in the
The common ground is in the skills and knowledge you hold about
children and young people but the context is entirely different and
will take some time to adjust to. Could it be that you have not
quite made the transition in your own mind from field worker to
Addie Stevenson is children and family services director at
Aberlour Child Care Trust