Diary of a social worker: ‘The children act out the stabbing in graphic detail’

Life on the child protection frontline is a world apart from the anti-social work rants in newspapers

Image: Tom Watkins/Rex features

Monday

A Sunday Telegraph columnist regularly champions “loving parents” who’ve been  subject to care proceedings; in every case there’s “no evidence” and these middle class parents are denied justice by the police, courts and vengeful social workers.

I visit a mother and baby foster placement. The mother has schizophrenia and won’t keep to routines and boundaries. The foster carer is indignant and annoyed, so I make another written agreement between them.

I remind the mother that her habit of changing her appearance confuses the baby. Last week she had an all over fake tan, today she wears a long blonde wig, reminding me of Marie Antoinette!

Tuesday

I visit a four-year-old who lives with his grandmother. His parents and grandparents argue endlessly and then complain about each other, often to me. The child has learned how to manipulate very well, refuses to go to nursery, and grandmother habitually gives in.

Today’s task is to help her break the cycle; it’s achieved amid a welter of tears and wailing, yet once at nursery he settles. However, I doubt if grandmother can achieve this tomorrow.

Wednesday

Colleagues at the office seem perpetually anxious with rumours of reorganisation and unannounced OFSTED inspections. They overwork and eat at their desks; I dread to think how many crumbs are under their keyboards.  

Later, I see an eight-year-old girl in school. She tells about a visit to her father in prison; mother has told her that dad’s working on a building site and can’t get time off. The child knows it’s untrue – she recounts security searches and sniffer dogs at the prison and other children have told her dad has “done something bad”. 

Her world must be a very sad one. I wonder why adults deceive children like this?

Thursday

A Romanian family with three children on a child protection plan sub-let their house to strangers and do not see any risk. In school the children tell me of an incident last night when a fight broke out between these people, one got stabbed and father got arrested.

Now police have sealed it off as a crime scene, which looks very dramatic. The children act it out in graphic detail but mother denies they saw anything.

Friday

I attend a child protection case conference about a family who have made good progress, but other agencies say they “need” a social worker. The chairperson persuades them it’s not necessary. Other agencies often see us like an insurance policy.
 
Later, I am involved in trying to persuade my managers to take action about the Romanian family; yesterday’s incident was part of a serious and worsening pattern of putting the children at risk and the parents won’t change.  After much persuasion they agree to hold a legal planning meeting.

I wonder just what needs to happen before we take action and realise that I work in a very different world to the one written about by the Sunday Telegraph’s pundit.

Would you like to write a social work diary about your experiences in adults’, children’s or mental health social work? Get in touch with us via email.

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