Social work diary: ‘I want to cry for the loss of a young life’

A challenging week sees this anonymous social worker facing a 200-mile trip to handle a child protection case, confronting domestic violence, and taking the stand at an inquest into a teenage suicide

Picture posed by model. Credit: I love images/Rex Features

Monday

My pre-planned sedentary start to the week evaporates fast as I visit a four-year-old who has witnessed her father assault her mother.

The mother begins to sob as soon as I enter the house. “He’s hurt me again, on my head where it won’t bruise. [Our child] was here,” she says. I wonder how frightening this must have been for the child.

The father and child return and the mother begins to panic. “Please don’t make me leave him,” she begs. “I love him.”

I draw from my professional training and experience. I’m scared of leaving. I want to take the child with me but I have no legal power. I check on the child’s welfare, take a deep breath and leave so that I can seek management advice.

I later return with the police and assist the mother and child to a place of safety. We drive in silence. I’ve clearly safeguarded the child – for now – but I’ll have to work damn hard to gain the trust of the mother.   

Tuesday

I spend the entire day travelling 200 miles to and from visiting a child who is subject to a child protection plan.

The child has moved area but the local authority in the new area has yet to recognise the child as residing in their jurisdiction. This puzzles me given that the government must know it is entirely cost ineffective.

There are qualified social workers, in the local area, who could be visiting the child. I bet the taxpayer wouldn’t imagine in their wildest dreams that this practice existed.

I later read a serious case review about a family in a similar situation. The mother was murdered by the father.

The report recognised that two local authorities were arguing over ‘who’ was responsible for the children. I wonder what Professor Munro would have to say about this.

Wednesday

I attend an inquest about a teenager who is presumed to have committed suicide. I get up early to prepare.

I want to cry; for the loss of a young life, for the family who will never see their daughter again and in all honesty for myself. I’m petrified about giving evidence. As I take the stand, I notice the mother, she smiles and it gives me strength.

The coroner returns an open verdict. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse for her family.

I return to the office to find a homeless teenager waiting. She presented as homeless last week and my – clearly limited – mediation skills had managed to get her back home for a sum total of five days.

I contact housing. They offer the teenager a bed for the night. 

Thursday

My morning begins with a child protection conference. A child had reported that her father had sexually abused her. The father produces a tape recorder and after placing it firmly on the table he switches it on.

The police share information, it is clear that the mother has been a victim of father’s violence. I feel empathy with the mother yet angry at the same time.

The child has given a credible interview to the police, yet the mother denies the possibility of the abuse occurring. She lets out a loud sob when she learns that her child has been made subject to a child protection plan.

Back at the office I am greeted by a bunch of flowers and a card from a father. I’m overwhelmed. Perhaps I do occasionally do something right.
               
Friday

I visit a mother as part of a core assessment. As soon as I enter the family home I realise there is a problem as the mother is unreasonably paranoid about her neighbour and spot a number of warning signs.

I leave and later return with the mother’s GP and a psychiatrist. The GP explains that they wish for the mother to be voluntarily admitted to hospital.

After initially refusing, the mother changes her mind when the police arrive. I question whether she is indeed ‘volunteering’, in the true meaning of the word.

I manage to identify a family member whose immediate response to the child’s situation is: “I’m on my way” – a great result. I leave work on a high but in no doubt that I’m ready for a restful, and, hopefully, sedentary weekend.

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