Social work diary: ‘My satnav has sent me into troubled waters’

A children’s social worker reflects on a challenging week


I run a family meeting for the extended family of two children where all casework has defied attempts to alleviate their enmeshment. One of the grandmothers promises the young girl that she will pay for lessons for her to do many hobbies. If those promises are kept this child will be the best tennis playing, horse riding, skating ballerina ever.


On the way to a child protection interview my satnav takes me through a ford whose river bed is very rough.

When I meet the girl she is very distressed. The enquiry gets dramatic with the young person tearing her clothes but we manage to get her to stay with one of her relatives, avoiding the tensions at home. I spend ages tracking down emergency mental health services, who think she doesn’t need assessing now. I wonder aloud how desperate you need to be, but cannot shift their view.


Next morning I notice my car has no front bumper, so return to yesterday’s river crossing. It is near where I crossed. I don my wellies, wade in and retrieve it. That problem was easily solved; the next is to get the mental health services to respond to yesterday’s referral. Thankfully the teenager has calmed down and gone to her relative’s workplace with her.


We receive news that apparently a boy in care has told his mum at a contact meeting that he has been hit by his foster carers. It is a tricky case. The boy could hardly function before he came into care. But his mum loves to complain about the foster carers. She is demanding the boy back. I’m asked to investigate. The child does not recount the same story when I ask him.

The foster carers feel deeply traumatised and display great indignity. I try to explain the procedures, that an allegation has to be investigated, but it makes no impression. They tell me they prefer to foster babies as older children are more trouble.

With it being after 6pm there’s nothing more I can do tonight. I leave the foster carers feeling aggrieved and feedback to my manager. We agree that the children might need to be moved, leaving many loose ends for next week.

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