I used to think anything but child protection social work was a cop out, until I went on placement

A social work student explains how their chosen route changed after beginning a placement with adults

Photo: chaiyon021/Fotolia

by Mollie Heywood

Before I started my Masters in Social Work I thought I wanted to be a child protection social worker.

It often feels like the only option portrayed by the media, and a negative one at that. Despite this, it feels like it’s the only choice and anything else isn’t ‘proper’ social work. This feeling continued well into my first semester.

I thought that anything except child protection was a cop out and I’d be letting people down – people ranging from myself to my lecturers to service users – if I chose another area in which to practice.

I didn’t think there were any other options available to me personally.

Open mind

In fresher’s week, we were told to keep an open mind and that some of us may have come into the course wanting to do adults or children but that may change.

Inwardly, I laughed at this – how could I be anything else? How could I “properly” help people if I did anything except child protection social work? I accepted that some people would change their view, but I refused to believe I could be one of them.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that talk since I started my first placement four weeks ago. I’m working with adults with learning disabilities and it all makes sense now.

I clearly am one of those students that came into the course with a fixed idea of what I wanted to be that changed their mind.

This was a decision I struggled with throughout the course. After setting my mind on children’s social work for so long I didn’t feel like I could just swap, even though that’s clearly where I should be.


I’ve worked with people with learning disabilities, I worked as a care worker for elderly people and I worked with asylum seekers and refugees. My favourite module was the one about adult social care and I fill my free time reading about it, wanting to know as much as I can.

It therefore should not have come as a surprise that I feel more suited to working with adults than with children, but it did.

Starting placement though was when it really “clicked”. I started to feel that this was all I could see myself doing from now on. It was the first time I had realised this without feeling guilty and just feeling excited about the future.

Meant to be

I get to spend every day surrounded by people who have seemingly endless energy and patience and happiness – service users and staff alike.

I come home every day tired, but it is the good, happy tired you feel when you’ve spent all day smiling and laughing. I find myself wishing away the time I spend at home until I can get back into it. I can spend hours telling anyone who will listen about every tiny detail of what happens. I just feel lucky and excited to be in this placement with this group of people.

I think it was my placement that really showed me this was the place I was meant to be.

I think I can make a real difference in this area and really help people, which is the primary reason I wanted to be a social worker.

It might not be child protection, but its right for me, and it’ll be right for the service users and individuals I’ll be lucky to work with throughout my career.

Mollie Heywood is a social work masters student at Lancaster University. She tweets @mollieaheywood.

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3 Responses to I used to think anything but child protection social work was a cop out, until I went on placement

  1. Lizzie Moss June 1, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

    What a lovely positive story from Mollie Heywood! Best wishes for a long and happy career.

  2. Elle June 2, 2017 at 9:10 pm #

    Child protection social workers sadly feel the need to belittle other types of social work despite us all coming out of uni with the same qualification. I’m sure this arrogance does little to help practice.

  3. Emma June 6, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    This is a really good illustration of why the generic university based social work degrees must be protected. As social workers we need to have a really good overview of different perspectives and be able to relate to difficulties facing complex family situations, not just function as narrow minded policy led factory workers churning out assessments