First, Do No Harm

Apologies in advance to chosen fast, who will no doubt disagree with me big time on this view, Michael here in the city, whose sister is studying for her BSW, and to any social workers out there who Get It. This will be a rant, but always remember, Gentle Reader, YMMV*.

On April 4, Ashley Clocher's Letter to the Editor posted in the News & Record. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I read it. But take a look for yourself first before we move to the discussion. Her letter is here.

For the record, I despise social workers.

I know that's a harsh generalism. I'm sure there are many out there that are dedicated, selfless, and bend over backward to help their clients get the help they need. The social workers assigned to the various area schools seem to be okay, if largely ineffectual; and the former social workers for GIHN seem to be, according to the people we've talked to, salt of the earth.

Unfortunately, I've been on the business end of far too many of the bad ones. And the resulting encounters have, admittedly, colored my perceptions of them.

Still, as my workshop leader was fond of saying: "It is what it is."

The social workers I've encountered are far too busy looking down their nose at the people sitting across the desk from them. The ones I've had the misfortune to have to deal with are simply taking up office space waiting for another paycheck all the while treating their clients -- the ones they're supposed to be helping -- with a protracted disdain most of us reserve for street dogs. The ones I've had to endure are often just going through several motions -- not the least of which is simply to keep clients bottled up for hours filling out forms, answering intrusive questions and enduring a roomful of kids whose parents refuse to discipline them only to be told that "we can't help you." With no explanation forthcoming.

We've had to deal with social workers who worked overtime answering a spurious charge of child endangerment and threatening to take Nessie away, only to find out subsequently that the charge was baseless (something we'd told them all along). We've had to endure social workers who put the word of a child over ours when said child decided that I'd be better off in jail and thus made up a lie that I'd molested her. Another charge that was found to be baseless**. We've had to suffer through the depredations of a Medicaid social worker who decided to punish me for not putting a stack of documentation directly in her hand (3) by cutting off our Medicaid and getting into a verbal battle over the phone. We've had to dread dealing with a social worker who insisted on treating us like addled kindergartners, although Mama and I are much older. And then there's the seemingly endless parade of social workers who simply sit and watch you snobbishly through the fog of a jaundiced zeitgeist while taking copious notes on your family's situation -- including how much money is in your poscket and why it's there (4) -- knowing that there's no way they plan to help you.

If I may quote Ashley's letter:

Why is there such a stigma with social workers? We do some of the best work in
this country and get little or no recognition. People react negatively when you
are out on a visit or even meet them in a hospital setting. They think you are
there to take their children or do something else that will bring harm to their

Because in my experience, my dear, nine times out of ten, that social worker is there to take your children or do some sort of harm to their family. We've had to deal with one one night at Cone Hospital that was there for just that reason, when one of the children (I forget which one) had fallen and was hurt enough that I thought a doctor should have been involved. Turns out it was much ado about nothing, but we learned a lesson that night. Now if the hospital staff asks if we'd like to speak with the social worker, we give an emphatic "no!"

I don't know what sort of training most social workers receive, but much of it seems to involve learning just the right way to strip you of any vestige of your self-esteem; make you feel as though your skulll wasn't occupied by any brain cells whatsoever and make you wonder what's wrong with you; all while keeping you totally dependent on a system that, if not actively murderous, seems to take great interest in wanting to see you down, out and deceased. And making you think all the while that there's light at the end of the tunnel, when really that's just the headlamp of the shinkansen.

I hope I meet one of those selfless, dedicated social workers one day. I'd love to shake the hand of someone who truly Gets It. In the meantime, Ashley, I understand the prickliness of choosing a profession that most people scorn and think you're nuts for doing so. But at the same time, perhaps the Hippocratic Oath applies here as well.

First, Do No Harm.

*Your Mileage May Vary, for those not up on chatroom shorthand, It's just a quickie way of saying this is me callin' 'em as I sees 'em.

**Thank God for Detective Washington of the GPD (since retired) who was the only one who didn't believe that cockeyed story for a minute and set out to get the proof. And she did.

(3) Even though in the lobby there sits a large mailbox with a timeclock attached. The proper procedure is to insert the information in a provided envelope, put our identifying information on it along with the employee number of the social worker, stamp the envelope, and drop it in the box. Unfortunately, this chick was apparently too lazy to get off her fat rear and go down to the mailroom to retrieve her mail.

John Foster Dulles is only a name on an airport now. Lewis Black said he worked for the government when working for the government meant something.
What you encounter is a sour grapes scenario, people who get turned around by the system. They probably all start like Ashley 1 or 2 years out of school, but somewhere along the way it turns into just getting a check. You know how it is Mike as you get older you want things and you re willing to sell out some ideas to obtain others. Couple that with jingo-ism and psuedo-patriotism, and you tend to occlude the true American way with the way most Americans truly live.
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