A few years ago I wrote a blog post about my experience of being a caseworker again – even though it was only for a few hours.
It was a powerful experience for me and I was struck by how easy it is to lose touch with the rawness of the work, when we’re in management.
I was reminded of this again recently when I was in a meeting with some external colleagues and a number of co-workers, including our DVRE (Rapid Response team). This team works with women and children in crisis due to domestic violence who are referred on the weekends. The DVRE provides assessment, safety planning and support to get safe, at times when many services such as ours aren’t able to take in new clients. Police identify weekends as “high risk” and so this is extremely important work.
I’d asked the staff to write up a case study to help illustrate the work that this Rapid Response team is doing and the importance of it. And as I sat in that meeting and listened to these passionate, dedicated workers telling this ‘story’ of our work with women, I stepped into their shoes again. For a brief time, I was able to experience all the aspects of their work from the moment a family in crisis makes contact on the phone.
Often this contact is with women and children in potentially life threatening situations. This is a huge responsibility for a worker – the safety assessment and planning are vital to the next steps. The team ensures that the family’s basic needs for food and shelter are met, legal appointments are made and attended and referrals to other services made.
The woman was now homeless and in an extremely unsafe situation. She needed support around her mental health; legal support in relation to the children and AVO protection for them all.
This family had experienced a great trauma and the team did amazing work to restore the children, support the woman, get the legalities in place and organise ongoing housing and support.
As I heard the story, I remembered the challenges of being a front line worker, and I also remembered how rewarding the work is when we have played a part in a family finding safety.
In management, we might be acutely aware of the importance of our work and how much of herself each staff member puts into her job… but sometimes it’s helpful to slow down and take the time to re-enter the story in different shoes. When we do that, we can absorb and appreciate, again, the complexity and intricacies this work entails.
I take my hat off to my co-workers (again).
Written by Tracy