In 2008, my dad passed away from a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Towards the end, I felt helpless as I sat and watched my dad forget who we all were as his moments of lucidity were rare. As a daughter, this was devastating to watch and it was a catalyst for me to consider pursuing social work as a career.
I saw dad’s social worker Hillary support my mother through this awful time and I spent some time with Hillary after my dad died talking to her about training to be a social worker. She even gave me some books to help me whilst on the course. Whilst I was training, my grandfather died from a neurodegenerative disease and cancer. These experiences, life changing as they were, gave me an insight into some of the difficulties that people I would eventually go on to work with may face.
Throughout my social work training I read voraciously and committed myself to the university placements. However, nothing could prepare me for the reality of practice and case holding. For the first few months I felt as though I was doing a furious ‘doggy paddle’ to keep afloat! Whilst that feeling has lessened somewhat, there is always something new to learn.
The role of a social worker is never going to be an easy one and is a job that continuously challenges my perceptions, judgements and values. I know that there are going to be times when being a social worker is hard, upsetting and frustrating, but I also know that there are going to be times when it is heart-warming and rewarding.
Listening to a child make a disclosure about the domestic violence they have witnessed between their parents, or a child talking about the abuse that they have suffered has been hard and like many others I suspect, has given me several sleepless nights. Seeing a child going from being terrified of adults and unable to speak due to chronic neglect, to being pleased to see you and able to say your name is fantastic. Social work is rich and varied and these are the ‘golden moments’ that keep me going when things get tough and make me proud to be a social worker.