"You don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking."
~ Maya Angelou

October 7, 2011

When You Get...

I was contacted by a Social Worker from the UK the other day.  She wanted some insight and guidance as she was about to enter into the field, after completing her social work degree course work.  Understanding the differences in culture, language, demographics, training, and everything else that goes into being a social worker in a different country I addressed her question.  You see, what can be similar is one's passion and compassion to help others change for the better. I want to share her question and my response.

I like what you are doing. I am newly qualified social worker based in London with a keen interest in working 'with' young offenders. I would like to know what has been your most memorable piece of work to date that made a big difference?

Thanks for reaching out. Your question is a good one. However, there is much to share and thus there is not necessarily one memorable piece of work, they are all memorable in someway or another, even when you don't feel as though you see or have made positive change. That is really important to understand working with this population (at-risk youth/offenders). I always look at positive change as the goal, with the understanding that it really is about incremental change and progress. It takes patience, building trust & rapport, and ultimately opening a path towards resilience. Not sure if you have heard of Father Greg Boyle?  (http://homeboy-industries.org/index.php ) He is the founder of the largest Gang Intervention and Prevention program in the United States (located in my hometown of Los Angeles) and has been immersed, available, and involved with this population for over 30 years. He operates from a "my services are for those who don't need them, but those that want them." The message behind this is when you meet at-risk (young men or women) youth who have a very challenging/at-risk life you know they need help, services, support, etc. However, when they arrive in front of you, often they do not want help even when they possibly understand they need help. There are so many barriers, obstacles, and challenges present (developmental, socialization, mental health, incarceration, limited education, abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, etc.) that often times they do not feel as though anyone cares, understands, or can possibly help. This is what we know as helping professionals who do what we do because we understand that you can overcome and move forward and towards a healthy and positive life.

So, you stay available, present, and you take your time with your assessment so that you can really understand what has influenced (affected & effected), challenged, and led this youth to offend, now living in an at-risk existence. You always want to make a fair and objective assessment, this is really important because often more than not at-risk youth/offenders have been labeled, stigmatized, and judged (even when they are trying to to change their ways) and so you meet them with their opposition, defiance, lack of trust, shame, guilt, and all and everything that can influence their inability to change for the better.

Keep up the good work! I hope this addressed your question in one way or another. May this find you well

When You Get Give, When You Learn Teach.
Maya Angelou


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