As I have been working at my first year practicum for my Master’s of Social Work (MSW), a two-year program, I have run across more than my fair share of insights into being a social worker. I have decided to start writing about a few of them. I wanted to start with scope of responsibility. As a social worker, I am driven to help my clients improve their quality of life. The reality is that I cannot always do that. I cannot follow my clients throughout their lives and fix everything. In general, this makes sense, but more than this, I must know when clients have left my area of responsibility for the role I fulfill in their system of support and care.
Currently, I am interning at an organization that does mental health screenings on teens in schools. If the screening indicates that they may require further assessment, I make a referral to a mental health agency. My role ends once the referral agency contacts the parents of the teens to schedule their first appointment. Sometimes I find this limitation hard. Sometimes I run across a student that I would like to follow further into their process. Sometimes they have a compelling story or their situation reminds me of my past. Other times it may be because we share an intersection that defines who we are in a deep way, such as being members of the same minority community.
On one occasion, I had a student that was a member of the LGBTQ community. My passion is LGBTQ youth and I just wanted to be this young person’s counselor and get to know them and be a part of their process to wholeness. I wanted to watch this person become the incredible human being that I knew they were on the path to becoming and to make that journey a little easier. As an LGBTQ person, I have a vested interested in helping my community. That was not my job. My job was to connect this person and their parent with an agency who would find them that person who would take that journey with them.
It was a growing moment for me; I have had many of those lately. I let go of this person and their journey. I am grateful for the role that I played in this young person’s life. Since I am a provider in the community I may get a chance to run across them again, get an update, and see who they have become. Then again that may not happen either. Regardless of what the future holds, for now, my time with that client has ended. They are connected to services and today I closed their file. I had a sense of satisfaction that I was there to help this family in a time of crisis and I hope that the next person who has picked up the baton will help get them to a better place.
I am only a baby social worker; less than a year on the job and still working on my education. But regardless of how long a social worker has been in the field, I imagine that this is always a problem. Social workers live to help people. We celebrate our client’s victories and feel their setbacks. Although, we should probably have a little more professional distance, but that is a topic for another day.