This is a transcript of our call with a Social Worker (24 years old) in Sydney.
The Working File: Before we get started, can you tell us a bit about your job?
Mon, Social Worker: I am a support worker for teenage parents (under the age of 18).
These parents live in the organisation’s residential house, which provides supervision and support for them around the clock. We assist in supporting our clients to develop parenting skills, life skills (including organisational, education, child development, etc) and provide case management in all areas of their life (e.g. family/partner violence, mental health, trauma, etc.)
When parents transition out of the program, we assist them in finding stable accommodation for them and their children.
The Working File: What time do you start your shift?
Mon, Social Worker: I start my sleepover shift around 4pm.
I will come in and do handover. Essentially that is a time to catch up on what has been happening since I’ve last been on shift, updates on our clients, that kind of thing. It’s also a chance for the staff that have been working a particularly difficult shift to debrief.
I start by reading and responding to emails. Then I read all the case notes and client records to ensure I am up-to-date for my shift.
Then I assist the mothers and their children with their evening routines. So, this includes things like supporting them to prepare dinner, assisting with the bathing and settling of their children.
The other staff usually leave at 5pm and from then I work alone until the morning. First off, I make sure all of the mothers are in bed by curfew. And then I am available throughout the rest of the evening for any extra support required.
We have an on-call policy though, so there is always the option to call a senior staff member after business hours if necessary.
Then once they are in bed I complete extensive case notes on what I observed throughout my shift and any interactions with the mothers and their children. For example, did I see any specific risks or behaviours that should be noted?
Then I lock up the building, set the alarms and head upstairs to bed. Sleepovers are either really quiet or very busy. It depends on the amount of mothers that we have at any one point in time and what has been happening for them. I need to be available throughout the night if they need anything. They can knock on my door or contact me via phone. If they do need me, it’s usually for support with settling their children. As new parents some of them may need help to learn how to read their child’s cues.
The Working File: It sounds like a lot of responsibility. Does this ever overwhelm you?
Mon, Social Worker: It definitely can. I was very nervous when I first started out – it can be daunting being responsible for young mothers and their children during the night. It becomes easier though. Especially when you get comfortable with the job and get to know the mothers well. Part of the job is crisis management skills; so it’s about dealing with a situation by balancing both the heightened emotions and feelings as well as ensuring the safety of the mothers and children.
The Working File: What’s a misunderstanding about social work as a profession?
Mon, Social Worker: I think we’re not always regarded as a important profession, I’ve been described as a babysitter before. We have specific skill sets, theories and practices that inform our work, and we work alongside other health professionals, like nurses and occupational therapists.