Monday, October 8, 2012

A Letter to my Post-Adoption Social Worker

Dear Post-Adoption Social Worker,
I am one of your agency's adoptees; you may be familiar with my name.  A few years ago, you and I interacted because I was cautiously considering the idea of reunion.  I wanted to reunite but was afraid of hurting my adoptive family's feelings.  I was also afraid that your agency would judge as being an "angry adoptee."  I tried my best to communicate my feelings despite my fears.  You were very kind in response, and I thank you for that.

As I grow in my Social Work career, I cannot help but compare my Social Work knowledge, skills, and values to my own experience as a client of adoption.  Adopted children are the most vulnerable individuals within an adoption system and therefore are an adoption worker's primary client.  Helping professionals have the duty to secure the best interests of the child in adoption.  According to multiple international conventions on human rights, a child's human rights include preservation of biological family whenever possible, preservation of heritage, and preservation of identifying family information.  The NASW-PA itself has given written support for unrestricted adult adoptee access to Original Birth Certificates.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Writing Case Notes & the Importance of a Single Story

I have been working in health care and social services related fields off and on for the past ten years.  During this time, I have had countless opportunities to write case notes and read case notes written by others.  Short-hand over the years has caused health care practitioners to frame "what someone struggles with" as being "the label of who they are."  Time constraints, enormous caseloads, and character limits in data entry systems turn "Mr. Smith becomes more agitated in the evenings and benefits from reassurance and comforting" to "Mr. Smith is a 'sundowner.'"  Sometimes, shorthand is impossible to get around, but I have been trying to make a sincere effort to note in a way that explains the strengths a client uses to get around their struggles, rather than using a struggle as a label.  Why is this so important to me?

Monday, October 1, 2012

How the Idea of Gratefulness Hinders Reform, Progress, and Truly Helping People

"Thank you!" I called from the door as the donor drove away.  Someone had just delivered three huge boxes full of boxed and canned goods to my agency's food pantry.  I tugged each box to our pantry and smiled at my supervisor as she entered the room, just as I finished loading the last box onto the food room table.  We opened the first box.  Almost everything inside was expired, some food was opened, and some cans were covered in rust.  By the time we made our way through the second box, we were unwilling to so much as open the third. Everything had to go into the trash.  "What people don't realize is that, if you don't feel safe eating it, it's a good indication someone else won't either," my supervisor has said.  So why do well-meaning people donate expired or otherwise unsafe food to a charity agency to be given to others to consume?

It happens more often than you think, and I do feel terrible throwing the food away.  My rule of thumb is, if I wouldn't eat it, I don't expect my clients to take it home to feed it to their families. When people clean out their pantries at home, I think they tell themselves that if someone is going without food that person would be grateful for whatever food that they can get.  Even if the food is expired, or the can is rusty, or the box of pasta is covered in a thick dust from years of sitting in the back of a pantry--- they know that someone will be grateful to have it.