Social Question

kevbo's avatar

In what ways do caseworkers commonly succeed and fail at their jobs? What are common talents and blind spots?

Asked by kevbo (23926 points ) April 12th, 2010

This is to create a complex, somewhat flawed but well intentioned character for a fictional play. I’m interested in understanding what caseworkers commonly know and are skilled at achieving vis a vis their clients and what (if any) blind spots or biases keep them from being successful vis a vis their clients. General impressions of caseworkers as a group are welcome as well.

One example might be someone who’s interest in saving others supersedes their ability to take adequate care of themselves.

I mean those employed in social work, not politics.

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11 Answers

unique's avatar

people interact with the world through the lens their personal experiences…overcoming a caseworker-worthy past or the opposite might be interesting. (i’ve known both flavors).

lloydbird's avatar

@kevbo Could you elaborate about the character that you are looking to create?
In what way flawed but well intentioned? Are you talking – bumbling, hapless, accident prone?

marinelife's avatar

You should send this question to tinyfaery, who was once a caseworker.

hug_of_war's avatar

My experience with case workers is through working with developmentally disabled kids, and for my own low-vision disability.

I’ve found they are simply too removed from their client’s situation and don’t always know what’s best for that person though they may have good intentions. For example a case worker suggested a student I work with learn to use a razor when it really wasn’t appropriate for his abilities and lifestyle and learning to press buttons on a microwave was a much more practical thing for him to learn.

I’ve also found on the flip side they often want to put you in a box because of their previous experience with clients. For example when I commented I had some language skills I was immediately shot down. Also as a younger person (I was 18–19 then) I felt my caseworker didn’t understand how to talk to me and relate to issues in my life as most people with functional but low vision are quite elderly and not looking to be ambitious. Not all caseworkers are good at adapting to different people’s situations.

LunaChick's avatar

I was a case worker with the Department of MH/MR – some things that I noticed, with some of my co-workers (especially the supervisors) was the fact that they would complain about “pushy” parents and clients. I believe this lack of empathy stopped then from doing the best job that could be done. I was repeatedly “warned” about a particular mother (who nobody liked) She turned out to be one of my favorite people, that I worked with. Yes, she was somewhat pushy – but she was fighting for the rights of her disabled daughter and I, as a caseworker, should fight just as hard.

Trillian's avatar

What a crock of shit. Most pushy parents are in denial about the status of their kids. My case managers here are great advocates but there are a few parents who facilitate bad behaviour from their kids and expect the rest of the world to overlook socially unacceptable traits and characteristics, making allowances for their disabilities while at the same time pretending those disabilities don’t even exist.
Case managers, to my experience are wither fabulous advocates who put so much of themselves into their jobs that they burn out and have breakdowns, or they are minimalist worker who do the bare minimum, and only try to look good on paper. And unfortunately, they are the ones who make it higher up inthe organization, while the truly dedicated CM’s quit and go on to different careers. This one really is an emotional drain and compromises have a cost.

wundayatta's avatar

Some caseworkers just mail it in. Perhaps it’s the burnout @Trillian spoke of. In any case, they may not even make visits they say they make, and they take things slow and do a slapdash job. They may even spend most of their time sitting at their desks.

I think this often has to do with the way bureaucracy kills initiative by having so many rules it can often be next to impossible to do what needs to be done. It takes enormous energy to fight through the mass of red tape to get things done. Things that should be easy often take far too long. So I think some case workers, maybe even most, grow cynical or beaten down the longer they have been on the job.

This is how we end up with kids dying because they don’t get noticed.

The good case workers care. They really try to help. They go the extra mile, taking work home and working extra hours. They fight the good fight. They are idealistic. It’s not just a job to them, but a cause. That’s who you want, although, I imagine, sometimes they might go too far and be too intrusive.

Trillian's avatar

@wundayatta “the way bureaucracy kills initiative by having so many rules it can often be next to impossible to do what needs to be done. It takes enormous energy to fight through the mass of red tape to get things done.” Exactly.
That and the way they keep changing the rules and regs. And the personal axe grinding.

LunaChick's avatar

@Trillian – When I say disabled, I’m not talking unruly kids with “ADHD” I’m talking a child in a wheelchair, being tube fed and breathing through a trach. What the mother was being “pushy” about was making sure the school didn’t shove this child in a corner and forget she was there. Despite the disabilities, this child could “talk” using a communication board. Why shouldn’t this mother fight to make sure the school met the needs of her daughter?

Trillian's avatar

@LunaChick I apologize. I was referring to Mothers of MRDD individuals who won’t accept that they are abusive and hit others. Or that some changes in the way that they are treated at home would make them easier to train from a behaviour standpoint.
That said however, one of the problems is that people are unwilling to place their kids in “special” schools. They want their kids to be as normal as possible and treated normally. But of course, they fall outside of “normal” parameters. They then expect schools to spend money on changing the facilities so that every disability can be accommodated and then have teachers take care of their kids without any additionial training or staffing.
Once again, it falls to the teacher to cope with special needs kids without the proper training or time or additional staff. Do you not see what a burden it is? Special needs kids are just that, and their needs cannot be adequately met by one lone teacher. They require people who have had appropriate training which includes way beyond how to move the chairs around. These kids have communication issues as well as physical, and mental health that go beyond patient repetition of the lesson. The teachers cannot cope with this and teach a regular class besides. They simply are not equipped to do it, and our schools are not budgeted do handle the cost. They’re struggling as it is with a system that undervalues the education of its youngsters and teachers burn out and quit because of it and all that we dump on them. We tie their hands at every turn, then want to blame them because our kids come home with less than stellar grades.
I respectfully maintain that special needs kids are a large burden because of their special needs and most of the teachers in the public schools are simply not equipped to deal with them properly. It takes special training and desire as well as a properly equipped teacher and classroom setting to deal with special needs. Just installing a ramp doesn’t come close to addressing all the needs and it is a mistake to expect so much from a regular classroom teacher. It is additionally not fair to the special needs child or the rest of the class. It is an unrealistic expectation on a pare with the Emperor’s New Clothes and does a disservice to the SN child to say “You’re fine, you should go to a “normal” classroom as if there were a stigma attached to going to a special needs facility. There isn’t. It’s wrong for the parent to think of it that way, and deprives the child of a better education because of it. It also places a burden on the teacher who isn’t trained for this which is unfair, short sighted, and narrow minded.

Kayak8's avatar

I have worked with case managers and case workers for over 20 years. For the purpose of developing a character, I would specify if they are a case worker (typically high school education in my state) or a case manager (either a nurse or a licensed social worker depending). Many case managers specialize (discharge planning from a hospital or work with a specific disease state while others don’t).

The biggest thing I have noticed over the years, is that case managers (and case workers) don’t make much money. As such, you typically attract folks new to their field (who are ok with the entry level wage). Many have the best intentions and very little life experience. For example, I have seen a 25 year old trying to tell a 50 year old former stock broker about how to do his budget (it didn’t go over well). In many instances, the case manager/worker is charged with assisting people with some basic aspects of activities of daily living. Some of this you can learn from a book of theoretical models, but much of it is gleaned from living a lot of days.

If your character is a social worker, there is the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) booklet on ethics. Therein are some fundamental principles of the profession. You could have a very interesting element in the story of a young social worker in conflict with an element of social work ethics. One I have seen play out many times is in the area of dual relationships (e.g., I am the social worker and you are my client, but now this is bleeding over into a friendship and the lines are starting to blur).

Social workers are typically divided into clinical (those who see clients) and administrative (those who supervise other case managers or programs). They have different types of training depending on the specialty.

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