Friday, October 14, 2011

Doing More with Less

This week has been rough!  We’re currently working with over 80 students through our individual and small group counseling alone, and we haven’t even started pushing into full classrooms.  Normally we work with a team of four—another social worker, two part time social work interns and me, but this week our staff has been reduced to three.  Barbara, my other social worker just went on short term medical leave.  Best case scenario she’ll be back in November, but worst case scenario?—I don’t even want to think about it. Even though we’re short a staff member, we will still provide 100% support for each student.  There is such an overwhelming need in this community for our services and one little hiccup in planning isn’t going to change anything.  Our students NEED us, and we’re not going to let them down.

Take, for example, one of our newest third graders, Mary.  I noticed Mary last year in one of our full class programs.  She would often come to school with lice, her clothes were tattered and her hair matted.  She was awkward and had low self-esteem and as a result was frequently teased and bullied.  We learned that she lived with her mother who had psychological problems and her baby sister.  Her family was often in and out of shelters.  We tried to support Mary and her family through clothing drives, our holiday toy drive and by connecting them with a local soup kitchen.

This year I decided to bring Mary into our Girls Group.  I think she will benefit from being surrounded by other girls and hopefully increase her self-esteem and confidence. Sometimes it’s easier to work with students like Mary in a group setting because we can generalize problems. Quite often an issue that one person might be facing is also a concern of the others within the group.  Rather than addressing a problem Mary is facing individually and make her feel even more awkward, we address it with the entire group. Students are engaged and learn the social skills they need but don’t feel like there’s something specifically wrong with them individually.

I have high hopes for Mary and all of the students we’re working with this year. Every job has challenges.  There’s difficult days and easy days (well, maybe not that easy), but you push through.  I can’t WAIT until Barbara gets back, but until then, I know what needs to be done—just buckle down and make sure these students are getting the best possible support from us.

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