Two weeks into this course and now we only have a few days left in this beautiful country. In this blog I reflect on my social work shadowing in the Department of Social Development in the city of Cape Town. I will have the opportunity to continue shadow A.J. She is a crisis caseworker for street children/adolescents. The street kids live on the streets and beg for money, beg for money during the day and go home at night or are being used by adults to steal and beg.
A.J. is such an awesome person because the first day of shadowing she threw me right into her line of work. I completed two home visits in informal settlements and tour of the community center and this all happened from 11am to 1pm. Then by 4pm she had to take a street kiddo home and pick another one up from detention for court. Then she discussed her other pending cases. I was in disbelief with the amount of work she does.
I thought I saw so much in the first couple days of shadowing but the last two days of shadowing gave me experience and a lesson I would have never gotten unless completing this course. A.J briefed us American Students on this case she had been working on. A 17-year-old boy came to her for help because he was living on the street and did not have access to any resources. She completed an intake and placed him in a place of safety (group home). With the amount of crisis calls that are forward to A.J, she was not able to give her full attention to his case. She was attempting to figure out where his family was and if how he got to Cape Town was truthful. Well not even a week late he becomes very sick and in another week he passed away. This is when she has to race against time to give this boy who has a name a proper burial instead of being part of the Jane/John does that are mass cremated or buried. She described him as having a soft nature, good sense of humor, and just a good person to be around. His favorite musician was Beyoncé and loved to talk.
A.J had thirty days to piece together his story and the little information she was able to get from him before he past away. Before he died he was persistent in getting ahold of his mother because the last time they talked their words were not nice. But that’s the part that I struggle with this case was that he passed away before being able to reconcile. He passed away and his family has no idea. What really happened? Would I ever know?
Throughout the many phone calls and meetings we accompanied A.J on she always maintained a sense of calm. We had a meeting with the Khlitchia police department and the Khilichia hospital about an investigation in child neglect and human trafficking. Before the boy died he said his more told him to go find work and gave him $150 ZAR. He jumped on a truck and ended up in Cape Town.
We had to pause our forward movement on the case because two new street kids needed to be assessed. I was anxious because the thirty days has turned into a week. I would have asked someone else to do the assessments or rushed through them because so much needs to be done in all aspects of her job title. But she didn’t do any of those things I would have. Instead I learned from her patients. She encompassed so much passion in each of the assessment questions for the street kids. She really genuinely wanted to know if they were okay at home. Even when they said yes she created such a warm environment so that if they said no they would be comfortable doing so. She had such hope in her eyes that it made me stop and realize the passion I am missing. How jaded I have become because I am burned out from all the things my past jobs required from me. I had burned out because I was going above and beyond yet not being recognized for it. Yet I did it for the kids and not for recognition. Does that make me a bad person that it took me shadowing another social worker to see the passion I lost?
As we resumed the case she had such high hopes. Her persistence yet respectable approach got the answers needed to figure out how to have a proper burial. She was able to use resources from other NPO to figure out who exactly the boy was and who was his family. There was a language barrier that she was able to hurdle over by again using other NPO’s to assist. By then end of the final day she was able to find the boys family. She was able to communicate to them of his passing. They signed their rights over because it turns out he was from Johannesburg and the family said he ran away. They did not have the means to transport his body back and gave A.J permission to give him a burial. IT was sad because the family did not sound very affected by his passing. Why? That is the question that still remains in my head ending this day. What really happened? I am glad that A.J remained persistent and never gave up on this case. It would be easy to say welp he is already dead to some people. But she didn’t and she handled the case in the best way possible in my opinion.
This shadowing had given me invaluable experience. It has lit the fire back into my passion in clinical social work. A.J’s attitude is refreshing and her attitude is inspiring. I do not pray often but I prayed for peace for this boy’s soul. I pray he finds a healthier and living life in the after life. I thank him that his adversity helped me grow and helped me realize my weaknesses. I only hope to impact people the way A.J impacts these children. I hope I am able to demonstrate what I have learned in my time in DSD City!