Prior to shadowing at Child Welfare I had never heard the phrase “don’t scratch where it doesn’t not itch”. I heard this phrase made in passing by a co worker of the social worker I was shadowing. She was discussing a case that would soon be closing. The requirement made by the state had been met and she was celebrating that she would be able to close it. She began explaining that the circumstances hadn’t truly changed and that she was sure she would see these clients again it would only be a matter of time before someone else reported them. Someone mentioned a problem the client had that had gone undressed and the social worker merely said “don’t scratch where it does not itch” and laughed. My heart broke a little bit.
It took a couple days for me to process through my initial feelings I could see that I was viewing things through and American lens and was assuming that I knew what the client needed in order to okay. I was being judgmental of the social worker and the way they functioned in their job. I was scared because I understood where this social worker was coming from. It made sense to me that they were completely overwhelmed by their caseload and that having a case close was a relief even if the closure wasn’t reaching a true resolution. I was and remain grateful because in the placements and jobs I have had in America this is not the norm. Overworking and under paying is a hot topic among social workers around the globe, however, all sides are examined by social workers and supervisors at home in order to ascertain that needs are being met whenever possible. This situation is one that stuck with me I think mainly because to me it feels like a demonstration of a broken system. Social workers are joining this profession because they care for others and are concerned about their wellbeing not because they want to close cases. This feels like a perfect example of why macro social work is so necessary and it further demonstrates how intertwined macro and micro really are.