For lent I chose to write a letter a day to a person who has impacted upon me. In the world of social work you often do much, for what feels like little reward. This is a reminder that the impact you have upon children is far reaching than you imagine. This is an open letter to my social worker when I was a small child, to say thank you. The social worker was called Trish Johns, and she worked within Newport Social Services.
I was a small child, the unkempt kid in school that people would look at in pity. The home in which I lived as a child was cold and never warm, I remember washing my hair under the cold tap as we often didn’t have money or electricity to warm the immersion heater. Clothes were washed as and when my mother chose to do the washing. I’m ashamed to say that here was a time when the clothes and bedding we had was stolen from others washing lines in order to care for ourselves. Mornings at home were often spent looking for something to wear that was a) not too smelly, b) that fitted and c) something that was not too ugly or hideous that would make us stand out more so from our peers. I wanted to go to school but lack of accessible clothing often prevented this. My sister had already decided she would rather not go to school so made less effort.
It was one of those days where the coldness of the tiled floor would make my feet tingle with chills, despite placing the blanket off my bed, on the floor to make a carpeted area. The grey sky outside producing an endless drizzle of rain, the kind of day where I’d sit watching rain drops roll down the window to while away the cold, hunger and boredom.
I would often look forward to Trish Johns home visits, she was the type of mother I wished for; she was all mumsy and caring. She would reprimand my mother, which for some reason I took joy from. She would point out that the way she was caring for us was unacceptable and that she should be looking after us children better, allowing us an education. Trish arrived on a day when I was watching the rain drizzles race down my mothers bedroom window, I would often sit at my mothers window as I could see who was arriving at our house and watch people pass by. I saw Trish’s car pull up and ran downstairs to greet her, my mother hated social workers visiting so I often tried to intercept workers knocking by answering the door quickly.
Trish, like many mothers, including myself will often tidy our children’s wardrobes and cupboards, removing clothes too small and making way for new clothes. It was what Trish did with these clothes which was of significance to me. Trish took me and my sister down to her car and opened her car boot; she had clothes, lots of them, all dry and clean smelling! What Trish didn’t realise that day, was that it was better than any Christmas I had ever known, which wasn’t hard as Christmas tended to be pretty bleak in our house, however the clothes were what I believed Christmas should feel like. My sister and I carried the bags back indoors and chose clothes for ourselves. For weeks later I attended school, which wasn’t the norm, for once I felt proud that I wore outfits all clean and not smelly; for once I felt like the normal kid, things so many children take for granted. The bags had socks in as well, socks were often overlooked, but mean so much, especially when you have cold feet! I slept in the socks and was wearing two pairs at a time so I could rotate them without taking them off for fear of losing them. I must have had really cold feet thinking about it!
I don’t think I ever thanked her for being the social worker she was. The act of kindness she showed has stayed with me to this day, some thirty years or so later I remember her so well. It’s the little things as adults that count as huge things for children, the impact is more so than you think. So when you’re having a tough day as a social worker remember the little things you do are huge to a child, keep doing them. When you’re having a tough day as a leader within social care remember that the frontline workers are doing a job that requires caring and this caring costs nothing but is having a huge impact upon the children they work with, so please support them with this. So a big thank you to Trish Johns and a big thank you for all you still caring within social work.
By Michelle E. McKay
Michelle is an independent practitioner who prides herself on her work ethic; professionalism, efficiency and integrity. The ethos of Michelle’s work is based within improving life chances and outcomes for disadvantaged children and young people.
Michelle is able to assist with conferences as an experiential speaker, motivational speaking given her own upbringing in the care system and living in an abusive household and factual guidance for television scripts and research.
Should you wish speak with Michelle or would like to find out more, please call on 07970100780