My work at social services
Now finally an article about my work at the social services. What exactly is my job, what is my day-to-day business and what I think are the requirements for the job, I’ll tell you all that in this article.
Trigger Warning (TW) to Violence
At the social service, better known to many as the youth welfare office, I fulfill tasks in accordance with the Law in Germany, also known as the Child and Youth Welfare Act. The youth welfare office is actually the umbrella term of the department and includes many other tasks.
My tasks in the social service include the following, I will explain the terms in more detail in a moment:
- Recognizing and naming the need for educational support, installing support and supporting implementation
- Carry out the protection order within the meaning of §8a SGB VIII, the so-called state guard office
- Advice in family court proceedings
- Separation and Divorce Counseling
- Advice on parenting, custody and contact issues
Educational assistance includes state aid and support for families, children and young people. In the following, I will refer to all age groups as children, but this always means small children, children and adolescents or sometimes even young adults.
Forms of help
A distinction must be made in particular between outpatient help, some of which takes place in the family household and some outside, but the child or children continue to live with the parents. A large part of the outpatient help takes place on an outreach basis, with the help provider coming to the family’s home. As an example, the social pedagogic family help or educational advisors can be mentioned here. Ambulatory help is always free for families and children.
There is also semi-stationary help, where the children spend most of their time away from home or in an institution. The main residence of the children is then still the household of the parents. Partial stationary help is often help during the day and the children go home at night.
The third option is stationary help, i.e. help that takes place outside the parental home. The children are then placed permanently in an institution or with a foster family and visit their parents during the holidays or on the weekend. But there is also inpatient help for the entire family or e.g. for single parents in the form of a mother/father-child home.
In the case of semi-stationary help and inpatient help, the parents and sometimes also the adolescents/young adults are required to contribute to the costs, provided they have their own income. The income of the parents is capped to a certain extent. Since a long overdue change in the law, the children’s income can only be charged at 25% and no longer at 75% as before.
All those options are part of my repertoire, so when I get to know a new family, we consider together what help might be the right one. Parents and children have what is known as the right to wish and choose. This means that they can decide which institution or helpers they want to work with. Ultimately, however, I decide what needs the family has and what help is appropriate.
After the help has been installed, it will be checked regularly and accompanied by me. Talks are held twice a year, so-called help plan talks. In addition, if necessary, interim talks in crises or when it is necessary.
The protection order
The state guardianship designates the task of the state to watch over the families. I know that sounds pretty intense, and it is. Because the institution of the family is well protected by the Basic Law. The state, in this case the youth welfare office, can only intervene if there are gross breaches of duty – such as child abuse.
This is regulated in more detail in §8a SGB VIII.
Case study report, part 1
As an example, I can describe a typical process to you, then the whole thing becomes a little clearer. TW to violence!
I get a call, Mr. Meier would like to make a statement. He’s worried about the neighbors’ children. He always heard screaming, and then the children would always scream and cry loudly. A little later there will be peace. He hears this every day, but today he would call in because he had seen a child playing outside, and he had discovered bruises on his back. Since he would now be worried, he would have thought he would get in touch.
Due to the content of the message, I have to discuss everything with my team or at least one other person. Then we would decide whether we would go straight out or whether we would send a letter with an announcement or a request for feedback. Depending on the intensity of the report and how important we consider the content, we decide what to do next.
Let’s assume there was more specific information, and maybe I already know the family. So we’re going straight out.
Protection of the family and your own home
Driving out directly means a massive intrusion into the privacy of the people, you always have to be aware of that!
If suddenly strangers (or maybe not) are standing in front of your front door and want to talk to you, want to see the children and the apartment, then you need very clear indications and circumstances to justify this. As briefly explained before, the family is strongly protected by the Basic Law.
Therefore, we always have to weigh up whether the direct “intervention” is necessary, proportionate and sensible.
Case study home visit, part 2
During the home visit that took place, we found that the children had large blue hematomas on their upper bodies and immediately sent the family to the forensic doctor to have the hematomas, and in this case criminally relevant traces, secured. The father becomes abusive, which is why the police have to be called to the appointment. Then they take the father with them. The mother accompanies the two children to the hospital.
The forensic medicine then found out that the children had been severely abused for years. The mother noticed all this but did nothing about it. The father earned the family money and the mother always felt dependent on it and did not know how to save herself and the children.
Through regular talks in the hospital and later in the women’s shelter where the woman is accommodated, she then learns to stand up for herself and to go on her own way. The children can stay with her due to the separation, which she is also going through, and are developing well.
Of course, there are many other ways the case could go. Very often, for example, the women unfortunately are not able to withstand the dependent relationship and stay with their husbands. Domestic violence in particular creates a massive dependency relationship, which requires a great deal of effort on the part of the person who wants to separate.
Duty by law
Ultimately, according to the law, my job is to ensure the well-being of the child in the family. If the parents are unwilling or unable to do this, I must either take the children into care immediately for their own protection – that is, without parental consent – or go to family court. If children have been taken into care, I must contact the family court immediately afterwards. As a social service, I can only make the decision for the moment that the well-being of the child is so seriously endangered that I can no longer leave the children with the family. In the long run, such a decision can only be made by the family court, and to be honest, I’m happy about that.
As you can probably already imagine, such cases are very exhausting and require a lot from you. Luckily, I myself have never had a case where I had to remove a child against the will of the parents (and the child).
At the same time, children always have the option of contacting social services and asking to be taken into care. I’ve actually experienced that a few times.
There are different types of counseling that we carry out. However, counseling always means that it is ultimately about the children.
Whether it’s about the father who wants to see his children again and the woman refuses, or whether it’s about desperate parents who can no longer cope with their son’s media consumption. Consulting makes up a large part of my work.
And the marmot says hello every day (a German saying)
You can think what you want of the office. My assumption was also that these are all (excuse the phrasing) chair farting sloths who sit flattened in their bottoms all day but otherwise do very little (yet, another german saying).
Luckily, I was taught better during my studies, more precisely in the internship abroad. I was allowed to learn from my instructor and see how social work can be done in social services. How, despite the difficult situation one finds oneself in between helping and controlling, a working relationship can be built. And above all, how despite the many administrative tasks that we now have to do, it is possible to work on and with people.
All of this inspired me so much that I felt that the job could be something for me. And so I started working in my position about 3,5 years ago.
Even today, I can still say that it was the best decision! Even if I always have phases in which I just can’t find the strength anymore, in which I want to stop and give up because everything is just too much, I love my job with all my heart.
That’s what makes it interesting
In my opinion, the following aspects make the job in social services interesting:
- No day is like the other – just NOT “and the marmot says hello every day”😉
- great variety – in the topics and tasks
- Overview of the big picture – I’m aware of the entire process of helping, not just the part that the facility or the helpers provide, which is usually ended at some point and something new begins – I’m aware of everything and see the overall development of the family, the child
- Nice and not so nice contacts – everything is there, from highly aggressive to very nice people that you get to know through the job
- The gratitude that you receive – when you have actually been able to help the family with the help one can offer and the situation for the family improves or changes
- Variety of intensity – Exciting and highly strenuous phases and deeply relaxed phases to recharge your batteries
- Think outside the box – the view widens, opens up to more and different family forms, housing options, interests (whether positive or negative does not matter at first)
- Gratitude for my life – through experiencing sometimes great poverty, desperation and pain, I feel a deep gratitude for my life, everything I have
- Teamwork – in my opinion, the work stands and falls with the team in the social area, I am very lucky to be part of a mini-team with which I get along really well
Requirements for work
From my point of view, the following prerequisites result from my previous statements in order to be able to do the work in the social service, to endure it, maybe even to find a certain vocation in it.
- Empathy – feeling for other people
- Authenticity – authenticity, being able to open yourself up to be honest and genuine – because everything else, especially our customers, see very quickly – with simultaneous appropriate distance
- Peace and serenity – in stressful phases but also in the resting phases
- Having fun working with special people – because they are everywhere in social work
- Do not be afraid of dirty apartments, diseases, vermin, smelly people, aggressive outbursts, … yes, that sounds heavy now, but it is part of the job, and you have to be prepared for that! We work with people from all financial segments, it can be the large single-family house but also the run-down, evicted and littered apartment that is about to be evicted.
- Team spirit – as I said, the job can only be done for a long time with a good team
- Patience – everything takes time, especially behaviors that have been established over the years cannot be changed within a year and some things will take care of themselves over time
- Dealing with the power imbalance and not exploiting it – I think the power that social services have become clear, so I think it’s incredibly important to be aware of this position and to reflect on it regularly.
- Confidence and belief in humanity – which one must not lose at work, seeing so much suffering, pain and conditions!
A summary of my work in social service
Well, I hope I didn’t scare you off with the article, but rather I was able to create a little interest in my work.
Unfortunately, there is still a deep mistrust of “the youth welfare office” in society, it is always said that either nothing was done or that intervention was too early. However, the legal restrictions that do exist, and are good as they are, do not always allow us to do what we think is best. And of course mistakes happen because we are only human. In our job, mistakes are usually associated with children or parents and are therefore a particularly emotional topic in the discussion, but they are nevertheless areas of learning through which social services have developed massively in recent years. For better or for worse, I will continue to monitor this closely for myself over the next few years.
In the end, I hope I was able to tell you a little about my work and the next time you read a lurid headline about “the youth welfare office” or “the social services” is presented in a highly striking way on television, you might think twice before you accept that what you are shown exactly as it is.
Also, a note on the side. This article was written for German social services. The Tasks and duties by law might vary in different countries. So this article only refers to the German social services, German youth welfare office.
Now I wish you a fabulous day, a cozy evening or a refreshing morning,