Being a Social Worker in a Time of Crisis

Posted by Ginny Manley, LPC on 3/21/20 12:54 PM
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What a whirlwind of a week! Last Friday seems like a lifetime ago—so much has changed, and the amount of uncertainty and uneasiness is amplified times a thousand.  On Monday, Gladney made the decision to close its campus to outside visitors for the immediate future due to the COVID-19 virus.  Outside events on our campus were cancelled or postponed, and only essential personnel or vendors are currently allowed on campus to ensure the safety of our community.  If able, employees are to work from home.  Our CEO, Mark Melson, shared a video encouraging us that although things will look very different for the time being, business as usual will try to continue as much as possible.

We have gone through the initial stages of awkwardness while learning to use different platforms to communicate and within a few days we’ve almost become pros at Microsoft Teams.  Who knew being able to see your co-workers’ pixelated face on a video conference could bring so much reassurance and comfort?  It’s interesting how the brain will learn new avenues of connecting when a crisis occurs.

Gladney Communicating with Microsoft TeamsAlthough many of us can work from home and implement social distancing and self-quarantine, there are those who are unable to fully take part because their position requires them to have direct contact with some of our most vulnerable clients.  Our birth parent caseworkers have had to continue meeting with their clients and be at the hospitals for deliveries.  Obviously, hospitals are ground zero for this health crisis.  My awe and respect have only grown for the medical professionals who continue to show up every day to do their part for their patients. 

Being a Social Worker in a Time of CrisisOver the weekend, one of our caseworkers, Macie, attended a delivery in Dallas for a birth mom choosing to make an adoption plan.  Macie’s usual routine of going up to the hospital room, checking in with her birth mom and providing support is no longer as routine as it used to be. Now she must go through the emergency room and wait in a long line in order to be medically screened so she can receive a wristband that gives her access to the hospital. Some hospitals are only allowing one support person in the room for labor and delivery--one person for the entire time of their stay.  That means a very difficult decision has to be made if there are others in their lives they might want present for the birth of their child.

There are so many unknowns right now regarding containing and treating the virus. Policies seem to be changing on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis.  Questions like, “How will I be able to support my client?” or, “How do I make sure I’m keeping myself and others safe?” are ever-present in so many minds. Along with these questions ultimately comes a sense of anxiety and feelings of uncertainty.  As we seek out more information, we find that there is so much even experts aren’t quite sure about. 

Our Gladney Home staff have also confirmed their superhero status as they continue to come into Gladney every day. We currently have teenage girls who are in foster care that are living on our campus in hopes of finding permanency in a forever family.  With a history of trauma, multiple placements, and general stress of being a teenage girl in this day and age, there’s the added strain of the public health crisis which now leaves them homebound. What could easily be a perfect storm of anxiety and tension is being beautifully managed by their full-time caretakers who show up every day in order to support them as best they can.

Considering how much things have changed, the amount of stress, anxiety, and general ambiguity of how things will look in the days ahead, there is hope.  I’ve seen people come together and give support in the most creative ways.  Free dance and music lessons are being held online.  Access to virtual tours of museums and zoos are readily available in the event a break from binge watching is needed.  One of our favorites right now is listening to Ben Gibbard’s nightly live from home jam sessions.  I hope you’ve been able to find some encouragement and have started to find a semblance of a new routine throughout this strange time in our world.

Topics: Gladney Leadership, Gladney Culture & History, Gladney University

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