What is a social worker? You ask different people and you get different answers. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have simply said that social work is about helping people, but social work is much more than that. Social work is seeking social justice, providing support for the community, and advocacy. Social work goes beyond a career, and is a mindset.
Throughout my social work education I’ve been privileged to learn from great minds that made me question why things are the way they are. I implore everyone and anyone to question things. To ask “why”. Throughout my university experience my professors have probably grown tired of me asking “why”, because that’s a big question to which sometimes there’s no answer.
So I ask again, reader, “Why?” More specifically, why are we using an outdated child welfare system when it doesn’t work?
“What?” you cry. “Why would she say that? She’s a social worker!” You’re right, I am. I am a social worker.
I am a social worker, and I can say with my body, mind, and soul: the system isn’t working for us.
We don’t need more children being taken away from families, we need community. We need resources with which we can catch people who slip through the cracks in our system.
“Pfffft. Well, if they didn’t want their kids taken away, maybe they should have …” What are they supposed to do, reader, if they couldn’t do anything? If there was nowhere to turn to, no money for food, no money for housing, no support for mom, no work for dad; reader, what then? In this day of social media we all love to point the finger and say “They could have done this better,” but no one asks why or how they got there in the first place.
Some 50,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night. Women and children are most likely to be part of the hidden homeless population, and 6,000 of them are displaced in a shelter in Canada, on any given night. Not to mention a recent Ministry of Children and Family Development report which said that Indigenous children are more likely to be taken away due to housing or food concerns than a Non-Indigenous child.
Shelter and food are life’s necessities, yet there are so many families struggling with them. So many families are punished for it. Why? Can we not all agree that people shouldn’t be punished for poverty, housing instability, or situations that are out of their control?
The system doesn’t work. We wait until families are at their lowest point and then morally condemn them. What if we put resources down before it got to the point of having to go to a shelter, or a child being taken away? What if we banded together as a community, lending a helping hand before the problem arose in the first place? We isolate the child from the family, take the family away from the community, and then wonder why no one feels like they belong.
I’m not saying I have all the answers, reader. I am not an all-knowing being. What I am saying is that I want to create a system in which I can listen, learn, and be better. I want a child welfare system in which the community bands together when we see families or individuals struggling.
I am a social worker. I am a daughter, a writer, and a lover of books. I love sunrises instead of sunsets. I am human. I want to make the world, this country, this community, a better place, but that starts with you, reader.
Keep asking why things are the way they are. Keep showing compassion and a sense of community to those around you. Let’s all do our part to create change.