|We're not impressed.|
But after spending a year in the maze of bureaucracy that is social services, I can definitely empathize with the visceral feeling from Tea Partiers that we need to shrink government down until it can swim in its own underoos.
Ever since meeting my first social worker in the hospital, I've been trying to figure out what the hell they do. Even though every single one of them is an incredibly nice, kind and caring person, as far as I can tell they do very little of concrete value. They don't physically help with child care or housework; they don't have a list of services they offer; they don't understand the services they refer me to, nor the qualifications for them; they aren't therapists; they don't help fill out applications; they rarely follow through to the end of a bureaucratic wormhole; and, they waste hours of my time asking me the same questions and repeating faulty information previous social workers have given to me. They only thing I have discovered they do well is refer me to other social workers who also don't do anything of real value.
Ahem. A not-so-brief summary, if I may. (And please keep in mind that while we're waiting a month or more to take our next jump through yet another hoop, the precious plasticity of my son's brain — i.e. its ability to rewire around the damage — is hardening.)
My first social worker was while I was pregnant on bed rest at the hospital. Confused that she didn't seem to have anything to offer me, the only thing I could think of to ask her for was how to get a hold of a doula or other person who could be my advocate during the birth process. She literally gave me a packet of earplugs, on which was the number for a doula service, which didn't exist anymore. The earplugs did come in handy, though, so I guess that's something.
My second was a man at the NICU who came at a time when I was very, very angry with everyone and even when I did manage to swallow my emotions long enough to express a need, he would simply nod as if that helped in some way. After I made it clear to him that he was useless, the hospital's social workers generally avoided me, which was fine by me.
Then a woman called the day before we were moving into my in-laws' (my husband and I had given up trying to take care of newborn twins alone) to say she was a nurse from the county who could help me. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? I asked her, imagining a NICU nurse who was offering part-time nanny services. We agreed to meet as soon as we moved back home, but I discovered at that point that she was yet another nice person who just wanted to talk and "connect" me with "services."
Which, to her credit, she did, leading to a meeting of three people from the school district who still just sat around and talked. Those people got me a meeting with Malachi's Early Intervention physical therapist, who at her first visit still was only planning to do an intake interview (i.e. talk) until I insisted she actually do something. To this day she is one of only two people from the government who physically help me treat Malachi.
The not-a-NICU-nurse-or-nanny also got me a meeting with someone from some other branch of government called Developmental Disability Services. A man came to my house and, as I had come to expect, simply talked. By this time I was really angry and I asked him what he was physically going to do to help me and when that would be. He told me that he was simply the intake social worker and that someone would contact me later to help, if we qualified.
Months passed. I wrote to the not-a-NICU nurse to find out what happened. She dug around and discovered that the man from disability services had completely misspelled my son's name and asked his doctor for medical records. Our pediatrician never responded (likely because the request was indecipherable) and we were stuck in a bureaucratic limbo. Not-a-NICU nurse jump-started the process, getting the request for medical records resent, which finally led to a phone call from a woman who still had Malachi's name misspelled and wasn't informed of any of his medical history, despite that being so vital as to hold up our application process for months.
Yesterday was a meeting with that woman, her supervisor (for some unknown reason), and our not-a-NICU nurse. I think it's fair to say I was combative at this meeting and demanded to know what they were going to do to help me. They explained that their job was to help me "identify needs."
I said: "OK, I need three things: Money, time, and medical care for my son. Help me get those things."
Well, respite care services had been cut, they said. Have you tried Social Security Disability, they asked, like EVERY SINGLE SOCIAL WORKER BEFORE THEM. And, just like EVERY SINGLE SOCIAL WORKER BEFORE THEM, they didn't believe me when I explained to them that you have to be very, very poor (i.e. have less than $2,000 in total assets) to qualify for Social Security Disability and that it was a waste of my time to enter into the very lengthy application process for something I knew I would be denied.
Finally, I complained that our Early Intervention physical therapist was the only person who physically put her hands on Malachi and helped me treat him. This latest in a line of more than a dozen social workers assigned to us this year said: "Well, that's her job."
And I said, "Yeah. And I wish there were a whole lot more of people like her and a whole lot fewer of people like you."