The sad plight of social workers

Day in and day out, social workers tend to the problems of the community they are assigned to, but do you know that they are also victims of the kind of job they lead?

During yesterday’s forum on World Social Work Day held at the Central Philippine University, Edwin Arana of the Creative Community Foundation cited that when social workers face cases like child abuse, they also face harassment from perpetrators.

“Social workers spread their wings to cover other agencies. For example, the police have the guts to do a rescue whenever there is a registered social worker present. But, social workers feel fear especially when the perpetrator is a policeman or a person of authority,” Arana said.

Thus, he advised fellow social workers and students taking up Social Work to strengthen their hearts and their network. “Sin-o ang ula-an mo sang problema mo? Gabaton lang kita sang problema. Kaisa, ginabitbit ta ini sa balay. So we need help, too,” he added.

Liane Garcia, provincial social welfare and development officer of Negros, said that the social worker’s family are victims, too.

“There are a lot of social workers with family problems. Thus, recently, we were trained on compassion fatigue. For, how can we help ourselves if we need help, too? So when we are burnout, our families become the outlet of our stresses. So, they are victims, too,” she said.

Garcia also raised this question : “When do you feel that helping others hurt?”
She narrated the experience of a social worker handling  a case of violence against women and children,  who exerted all efforts and even spent her own money to bring the child’s case to justice but in the end, the mother signed an affidavit of desistance.

She added that another social worker was charged with nine cases after a rescue that she initiated.

The election season is a trying time for social workers, too.

“For example, you’re doing this kind of job for several years. Nothing has changed. But here comes the election season and you are suddenly being identified with a certain political color. To address this, we just have to handle ourselves professionally and not forget the principles of a social worker,” Garcia advised.

Febie Ibojos, country director of Signpost International, said there is a high demand for social workers but there is a low supply or number of persons who want to be in this kind of work.

“Damu obra, pero gamay ang aplikante. Tani, damu ang mag-engage sa social work,” she said.

Ibojos also cited that a social worker’s job is unstable. “Damu ka trabaho, pero project-based. So, if the project is over, wala na,” she said.

To address this, she advised social workers to have mastery and integrity. “So that bisan diin kita dal-on, like to teach or to be in a disaster-prone area, we can handle it.”

Lee Pineda, president of the Philippine Association of Social Workers, Inc. in Region 6 shared the following things that a sincere social worker should be conscious of: “First, re-examine ourselves,” she said.

On a social work student’s desire to really serve, Pineda lamented that a survey of CPU students showed that many of them want to work with the government because the projects are already set.

She also compared the feeding program in Japan and the Philippines to drive home the point. “In Japan, they feed the children with healthy food and they observe hygienic practices in food preparation. In the Philippines, there are some whose feeding activities consist of hamburger and spaghetti. So, are you teaching the right thing? Thus, you have to re-examine yourself.”

“Second, practice austerity and third, know that this work is about human relationships,” she concluded. (By Kathy M. Villalon, TNT Libre, March 20, 2013)

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