A social worker talking about welfare? wild

It is hard being a social worker. 

Not because of the small salary

Not because of the long hours

Not because of the crisis calls

No, it is hard because many people have the wrong idea of the social welfare system. People hear “welfare” and think single moms who have a ton of kids to “make money” from the government. First, I cannot tell you how wrong that stereotype is. Just set that aside for a moment. I am not trying to take that hurtful, wrong idea away from you. 

I am trying to show you another side of welfare. The side that I work with.

I am a case manager with Pinnacle Services. My company is contracted by Hennepin County and my job is to manage waivered services for people with developmental disabilities. This waiver is called the DD waiver (should not be to surprising). 

Have you ever wondered what happened to the handicap kid in your class? Or the little girl with Down Syndrome who lived across the street? Well, they grew up. Into adulthood. And, for whatever reasons, were denied reasonable access to a “normal” life. 

So in order to live, they need some help. They need a company to be willing to hire them, they need a place to eat, sleep, and live, and they need to develop relationships. And we, as a community and through our taxes, have said “yes, people with developmental disabilities are worth supporting.” And then we voted in representatives who have determined how we support them. 

I manage the services for the DD waiver. I make sure my clients have housing and what we call DT&H programs which are often vocational in nature. If there is a problem or a client wants to move, I help them find the appropriate solution. 

My clients are wonderful. I want to ensure they can continue living where they do and keep seeking access to employment. God forbid, we ever backslide and shunt those who are different off into a corner again. Yet, you, yes YOU, make my job difficult. Every time people cut taxes and welfare spending you are taking money away from these wonderful people. All because you have the wrong understanding of what welfare is.

At the end of the day, we need to remember the most important thing: we are talking about people. People’s lives. People’s livelihoods. People’s happiness. 

Yeah, it costs money. And of course we should always look for places to improve. But how can you look at someone and tell them you do not think their life is as valuable as your own? 

The most frustrating thing for me is my inability to articulate what I am actually trying to say.

Welfare of the 80s is gone. People are not “cut checks” and social workers do not just “hand out” money. Welfare is bigger than single moms. It is people with developmental disabilities who need some source of income. It is people who are sick and need health insurance. It is people who are going to college and cannot afford the upfront costs so we create government student loans. It is people who did good throughout the year and so they write off their charitable donations on their taxes. Everyone participates in the welfare system. And the welfare system is larger than it is possible to articulate. There are so many faucets and the government helps so many people. 

Please stop saying we should stop having welfare because everyone just abuses the system. This is not true. Admit the truth to yourself at least: taxes are a pain in the ass, it is hard to see how tax money is used, and you would rather have the money in your own pocket. That’s okay. It is fine to think that way. Just know that welfare is not a money maker and it is not easy to manipulate and that there are a lot of people who need welfare who are not single mothers with 25 kids; in fact, you’ve probably had a little government support in your life (even if you don’t know it).

This post is not going where you think it is going

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little crazy. I have memories of events with people I know that they do not remember. Or rather, they do not remember the event as clearly as I do (if at all). For instance, when Mama Mia came out, I am convinced the my older brother came with. It stands out in my mind because it seemed inconsistent with my brother’s personality. No one who went to the movie with me can verify that it was my older brother. They knew a guy came, but they didn’t know who the guy was.

Well this post is about another memory I should share with someone but who does not remember it. When we were little, my cousin Sammy and I made a pact. We swore we would never wear make-up. We felt it was better to go natural and be ourselves. Oh the self-confidence of children. As an adult, it is interesting to see how this pact manifested.
My cousin does not recall the event. I can picture it clearly. We were sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen. I remember goofing off. We do that a lot. And some adult or one of my teenage siblings was talking about make-up. We vocally declared our objection to make-up and solemnly swore (as solemn as any ten year old can be) that we would defy society’s expectation of us.

And I think we have. Now I am less vehement in my objection to make-up. In fact, I would say I do not object to make-up at all. I do not wear it all that often, but I do wear it on occasion. I have a whole make-up box now. Yet even though I “accept” make-up (as if it is something to come to terms with). I do not wear it much. I think it is due more to laziness than an active decision not to wear make-up. Still, I find it interesting that I do not wear it daily. I certainly get up early enough to do my make-up, but I do not really see the point.

Maybe it is because of my freckles. I have great freckles on my face and everybody knows about them. I think it would be a little odd for me to show up somewhere without my freckles. So I do not wear foundation. I guess most people would consider freckles a blemish…and therefore cover them up. I do not. I grew up in an environment that fostered my freckles, that adored my freckles, that envied my freckles. So why would I hide them as though I do not like them? So without the foundation, my theory goes, my make-up just melts off my face. I have no idea if this is a true statement. In fact, I am certain I made it up. But every time I wear eyeliner, it just ends up at the corners of my eyes. And by the end of a day with eye shadow, my eyelids are naked too.

I would love to sit here and say I do not wear make-up because I do not want to participate in a system created by men to distract women from careers and achievement. Or that I do not wear make-up because I believe it promotes a competition between women to preen themselves for the alpha male. But neither of those is true. I have my alpha male. And if I preen, I usually preen for him. I do not wear make-up and I do not know why.

i love my job, no REALLY, I do

Yesterday something happened to me that I never imagined happening. I wanted to go to work. I was even itching to go to work. I adore my job. I love the environment I work in. I enjoy my co-workers. I respect and like my supervisors. I think the work I do is meaningful and I enjoy working with people.

How many people can say this?

There is a part of me that knows I am in the honeymoon phase and there will be days I do not want to get out of bed. In fact I had one of those two weeks ago. Emerson looked so cute and I just wanted to stay home all day and be his mom. But even that day at work wasn’t so unbearable and the time flew by quick enough that I was home with Emerson before I knew it. 

I feel so lucky in my life right now. There is so much going for me and I do not even know how it all aligned. I have a wonderful husband who supports me and respects me. He wants me to succeed and reach my goals. I have an amazing son who has taught me about strength and perseverance. And through him I have met amazing people and made amazing connections. I have been exposed to a world so much more than I ever expected. I have a great family. I have wonderful friends. And I am excited about my job.

Leaving school was one of the hardest choices I made. I was halfway done with my MSW when Matt and I decided it would be best for us to move to Minnesota. So I put school on hold. I was beyond disappointed. I was sure that I would never find a job I enjoy without my MSW. And I didn’t know when I would get back to school. 

Now, I still do not know when I will get back to school. And, today at least, I am not worried about that. I am happy. I am content. I do not need anything more than what I have right now, in this moment. All I can say is “wow”. It is an utterly amazing feeling. I wish I could share it with the whole world. Everyone can just take a little piece of my joy and peace. There is more than enough to go around.

I really enjoy my job. No really, I do.

Sure, a year ago, this is not where I pictured myself, but after the year I’ve had, I am glad to be here. I am a contracted case manager through Hennepin County (a year ago I wouldn’t have touched case management with a ten foot poll, not the most glamorous work). I work for Pinnacle Services which I am finding to be a fantastic place to work.

I spend my day sending emails, making phone calls, and attending meetings. And when the mood strikes: we go out for lunch, jump in a foam pit, and attend happy hour. I actually love waking up in the morning to go to work.

And I am learning a ton about myself. I am getting a better sense of direction for my life and CRAZIER by the day. I am becoming more aware of where communications breaks down within the system. I am finding myself more driven to advocate and I think when I do go back to school my specialty will be something else entirely.

Being an adult isn’t that hard…