Forensic social worker, Child and Adolescent Mental Health
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I work as part of the Youth Forensics team which deals with youth offenders.
Our clients are usually referred by Police from Child Youth and Family’s (CYF) youth justice arm.
They range in age from 10 up to about 19.
They are here because they have committed a crime but the attending officers want to clarify the possible reasons around the child committing that crime.
I’ve been in the role for 11 months now. Prior to that I was a social worker in a similar role for CYF for five years.
Most days we start with a multi-disciplinary team meeting, between 8.30am and 10am. I sit with another social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a mental health nurse.
We will talk about referrals that have come in and decide who will pick the case up.
Then that person will develop an intervention plan.
Then my day tends to be other appointments, back-to-back meetings with clients and their families.
A key part of our work is collecting information around a client’s developmental mental history.
Some diagnoses we deal with are around post traumatic stress disorder, related to trauma and attachment issues. The mum never connected with the child, maybe she was depressed, there was no routine and different adults coming into and out of the home, perhaps something traumatic happened, like abuse. All of that impacts down-the-track.
" I get to be really involved in finding out the real core issues for our children..."
I think working with children in this setting is really important, then you get to see the underlying issues of their offending. I get to be really involved in finding out the real core issues for our children, and finding alternatives.
If the child has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), it might be that they are acting on impulse and does that have anything to do with why the child has randomly gone out and ransacked a house? The kid might have gone through a lot of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
There are a lot of kids coming through this service, as young as 10, and I ask myself why is this happening and why so young?
In my experience parenting roles have changed in the last 40 years.
I was the end of an era when grandparents played an important role in child raising. My grandparents put a big emphasis on the role of everyone in the whanau unit, so when the parents weren’t around they stepped in, and it was hands-on and everyone looked out for everyone else.
Now young people come through raising children as best they can, perhaps with alcohol, drugs and violence in the house, and without that support.
I find this job rewarding. Not depressing at all.
I’m an optimistic person and I don’t think things are as bleak as they sometimes look.
I work with clients to turn over almost every rock to find a glimpse of a way forward.
I do this because if all you can offer someone is hope and some reassurance for the next step, I’m okay with that.
It’s rewarding when the parents say to you, ‘Thank you Mana’ or a child comes up to hug you or grabs onto a leg, or they send you a thank you card. When they smile when they see you, and you can see hope in their eyes.