While undertaking the mental health project file audit, an Office staff member had cause to read a handwritten goodbye letter to a child from his social worker.
The social worker reflected on the child’s achievements, strengths and what she would remember about working with him. Youth Advisors and staff began to talk about the inevitable separations between young people and their workers and how they should and could happen.
These are some of the Youth Advisors’ thoughts:
The nature of the goodbye children seek from their social worker depends on the relationship. The more connected the relationship, the greater need for a planned goodbye. If the relationship has only been in existence for a few weeks with minimal contact, the goodbye-needs may be quite different. Nevertheless, a goodbye that recognises the relationship and reflects the needs of the child should occur.
It is a challenge for social workers to manage the personal versus professional ending of a relationship with a child. Some young children may find it difficult to recognise the difference between professional and personal relationships if they have not experienced professional relationships before.
Some social workers didn’t say goodbye at all or just made a quick phone goodbye on the day they moved on. One advisor remembered calling the worker’s office only to be told their social worker was gone. They recalled that the unprepared departure did not provide enough time to process the ending of the relationship, and left them hurt, offended and untrusting.
A number of advisors recalled not knowing what happened to their social worker and never heard about them again. Sometimes young people do not realise the value of the social worker relationship to them until later in life so it is important that the social worker takes steps to acknowledge the relationship with each child.
Advisor tips for saying a quality good-bye
- Let us know in advance, wherever possible, so we can prepare for it.
- Talk to us about it each time we see you. This helps us plan and prepare for the time left.
- Tell us why you are leaving.
- If you have time, you could send us a card or letter.
- It’s great if you know who our new social worker will be and introduce them to us. If you donÕt know who our social worker will be, tell us as much as you can.
- Tell us face to face.
- Take a photo of you and me and leave it for me.
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