In fact, it's not so much of a sw specific principle. It's just good people practice.

We empower our clients. We work with our clients toward their own, personal goals. We respect the client's individuality.

We try to stay away from doing client work that's not client centered. Creates a bit of an issue. Hard to engage people when they don't believe you're invested in them as individual people.

Bureaucracies, then, are potentially problematic when it comes to client centered work. (Shocking, I know.)

Like the State of Oregon Employment Department. Like the office in North Portland. Like the office I had to visit because the one job I wanted to apply to off their website required the WorkSource approval. I went fully aimed with resume, phone numbers and time on my hands to see if my skills matched the skills the job posting required.

Oy.

The client must follow The Process, right? It was required that I fill out an online profile, online resume and then take a reading and mathematics placement test. The computer started blinking out partway through, and when I raised my hand for help, as this was The Process, The Help was a little irritated with me and told me that I needed to check The Box.

I told The Help that I had checked The Box. The Help told me that I obviously hadn't. As in, "Obviously, you haven't." I checked The Box in front of him and asked him what I was supposed to do now. The Help then told me, "You must be doing something wrong. Finish checking these boxes and push save. It's that button right there." I did, and when all was Saved, I asked him {again} what I was supposed to do now, as The Process hadn't actually been explained to me in a linear fashion in the beginning. The Help looked at me through narrowed eyes and said, "What are you trying to do? Find a job? Get a GED? Do you need training?"

{Coincidentally, none of this is exaggerated.}

When I told him there was one job that I wanted to apply for, he then directed me to the reading and math placement test. I still don't know how that had anything to do with the minimum wage, 20 hour a week job transporting people with developmental delays to appointments.

I took the reading test. I failed the fourth level. I took the math test. I failed the fifth level. I have to say something here. I have two undergraduate degrees -- one of them in English. My undergraduate GPA was a 3.71. I'm in a nationally ranked graduate program where 1 in 7 applicants were granted entry for Fall of 2009. My Graduate GPA, to date, is a 4.0.

They were two of the most poorly written tests I've ever seen. I have no idea what they were talking about.

And after all of that, the all wise, all knowing System had decided that my skills weren't a match for that minimum wage job after all.

As I was leaving, a bi-lingual man was showing the front desk staff a letter he had received from the Salem office dictating that if he wished to continue receiving his UI (unemployment benefits), he needed to go into his local office to take a class. The North Portland office was his local office. They knew nothing about the "training." So helpfully, one of the English speaking employees loudly told him to call the number in Salem on his letter (because speaking loudly to bi-lingual people helps them understand English better). He informed them that he HAD called that number and they had instructed him to go to the office.

I left at that. Demoralized, un-helped, discouraged, frustrated. All I wanted was someone to sit down with me, explain the process, explain why the process was necessary and give me follow up tasks. Meet me at the level I'm at: not under, not over.

I love experiences like this. I love experiences like this because it drives home what I know to be true in my little social worker heart: That we are all the same; That there is little space between the Professional and the Client; That all people deserve respect, compassion and a chance. These experiences that put me in the role of the client are unbelievably necessary. I never, never want any of my clients to walk away from me thinking I undervalued their intelligence or their potential.

I'll continue to look for jobs in other areas than the Employment Department.

5 comments

  1. Elizabeth on December 10, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    Well that sounds fun. I've taken that class the bilingual was referring to. It's a ton o' fun! If you do not have an iMatchSkills account, which after everything you've done you should, then you won't need to go into the stupid office again. You can just log on and it will tell you where to go and apply. Try simplyhired.com, they weed out all the junk that is on places like Monster and Careerbuilder and actually show you legit jobs. I have also been looking on craigslist, but there has be A LOT of scams on there so you have to be really careful. Hang in there. I know how you feel.

     
  2. Maria on December 21, 2009 at 5:40 PM

    This is the time to write a professional but stern letter to the head of the office manager. It is a disgrace anyone is treated this way. I know, I have been in similar situations and as a person w/a counseling degree, a special teacher and going for Speech Therapy I work (will work) with patients who deserve the respect and patience they so often do not get. People never cease to amaze me. I shall get off my soapbox! Believe it or not I have had teachers that discouraged me from entering science based classes (and I never said these things to my students) and I now I am getting a M.A. in a science based field!

     
  3. Maria on December 21, 2009 at 5:40 PM

    This is the time to write a professional but stern letter to the head of the office manager. It is a disgrace anyone is treated this way. I know, I have been in similar situations and as a person w/a counseling degree, a special teacher and going for Speech Therapy I work (will work) with patients who deserve the respect and patience they so often do not get. People never cease to amaze me. I shall get off my soapbox! Believe it or not I have had teachers that discouraged me from entering science based classes (and I never said these things to my students) and I now I am getting a M.A. in a science based field!

     
  4. Lisa on December 21, 2009 at 9:34 PM

    Maria, it always does my heart good to see your kind comments and to know there's a fellow blogger out there going through the rigor morale of grad school. I have no doubt you will truly be able to instill confidence in the kiddos that you work with - and with all the empowerment and respect that accompanies it!

     
  5. Maria on December 25, 2009 at 6:03 AM

    Lisa,

    Thank you for your comments and encouragement. I know you will, as well. Your heart speaks through her your words. Have a Merry Christmas!

     


Post a Comment