Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Culture Do You Identify With?

One of my favourite blogs Sociological Images has recently made a number of posts about how we categorize race and culture. They reminded me of a conversation I had with some co-workers the other day.

On an assessment form we use for our clients, there is a question that states: what culture do you identify with? The client does not fill out this assessment themselves, so it is up to the worker to obtain this information at some point. You can leave it blank, but you cannot enter new categories, or select more than one. There are 116 designations provided.

What we were discussing is that the “categories” are really inconsistent. “Culture” in this question may reflect a number of things including race, nationality, ethnicity, region, skin colour, and even language. There were other things I noticed and just don’t understand. For example, why are some of them plural? Then of course there are the many varied uses of the word Indian. “Mixed” or “non-mixed” seems to matter. I was reminded that “White” and “Caucasian” are not one and the same. By “Gypsy” do they mean Romani? And seriously, Mongoloid? I thought this was widely acknowledged as an out of date and racist term?

Some of the designations I had never even heard of (I still can’t find a definition for “Hututu”). Some seem to be totally made up: the only meaning I can find for “Senoy” is this apparently satirical medieval reference to an angel.

Here is the list:

Abyssinians (Amharas)
Australian Aborigine
Black – other African country
Black – other Asian
Black Arab
Black Carribean
Black East African
Black Indian Sub-continent
Black North African
Black West Indian
Black, other, non-mixed origin
Brazilian Indians
Indian (East Indian)
Indian (Hindi-speaking)
Mexican Indians
Mixed Ethnic group
New Zealand European
New Zealand Maori
Other Asian ethnic group
Other ethnic non-mixed group
Other white British ethnic group
South Asian
South East Asian
Venezuelan Indian
West Africans
West Indian

Monday, March 29, 2010

Keep your pants on!

A first today, although I'm surprised it hasn't happened before. I went to visit a client at his home, and he had left his porn out. DVD's on the coffee table, right in front of me. Also, he was wearing long underwear instead of pants.

It was a very short visit.

I could have said something to him, but didn't. Honestly, I expected he would go find some pants - this has happened before, that he answered the door in his long johns, and excused himself to his room before returning more properly dressed. As for the porn? I guess I could have said something about the appropriateness of exposing guests to this sort of thing, but I didn't want to get into it. He's a quiet, middle aged man who is only semi-fluent in English, mostly keeps to himself and is generally very polite and agreeable. He's an adult, and it's his house. That said, if it happens again, I will likely speak up.

And no, it was not a surprise visit. He knew I was coming.

Hello, my name is:

Gotta love Can’t even despise my loathing for these agency “planning” events. Had one last Friday.

I hate nametags. And ice breakers. And “small groups”. And brain storming. Not to mention, the only “vegetarian” offering at lunch was egg salad on white bread. Very appetizing. At least I’m not vegan, or I’d starve at these things.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Just can’t. Answer the phone. Not today. I will check the message and call you back, promise.

Why does this little piece of technology cause me such anxiety? I don’t know, but it always has. I should talk to myself about this – I counsel my clients regarding their anxiety all the time.

What I wouldn’t do to have a receptionist!

Friday, March 19, 2010

I hate big questions.

FACT #1: I don’t really like my job right now. I’m looking for another one constantly, but they do treat me well here, so I won’t leave for just anything.

FACT #2: There is a job posting for the same position I am doing now, at a different branch of my organization. HOWEVER, they pay more and it’s only 12km from my home.


I’m preparing my resume anyway ;)

Overheard at Work

Co-worker trying to be tactful with a client (who is up on some minor charges) on the phone:
“Please when you send me a fax, only send me the new information. I have 9 copies of your documents now
“Really, you only need to fax this stuff to your lawyer, he will determine where it needs to go, and if anyone else needs to be informed
“No, do not fax me
“No, I really don’t think the RCMP needs to see your information (!)

Reminded me of a client at my old job who would send 30-100 page faxes addressed to about 40 names and offices, including any social worker he’d ever heard the name of, the Director of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the mayor, and several news outlets. Dude musta cost the Region hundreds in paper and recycling costs!

True Confessions of a Sappy Housing Worker

Confession: I am in love with my client’s dog.

It got dumped on him by his brother. He is doing his best to care for it, but really has no experience looking after a dog. It appears to be some kind of Sheppard-X, and is about 1 year old, so he’s a good size.

This dog is crying out for structure and attention! When I walk in the door, he doesn’t jump on me, which apparently he does to everyone else. He listens if I give him commands, and while I visit with my client the dog curls around behind me on the couch with his head in my lap.

I know for a lot of my co-workers, they would consider this a workplace hazard, and likely would not meet the client in his apartment while the dog is there, but I love it. He has big, wet, sad looking eyes…

Is this crossing some kind of boundary? I am usually very good at enforcing limits and not forming emotional attachments in my work but I seriously want to take this puppy home with me! Apparently the brother keeps saying he is coming back for the dog when he “gets his new place” or when he “gets the right kind of transportation”. I’ll believe that when I see it. In the meantime, I will collect all the snuggles I can while trying to concentrate on what my client is saying.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Clarity is Key in Client Documentation

from a client’s hospital records, 1988

“Her answers are somewhat vague 30% to 40% of the time.”

How very precise.

Monday, March 15, 2010

10:25 aka 9:25

Thus beings six long months of the clock on my phone being an hour behind!

Uhg! is now a word.

The office is quiet today – a welcome change. A lot of people are on holiday for March Break I guess. Me, I’m feeling the loss of that hour (THANK YOU daylight savings!) this weekend, combined with the effects of having some wine and going to bed late last night. Uhg!

All I can say is I’m glad I’m not doing any community visits today, just seeing clients in the office. It’s so much easier. I wish that could be the majority of my job. While I can’t deny the advantages of having the ability to visit clients at their home or in the community, it’s really draining on me lately.

On high alert for March burnout.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Work is Following Me Home

At the grocery store last night.

-a rather “unkempt” and “disheveled” looking man cut me off with his grocery cart like he was in the last sprint of a 100m run

-an extremely slow moving young woman was packing up groceries at the end of the checkout line we were in. She was taking her time, removing items from the packaging before placing them in her bag. She was buying a tonne of baby products including diapers and about 10 sippy cups. She was taking care to fold and gently stack the cardboard boxes she removed from her items. Her purse appeared to be a child’s pink backpack.

We tried our best to pack our own groceries next to her. She started muttering and complaining about how the cashier was throwing other peoples things on her “stuff” and mixing it up. AM (love of my life and partner) suggested to her that perhaps if she moved somewhere else, it wouldn’t be a problem. The cashier then started complaining to ME how this woman had been there for 20 minutes, in the way of 3 previous customers. I tried gently suggesting to the cashier that she or someone who works at the store should help this young woman move along. It became clear this cashier was intimidated by the woman’s strange behaviour, and wanted nothing to do with it. I moved then and asked the woman if I could help her move her things, so they didn’t get “mixed up” but she refused. We tried to get out of the way as quickly as possible.

As we walked away, I began ranting (quietly) to AM about how the store should help her move to another area to pack her things instead of allowing everybody involved to become frustrated, as this woman was clearly confused and unwell and how I hoped what ever baby she was buying things for was well taken care of. I was quickly reminded by A that “not everyone can be a social worker” and that really nothing had come of the situation. He’s got a point.

-to top it all off, a woman (I swear) dressed as Cruella DeVille and smoking a long cigarette in a holder dashed in front of my car with her shopping cart right as the light turned green for me to leave the parking lot. I nearly had a heart attack, and then felt sorry for whatever fuzzy creature died to make the ridiculous and enormous hat she was wearing that must have been blocking her view of the “don’t walk” sign!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Office FAIL

If I had a good picture to include, I would send it here.

I’m often annoyed by able-bodied people insisting on using the wheelchair/assessable button to automatically open the doors in my office building. They open the door incredibly slowly, and they prove to me that you are lazy. It comes up often, because they are on every door. EXCEPT THE WASHROOMS. WTF?

The worst part is there is an oversized wheelchair accessible stall and sink in the bathroom. But anyone who really needs it can’t get to it. So, to the 86 year old lady with a walker who comes in to see her doctor and was walking in front of me today at about 0.00000000000000002 km/hour, I hope you went before you left home!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy International Women's Day!

Our work is never done.

I know you!

I received a new referral this morning, and the name was strikingly familiar.

You know it’s a sad story when I’ve encountered the same person in the three different sectors I have worked in – women abuse, homelessness, and now mental health. Of course, they are all connected, so it’s not uncommon. At least from what this referral says, it looks like she’s left her abusive ex.

Well, c’mon in honey, sit down. I genuinely hope we can help.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Sound the trumpets! Start the parade! My notes are done and UP TO DATE!!!!

Now if only I could say the same for my assessments, grr....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Take a deep breath...hold it...and GO!

Heading out to see Smelly Guy. Remembered to wear clothes today that can be changed quickly when I get home. Trying to psych myself up for spending longer than usual there today as I help him sort out a plan to get his place scrubbed clean. Help me!

Totally, Illegible.

Could somebody please, PLEASE make it mandatory already for all hospitals and social sevice agencies to use typed notes? This is the 21st century! I can't read your scrawl! I'd scan the offending documents as an example, but I can't even read it well enough to be sure I black out all the appropriate areas.

aaaand, she's off!

and today starts with....(drum roll please) paper work. of course. at the rate these hospital records are coming in, I won't have time to meet with another client until 2014!