As I looked through my kitchen window thinking about a difficult day at work, my attention shifted to the Cherry Tree in my garden. I started thinking about the changes in the growth of the tree since I have lived in that house and my role in maintaining the tree, by pruning it, and removing any unwanted plants around it.
This got me thinking about the families I work with and my passion to ensure that changes made are sustained and the best outcome is achieved for each child. I also thought of the families that I have worked with that the children have had to be removed and thought of what the difference has been. I realised that my families just like a tree/plant, require my attention, care, support, and are affected by both organic and inorganic elements which they can only survive if they have had a strong root.
It all starts with The Roots of a tree – This is the family that the child is a part of – extended and primary care givers. A tree with a strong and healthy root, thrives and grows very well. In the same way a child who has a very supportive, nurturing care givers, has a greater chance of being equipped to grow into a resilient and productive adult. For me to make a difference in a child’s life, I first need to understand the roots (family) and the support their needs to be able to give the necessary nutrients that will support the fruits/flower (child).
Growth and Environmental factors – Some trees are able to function well with just the support offered by nature in terms of the weather, and natural resources from the earth, whereas others need extra support from what nature has to offer. Some trees are able to survive even the most harshest of the natural elements whereas others fall at the slightest of a strong wind. In that same way, the parents we work are affected by the elements like mental health, domestic abuse, substance misuse, poverty, toxic relationships, traumatic life experiences, emotional difficulties etc, but they are able to provide the nurture that their children need with little or no support from professional. On the other hand, we have parents who struggle to negotiate all the negative elements and as such are not able to provide the emotional, physical and psychological support that their children require. Such parents will need professionals to see and understand them as the vital roots needed to effect change in the care they provide to their children, so as to nurture the children to flourish and bloom.
Seasonal Changes – Trees go through seasonal changes like the rainy and dry season, as well as period of extreme heat, storms, hurricane, etc, but because they have the necessary nutrients and support from a strong root, they are able to bloom at the appropriate time. However, if there has been any impact on the roots that have not received the appropriate nurturing, the tree/plant may not be able to survive and produce flower/fruits at the expected time. In that same way our families go through periods of difficulties where they are impacted by the adverse issues in the home, which then impact on the welfare of the children in their care if appropriate support is not offered.
Understanding and Sustaining change – As a social worker, it is my duty to understand the parents and the upbringing/history that has affected them as the roots that the children need to be able to remain in their family home. I need to identify my role and what I can do in order to support the parents/ families who are the source of nutrients that the children need in the family home. For me to be able to offer the right support, I need to understand what the children need to be able to bloom, and that can only be effective if I understand the primary care givers and work with them to understand their role and importance to the children; what the children need in order to thrive in their care and go on to have strong and nurturing roots for their own children. It is therefore my role as a social worker to work with the primary care giver (roots) to unpick and provide support to help them work through the mental health, domestic abuse, substance misuse etc.
Looking at my Cherry tree and the fact it has survived unlike a plum tree that was in the garden at the same time as the Cherry tree, made me realise that my commitment and dedication to it has contributed to its survival, because I love Cherries more than Plums. In that same way reflecting on the positive impact I have made with my families had been largely due to my understanding of the needs of the primary care givers and their roles in working together to effect lasting positive changes in the home for the children. Mainly because I enjoy my work with the families and take pride in the work I have done for those who are still in their family home and those who I have had to place outside of the family home. There are times when the seeds from the plant/tree would have to be moved to a different environment where they will have all the necessary resources to give them a best chance of surviving and thriving. In that same way, there are times when a child would have to be removed from their family home to give them the best chance of survival, growth and development.
I chose the tree because it signifies life, nature, nurturing and efforts made to sustain it. This is my way of understanding social work, the work i do with the families i work with, and the outcomes for children