Your job as a social worker is imperative in helping the community pull itself together. Many issues can plague a society. These include domestic violence, rampant substance abuse, and dysfunctional households. The community needs you to step in and resolve these problems in all these situations.
But this is more challenging than it sounds. Being a social worker comes with risks and challenges, one of which is a danger to your safety.
Only some clients or neighborhoods you get assigned may be friendly. Likewise, the population may not appreciate your presence and greet you with hostility. This is why anytime you have to handle a dangerous case, you should consider your safety. So, to ensure no harm befalls you, whether physical, verbal, or emotional, here’s what you need to do:
1. Evaluate the situation carefully
When you get a case assigned, you must study the file carefully. Take notes on whom you are supposed to meet, why the authorities were alerted, and the general outlook of the victim. This helps you understand the potential hazards and challenges that await you, which allows you to take necessary security measures.
For instance, if you have to pull a child out of a household that is incredibly violent and there have been complaints of gunshots and physical abuse, you need to be on your guard. These key factors indicate that rescuing the child won’t be easy, and there’s a chance the parents may try to stop you.
Hence, follow the guidelines prescribed for social workers safety and follow these protocols carefully. These include informing the client before the visit, picking up signs if a situation escalates, and calming the matter before it worsens.
2. Keep an eye out for warning signs
While visiting a client, always be aware of your surroundings. This includes looking around the client’s neighborhood and house to make mental notes of their living condition. Start by observing your client’s area.
Look at the infrastructure; How well is it maintained, or does it look entirely run down? Are there broken glasses, sharp objects, or harmful items lying around that can hurt you? What about the intensity of pollution? How hard is it to breathe or even walk in this neighborhood? It would help if you watched the way the client regards you.
How welcoming are they? Do they seem aggressive, defensive, or look ready to attack you? Staying vigilant is the best way to navigate through high-profile cases. You prevent yourself from getting injured and reduce the risk of getting harmed in any way. Train yourself to read body language, become sensitive to slight changes in facial expression, and if you feel threatened, pull back instead of forcing yourself into the situation.
3. Ensure your team is informed
It is a good idea to tell your colleagues about the case you are working on. So, in case things go south, or you’re in trouble and haven’t reported back, your teammates can inform the relevant authorities and help you. Likewise, if you know the area is dangerous, contact the police. You should have at least one or two officers with you who can watch your back as you do your duty.
If your client tries to attack you or pull a weapon, the police can restrain and handcuff them if needed. There will be certain situations when you may need the police to enter the client’s house and clear it before you can make your way in.
4. Don’t let control slip
As a social worker, you need to control the case you are trying to solve. Understand that asking for and receiving help is not easy for your client. Some may even feel ashamed because of your visitation. Therefore, they may be defensive, evade your questions, and act out. On the other hand, children may be scared of you and not answer or share details if they are enduring abuse. Consequently, you need to stay in control and gradually address your client.
Use kind and empathetic words to encourage them to talk, give your clients the space to share their stories, and don’t force them to answer if they don’t want to. It would help if you were calm and patient when you spoke with your client. It will help if you talk a little about yourself and the purpose of your visit.
If your clients are overwhelmed by your visit, you may need to pause and revisit them. If your client is a child, you need to move them to a safe space before you can talk to them.
While their parents are in the vicinity, ask them to go to another room and give the child their space. However, if you have an inkling that the child is experiencing abuse at the hands of their parents, you will need to remove the parents and take them to safety actively.
Don’t expect the parents to cooperate and anticipate some blowback. They may try persuading the child to get away from you, physically threaten you, become aggressive and even throw objects at you. Record all signs and symptoms of violence, and if you notice bruises around the child, you need to get them to a clinic immediately.
Being a social worker is a challenging job. Even though your job is crucial in restoring harmony in society, this endeavor is often met with resistance. This can make your work hard since your client’s anger and aggressiveness towards you prevent them from getting the help they need.
Therefore, the best way to proceed with the situation is by understanding the case’s complexity and taking the necessary measures. If you feel the case you need to handle is potentially dangerous, actively work on your safety. This includes thoroughly investigating your situation and evaluating what you may be dealing with.
Other measures include being sensitive about your client’s posture, minding your surroundings, and always having a backup. Finally, make sure the situation never escalates out of hand. If you feel the client is resorting to violence, you may need to pull back and contain the case.