The older I get the less I seem to understand. I know it is not supposed to be that way. Age is supposed to bring me accrued wisdom and understanding, but it isn’t happening. I feel I’m getting left behind in this age when instant gratification is demanded – but no longer seems fast enough – and old guidelines to sensible conversations and criticisms are abandoned, lost in shouts for retribution rather than resolution.
When I was a young newspaper reporter and columnist we called the government ministry responsible for social services “the ministry of misery”. Not in sarcasm but because misery was what the front line social workers dealt with day after day and, without exaggeration, often night after night.
Things haven’t changed much over the years. Ministry names have changed; ministers have come and gone over the years. Names have changed, rules and regulation have been reviewed and hopefully improved and what was once the ministry for social services is now the Ministry for Children and Family Development. Minister Stephanie Cadieux is in charge.
One thing that hasn’t changed much over the years is the workload of the social workers, those men and women among us who chose social work as a career because they wanted to help the disadvantaged among us, the children and the adults whom life had dealt a miserable hand. As a force they remain the front line workers, handling on our behalf the miseries of the unfortunate overwhelmed by misfortune.
And when things go wrong, as they will in the best of regulated environments, they, the front line workers and their ministry are singled out for accusations hinting at gross neglect which, in a recent case led to the death by defenestration of a teenager.
John Horgan, leader of the NDP which once championed social workers when their first Premier Dave Barrett was among their ranks, immediately bleated a call for the resignation of Minister Cadieux for allowing such inappropriate things to happen. He, and others who should know better, have chirped and chipped around the tragic death of the 18-year old youth, seemingly more intent on harming the government than finding resolution to a difficult problem. Those critics appear to remain oblivious to the damage they inflict on the morale and confidence of those street workers who in good conscience do their best to handle the “social problems” the rest of us prefer not to see.
Not least among the quick-to-blame critics is the intrepid media which feeds the careless sparks of unthinking critics with inflammatory headlines and stories while proudly boasting it’s just “holding government’s feet to the fire”.
The entire critical chorus, especially media, could improve the social services situation if instead of calling for the head of a minister, a department head or a dedicated social worker with a mind numbing case load, it began an incessant demand for all involved to sit down and reason together.
They may never find a solution but they would, together, surely find understanding. And, who knows, maybe they could pass that understanding on to me.