Revisiting the Real Life Scenario


Let’s return to the scenario that involves Liam and his Social Worker. Tanya entered the profession to make a difference in the lives of others. She is very committed to getting the services that Liam needs and feels a professional obligation to the other service providers as well. As Liam enters the centre Tanya approaches him with a smile and acknowledges that she is happy to see him. He appears a bit startled but returns the smile and engages in conversation. Tanya invites him to share a cup of coffee as they move to one of the tables.


This scenario, about Tanya needing to make a connection today, brings to mind Dr. Kerman‚Äôs video about taking time to appreciate the small wins. He says even minor acts like having a person smile at you or show up for a scheduled meeting can show you are making an impact. Liam feels ‚Äėseen‚Äô as a person and is pulled into a context where he can begin to engage with support services again, hopefully, with more consistency.


As front-line workers, Social Workers need to embrace small wins even while desiring a big change. Frustrations can build up when the small wins do not seem to be enough. Tanya takes the time to reflect on the small wins as well as consider the big picture for Liam. Tanya may also acknowledge for herself that Liam may be person who needs help but who may not be able to organize the support pieces for themselves. She uses mindfulness exercises when she is feeling overwhelmed and stays in close contact with other care providers for her own well-being. Social Workers and other front-line care providers can learn a lesson from the airline industry who remind us on every flight, that when the oxygen mask drops down in a time of crisis, to put our own on first before assisting others.


We need to ask ourselves:

  • We all have a different tolerance for frustration. Some of us feel comfortable allowing scenarios to play themselves out and others feel most comfortable when they are in control of the situation. How do you deal with frustration? Does it cause you stress or does it energize you?
  • As Dr. Forchuk tells us we need to look at person-centred care rather than a ‚Äúone size fits all‚ÄĚ approach. What might that look like in the plan of care for Liam?
  • Liam has been living with chronic homelessness for over three years. From what you have learned, how might the trauma associated with homelessness affect Liam‚Äôs interactions with support workers?
  • How might being accepted into the community of the centre help Liam?
  • Consider the social determinants of health that have an impact on Liam‚Äôs health. Which might you as a Social Worker prioritize? How would you use this knowledge in your case management?
  • Case management when services turn clients away is incredibly difficult and frustrating. Considering Social Work‚Äôs foundation of anti-oppressive practice, how might you feel if the agency you were working for had a ‚ÄúZero tolerance for aggressive behaviour‚ÄĚ policy or a ‚Äúthree missed appointments and you are out‚ÄĚ policy that led to Liam‚Äôs services being cancelled?

Recall the Four Foundational Concepts


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Understanding Homelessness in Canada Copyright © 2022 by Kristy Buccieri, James Davy, Cyndi Gilmer, and Nicole Whitmore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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