Problems in Families, Society and Systems

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In therapy, people often come in with a presenting problem but when you dig further you soon realize that the problem isn’t really the problem; it’s the symptom of a larger dysfunction.

I write this from a Canadian anti-oppressive perspective and we have to go way back to when the country was officially coined “Canada” because Europe had a great influence.

The British North American Act of 1867 was influenced by the European settlers who drew upon Elizabethan Poor Laws of 1601 and Catholicism. The Elizabethan Poor Laws dictate who is “deserving” and “undeserving” of government assistance with a special emphasis on charitable donations. As someone who grew up Catholic there is also an emphasis on “good works”.

Note: it is typically only wealthy, affluent, white people who can afford to be charitable so there is also a privilege and status in donating.

Colonialism also brought patriarchy and capitalism and it also brought dysfunction to to systems and society. This dysfunction then trickles down to families and the individual and since we are all a part of a greater whole, we are all affected.

So – problems in individual, family, society and systems are really an indication of how well the sum of the whole is functioning.

In Canada our government is founded on Neo-liberal/Neo-conservative values. With respect to social services this means the government will only touch what they see absolutely necessary with special emphasis of charity donations to fund many social programs.

Some people call this being fiscally responsible but it also ignores how deeply people are suffering for the sake of keeping the economy going and of course people want to pay as little taxes as possible.

So – why would I want to pay more taxes for social programs/early childhood education, etc. if it’s not going to benefit me?

Government funding is a huge problem. And that is why you see burnout. Instead of one worker doing exceptional work with 5 or 6 files, you see 1 worker struggling to do work with 25 files. Same quality of care is expected but as little money as possible is provided. Do more for less.

Are you burnt out taking care of an elderly family member? Quite frankly, Western Society doesn’t assign worth to older adults. They are no longer in their “productive” years. Heck in Canada, elder abuse in long-term care homes is a serious problem. Abuse is mostly at the hands of personal care workers; who are often people of colour being paid crap and the profession isn’t regulated.

Also, community and the life-cycle wasn’t valued the way it was in Indigenous cultures.

In Western Society, our worth is based upon privilege. Are you white, cis-gendered, affluent, Christian, able-bodied, middle aged, heterosexual, married with 2 children and a contributing member to society?

No??????

This is a tall order to live up too. Cue shame culture. Not being worthy.

In Western Society my worth is also based upon my material possessions and whether I have the biggest house on the block. (Keeping up with the Jones’ is still a thing).

So when an individual presents with a problem…it’s much more than the problem.

And if you are tired or burnt out. This doesn’t benefit the economy. And caregiving? I haven’t even really touched on that. That’s a woman’s job and well we all know what a woman’s worth is. (Yes I am being sarcastic but you get the point, or at least I hope you do).

Sad but all true.

Phew. This was a bit exhausting to write.

Karla x

Lessons from Child Welfare

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I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. What did I learn after almost a decade working for a Children’s Aid Society in Ontario, Canada? (These are my views and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the agency I worked for), still I think it’s important to share my takeaways as part of my own journey. I speak for no one in this post but myself.

What did I learn? Where do I start?

The people that work for child welfare are people that care, and they care a lot, however it is the constraints of the system that prevent them from going the extra mile much of the time. The paper work and policies dictated much of what I did, especially when working in the protection department.

Sometimes, because of the excessive demands, workers get burnt out. I didn’t want this myself but after extended periods of non-stop giving, it happened.

This leads me to my next point, I had to find a way to give back to myself. That also meant saying “no” a lot. It may have meant less for the people I worked with and not having the “best worker” status but my personal sanity was more important.

Families are complicated. So very complicated.

I honestly believe that parents want what is best for their children, it just get lost in the translation of their own pain and struggles.

People have the ability to change.

People in our communities don’t understand the cycle of poverty, addiction and abuse. No one wakes up in the morning and decides they want this for themselves or their children. It happens because they are in pain and they don’t know another way. (I had never witnessed poverty to the extent that it was when I was exposed to a First Nation.)

Families can come in all different shapes and forms. It’s not who you are related to, but who is there for you when you need it. Love knows no bounds.

I witnessed people living in modest houses and apartments with modest means but their lives were so rich and full. There are so many wonderful people out there.

I have seen communities. extended families, foster parents rally together for the love of a child. They don’t always agree and are stubborn but the best interest of a child is at the heart of many, many people.

I have also seen people destroy a child’s inner flame because of their own fighting and foolishness; their inability to empathize with another’s struggles and the need to be “right”.

I have also reflected on how many of my own triggers impacted my work. My own ability to dismiss and write people off based on my own experiences. I got a taste of what it was like to abuse power. The system is set up for this.

Babies and children and teens are precious. They are the future and the next generation.

To anyone that has made it out of the “system”. I admire you.

Karla x

Beautiful Endings

With Gratitude

Today is my last day of in-class work. The final in-class assignment has been submitted and I am eternally grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to learn and live out my passion of Social Work with like-minded souls.

This ending is bittersweet for me, as many endings usually are. I am going to miss our ritual in-class meetings on Zoom;

Learning, exploring, creating and sharing ideas about program development, research, policy and micro-practice.

The art of helping others, truly is an art and I am grateful to share my art with others who have the same passion.

The professors that have inspired me, I thank you.

And the friendships that I have made, I thank you.

To new beginnings and changing the world…here I come.

Karla xo

How do I….heal? Part 1.

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Simple question, complex answer.

Wanting a quick fix in today’s urgency culture, in addition to wanting to avoid our own discomforting emotions and situations is common and completely normal.

We all experience life. In a world where social media is increasingly prominent it is sometimes difficult to discern what is real and what isn’t. Let’s be really clear about this – no one is devoid of suffering. It’s part of the human condition. Equally true – no one is devoid of a loving nature. It’s also part of the human condition.

If this is speaking to you in any way, shape or form…keep reading. If you don’t want to read another one of Karla’s rambling blogs…stop here. The choice is yours but that won’t stop me from writing…

As I continue on my own journey as a human with all sorts of roles and responsibilities, and baggage there are a few things that I have learned as I reflect back.

It can take time, but it can be done. Several years ago, I remember feeling defeated and telling a co-worker, that there was no point in continuing therapy. I had learned all I needed to know and I was done. (What I was really feeling was stuck). My amazing co-worker (who was also working on her own healing) gently asked me “isn’t healing a life-long process?” Fair point. Obvious, yet when we are stuck in our own crap sometimes it’s hard to see out of it. And back to my first point of wanting a quick fix. It has literally taken me years to move past something that I thought was blueprinted.

Sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards but all in all moving forwards. We all make mistakes. Sometimes it takes a lot of mistakes. Keep going.

Therapy or counselling of some sort is helpful. (Even for those who have a background in it). As conscious of our biases and triggers that we think we are, having an objective source can be so valuable! Even now, I still have “a-ha” moments with my therapist.

Make sure it’s the right fit. Earlier on in my journey I had seen a counsellor for the 1st time and she told me I would never be able to go back to school; that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I was pissed at the time and she was wrong. Instead of knowing that she wasn’t an “expert” I felt bad about myself and this isn’t helpful in the healing process.

Don’t let any counsellor or therapist tell you they are an “expert”…especially in regard to your life. If they do, move on. Peace out homie.

Find a counsellor/therapist/helper that has done some of their own inner work and are open enough to share it. You don’t need to know the specifics of their journey but for me, it has helped immensely with relatability and connection. If they give you a common line about maintaining professional boundaries, appreciate that but also know that if they can’t acknowledge they have their own dirty laundry, you might want to re-think where you are spending hundreds of dollars for YOUR healing. Just saying.

I initially planned on only writing one post about this but it’s not getting finished tonight.

A part of my healing is also…sleep. More to come….

Namaste

Karla xo