C L A R E O R G E R
I qualified as a social worker (CQSW) in 1972 and became one of the first ‘generic’ social workers in Worcestershire, England (which became the County of Hereford and Worcester). It was rather daunting when on night duty to think I could be called out on a childcare or mental health emergency anywhere from the outskirts of Birmingham to the Welsh Borders.
I was a social worker for four and a half years in the UK and the USA before running the In-Service Course in Social Care (run by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, CCETSW). After having my children I undertook a variety of part-time posts, finally retiring from Further Education in 2004 with a further eleven years ahead of me employed in the library service in Nottingham.
I chose Rambler Estate (car badge) – which I now use as a key holder – because …
… It represents my 18 months as a caseworker in an American social work agency in the 1970s – and all the challenges and hard learning from that period. The Rambler Estate was my car.
Having been a generic social worker for a couple of years, I wanted the opportunity to have a more specialised role and so I answered an advertisement in Social Work Today for a caseworker for the Children’s Aid Society of Pennsylvania, an agency specialising in fostering and adoption. I was interviewed in England by the Director and offered the job; and a few weeks later was coping with the heat and humidity of late summer in Philadelphia.
It was not only the climate that I had to adjust to but an agency with a very different approach to the one I was used to back in England. The agency was a mixture of authoritarianism and over-protective control, all underpinned by strong psychodynamic theories. It was here I found myself confronted by issues of race and diversity in ways I had not experienced in rural Worcestershire in the early 1970’s. I came to realise over the next twelve months that the values of the agency I was now working for clashed with my own dawning understanding of equality and rights.
I returned to England after a year and a half. Did I have regrets? No, it was one of the most interesting and challenging times of my life where I learned to be much more questioning of my role as a social worker and the impact of social work on individuals’ lives. I became more self-reliant and I made lasting friendships.