13+ years in Social Services - Stay the Course or Move On?
Happy New Year 2021!!!
I have 13+ years’ experience in social services. I have worked with the elderly, developmentally disabled and physically challenged children and young adults, poor and homeless individuals and families, at-risk youths in group homes, mentally ill clients, and clients seeking information on sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. I have also worked in Adult Protective Services for the In-Home Supportive Services program and Child Protective Services helping to place abused, abandoned, neglected, and endangered children/adolescents with relatives or in foster care. I currently have my BS in Human Services and will be starting my online MSW program this month.
My husband and I are originally from California and moved to Phoenix Metro area in October 2017 to be closer to his daughter and for better job opportunities. I first started working as a Case Manager for a behavioral health clinic but left in February 2020 when my caseload doubled from 40 to 80 clients. I now work as a Peer Support Specialist where my stress level originally decreased but has now started to increase again.
Recently, I’ve noticed a nagging concern about my current position (as well as my past position). The behavioral health clinics here seemed to be focused more on productivity and billing than on the client. I don’t have a problem with completing documentation, but if you don’t bill for a minimum of 30 client encounters each workday, you’re considered unproductive and at risk for corrective action and/or termination. I understand that the clinics make their money through billing for services, but I hate feeling like I must meet/greet/resolve more and more client issues plus enter notes in a limited amount of time.
On my clinical team, we have close to 300 clients. I am responsible for doing outreach and engagement with each client every month. That means I call clients to remind them of appointments, assist with scheduling, help to resolve medication issues, plus ask them about their housing, food/clothing, job/education assistance, and transportation needs. I also must deal with clients who are on Court Ordered Treatment or are Special Assistance (have guardians or advocates). So basically, I call and/or do home visits with 15 clients/day and pray no one has a crisis (suicide ideation, drug overdose, domestic violence, etc.) which can throw a money wrench into my day.
So, after working 13+ years in social services (after spending 25+ years in a public library as a library assistant at the checkout and reference desks), I am beginning to question myself. I know I absolutely love working with people, have good customer service/interpersonal skills, and a great sense of humor to match. While I may be kind, caring, compassionate, and empathetic, I know I’m no spring chicken so if I decide to switch careers at my age (56), I may run into ageism. I have no plans to retire and want to work until they carry me out of my workplace in a coffin. I’ve seen far too many people retire and go downhill when they don’t have anything productive to do. I also find the idea of trying something new and completely out of the box rather exciting, intriguing, and adventurous.
What should I do? Try working with a different population or in a social service organization not so focused on the bottom line or throw caution to the wind and explore what’s out there? I am not interested in making a ton of money – I just want a great work/life balance doing something that makes me happy.
Thank you for time, attention, and kind assistance!!!
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