01 August 2018

A social worker’s story, Ukraine, Part 2

Hope and Homes for Children Social Worker, Lesya Belenok.
Photo by Iryna Andreytsiv

 

Lesya is one of a team of social workers, trained by Hope and Homes for Children to work in Makariv, a district in the Kyiv region of Ukraine. Her job is to support families in order to stop children being placed in institutions. Here, she tells the second of three stories from her working life:    

I’ve bought a goat. Should I get some chickens?

Health care professionals are often the first people to detect signs of a family in crisis. A local nurse recently contacted me to report that a child had reoccurring head lice. I went to visit the girl’s family and discovered that the mother was away and the grandmother was struggling to cope. Their house had become neglected and dirty.

The old lady was a very nice woman but she started crying when we arrived and explained that her daughter, the mother, did not take care of the children. The real problem was not lice at all, but that the children were being neglected. I had a long conversation with the grandmother that day and all of us decided that we would take positive steps to turn the family around.

First of all, I brought the grandmother and the mother together and we made a daily schedule for them to follow. We assigned everyone responsibilities to clean the house, wash dishes, and help the children with their homework. Each member of the family now has their own individual schedule which is put up on the wall, and it works.

One of the girl’s tasks is to pick up her younger brother’s toys, and I am happy to say that she does. When I visited the family again, the house was sparkling clean!

I said to the family, ‘Wow, your house looks great!’ and they were so happy. That’s what psychological support and early detection is all about. Usually the situation is not as bad as it seems.

The social workers from the district authority used to come to the village just once a year for reporting purposes only. They did not offer any help to families but simply collected their data and left.

I have supported several cases like this over the past five years. I might help a family draw up a budget, take a mother food shopping or negotiate credit with a shopkeeper to tide the family over. The onus is on the family to gradually build up to managing their budget independently.

For example, a typical plan might be that at the beginning of each month, the mother would pay a neighbour some money to cover a month’s supply of milk, and credit money to a shop to pay for bread. I then monitor and support the progress of the family to manage their own budget, and gradually hand over control completely when the family is settled and back on their feet. I then schedule in some follow up visits to make sure everything is okay. Families know where to go if they need any more help, although I am sometimes asked some very odd questions indeed such as: ‘I’ve bought a goat. Should I get some chickens as well?’ Where else would you receive such a service!

Based on an original article by Iryna Andreytsiv for Ukrainska Pravda