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Be brave, be bold and ask awkward questions

Speakup Orig 2

Charlotte Pearson blog, vetro, awkward questions...

In 2002, I was sat in a stuffy room at a child protection conference. I was one of 15 other professionals there that day to discuss a particular family. I was present in my capacity as the mother's substance misuse worker, yet out of the 15 others, I was the only one who had seen the family on a regular basis prior to the meeting.

I watched and listened as the Chair went around the room asking for updates. I watched overworked, run down, tired professionals rustle through their papers and give an update about a family they had not made contact with for weeks.

When the Chair came to ask the attendees one by one if the child should remain in the register, I listened one by one, as each person agreed with the one before that yes they should.

It would have been so easy to agree with everyone else that day. What did I know?  I was 22 and fresh out of my Master’s degree. It would have been so easy and I nearly did.

Then I looked up at the end of the table. I saw a young mum. The young mum I had been working with three times a week for the last six months.  The young mum who I knew was working so hard on every aspect of her life to change her path and improve the quality of life for both herself and her child. I knew that what had been reported was both inaccurate and unfair and I had two choices.  Agree with the majority and lose the trust of my client and potentially shatter her motivation and determination to change or, risk looking like a 22-year-old know-it-all who thought she could take on the big kids in the playground. 

I decided to risk the latter and explained as calmly and convincingly as I could why I thought everyone was wrong, backing up each point with evidence and praising the family for the positive change they had made.

The child remained on the register that day but I did not see that as a failure. The client finally felt noticed and valued and the Chair insisted every member of the panel follow up their contact before the next meeting.  At that meeting, every person voted for the child to be removed based on the progress they had seen first-hand.

So what’s my point? My point is that whatever decisions we make in our roles, these directly affect another families’ life. This is a huge responsibility and therefore one that deserves our full attention.

So however difficult the decision, however overworked or underpaid you feel, however, tired you are and no matter what else is going on in your life, your clients deserve your considered decision. 

Be brave, be bold and question when you need to.

Have you ever had to stick your head above the parapet to make a difference?