The last A Day in The Life Practice Wisdom of 2020 is from Eilidh McDonald, a social worker with SWIIS fostering and adoption agency who have provided quality student placements with Learning Network West for many years. Eilidh reflects on the impact of her professional and personal life merging into each other as we went into the first lockdown in 2020, describing it best with the powerful line: “I spent a lot of time having confidential conversations in my toilet”.

“I’ll just keep doing my best which is what we are all trying to do”

My name is Eilidh and I have worked as supervising social worker for a local authority and currently with an independent fostering agency for over 11 years. Prior to this I have worked in Children and Families teams and third sector organisations.

The main part of my job is supervising and supporting foster carers which includes giving them advice on how best to support a young person and what help they as foster carers need to do the best job of caring for young people and also at times challenging practice and working with carers on how to change it. I also spend a lot of time liaising with social workers in area teams to look at the impact of contact and any resources a young person might need but this is more challenging with the lack of finances available to local authorities. We do have to be creative at times.

My job was ticking along quite nicely with the usual stresses and strains of attending meetings, getting paperwork and case notes up to date and there is always one case that takes up more time than others, but it was manageable...until Covid 19 Lockdown.

What I have omitted to tell you that I am also a mother of 3 children and have a husband. So the day it was announced in March 2020 I remember sitting in a frozen state on my couch thinking about the realities of what this meant to me and how I was going to try and educate my children and work at the same time. My two youngest are at primary and my oldest is at secondary so we split the work with me taking on the younger two. I had it all planned out and with the rest of the nation we started off well with Jo Wicks exercise programme and I tried to set out work for them while trying to navigate the online education apps. I found it very hard to one minute be helping with a spelling task which they needed my undivided attention and then a call from a foster carer needing time to off load and ask what to do with a teenager who wanted to go out and was pushing boundaries, making relationships tense. I spent a lot of time having confidential conversations in my toilet.

My brain was going from one type of thinking to another and I found I had a whole new level of tiredness by the end of the school/work day as well as the mother’s guilt of my children spending more time on screens and the question of whether they were going to fall behind with their school work.

My managers were very understanding as it was an unprecedented experience for everyone.

I had colleagues in similar situations so we would often have evening texts to tell each other of our crazy days as well offering each other emotional support and dark humour known and loved by many a social worker. Well, I survived it and so have the foster carers and my family. So it is time to lose the guilt and keep doing my best which is what we are all trying to do.

Many thanks to Eilidh for her reflections. Here is to us all keeping on doing our best in 2021.

Take care, Cath 😊


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