Breaking the chain

Jacqueline Heaney - Senior Supervising Social Worker at Integrated Fostering Service.

In her first blog Jacqueline talks about how she became a supervising social worker including her time in care and job as a DJ.

This is my first ever blog and hopefully one of many.

I would like to introduce myself and tell you a little about my background, interest and hobbies.

I play chess with people all over the world via the internet and I also enjoy painting. I love cooking for my family on a Sunday and my greatest loves are my three granddaughters. I spend quality time with them and we will often bake cakes together. My other love is my Lhasa Apso dog and we take her for long walks in the park and forest.

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a social worker. This may have been the result of growing up in care and having a wonderful social worker as a role model.

Being in care filled me with a feeling of dread and I did not feel the same as my friends or the other children in school; I felt unloved. This feeling followed me around for a lot of my life until I decided that I was loved, because I loved myself. These early feeling of anxiety and low self-esteem turned into confidence and resilience and I decided to break the chain and make something of myself.

I did not go to university until my late thirties as I was a mother to my gorgeous daughter Jessica. In my spare time I used to work as a DJ playing in the local pub and on the radio once a week. Social work was always in my heart but not until my daughter reached 12 years old was I able to commit to my chosen profession.

Gain and loss

I was at college and university for six years and in the last year I became pregnant with my second child Regan, my waters actually broke in my tutor’s room. However, also while I was at university my brother fell out of a tree and died, my mother died of cancer and then my sister tried to tackle a house fire and died of smoke insulation. I know all about loss but nothing deterred me from reaching my goal.

I chose to do palliative care while at university; I guess all the loss I had experienced pushed me to head in that direction. Although it was not long before the sadness of working in a hospital, where the outcome for almost all the patients I worked with was terminal, clashed with my DJ lifestyle and I ended up leaving social work and concentrating on bringing up my young son who had a sleep disorder.

Dream job

Once Regan got older I started to want to be a foster carer and put in an application to Integrated Fostering Service (IFS). I was waiting to be assessed as a carer when I received a telephone call inviting me for a job interview for a supervising social worker role. I was shocked and so was my son as I always told him you will never get a job sitting around, but that is how this job came about for me. I went on the interview and before long I was being trained and soon working in the office with a case load. I asked my boss why he wanted me for this role and he told me it was the fact that, as well as having the right qualifications, I had been mainly raised in children’s homes and foster care.

I have been at IFS for over four years now. I am still a supervising social worker but I have been promoted to a senior practitioner and now have an additional role which is quality assurance.

I am amazed at how much I love my job although sometimes I feel very strained and tense. I comfort myself by being positive and saying that whatever job I was doing I would experience these off days and knowing that tomorrow will be different as it inevitable always is and this helps me to put things into perspective.

What I like about working in the agency is the support I get from my managers and colleagues. What I dislike about my job is all the paperwork I have to do. I take my role very seriously. I want the best outcomes for children in foster care and I try to teach my foster carers to be the best they can be. I also advise my carer to have a good sense of humour. We all make mistakes but it is what we learn from these that is important.

What sticks in my heart is me as a little girl feeling lost and unloved who has now succeeded in being a mother and grandmother and I have a wonderful job. I will always appreciate what life has given me and understand without experiencing all the bad times I would not appreciate the good.