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Typical Day

Rena Referralista races into her office at 7:45am, barely 15 minutes before her first client will arrive. Rena had planned to get in around 7, but she'd been up until midnight trying to make a dent in her mammoth pile of paperwork. Reports for her own agency...other city human service agencies...physicians' offices...and of course the federal government...who can forget them? Rena was almost caught up when her head crashed onto her computer desk. That wasn't a complete surprise, as she'd put in some long hours this past week. Now she's paying for it.

Rena pulls her 8am client's file out of her overstuffed portfolio, and accidentally drops the bag onto the floor in the process. Files pour out everywhere, but Rena doesn't have time to sort them out now. Her client is coming through the door—early, of course. Rena grabs a cup of coffee and rushes to the lobby to greet the woman.

Rena has worked on this case for a year. Her client is a young, single mother woefully unprepared for adult responsibilities, let alone the demands of caring for a two-year-old. Rena has provided the young woman with a mentor and scheduled her for parenting classes, which would likely prove beneficial if the client actually showed up. Rena hears the same story she's heard for months, and doesn't have any reason to expect different results. She'd beat her head against the wall, but she doesn't need her headache to get any worse.

Now Rena's got a half-hour breather before her next client. Time to hit the little girls' room, inhale some more java, and check her voicemail for overnight messages. Let's see...calls from a couple of other human service workers, a robocall about buying a new telephone system, and a garbled message confirming Rena's next hair appointment (at least she thinks it is).

Oh, that last message didn't sound good. Rena replays the brief voicemail from a very angry woman who's just had her 10-year-old daughter removed from the home because of its unlivable condition. Trash, dog feces, moldy food, and lack of a properly working toilet...you name it, that home had it. Rena has been counseling the woman for months, trying to prepare her for the consequences that would result if she didn't improve her home's condition. Now Rena's agency has removed the child and placed her in foster care, and the woman is both angry and hurt at the situation's outcome. Rena agrees to visit the woman at her home later in the day, and arranges for a sheriff's deputy to accompany her. Rena's not really afraid for her own safety, but wants law enforcement around in case the woman decides to pull something crazy.

Rats, an unscheduled staff meeting? Rena had been counting on the next couple of hours to catch up on paperwork and get her files back in order, but no such luck. Her agency manager has been called out of town next week, and she wants her social workers to give her their case updates now. The manager also has some changing federal government regulations to talk about...like Rena's department needs to comply with more regulations. They're drowning in them as it is.

Finally, the meeting mercifully ends, and Rena calls in a lunch order to the deli across the street. "Good thing they deliver," she thinks, as she frantically types her client updates into the computer while she wolfs down her sandwich and cole slaw. This won't do much for her diet, but a girl's got to eat. Rena manages to get a few updates into the computer before she picks up the sheriff's deputy for the trip across town to her client's house. Rena has her own opinions of the woman's housekeeping and living habits; however, she will put her personal feelings aside and treat the woman with respect.

Fortunately, Rena's appointment goes better than she hoped. The woman has calmed down enough to listen to Rena's carefully worded recommendations, and the deputy's presence probably hasn't hurt, either. They spend about a half-hour with the woman, who agrees to meet with Rena and the child welfare worker the next morning. Because the woman doesn't drive, Rena and her colleague Cindy will visit the woman's home. Rena decides to bring a deputy along on that visit, just for good measure.

"Okay," Rena notes, "only two more appointments and I can go home." She meets with a couple in their 40s who are looking for home care for the wife's elderly mother. They are bewildered by the multitude of available options, and don't know which home care agency could best serve the woman's needs. Rena provides an honest assessment based on several years of working with home care agencies. She'll follow up with the couple in a week.

Rena's last client is a 30ish veteran who can't find a job after ending his tour of duty six months ago. He's got great managerial and technical skills, but Rena's employer demographics tell her there's not much opportunity out there. Since her client is very computer savvy, Rena recommends he consider a certificate or associate's degree program in one of several in-demand computer programs. He seems receptive, so Rena arranges for him to meet with a local community college's career counselor. Rena will meet with him in 10 days to discuss the results of that meeting.

Finally, Rena can go home for the night. What's more, she resolves that her paperwork is not going home with her. She's going to order her favorite carry-out food and not even worry if it's healthy. She's going to veg on the couch and watch the trashiest reality show she can find. Then she's going to bed so she can hopefully get in early tomorrow. After all, she's got a lot of paperwork to finish.