Rachel Morgan, Family Homeless Action Team
Q. What year did you join Focus Ireland & what service/department?
A. Well, I joined Focus Ireland aged 20 in 2004, turning the big 21 whilst beginning my Focus Ireland journey as a CSV (Community Service Volunteer) I joined a wonderful team in one of our housing projects and worked directly with the Child Support Workers in our Childcare service. From here, I entered the Intellectual Disability sector for 7 years and obtained my Early Childhood Degree.
In 2012, I returned to Focus Ireland as it was always my plan to return when I became qualified at degree level. I started on a really exciting project called Prevention Case Management as a Child Support Worker, this involved working with children and families at risk of becoming homeless in their tenancy. During this 6-year period I held a case load and supported many children and their families with a range of support needs. I became a Team Leader in 2018 starting out in our Youth services and transferring to the Family Homeless Action Team.
Q. What does your job normally entail?
A. One of the reasons I love working in Focus Ireland is that it’s never the same, always something different every day. As a Team leader on the Family Homeless Action Team I supervise 10 staff members and I have the predominant responsibility for the Child Support Workers on our team. With the staff members on my team I am responsible for carrying out supervisions for the staff I manage and to make sure they are fully supported whilst working with the children and families on their caseloads.
Child safeguarding is an extremely important part of my day and to support staff in this, in conjunction, I am also a Child Safeguarding Trainer to staff in Focus Ireland and regularly facilitate this to new and existing staff in relation to keeping children safe in our organisation.
As always, with any social care role there can be a high administration element, including monthly reports, collating/assigning referrals, making sure staff have all the necessary equipment/resources to carry out their role. An interesting part to my role is assisting our advocacy, branding and fundraising departments in social media content, radio, newspaper and events, as this allows me to highlight the role of my team and the good work Focus Ireland do on a daily basis.
And, finally, networking and partnerships with local community groups and agencies, for example TUSLA (Government Children’s Protection Agency), Prevention and Early Intervention Network, Dublin Regional Housing Executive, Dublin City Council and Children’s and Young People’s Committees.
Q. How has your job changed during the public health crisis?
A. I’m still supporting staff regularly through calls, texts and video calls, still carrying out meetings, deadlines, referring children for support and organising stay-at-home activities for children, to name but a few aspects. However, as Social Care Workers, our job is face-to-face contact with people, be it staff or people who use our service and I crave the day, hopefully very soon, that we can all meet again and get back to “our normal”.
Q. What do you miss about your job most during this time?
A. What I miss most is seeing my colleagues every day and interacting with them on a daily basis, of course we are still very much working to support our families and colleagues, however, not in the face-to-face way we normally would like.
Q. What’s your favourite Focus Ireland memory or experience?
A. Oh gosh, that’s a tough question! In my 8 plus years working for Focus Ireland I’ve experienced many ups and downs, however the ups far outweigh the downs.
During my time as a Child Support Worker I had many wonderful moments, and wonderful breakthrough moments with children assisting them with issues around domestic violence, separation and loss, anxiety, post-traumatic stress to name but a few aspects. I also loved being an advocate for children and giving them a voice as they can teach us so much about the world around us.
I really enjoy highlighting our work in the media and I guess featuring on RTÉ Radio 1 this year was a highlight, as I got to speak about a subject I’m passionate about and to promote the staff on my team and in the organisation.
I also have to mention the wonderful lifelong friends I have made in Focus Ireland, we are a wonderful little community of like-minded people and from the Domestic staff to Project Workers/Child Support Workers, I have made many friends, sadly 1 person is no longer with us. These colleagues have helped to mentor and support me in my work.
Q. If you had to give your 18-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
A. I always knew what I wanted to do in a roundabout way, something in social care or with children and I think I’ve a good combination of both in my role. However, some people aren’t as lucky at knowing what they want to do at 18 years of age, so my advice would be to get your Leaving Certificate, pass it or honour it, doesn’t matter but make sure you have the basics.
However, try a PLC course if you are unsure of what you want to do, travel if that’s what you want to do but always try and educate yourself or train in something that can take you to a place where you’re happy in the job that you do and that will allow you to have a secure and happy future.
At 18 years old it is generally too young to know what to do career-wise, it’s never too late at 20 odd, 30 odd etc. to re-train and re-skill. Go with what makes you happy and always go with your gut instincts.