Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I Have My Concerns...

I sat in on a behavior meeting for an incoming client at work this morning, which in and of itself is nothing particularly amazing. We're about to accept another gentleman with a mental disability to the workshop, and he occasionally has instances of verbal aggression when people aggravate him...which makes him virtually identical to not only every client we have but also every person in the freaking world. All in all it was a pretty by-the-numbers meeting, but towards the end one of his advocates said something that struck me as odd.

Apparently this client (who is now in his mid-60s) was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and, because of this, didn't celebrate Christmas. In fact, he kind of had Santa Claus mixed up with the Krampus - rather than a benevolent entity, he thought of Santa Claus a vindicator character who beat bad children rather than rewarding the good ones. All that is neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned - what I do at work iswholly unaffected by the religious beliefs of the clients. However, the liason from the group home insisted that they'd "fixed his problems with Christmas" (apparently by going to great lengths to convince him of the literal reality of a benevolent Santa Claus) and now he's no longer a Jehovah's Witness but instead is rather in line with the rather generic Christianity practiced by most of the other residents at his facility.

That concerns me. Substituting one daft religious belief for another isn't trading up, but more importantly it's not within the purview of care providers to try and alter the religious beliefs of their clients, especially not clients who are dependent on the provider for care, shelter, and privileges. It's an abuse of the care provider's position of authority to alter the pre-existing and long-held beliefs of a client solely to conform to their own tastes. That's not what social workers are for. We're here to help people lead better and more independent lives, not coerce religious compliance from the people we're supposed to be empowering.

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