Becoming a protector

By Shuxuan@MSF

29-year-old Shuxuan is a child protection officer. Coming close to 6 years in the job, Shuxuan pens her thoughts about her challenging, yet immensely meaningful job in the social service sector.

I was sued 2 years ago.

Not because I committed a crime. An aggrieved parent had disagreed with the Child Protective Service’s well-intentioned recommendations for her child to be placed in a children’s home.

So she filed a civil law suit against the officer-in-charge … me.

It was the first time this had happened. Eventually, the parent’s appeals were dismissed by the Court.

Retrospectively, I can say that it was a memorable milestone in my career as a child protection officer. I was able to pull through that difficult period, mainly because of the support from my bosses and colleagues, who assured me that I had done my best for the case.

It’s not an easy job.

To be honest, I had not even heard about the existence of ‘child protection’ in Singapore before I joined MSF in 2010.

I was young (okay, I still am!), and fresh out of school. Although I didn’t expect becoming a Child Protection Officer, I’ve always been passionate about joining the social service sector to help families in need. Perhaps this is what others may term as my “calling’.

But I eventually applied to become a Child Protection Officer with MSF. Because I wanted to make a difference to children who may be abused or neglected. And I firmly believe that children deserve nothing but the best.

This hasn’t always been a smooth journey.

The crisis-oriented nature of the work, the unpredictable working hours and the management of challenging clients made the learning curve steep.

Initially, my family was surprised at how I would sometimes return home near midnight as I had to attend to a crisis, or pick up work-related phone calls after work.

I could not explain much to them in order to maintain confidentiality of the cases, but my family was supportive of me because they saw how passionate I was about the job.

Friends around me grew to appreciate that this was what it meant to be a social worker. I was glad to have their encouragement, and it gave me strength on carry on.

In the course of this job, we celebrate small successes amid the challenging times. A deep sense of achievement comes when I am able to keep children (who were at risk of harm) safe.

Today is MSF Social Workers’ Day! I thank all social workers who run the extra mile for families in need, and their passion to make lives better.

I hope that as we continue our journey as social workers, we will do what we can, with what we have, wherever we are … even when the going gets tough.