Rose’s Story is a book about the struggles one woman faced through most of her adult life, all while trying to remember her past and also while trying to raise a family of her own. The main character of the story, Rose herself, goes through the “system” so many times having to deal with one medical professional after another, social worker after social worker, case manager after case manager. The story however, starts off with Rose painting what her childhood was like: parents putting her into the system, extended stay at Chatwood (a mental hospital for children to be specific) and what life was like for her overall growing up as a kid.
As I read this story more and more, I became attached to Rose and wanted to know more and more with each page turn. At the same time, however, I was saddened when reading this book because it made me think about the other children that are often “lost” in the welfare system and have their lives forever changed because they are passed from home to home or cannot get resolution to their past. In Rose’s case, I was saddened and also angered by how some in her life as she was older (both professionals that had Rose as a client, and certain members of Rose’s family) treated her as less than a human being.
I could not believe how she was treated by the system, by her family and it was no wonder that she continued to have breakdowns and being in the system for so many years—I could not believe how long it took before she found a true, solid advocate for her: Dr. Bergmann. Towards the end of the story, though she had newer case managers that she liked and that helped her, I felt as though she was able to get her life under control and no longer have breakdowns because of Dr. Bergmann actually listening to her and trying to help her with her problem(s) at hand.
So far, one may think having not read the book that Rose is weak, but in reality, she is quite strong as you read further and further into the book. Some of Rose’s strengths that I made note of when I was reading this book was starting at her childhood and how she was truly a smart girl that was getting good grades. Perhaps the biggest strength that she had was her positive attitude that everything will be ok and trying to figure out what is causing things like her breakdowns.
Perhaps the biggest strength as I read this book, which really hit a cord with me having been a survivor of sexual assault, was how she survived sexual abuse growing up and didn’t let it affect her. Another good quality that she had was having faith in her God that she was going to get through whatever was bothering her. I think the biggest strength used by those trying to help her was her positive attitude honestly—especially with Dr. Bergmann.
Those that cared about Rose could tell that even though she did not have a support system, even though she did not have enough money most of the time, she was positive through it all and was positive that she and her kids would make it through things. I think it is great for a client to have some sort of positive attitude or, in Rose’s case, also have faith in whatever they believe in. Often times when we have clients we have to understand the environment they are surrounded by in order to understand the problem(s) they may be having, and also to understand how we help them better fix their problem(s) in the future.
As social workers, I feel like it is easy to forget the person in environment perspective of how to manage our clients and better help them succeed at overcoming whatever problem(s) they may be having. The person in environment perspective is simply that, we as social workers must pay attention to the environment our clients live and breathe in, while working to do our job and make changes to their environment in order to better set them up for success.
An example of this is seen in Rose’s case. Her environment is that of poverty, that of lacking a stable and strong support system, all while battling mental illness to which she cannot get a diagnosis to the problem because of poor communication between all parties involved with her care. When you look at the kids, Rose is the only parent that is around—they are not only growing up in poverty and witnessing the complications Rose is facing, but they are also without a father figure as well.
In this writers opinion, there was little to no focus on Rose’s environment and thus a missed opportunity to help her, while most of the time everything was done poorly by those involved with her care: you had doctors not communicating, records that were sealed, social workers and case managers coming in and threating to take away the kids simply because Rose was having mental breakdowns. It wasn’t until the near end of the book and the near end of Rose having breakdowns that finally, communication started to take place and finally you had professionals legitimately caring about her health.
In this writers opinion, had they have done this from the start, Rose probably would have been able to not only have fewer breakdowns but would also be able to hold a stable job and maybe get off the welfare system. In addition, she may have found someone to be a father figure to her kids, maybe she wouldn’t have. This writer feels like one of Rose’s weaknesses, which probably worked to the advantage of the workers that were not focusing on the person in environment perspective with Rose, is that she is easily pushed around.
In addition, perhaps giving credit to the non-compassionate workers, it seemed like Rose didn’t really always speak up to her wants and problems and maybe that is part of the reason it took so long for Rose to finally get help. At the end of the book, Rose and her children did get conclusion—why is that? This writer feels that it is because she finally got compassionate, caring, understanding professionals helping her and willing to see her through the custody battle with her ex-husband and willing to help her rehabilitate back into daily living after having to stay in the psychiatric facility for her breakdown.
This writer also believes that her having faith in something, in this case God, helped motivate her and sort of push her to keep on going about life. Because of all of this, because of the much needed type of professionals and the help of finding out what happened to her as a child, Rose started having less and less attacks. In addition, Rose was able to eventually after her father died claim money that was back-filed and thus get off the welfare system, provide a better home environment for her kids, and overall take care of her family that struggled so much.
This writer feels that because Rose was able to find out her life story from her mother whom she hadn’t seen at all, it gave her that sense of closure she needed so that she could have a normal life. If she hadn’t, if she didn’t get the care she finally got with her workers, she would have continued to be in and out of the system and her kids would have probably needed foster care or even end up turning to the streets for support and becoming criminals in the end. In conclusion, this was a sad but much needed read for anyone in the social work/human service field.
It serves as a reminder that we are going to have difficult clients, but we are going to at the same time have clients like Rose and we cannot let our emotions take the best of us and thus spill over to our Rose clients simply because of one uncooperative client. This writer feels that anyone that is considering doing anything, even law enforcement or teaching, to sit down and read about everything that can go wrong as professionals and what not to do when delivering care to our clients.