Ryan Hues, a ministry child protection worker, says becoming a parent has helped him to stay “real” in his role working with families and children under 12.
Ryan is just one of many front-line workers who are being acknowledged for their work during Social Work Week, March 15-21, 2020.
“Being a parent and a step-parent has helped me understand just how stressful kids can be,” he said. “Parenting isn’t easy. I recognize how overwhelmed parents can feel, and how it’s possible to end up in a position where they aren’t coping well.”
When he follows up on a child protection complaint, he empathizes with the anxiety the process can create for parents who are already struggling. “We want them to recognize that we are there to support them and to see how we can collaborate with them. Our purpose is the safety of kids,” he said, adding, “It’s rare that we work with families and have to remove children. That is the absolute last resort.”
Ryan’s best days are when “parents acknowledge that there is work to be done, they are willing to work collaboratively and they begin to help themselves to mitigate the impacts on their children. Seeing a parent do the work to better themselves is amazing to watch.”
He believes the struggles he overcame in his teens and 20s have helped him to “get really honest” with the families he works with. “I don’t have blinders on. I’m quite aware of how families are impacted by issues like substance use, mental illness, unemployment and poverty, and even coping with the layers a blended family brings.”
There are many threads for social workers to unravel. “Sometimes parents get caught up in being punitive toward their former partner and that adds a whole other layer of sorting out what’s actually going on,” Ryan said. “That’s why we always try to approach any child-protection complaint with curiosity. We ask, ‘Is this a new problem for this family? Do they have a history with the ministry? What worked for them the last time? And most importantly, how can we help them move forward?’ ”
He says it was about nine years ago and a lot of soul-searching that led to a shift in his lifestyle from the unhealthy choices he’d made as a young teen and adult. “If I had to talk to my younger self now, I’d tell him what I’d tell youth in general: ‘You’re going to face a lot of struggles. It’s okay to be hurting. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help, and then actually allow someone to help you. You don’t need to know everything all the time.’ ” One of the most important questions he asked himself when he was getting back on track was, “What kind of man do I really want to be?”
Once Ryan had made up his mind to work in social services, he started volunteering at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre in Nanaimo. “I’d go there every day and spend time with youth at risk, many of whom were homeless.” He got a social services diploma and then went on to get a social work degree, continuing to work with youth. “I also learned a lot about colonization and systemic racism. I worked a lot with dads whose kids were in the care of the ministry. It really clued me in to my privilege,” he said.
Now Ryan knows the answer to the question he asked himself all those years ago: “I want to be the kind of man who’s there for people when they need me to be – at work and in my personal life.”
- If you think a child or youth (under 19 years of age) is being abused or neglected, call 1 800 663-9122 at any time of the day or night.
- As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 3,408 employees providing front-line work on behalf of the ministry. Delegated Aboriginal Agencies have almost 400 front-line and administrative staff.
Become a front-line worker within the Ministry of Children and Family Development:
Visit the BC Association of Social Work: https://www.bcasw.org/