Social work in pediatrics (the care of sick and dying children) is both a fascinating and difficult field. In almost no other realm of social work is there the imminent and very real possibility that your client will die. I was led to this topic primarily through my family's personal experiences, when my youngest sister was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Our whole family has had to undergo a serious change in routine and diet; we have had to come to terms with giving our baby sister and daughter needles four times daily - easy for my mother and other sister who wanted to be nurses, but much more difficult for my father and myself, who were jittery at the mere sight of needles - and we had to understand the urgency of accepting this routine. My diabetic sister has had to come through bouts of depression; she comes home sick often from school and is no longer able to eat what she wants, when she wants. She can no longer sleep in, but has to adhere to a strict routine of checking blood sugar levels, needles, diet and exercise. We all have had to accept the fact that failure to observe these rituals will result in coma, acidic blood, amputation, loss of sight and hearing, or even death. Personally, I've had to come to terms with the fact that I will outlive my sister, younger by 6 years, who has little chance of surviving past 60. The relatively new field of social work in pediatrics appealed to me, both because of its tragic reality and because of the range of clientele. I wanted to discover more about how one can provide help and comfort to sick and dying children and their families. It is immediately apparent that the social woker's role is a crucial one - providing information and comfort to families and children as they attempt to make sense of a new and frightening world.
WHAT TO TELL THEM? .
When dealing with sick and dying children, the first question is always, "How much do I tell them?" Depending on your view of the child, however, this answer changes.