The neighborhood of Weymouth, MA is a relatively affluent area with an average population density. While not heavily crowded, it is certainly not rural, either. The noise level is about what would be expected with a moderate to high number of people, and there are some pockets where it is noisier and some where it is more quiet and serene. Areas where there are more rental homes tend to have higher noise levels and less upkeep, overall. The neighborhood in which the client lives is a less common area for Weymouth, as it is predominantly black and Hispanic. The vast majority of the city is white. While it is difficult to tell ethnicity and race information from a walk around the neighborhood, it is not difficult to tell that the area is one of the lower income areas in the city. In that way the client is like other people in the neighborhood, but not like the majority of other people in the city.
The neighborhood is also different from my own in that I live in a more moderately to highly priced area of Weymouth. I do not feel unsafe or uncomfortable walking around the neighborhood, though, because I have been in social work for 15 years, and have covered Randolph, Quincy, and other areas in addition to Weymouth. Since I have been exposed to many different types of people in all kinds of neighborhoods throughout the area, I feel as though I am a good judge of whether I am unsafe in a particular place. Even though the area in which my client lives is far different from mine and not as affluent, most of the people who live there are simply trying to get by in the best way they can. They are not criminals or into activities that are problematic. That is very important to note, because many people feel that everyone who is low income is unsavory. Working with clients and being exposed to all kinds of people has taught me that is most definitely not the case.
Community Structural Data
Weymouth, MA is 90.8% white, 2.9% black, and 1.6% Hispanic and has a median household income of $66,000 (Weymouth, 2012). The cost of living index is 134.7 on a 100 point scale, indicating that Weymouth is a city with a high cost of living compared to other cities around the country (Weymouth, 2012). The city of 55,000 people in 48% male and 52% female, with the median age being 38 years (Weymouth, 2012). The average home in Weymouth will cost $325,000, and that is up from just $177,000 in 2000 (Weymouth, 2012). Average rent is slightly more than $1,100, and 90% of people in the city have at least a high school education (Weymouth, 2012). Fifty-three percent of the people in Weymouth are married, and 9% are divorced. The others are single (29%), separated (1%) or widowed (7%) (Weymouth, 2012). Just over 5% of the residents were born in foreign countries (Weymouth, 2012). There are only two registered sexual offenders living in Weymouth, which is far below the national average (Weymouth, 2012).
There is public transportation in Weymouth, and it is relatively thorough (MBTA, 2012). There are many different schedules and bus stops, and the MBTA website allows riders and potential riders to find all kinds of information about the company, the cost, and the schedules for the busses. There are also two MBTA commuter rail stations in the city. There is one high school, two middle schools, and eight primary schools (Weymouth Public, 2012). There are also five private schools and one charter school (Weymouth Public, 2012). The crime rate in Weymouth is very low compared to the national average (Weymouth, Massachusetts, 2012). There is one hospital in Weymouth: South Shore Hospital (South, 2012). The closest larger hospitals are all in New York, over 100 miles away, and there are three of them within 125 miles.
Living in the Community: Impressions
As a child protective social worker, I work in Weymouth, Quincy, Randolph, and other south shore cities and towns. For the past 14 years, I have worked for the Department of Children and Families, and I intend to continue working in the same capacity for years to come. In order for me (and my coworkers) to be effective and efficient in their job duties, it is very important to know and understand the neighborhoods from which most of our clients come when they need help from us. Those neighborhoods can be very diverse, but the one walked through for this particular exercise is not that diverse at all. It is mostly black and Hispanic, which is much different from the majority of neighborhoods in Weymouth, which is a predominantly white city. Living in this community would seem strange to me because it is not where I live now and is very different from my neighborhood.
However, because I have worked in this neighborhood with clients before, I am somewhere familiar with the area. That does not make it feel like home, but it is an area where I recognize street names, businesses, and some of the people who spend much of their time outside of their home when the weather is nice. They garden and engage themselves in other activities, and many of them know their neighbors. Because my client is a member of the dominant group within the community, that client has friends and neighbors who can be relied upon when there are worries and concerns to be addressed. Still, that is not enough to alleviate all of the client's worries or completely correct anything with which the client may be dealing. It is the responsibility of the client to get help, and the responsibility of the agencies to which that client turns to provide help as and when necessary. If a particular agency cannot provide help, then the agency may put the client in touch with other agencies that can offer what the client is needing during a difficult time.
Even though the client is a member of the community and is part of the dominant group within that community, society still puts out mixed messages about the client and the problems that client faces. In other words, society says that people who are struggling with family issues should get help. However, when people do get help they are often seen to be weak. If they are black or Hispanic, some of society seems to feel that it is "expected" for "those people" to need help with things like families because they are lower income and do not have much training or ability to do things correctly. Naturally, this is a flawed argument or belief. People of any race, ethnicity, gender, or income level can need the help of Children and Families, or can have problems which require intervention. This has to be carefully considered, even in towns and cities where the majority of people have a reasonable income and where most people have employment.
Because of the mixed messages sent to the client and people in the client's situation, it is understandable that the client would be confused to some extent. When a person is told that they can (and should) get help if they need it, and then they are looked down upon for seeking out that help, it is natural for them to be confused. Part of the problem comes from the belief that many people who are receiving help from the state or federal government (either financial or otherwise) are doing so dishonestly, and that they really do not need the help. There is also a perception that anyone involved with Children and Families must be a bad parent, or there would not be an issue. That is also not true. Some are falsely accused, some need training and help, and others are reported on because of unsafe conditions of which they might not have been aware. Those kinds of problems can often be easily and quickly corrected, and even more serious problems can be addressed so that a client and his or her family can work out their issues and enjoy their time together.
My view of the client really has not changed from taking a tour of the client's neighborhood and learning more about where the client lives and the kinds of people with which the client interacts on a daily basis. Because I was already familiar to some extent with the neighborhood, I had a basic idea of where the client lived and the way the neighborhood was structured, as well as the income and other demographics of the majority of people who live in that neighborhood. Still, it is important to identify problems or trends within a community, and doing that helps me to better identify with the client and get a clearer idea of the issues with which the client wrestles and that may be out of the client's control. Understanding issues a client faces…