Social Work: What I learned, What I’ll Miss & What I’m looking forward to About Being A SAHM

family-reunification

May 14, 2005, I was 23 years old, fresh out of college and looking for work. I obtained my bachelors degree in Psychology from Oakland University and wasn’t exactly sure what type of job I was looking for when my BFF, Marcia, told me that Judson Center had an opening for a foster care worker. While I didn’t know much about foster care, I needed a job and knew that I wanted to help people, so I reluctantly submitted my resume. After two interviews I was offered the job, though I’m still not sure how because I was so wet behind the ears. I was very nervous but I accepted the position. Foster care was intense, a lot of work with very few happy endings, therefore after six months I decided to transfer to the Family Reunification Program (FRP). FRP is where I built my career. I loved working in FRP and I believe in the work that we do.

Sadly my agency lost their FRP contracts to other agencies and my program will be closing today, 9/30/13. I know that all of my coworkers will land of their feet and I am excited about the opportunity to become a stay at home mother, which has been my desire for a while now. It’s been a awesome journey and I’ve learned a lot but I believe now is the season for me to focus on my family.

Over the pasted nine years while working in FRP, I’ve been honored to work with some amazing families throughout Wayne County MI. I worked with families who’ve had their children removed due to some form of abuse or neglect and the courts returned back home after most of the safety issues had been resolved. I did in home case management for four years and then after obtaining my Masters in Counseling while working full time, I became a supervisor in FRP. Over the years I’ve seen parents maintain their sobriety so that their children’s wardship could be dismissed from the system. I’ve seen father’s step up and get full custody of their children while the mothers work to get themselves stable and back on track. I’ve seen families rebuild their trust and repair their relationships and communication skills so that their home environment can be peaceful again. It’s been a beautiful thing to be a stepping stone in several families lives on their road to successful and a better future.

Social work can be very challenging at times and it isn’t for everyone. I believe that my relationship with Jesus Christ is what helped me to be an affective social worker. I often prayed for guidance on how to best serve the families. I had to listen to Holy Spirit regarding when to respond and when to be quiet. The love of Christ kept me going back to some homes each week though I knew I would not be well received. I thank God for protecting me while in the community and for showing me favor with my clients, supervisors and other professionals.

What Social Work Has Taught Me

Over the years I’ve learned….

1. Early on that the families ultimate success or failure was not up to me, it was up to them. I learned to pray for my families and leave them in God’s hands, instead of staying up all night worrying about them.

2. That my role as a mandated reporter was to report any suspected child abuse or neglect and to leave the investigating up to Child Protective Services. I didn’t need to look under people’s beds and in their basement, that wasn’t my job. I was there to keep families together.

3. To dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s because in social work, if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen.

4. Not to take bags into clients homes because you might bring unwanted guest home with you.

5. How to remain professional and not freak out when I saw bugs or mice running around people’s living rooms.

6. My way around the City of Detroit after the first two years of continually being lost and calling my dad, my husband or my dad’s buddy Ron for directions (before GPS was popular).

7. How to testify in court and how to interact with Judges, Referees and lawyers.

8. How to pay rent and utility bills, file police reports and sign up for government assistance, all things that at 23 I had not been exposed.

9. How to work with people of all different backgrounds and to appreciate other’s differences. To be open minded and understand that all families don’t look like mine and that is ok.

10. How to safety plan with my clients and help them to be resourceful. This was helpful in the situations where I was able to locate free resources for families in their communities and help them safety plan so that their families needs were met and everyone was safe.

11. The most important thing I’ve learned was how to be strength based and solution focused, which is the foundation that FRP is built on. No matter what the situations looked like when we initially started working with a family, we were taught to ALWAYS locate the families strengths and to build on that. We were taught to focus on the solutions and not the problems. We were taught to be optimistic and to believe in our clients success even when our clients were doubtful. The strength based solution focus model has been imbedded in my brain and I plan to continue using it in my everyday life.

I’ll never forget some of the great success stories where families beat the odds or challenging cases that ended in the children being removed from the home. I’ll never forget the stress of file reviews, countless interviews in attempts to locate competent staff or the few after hours home visits I had to attend in times of crisis. I’ll never forget the supervisors I had that trained, supported, and challenged me and who made me the social worker/therapist that I am today.

I’ll miss Judson Center, it was truly a great agency to work for. I’ll miss exploring cases and problem solving with my peers. I’ll miss the excited yet nervous feeling I’d get every time I went on a initial home visit. I’ll miss the feeling of pride after having a great home visit where the family was open and engaging and had a major break through. I’ll miss the joy of seeing families get praised by the Judge and get their case dismissed at court. I’ll miss some of my staff that I know truly cared about the families and were dedicated to serving them to the best of their ability.

I’m looking forward to being at home with my family and having time to spend with them. My husband and I were working opposite shifts so sometimes it felt like days went by before we got a moment to slow down and enjoy each other. I’m looking forward to being active in our girl’s development and education. Elyssa is 2 1/2 years old and Elaina is 3 1/2 months. I want to be there to watch them grow and take a even bigger role in their daily learning. I’m looking forward to putting Elyssa in dance or swimming classes and taking her to the library for toddler time. I’m looking forward to supporting my husband with his business and being more of a help meet to him. I’m looking forward to seeking God about my future business ventures and educational goals. I’m looking forward to being a therapist at some point. This is truly an end to a great era but the beginning of something awesome as well. I know the Lord is with me and my family and I have complete peace about the journey that is ahead because He is guiding my every step.

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How To Be a Super Mom, Love Machine, Career Woman, Chief & More

Phil 4:13 (KJV) I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Phil 1:2 (NIV) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Shout out to all my hard working wives and mothers holding in down inside and outside the home, inside and outside the bedroom, kitchen, playground etc 🙂 As godly, diligent and productive wives and mothers we operate daily under God’s anointing to complete all the task needed.

Yesterday after church my husband had to work so Elyssa (16 months old now) and I had a mommy daughter day. We played in her kiddie pool and enjoyed blowing bubbles and taking pictures. I also did some major house work; I cooked a few meals, cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom (including scrubbing the floors) and did a few loads of laundry. I did some work for my job once Elyssa went to bed and I watched some TV. It was late when I turned in for the night but by God’s grace I still had energy to enjoy my honey and end our night right 🙂

When we submit our lives to Christ and ask Him to give us the strength, grace and wisdom needed to be all that He’s called us to be, He’s faithful to walk with us and help us. I know that I could not do anything successfully without my Heavenly Daddy’s help. He calms me when I feel anxious or frustrated, He heals me when I’m sick and He gives me patience when my love walk is tested. I don’t know how people operate day to day without the Lord.

Tips for Being Happy While You Do Your Daily Balancing Act

1. Spend time in prayer daily. In the Lord’s presence is peace and He will speak to us and give us direction on what to do and how to do it.

2. Organize your day and be realistic (don’t put too much on your to do list)

3. After the cooking, cleaning, phone calls and play time, be sure to save time and energy for your hubby. Remember that he needs attention and loving too. It’s important to keep the marriage bed hot and fresh!

4. Take time for yourself weekly. We feel refreshed when we take time either away from the house or just have alone time once everyone is gone to bed. Sometimes we need to take off our multipurpose hat and just breathe.

5. Keep a positive attitude. Phil 4:8 (NIV) Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Often times we can feel overwhelmed and tired because no matter how much we work we do, there’s always something else that needs to get done. Phil 4:8 reminds us to rehearse in our minds positive uplifting things, not negative, overwhelming things. We have to remember to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

A Prayer For Grace

Lord we thank you for our families, jobs, ministries etc. Thank you for giving us the grace needed to be Prov 31 woman. Thank you for helping us to love and respect our husbands always. Help us to serve them with good attitudes and kind, willing hearts. Help us to be to confident and free in and outside of the bedroom. Lord help us to be patient and loving towards our children. Help us to be present and playful with them but affective disciplinarians as well. Lord please take away anything in our lives that keep us from growing in you more. Thank you for loving us always and continuing to show yourself strong in our lives. In Jesus name amen!

11 Month Mommy & Big Girl Update

Today (3/1) at 11:55am, our little lady will be 11 months! For the past 7 weeks straight she has been sleeping through the night peacefully!! The doc gave me a lecture about getting her on a sleep schedule, putting her to bed earlier and not continually going in her room at night. I was nervous but I took the doc’s tips (which my husband had been trying to convince me of also) and it worked!! Now Elyssa sleeps from 9:30pm-7:30 am every night! She nurses at 7:30 am and goes back to sleep for an hour or two. We’re still working on the daily naps, she usually just takes cat naps but because she sleeps so well at night, we’re not complaining!
Sunday we noticed she has her fourth tooth coming in! It’s her first top tooth and it’s already broke through. She’s handling teething very well. She likes to take off her bibs and chew them and sometimes when we’re not looking, she tries to take a bite out of us! We gently tell her no and she just smiles and finds something else to relieve her gums.
 
I’m still breastfeeding and loving it. Now when I get home from work, Elyssa doesn’t want hugs or kisses, she wants her milk and she’s not playing! After she nurses she gives me smiles and starts telling me about her day in her special baby talk language. Even though Elyssa has teeth, she rarely bites me. 99% of the time she is gentle and when she starts being silly and tries to bite or play with my nipple, I pull her away and say no. If I put her to me again and she does it, then we take a break. Most of the time, she’s so ready for her milk that she doesn’t bite or play.
 
I continue to make her baby food in the blender with the breast milk. We purchased a portable high chair and she loves it! It’s her big girl seat and she enjoys eating with us up high. Currently I have 100 oz of frozen milk and I continue to pump twice a day a work. Daily I confess over my body that it will produce milk for Elyssa as long as she and I need it to. I won’t allow others to pressure me into stopping nursing when she turns one. Of course everyone has a opinion but my decision to nurse or not is not up for community vote. My husband and I agree that I will continue to nurse and do what’s best for Elyssa and I.
Elyssa is enjoying learning how to drink from her sippy cup. Some days she likes to hold it and chew on the nipple but I’ve seen her lift it up correctly and actually drink without our assistance. That was an exciting moment, esp since she never took to bottles or the pacifier well. 
Elyssa started walking in January when she was 9 months. She’s walking like a pro now and even trying to run. She has lots of confidence and walking and discovering things brings her such joy. She has escaped from her barricaded play area a few times, which was surprising, scary and funny all at the same time. I left her in her fortress (that’s what we call her play area) and I looked up and she was standing in the bathroom with me! This occurred one hour after I put on her new walking shoes. I say those shoes gave her some baby power because she’s been a walking, running, escape artist ever since! We have a gate up and she has to be in her pack in play, activity chair or booster seat if we have to step out of the room for a second. She enjoys following us around the house like a little duckling, just walking, clapping and laughing. She’s a happy, peace and smart baby girl. Thank you Jesus for blessing our family with such a amazing child. She has brought us all so much joy! I will write a post about her 1st birthday party. The special party plans are underway! 

My Journey To The Fab New Me & My 200th Blog Post!

Happy 200th blog post!! Thank you to everyone for reading, supporting and commenting! March 31 is my blogs 2 year anniversary. The blog has currently received over 60,000 hits! I love what God is doing through me to bless others! Please keep reading and I will continue to be led by the Holy Spirit regarding what to post!

My Journey To The Fabulous New Me

Recently, I went out on a date with my husband and to my surprise, it took me a minute to find my make up. I had to stop and ask myself how long it had been since I put anything besides lipstick on?? Then I wanted to wear my contacts (because I’ve been sporting my glasses for almost the last two years) but I didn’t have any contact solution in the house. I told myself that it was time to bring back the old me and step it up a notch! I missed the old me who wasn’t always running around the house grabbing diaper bags, packing baby food and combing her hair in the car. I love being a mom but I decided that I needed to make time for it all and be fabulous in the process!

Last Friday, I worked a half day then took 2hrs to do some shopping for myself, by myself. It was a warm winter day and the sun was shinning! For Michigan weather, this was a big deal! By the time I was done, I had purchased 3 pair of earrings, make up, contact solutions and other hair care and hygiene products. I also stopped to get my eyebrows arched; something that I never seem to do on a consistent basis but that’s about to change. My hair dresser was out-of-town so I asked my mom to come over and help me do my hair. I was tired of not slowing down and taking the time I needed for me. It’s no ones fault but my own. My husband is super helpful and he tries to get me to relax and not do so much but sometimes it’s hard for me to just sit down. I needed to make myself slow down and make myself a priority and over the last six days I’ve done just that!

Once my hair was washed, pressed and bouncy, I put on my contacts, make up and earrings.  I looked like a new woman! I felt confident;  like a million bucks! My husband and daughter came in the bathroom and both grinned from ear to ear. My husband told me how much he liked my look and how he missed looking into my eyes without my glasses. He of course told me I was beautiful before and he liked the changes I’d made. He wanted to take me out so we got dressed, went to dinner and had a fun family evening.

For the last six days, I’ve gotten up everyday in enough time to nurse my daughter, talk with my honey, get my lunch, coffee AND do my hair and make up. Before my daughter, I would wear make up on the weekends (Hey I’m a social worker don’t judge me 🙂 But now I’d like to wear light make up daily and take time to make sure that I have the look that I want before leaving the house.

Ladies, life is busy with school, work, children, church, house work etc BUT we must take time for ourselves. We won’t be able to effectively do all that we need to do if we don’t take care of our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Here’s a list of ideas of things to do just for you: take a bubble bath, scrapbook, go to a movie, window shop, read a good book, work out, eat healthier and get more sleep. If you’ve been wearing the same hair style or make up, consider trying something new. When we feel comfortable, confident and rested, we’re at peace and much more happy. I’m sure our husbands, children, friends and coworkers were notice a change in our mood and will appreciate the new confident and relaxed us.  Take time this week and think about what you can do on a consistent basis just for you. Trust me you will be happy that you did!! Happy Wednesday!

9 Reasons Why I Love Nursing My 9 Month Old

While nursing can sometimes have it’s challenges, it’s been an awesome joy and experience for my daughter and I. I wanted to share why nursing is great for us and I also hope to promote breastfeeding and dispel a few myths! Enjoy the list and feel free to post why you enjoy nursing. This pic is of me nursing my daughter at a park when she was 6 months old.

I Love Nursing Because:

1. It’s a wonderful way for Elyssa and I to bond. She likes to hold my fingers and gaze into my eyes while nursing. She enjoys cuddling up close to me and nursing till she’s satisfied.

2. The breast milk I produce is the perfect nutrients to keep her healthy, strong and developing on target. Breast milk also protects my baby girl from many illnesses and future health issues, therefore it’s worth the minor challenges I encountered in the beginning.

3. It’s super convenient and easy once she and I got the hang of it. I’ve never had to prepare bottles in the middle of the night or get frustrated when I run out the house and forget her diaper bag. I can just find a nice comfy spot and nurse her. My body provides her with everything that she needs. Now, latching is like second nature to her; she doesn’t need my help at all.

4. I’m able to educate those around me about the benefits and joys of breastfeeding. I’ve been blessed to have an awesome breastfeeding experience and to learn a lot along the way. I love posting about nursing on my Facebook status, having discussions with others online, at work, church and family events. Many moms and moms to be have sought me out to process their concerns and challenges about nursing and I’ve been able to help, encourage and give them resources. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to help another mom breastfeed successfully.

5. Nursing has helped me to lose 60 pounds! I lost the 30 that I gained during my pregnancy soon after birth and since then I’ve lost an additional 30 pounds. This week my coworker complimented me on my weight loss and asked me how I did it. When I told her that all I’ve been doing is nursing and Elyssa AND I have benefited greatly from it, she was very surprised and said she never knew that weight loss was a benefit of nursing.

6. Nursing has helped us to save lots and lots of money! Breast milk is what’s best for babies and it’s FREE!! Between breast milk helping babies to remain healthy, it being free and helps with weight loss, I’m not sure why more women don’t nurse. Trust me, nursing is worth the initial challenges as mom and baby learn the techniques. Don’t believe that nursing is very hard, that it hurts and is too time consuming. Everyone’s experience is different but my experience has been easy and rewarding.

7. I use my breast milk to make baby food. Elyssa’s pediatrician gave me the great idea of using my breast milk when making her food due to me having a big milk supply. Making her baby food has been lots of fun and very easy. Also making her food helps us to control what goes in her body and saves us money. I can spend $2 on 2 jars of baby food or I can take $2 and buy a few fresh veggies and prepare a few trays of pureed food.

8. I can donate my breast milk to help other moms and babies in need. I’ve donated 405 oz of milk so far and I plan to donate more in the future. I’ve been blessed to have a high milk supply and Elyssa never took well to bottles so the milk that I pump at work each day starts to pile up. I hooked up with the Human Milk For Human Babies Facebook page and located the Michigan page. I went to the page and let the moms know that I had milk to donate and I hooked up with 5 moms over a 2 month period to donate the 405 oz. It was an amazing feeling to be able to bless those families!

9. It brings my daughter so much joy. When I come home from work each day, Elyssa is smiling and reaching for me because she’s ready to nurse. In the middle of nursing, she stops, looks me in the eyes and gives me the BIGGEST smile! Sometimes she even babbles a few sounds as if she’s saying, thank you mommy, I love you. Those moments make me feel wonderful and reminds me why I nurse.

Bottome line, breast is best! I hope this blog post has helped you and answered some of your questions or concerns about breastfeeding. Feel free to email me questions at http://www.joanna.willis@hotmail.com

Helpful FB breastfeeding pages

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Breast-Feeding-Mommys/116929728388525

https://www.facebook.com/#!/BreastfeedingMothersUnite

https://www.facebook.com/#!/BlacktatingBlog

https://www.facebook.com/#!/hm4hb

Nursing, Burping & Pumping OH MY! Diary of a Breastfeeding Mommy 6 Month Update

In this post I’ve included professional pics of me nursing Elyssa. Breastfeeding is one of the most important, precious things I’ve ever been blessed to be able to do. Shout out to all my nursing mothers, thank you for doing whats best for your babies despite any challenges you may have faced. It’s so worth it!

My daughter Elyssa is turning 6 months old on October 1 and I’m so excited. She’s healthy, strong, active, happy, peaceful and smart. I’ve been blessed to be able to successfully and joyfully breastfeed for six months and counting. I always wanted to breastfeed but I never knew how fulfilling it would be for me or my baby. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to produce exactly what my baby needs, whenever she needs it. I don’t have to go to the store to pick up milk, I don’t have to prepare bottles or budget my money to purchase what she needs, I just snuggle up comfy cozy with my little lady and allow her to nurse until she’s satisfied. I truly give God the glory because I know I couldn’t do anything without Him and all of my successes in life are because of Him.

When I was pregnant, I continued to confess that my breast would produce milk for as long as I needed them too and they would be able to meet our little girls needs and work properly without any issues. God gets all the glory for hearing and answering my prayer as everyday goes by. I’m so grateful that I haven’t had any major issues with my nipples hurting or cracking and I’ve always had more than enough milk to keep up with her appetite. I’m not bragging on myself, I’m bragging on God. He hears my prayers and He’s always faithful!

One amazing perk of breastfeeding is the weight loss. I lost my baby weight within one month of birth and have went down 3o more pounds since then. I can wear clothes now that I haven’t been able to wear in years. It’s amazing and I’m loving it.

Due to me being a working mommy, I nurse Elyssa twice in the early morning and a few times in the evening (between when I get home from work and when she goes to bed.) One of the highlights of Elyssa and I’s day is our first nursing session when I get home from work. She stares into my eyes and I rub her hair, hold her hand and tell her how much I missed and love her. Because Elyssa enjoys nursing so much, she often struggles with her bottles. She doesn’t drink her encouraged amount of milk during day, she drinks enough to keep her going until I get home. She is peaceful and content during the day as if to say, no thank you, I don’t want too much of the bottle, just give me a little; I know my mommy’s returning soon with the good stuff. She continues to gain weight, she’s a big girl actually, therefore the doctor isn’t concerned.

Due to Elyssa not drinking as many ounces as she should during the day, I have accumulated a very large supply of milk. Our freezer is being taken over by breast milk so I plan to transfer two large bags of milk to the deep freezer so the milk will last longer. Do you want to guess how many ounces I have frozen???? 649 oz, that’s just over 5 gallons!! God blessed me with an overflow of milk supply and I pray that Elyssa gets to drink every drop without any going to waste. I don’t want to waste my  “liquid gold,” people would pay good money for this stuff 🙂 We continue to try different bottles and positions to help Elyssa feel comfortable taking the bottle and we’re confident that she will adjust to the bottle transition soon. She started cereal this month and graduates to baby food in October.

Call To Action

If you’re a nursing mommy, I encourage you to educate those around you about breastfeeding. Share your POSITIVE experiences with others. Be honest about your challenges but also share how you overcame them. Explain the benefits and joys of breastfeeding. Don’t push your views on others or make formula feeding mommies feel bad, just confidently explain why breast is best for your baby and be open to questions. People need to know that breastfeeding is normal, natural and beneficial to mommy and baby! HAPPY NURSING!!

You ARE Your Mama’s Child

This past weekend my mother celebrated another wonderful birthday. As I sat and thought about how blessed I am to have her, I began to think about all the things she’s taught me over the years. My mom showed me in word and actions what it meant to carry myself like a lady, to be a godly woman, wife and mother. She had a career, took care of home and served at our church for many years and she did it all with grace. She is a true Proverbs 31 woman and I am blessed to have her as my mommy and role model!

Now that I’m a mother and I can already see the influence that my husband and I have on our daughter Elyssa. She is a peaceful, joyful and talkative (baby talk of course) little lady at 5 1/2 months old. We make sure our home is peaceful and we’re always laughing together as a family and as a couple. Eddie and I love to talk and therefore Elyssa will often try to join our conversations with her own language. I see us in her and it’s so cool.

I believe that we as adults have a lot of characters like our parents and we know or don’t know different skills because of what our parents did or did not teach us. I work in the social work field and every day I see or hear of young people whose parents did not teach them the basics, the things that every child needs to know to be set up with success and it breaks my heart. A lot of family’s pass down the wrong things and don’t teach their children the right things.

This blog is a simple call to action for all the parents and future parents. Let’s love our children like we wanted to be loved as children. Let’s tell them how beautiful they are in the inside and out. Let’s remind them how much GOD loves them, which is why He died and rose from the dead for them. Let’s teach them God’s word and get them involved in a local church so they can have other positive children to spend time with and learn about Jesus. Let’s teach our children to love themselves and value their bodies enough not to allow others to misuse them. Let’s teach our children about sex and not leave them confused to learn from their friends or the TV. Let’s have open positive communication with our children and show them that we value their opinions. Let’s teach our boys and girls how to cook, clean, open a bank account and manage money. How will our children know anything else we teach them, unless we slow down our lives, cut off the TV, close the laptop, cancel some late night meetings and put down our smart phones and spend time with them. The world shows our children that they care by always being there to teach them negative things, the wrong things, so we as parents need to step up.

Proverbs 22:6 KJV

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.

A prayer for the parents

Lord God, I come before you now thanking you for blessing us to be able to be parents. Thank you Lord for giving us the grace needed to care for our children they way you’ve called us to. Give us energy Lord when we will feel tired. Give us wisdom and guide us through our journey of parenthood. Send appropriate and safe people our way to help us with our children. Speak to us Lord and show us who should not have access to our children. Thank you Lord for providing us with all that we need to care for our children. Thank you Lord for time apart from them at times so we can get a break. Thank you Lord for all these things in your name amen.

*Question: What is something your grateful your parent’s taught you? What is something you wish they taught you that they didn’t?*