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.