Learning New Skills: a Social Worker Perspective

Marycruz Jimenez, FCNI Social Worker
September, 4, 2018 -

My name is Marycruz Jimenez, and I am currently a Social Worker in FCNI’s Wraparound program. Prior to becoming a Social Worker, I was an FCNI Rehabilitation Specialist for three years. I came into that position soon after I graduated from Cal Poly in 2015 with a degree in Sociology, with a concentration on Social Work. I became really familiar with the Social Work field in my undergraduate years, always knowing that this was where I wanted to focus my learning and experience. While at Cal Poly, I did my internship at the Department of Social Services, and became very familiar with that practical side of Social Work. When approaching the end of my internship, my supervisor at the Department of Social Services encouraged me to apply for the Rehabilitation Specialist position at Family Care Network, knowing that it would be a great next step for my career path. I remember this all so vividly. Following my interview, I was hired immediately--my interview took place on a Friday and I started the following Monday!

My training at Family Care Network was initially very daunting because they spend more than an entire month basically just trying to prepare you for the work you’ll be doing out in the field with youth and families. Many of the trainers talked us through various scenarios and situations that could come up with families, and some of them sounded really intense. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I would handle all those kinds of situations. I was intimidated after reading some of the Case Plans and Safety Plans, and learning about the really hard circumstances many of our kids have gone through. However, I quickly learned that you can’t “judge a book by it’s cover,” and that youth and families are so incredibly resilient. Safety Plans are sometimes scary, but immediately when going out to homes and getting to know the youth and parents, you're able to get a better feel for who they really are, looking past the trauma and hardship and towards their goals and bright futures. Sometimes intense situations do occur, but once you get to know a kid or family, you understand the trauma that led to their situations, and you know that you’re the right person to be doing through those hard moments with them because you’ve been walking alongside them in their journey and you’ve built a relationship.

As a Rehabilitation Specialist I have loved working out in the field. I really enjoy being out there in the middle of it all with families, in the places and situations that they need the most support. I loved being out there doing the impactful work out in the community. When you’re in that position as a Rehabilitation Specialist and always out in the field, you sometimes don’t see a purpose in parts of the work you do, but reflecting back over those years, I can see how beneficial that work was and is. Sometimes we’re the only positive role models in the lives of these kids and families, and we’re having those real and impactful conversations. I had one youth call me her “positive influence.” It has always been important to me to also be a positive and strong female role model for our female youth, because they often don’t have anyone to look up to. It is always so meaningful to spend time talking with these pre-teens and teens about healthy relationships and boundaries, and sharing my insights with them.

Being bilingual, I love working with my monolingual families who only speak Spanish. They’re so receptive--they want to grow and want us as their team in their home. These families are so respectful and teachable. All of the monolingual families I’ve worked with have been so engaging, knowing that the entire team and I were there for a purpose and they always wanted to make the best use of our times together. I’m always so encouraged and inspired when the families we work with are excited to learn and grow. Working with monolingual families in their own language on a regular basis sparks a great relationship and builds trust, which means that the suggestions our teams make are often received very well, and help them be successful in reaching their goals.

Now I am currently in my Masters of Social Work program, and I was recently promoted to a Wraparound Social Worker, which has been a huge shift in my life and a big step towards my own professional goals. I am learning this new role of Social Worker and how to manage all of my cases efficiently. Being a Social Worker is definitely a new hat for me; a whole new realm. So far, I’ve found that the area I’m building the most skills in is learning to work with all of our community partners and other agencies. I am learning to maneuver working alongside and building relationships with other agencies such as the Department of Social Services, Probation and Behavioral Health. In partnering with all these different agencies and professionals in helping families, we can sometimes disagree, but all in all, we strive to come to a consensus that is in the best interests of those we’re serving. At FCNI, we maintain a culture of being family and strength-based, and, to this end, we start every team meeting discussing a family’s strengths. I love bringing this perspective to every collaborative meeting that I’m a part of.

Another thing I’m learning is that as a Social Worker I need to try not to work harder than my families are working towards their goals. Sometimes, families may not be completely ready for all of the services we have to offer; they may have other things going on in their lives that make it hard for them to move forward into the next steps we’ve mapped out for them. We sometimes have to accept that they’re not ready, and remember that the Wraparound program is not about us, it’s about them. We have to let go of what we think is right for them. I am learning more and more every day to celebrate all of the small successes, such as just sensing a spirit of willingness in the families we work with. I have learned that sometimes I need to take a step back and let families come to me when they are ready to take steps forward towards their goals.

I’m so excited to grow in this new position as a Social Worker, and so blessed to be able to learn from everyone at FCNI because everyone has so much knowledge to share. My biggest goals are to serve my community, to continually give back, and to continue to be a positive influence for our youth and my daughter.