My Path to Giving Back

A Social Worker’s Journey
Irianna Lembo, FCNI Social Worker
March, 21, 2017 -

Every one of our Social Workers has a personal journey which led them to their current roles--to their honorable profession of serving our community’s most vulnerable children and families. Below, one of our newest Social Workers, Irianna, shares her journey to FCNI and how her childhood influenced her future career path.  

I have been a Social Worker here at FCNI for almost a year now but my journey in the Mental Health field began over 15 years ago. Growing up in a low socioeconomic community with limited resources for youth and families, I witnessed first-hand the importance of giving back to the community and the long-lasting effects it can have. At an early age, I learned my family worked closely with our community partners. My father was Chief of Police and volunteered in his time off giving free martial arts and exercise classes to kids and families in the local community center as well as being a Big Brother in our local mentoring program. While in College, I realized I wanted to help people in a way that would have a long-lasting effect; I wanted to serve my community and add to its beauty to make it that much better for my own children.

I worked my way from volunteering at a local drug and alcohol program, to being an Office Assistant for Mental Health, and then, following college, I became a Rehabilitation Specialist and then went on to become a Therapist. Being a Therapist enables me to help children and families grow closer together and support them in learning stronger coping skills which help them overcome various challenges including day-to-day barriers such as how to make better choices.

Today, my role has expanded beyond Therapist to being being a Social Worker. Being a Social Worker at FCNI has allowed me the opportunity to grow in new directions and hone all of my gained experiences and skills to help an even larger population. Having the opportunity to work with children overcoming their trauma, helping families learn new ways to communicate, and helping parents learn how to strengthen their already-existing parenting skills is rewarding beyond what words can describe. Being able to add the role of Social Worker into my therapy position, makes it all the more rewarding. I now have the opportunity to fulfill what I wanted to do as a child: partner with community agencies in helping families overcome multiple barriers and live a productive life outside of “the system.”

Being able to interchange roles between Therapist and Social Worker, and work together as a team to help meet a family’s needs is why I do what I do. Social Work is too often associated with a family’s negative experiences especially when involved with the system. But here at FCNI, we work on breaking that stigma and taking the role of Social Worker to a whole new level. I like to think that the families we serve see us as simply another team member working alongside them to help them meet their own goals and improve their quality of life.

As a Social Worker at FCNI, I get the opportunity to work alongside families and join their team. The first family I was assigned as a Social Worker became homeless within days of their case opening and were in the process of moving into FCNI housing. The caregiver was extremely worried that there would be no one there to help him move his things, and he feared that their things would be stolen if left outside. Working together, we were able to seek out support from our team and we all worked together to help this family move into their new home. I think being able to share in this experience with the family strengthened our working relationship with them and instantly changed the outlook of our roles in their lives. Following this experience, the family was more receptive to our recommendations and successfully completed their case plan earlier this month. This kind of collaborative spirit is just one more example of why I love doing what I do.

Social Work, while difficult, carries its own challenges and rewards unique to every person who chooses this career path.We salute our Social Workers, and soon-to-be-Social Workers, for making the choice every day to see the best not only in those we serve but in themselves and their special abilities to contribute to the bigger picture--to being part of our team in caring for children and families, and our community.