March is National Social Work month, and we want to honor this challenging, rewarding and vital career by spotlighting how our Social Workers don’t create strong families and youth, but rather, they uncover and equip the strength that already exists within them. Social Workers see the hope, the potential and the ability to heal that a hurting family or youth cannot, and works to help them remove barriers to unleash these truths so they can heal, flourish and achieve their goals. Below, one of our amazing Social Workers shares her personal story of serving families and youth, detailing how every journey through care cannot be done alone.
It is easy to see some of the observable behavior of people who have experienced significant trauma and mental health challenges, and label the behavior or the person as “difficult,” “resistant,” “lazy,” “dangerous,” and a host of other negative assumptions. But those of us in Social Work know the situation differently. We know that trauma, mental illness, addiction, and experiences in the foster care system can squash hope, cripple a sense of self-efficacy, foster maladaptive ways of coping, and hold a person's passions and goals hostage. We know this is not about personal flaws; it’s about a part of the human condition.
It is for all of these reasons why Social Workers go the extra mile to walk alongside people into wellness and recovery by building healing relationships, teaching skills, offering resources, and most of all - holding on to hope while creating a safe space for someone to go through their process. Because Social Workers are only half the story here; it’s those we serve that finish the story - their story.
The true beauty of Social Work occurs when we walk alongside our clients, often leading at first, until they come to walk alongside us, utilizing our support to lead their own recovery. This is the dynamic that we strive to create with those we serve in our many programs at the Family Care Network, and this is how we see their successes. The youth and families whom we serve are active participants in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of their services in numerous ways. This is important, because people don’t change until they decide they want to change, and they don’t make progress on their goals until they are committed and put in the work.
I see this in countless ways with my clients. When a youth puts the brakes on a well-crafted plan for secondary education for which they weren’t actually ready, only to take a few months to come back to the team and ask for support with a new college plan they explored on their own. When we’ve been talking to a parent about more effective parenting skills for months and months, until they recognize the feedback they are receiving all around them and within them, and come back to their team to say, “I get it now, and can you help me practice that?” And when a client starts by dutifully attending treatment, comes to feel the trust with you, and see the small changes from trying what you offer. Until, one day they ask you to do the honor of being their copilot, “Help me move in the direction of my values and goals, hold me accountable, let’s do this.”
Don’t be mistaken, those served by Social Work are not taking a walk in the park. We ask our clients to show up in their own lives, and develop a life worth living. We ask them to do what they’re capable of, and take responsibility for their own progress. So when we honor Social Workers this month as the healers, teachers and advocates that we are, let us also honor the brave, resilient, survivors who let us accompany them on their journey.