March is National Social Work Month. The National Association of Social Workers gives us our theme for the year, “Social Work Breaks Barriers.”
Each day social workers help break down barriers thatNASW
prevent people from living more fulfilling, enriched lives.
The Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services champions the efforts of social workers across Texas who serve in the child and family welfare space. Their work has the potential to break the barriers that challenge Texas families each day.
We asked some of the several social workers on the TACFS staff how they have “broken barriers” during their careers. Here’s what they said…
I’ve spent a significant portion of my social work career in the area of victim services, supporting child, youth, and adults impacted by domestic and sexual violence. As a medical and legal advocate, I stood in the gap between victims and the systems that often didn’t feel that supportive to them. I worked to advocate for their needs and improve their experiences at hospitals, police stations, and court rooms so they weren’t alone and disregarded.
I became a social worker in 2016, with my primary focus being working with teens who have been abused or neglected who are most often overlooked. I have helped find permanency for teenagers, children with special needs and larger sibling groups. Although working in the child welfare system can be difficult it is also very rewarding. One thing that has been fruitful is reconnecting teenagers back with their biological family members. Some youth were taken into child protective services at such a young age they have no memory of any biological family members. As a social worker being able to make that reconnection and seeing the youth’s face when they see a biological family member in their eyes for the very first time is an indescribable experience. Most often the youth would say “I cannot believe you look like me” or “Do we really have the same blood”. I do believe unadoptable is unacceptable, this is why I choose to be a social worker and advocate for all children.
About 12 years into being a social worker, I was working with a group of nonprofits in Central Texas who were providing services to youth who were going to age out of foster care. One of the organization’s had a lot of private money that funded their programs and the others were highly dependent on public funding. We collectively asked the question.. if we worked together more strategically could we figure out a way to align our resources so that one organization’s wealth could generate more support for all the organizations and thereby exponentially increase services? Turns out, the answer was yes! By forming a collaborative approach and structure, the state’s contract folks were willing to accept the one organization’s private funding as match to then increase the amount of federal funding the other organization’s qualified for – way more than if they were left to find matching money individually. That was the first time I was part of a group that broke down the barriers of a siloed approach to service delivery and funding and the impact was awesome and inspiring!
For three and a half years, I have worked on a project through the Alliance in collaboration with the University of Texas, School of Social Work, Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing, called the Texas Permanency Outcomes Project, or TXPOP. TXPOP focuses on making the Texas child welfare system more family centered. One of the ways we do this is through foster parent and birth parent collaboration. Children feel better and do better when all the important people who care about them, especially parents and caregivers, are working together. Through TXPOP, I’ve been able to help birth parents and foster parents build relationships, collaborate, and co-care for children. Learn more about how to break the barrier between family to family collaboration.
I break barriers by bringing the clinical field practice from my CPS experience to help prepare that same community to implement Community-Based Care in the long term.