March is National Social Work Month and today’s guest blogger is Tanya Velez, Caregiver Support Team worker in FCA’s Family Support program.
People matter to me, family matters to me, and advocating for equality matters to me. From a very young age, I was aware of injustices occurring in my community. My mom worked at the NEON community center in Norwalk and became a social worker late in life. Her determination and the value she placed on education inspired me to go to school for social work. In fact, my office in Family & Children’s Agency’s newest building is just down the hall from the office my mother worked in previously. This family history made me very aware of an obligation I feel to take advantage of my privileges by utilizing my voice to advocate for those facing challenges.
People often tell me, “you are so easy to talk to, you’re so approachable.” I have taken this skill and utilized it to help empower others and give them a voice. In my work, I support community members who are raising or temporarily fostering their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or other family members. The children in these situations have been through trauma and have Department of Children and Families (DCF) involvement. By educating, supporting, and guiding the families through this time I am able to empower them to advocate for themselves and break the cycles that can have long-lasting impact.
My background and experiences as a child help me connect with my clients, and we speak the same understood language. They see in me a person who understands their struggles and their histories. I come from a single parent home and my mom managed to provide for me – I never went without anything. My mother embedded in me the importance and value of having an established education on your resume. “An education is something that cannot be taken from you,” she would say. Now, as a single mother of two, working full-time, and attending graduate school, I understand her message more than ever.
I want to use my experiences and education to guide and lead others in vulnerable situations and ensure they are provided the best opportunities and skills to better themselves. What I have learned throughout my life, work, and schooling, is providing individuals with education and appropriate tools to advocate for themselves is powerful. The ability to navigate educational, judicial, and medical systems gives families the ability to succeed at meeting their needs and those of their families.
I became a social worker to give a voice to those who do not have one, and every day I think about the lessons my mother instilled in me which still motivate me today.