March is National Professional Social Worker Month, and FCA is celebrating by featuring three of the social workers on our staff. This week, Valerie Sanon, a Licensed Masters Social Worker and FCA Specialized Foster Care Supervisor, talks about the importance of social work and how the successes in her work outweigh the challenges.
The image so many have of the foster care system is one of children being taken away from their families, and the perception of social workers serving those children can be similarly skewed. But that is far from the truth of the role of a foster care social worker. I’ve had the opportunity to be in the Therapeutic Foster Care Program at Family and Children’s Agency for the past five years and work alongside other social workers from Department of Children and Families.
Foster Care social workers are given the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life every single day. In my department, we encounter children and adolescents with trauma experiences they didn’t ask for or ever imagined would happen to them. Nor did it ever cross their minds that they would be in foster care. The social workers in their lives can be a beacon of light to help them through the process, making sure their voices are heard. Most of the time, that’s all children and teenagers ever want – to be heard. We must understand, empathize, and remember the world the clients once knew has been turned upside down. In meeting with us as their social workers, we can help guide them in dealing with the challenges and find a way to turn their world right side up again. Will it take time Will there be frustrations Will there be some roadblocks along the way Yes, but once we overcome those hurdles, the rewards in the end make it all worth it.
What does that reward look like It’s adolescents graduating high school and heading to college or trade school. It’s reuniting children with their biological families, placing them with other family, or watching them be adopted by a foster family. It’s clients becoming independent with a stable job and their own apartment. It’s seeing mental health diagnoses finally being treated properly, clients being placed in the right educational setting for their needs, and watching them participate in everyday extracurricular activities like peers who aren’t foster care. Knowing social workers made a difference in the lives of these children makes it all worth it.
Social workers are leaders, advocates, mentors, and most of all a voice for the unheard and the unseen.
-Valerie Sanon, LMSW