National Social Work Professionals Month

During the month of March, National Social Work Professionals Month is celebrated to recognize the contributions of social work professionals in our communities! In a time where so many people are struggling, the time is right for social work to help bridge the gaps to strengthen individuals and families. Thank you to all of our Social Work Professionals who continue to show up every day to solve social issues and improve individual lives! 

We want to highlight some of the incredible professionals that make a difference in the lives of children and families:

For 19 years, Kim D. has been serving in the child welfare system and she shares that, "Everyday I am inspired by the caregivers that open their hearts and homes to ensure safety for children in my community. I am also inspired by the dedicated talented child welfare professionals I work alongside everyday that offer support and solutions to minimize trauma for children and families in our system of care."

We asked Kim what was one of her most memorable success stories and she said, "Wow... there are so many! Many years ago I was walking across a parking lot outside a DCF building in Lakeland and saw a sibling group of 8 children that had just been sheltered and been removed from their home by CPIs. I quickly called the HFC Licensing and placement team at HFC and we reviewed our foster homes to see how we could place them together. A new home had just been licensed that had the space. I called the family and presented the large sibling group with our team. The family accepted all the children.

The HFC staff came together to get the needed supplies out to the home. The large sibling group was placed all together and remined their until they all were adopted by the family. This was a great success story of ensuring safety for children and exemplified team work that minimized trauma for the children and eventually provided a forever adoptive family for the children."

Gail Werley, Director of Programs for One Hope United. Gail has been serving in the child welfare system for 11 years.

She shares, "While I love seeing families succeed in their endeavors to regain and maintain custody of their children, and I love to see kids find forever homes when they cannot return to their parents' care, my most important dedication is to the staff who make this happen.

I am passionate about teaching, training, supporting, encouraging, and recognizing our team members who do this work. I am no longer on the frontline and I try to remember every day what that was like, and how hard it is. It takes a special kind of person to do this job and I want to be there to help them remember and realize just how special they are."

We asked Gail to share a success story that sticks out to her and she shared, "One Hope has a case where two children were reunified with their mother about 4 years ago, and then they came back into care when the mother relapsed. After about one year the case was headed towards TPR.

With the Case Manager's assistance, the mother got into an inpatient program, where she has been successfully working towards maintaining and achieving her sobriety, for the past six months. The TPR has been held in abeyance and the mother is about to be reunified with her children. It has been a joy to watch the assigned Case Manager do everything possible to support this woman and celebrate her accomplishments. We strongly believe this will be a success story that can be told for years to show how dedicated Case Managers are to their families."

Meet One Hope United Lead Case Manager, Lisette Colon, who has been serving children and families for 4 years. Lisette shares what inspired her to become a Social Work Professional, "Throughout the years of working in the school system and observing the needs of my community I decided to get into this field.  I was brought up by my parents who served in the community. My mother was an advocate for women in Rehab and traveled many countries providing help and assistance in opening safe homes for mothers and children. I learned very early on to be a giver and help those around me."

When thinking about a memorable success story, Lisette shared, "For sure the most touching one for me was being able to save a mother from loosing her life, even though sitting in the ER was not fun and many nights of worrying about her.  Seeing her journey throughout inpatient and finally in making a decision to allow her father to keep her children but her being part of their lives was the best decision she made for her children.  Even though I was not able to reunify with the mother I was able to work the case until the children were adopted by their grandparents and given an opportunity to be happy and safe with family and still have their mommy in their lives."

"Child Welfare work is the hardest work I've ever done. It can be heartbreaking, sad, frustrating, and exhausting. However, it can also be inspiring, uplifting, and motivating.
What keeps me going is seeing the change gradually over time to make this system of care a better experience for everyone involved. I'm fortunate to work for a company that truly cares and wants to make movement and change in this field. I've seen better support offered to caregivers, greater opportunities for education, greater emphasis on co-parenting, and more asking 'what happened to you; vs. what is wrong with you.
What inspires me is seeing all the hard work caregivers, my co-workers, and staff are doing daily to make a difference in the lives of children and families we serve. I'm inspired to keep learning so that there is always continued growth and change to help ensure child safety and family support."
Ashley Hunt, Director of Caregiver Support at Heartland for Children, serving in child welfare for 21 years.

Richard George, Relicensing Program Manager, has been serving children and families in the child welfare system for 16 years!

Rich shares his why, "In 2008 I was a CPI (Child Protective Investigator) and I sheltered two small children from parents who were living in a mobile home that had a Meth Lab. The grandmother lived in the home as well, but PCSO couldn't connect her to the lab so she was not arrested. The parents and the grandmother fought hard in court to keep the kids in the home with the grandmother, but I fought back an finally got a relative placement for the children. Several weeks later the grandmother was cooking Meth and the lab blew up killing the grandmother and destroying the mobile home. It burnt to the ground. If I had not fought to keep those children out of there, they would have died. That is my why..."

One of our Quality Management Specialists, who has served children and families in the child welfare system for 18 years, shares their why.
"It's simple, my life's mission is to give and help others and it inspires me to be in a position to help educate and advocate for families who become involved in the child welfare system because not all families are alike and not all circumstances are the same.
Many years ago, I was a case manager for a single mother who was abusing drugs for many many years. Mom was living on the streets, got pregnant and didn't know who the child's father was. Mom ended up losing custody of her child and realized that her child was the only thing in life that she had (parents deceased, no siblings, no local family). Mom was able to understand the long-term impact of having someone else raise her child so she agreed to get help and she truly committed to changing her ways. Mom dedicated her life to Christ and began to comply with substance abuse services. Mom found housing, got a job, and car and she was ultimately reunited with her child. After her case closed, mom invited me to her church. I didn't go right away, but I did end up going to this church one day and I absolutely loved it (still go periodically). So in essence, we both learned from each other. Mom case closed successfully and she was so grateful that DCF came in and made her realize that her life was not in a good place."

We'd like to introduce you to Brittany Jameson, one of our Foster Home Licensing Specialists, who has been serving in child welfare for 10 years.
Brittany shares, "I LOVE connecting with foster families who have a heart and desire to give back to our community by providing a safe and loving home for children in need. It is a privilege that I get to know these families and they share their stories with me during the licensing process. We have such a wonderful community of foster homes. These families inspire me everyday!
Being in child welfare over 10 years, I have seen so many success stories. It is hard to pick just one story. Any time a family is reunified or children are welcomed into their forever home, it makes my heart so happy. I find it an honor that I have been able to play a small role in the journey of many families. It is easy to focus on the bad at times but there is so much GOOD happening everyday in our system of care!"