Written by: Brad Wentz, LCSW – Charlottesville Regional Program Director
Thanks to Social Media, there is an explosion of “Appreciation Months” and “Appreciation Days”. With themes like “National Popcorn Day”, and “Bring Your Dog to Work Day”, it’s hard to keep track of them all. However, as long as I have been in the field, March has been designated Social Worker Appreciation Month. As a Social Worker, I wanted to share how my peers make a real difference in the world, and why they deserve a month to he recognized. I hope after reading this you will appreciate them as the superheroes they are.
Just so you know, “Social Worker” is a protected job description that can only be used by someone who is licensed to be a Social Worker. The majority of case managers and service workers who help people every day have a Social Work training, and are practicing under their supervisor’s license. So as I speak of my peers, I am speaking about official Social Workers and Family Consultants, Family Mentors, Mentors, Mental Health Case Managers, Foster Care Service Workers, Child Protective Services Workers, and other human service providers.
Like all superheroes, Social Service Workers hide in the background and jump into action when a need arises. They are there when you least expect it, but when you need them the most. Social Service Workers appear when there is a concerning health diagnosis, when a child is abused, when an adult is exploited, and when there is a trauma in the community. They are healers who join the journey with people who are hurting, and help navigate the way to hope, safety and healing.
I joke with my colleagues that I need to write a book about my experiences, but it would be classified as a fictional book because no one would believe the stories I have. The situations that Social Service Workers jump into are the most extreme, including: ritualized child abuse, domestic violence situations, sexual abuse, children having to live in Foster Care because their family can’t take care of them, and terminal illnesses. As Social Service Workers join the journey of others through these traumatizing and painful experiences, it does take a toll on them. Without proper self-care and support, these professionals can fall victim to burn out. Long hours and high caseloads also impacts Social Service Workers family life, as they try to balance the needs of spouses and children with the needs of the community they serve. Statistics show that the average Child Protective Service Worker can only stay in the field for 18 months.
Like Batman and Thor when they joined The Justice League and the Avengers, Social Services Workers and you are stronger when we all work together. We are able to save the world when we can work collaboratively, and support each other.
Take a moment during the month and pay attention when a Social Service Worker leaves their “Fortress of Solitude” and jumps into action to join in the fight against hopelessness, helplessness and illness. Recognize the passion they have for equal rights and healing. And be sure to thank them before they fly off to save the next person.