Offering thanks for social work profession and those who choose it

March is designated as National Social Work Month and it offers us a chance to recognize not only the effort, compassion, and dedication of those who choose the profession, but also the importance of the work itself.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers closely collaborate with social workers to ensure the children and youth who have experienced abuse and neglect and are in the child welfare system are safe and receive the services they need to thrive.

In fact, we are currently working on cases in Webster County with three different social workers, as well as a case in Hamilton County with another. CASA volunteers regularly engage with the children of the case they are assigned and learn all we can about them, their families, and their situations. They then offer social workers a second, independent look at how cases are progressing, ensuring by cooperating together that the best interests of the children are being met.

Social workers, like those we work with on cases, shoulder a lot of responsibility. They are on the front lines of complex life, family, and societal issues. They strive to break down barriers that prevent people from living more full and purposeful lives. They do this on the individual level, helping people with issues like food insecurity, lack of affordable housing, or limited access to good health care, and they do it on a systems level through policies and lobbying for laws designed to ensure everyone can access the services they need.

While our experiences with social workers center around those who work in the foster care and child welfare system and agencies that provide family services, social workers are involved in all the various sections and layers of society. They are found in hospitals, mental health care facilities, senior care facilities, homeless shelters, and community clinics. They also support military personnel and veterans, help students overcome problems in schools, and provide outreach for local, state, and federal government programs.

Chances are you, a family member, or a friend have been, or will be, helped by a social worker during your lifetime. Social workers support people as we cope with challenges we encounter. They help us find ways to deal with a wide range of situations, from adopting a child to accessing appropriate levels of elder care. They also help in times of crisis, such as responding to natural disasters to connect survivors with basic services, providing outreach and comfort when people are diagnosed with a long-term or terminal illness, and offering rehabilitation counseling and care in substance abuse programs.

Essentially, social workers connect with the individual and their environment then guide them to critical resources and assist them in making hard decisions. To do that, it takes someone whocares about people. It takes a person who can find ways to make things better and who is driven to relieve suffering. It takes someone who wants their work to matter and is willing to do what it takes to make a difference for others.

We greatly value and appreciate the compassionate and committed individuals who every day do the social work that breaks down barriers so children and families in Iowa can succeed.

Crystal Engstrom is the program coordinator of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of North Central Iowa, which covers Webster, Hamilton, Calhoun, Wright, and Pocahontas, as well as Kossuth, Cerro Gordo, Worth, Floyd, Winnebago, and Mitchell counties. She can be contacted to learn more about CASA by calling (515) 824-6001. People can also visit casaiowa.org.


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