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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 11, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesUNDERSTANDING WHAT SOCIAL WORKERS DO

UNDERSTANDING WHAT SOCIAL WORKERS DO

You get to see miracles, joy and lives so terrible so that you wonder if the people can ever achieve a functional lifestyle. Being a professional social worker lets you hear problems so awful you sometimes just want to shut down and cry as you listen, but your trained response takes hold, and you start the first challenging steps toward helping a person change his or her life.
March is the month set aside to honor social workers, but there is very little understanding of what these mostly front line staff do. They are not just do-gooders; they are professionally trained in a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, have completed a rigorous internship and classes on the post graduate level, and pass boards for professional licensure.
I became a social worker in 1975. Why? I had worked in social service programs for a couple of years observing the problems of many of the children and families that I saw daily, those with chronic alcoholism/drug abuse, no fathers, incest, parents without parenting skills, children out of control. I soon realized that I would need greater skills if I was truly going to make a difference. As a result, I, and many other like me, went to graduate school for two years to become social workers.
Social work is generally not a lucrative career choice. Nowadays, I seldom see high school students interviewed in the local newspapers saying social work will be their chosen career path. Mostly, I see kids of this generation selecting fields that will provide them with above average lifetime income.
I am not knocking these choices, but I am concerned where future generations will get the help they need. Believe me, with each passing year, you find that the issues are increasingly complex and more social workers will be needed. The Virgin Islands cannot even now come close to meeting the demand for these dedicated professionals.
Social workers, particularly (I like to think) those in the Department of Human Services, are in extremely demanding and stressful occupations. At the end of some days, given the frustration of trying to get limited resources for your clients, you find yourself with a sleepless night or unable to really listen to your own family's needs. But then the next day, a family comes in and tells you their success, with pride on their faces, and you remember why you became a social worker.
Two veteran social workers on St. Croix explain why they continue in their difficult jobs: Carol Battuello states she "feels driven to strengthen family life, because a social worker and a Psychiatrist helped me as a young child to survive a very dysfunctional family." She feels distressed when "other professionals don't make a conscious, deliberate and purposeful effort" to help those in need.
Mariangeli Cruz-Hendricks is cognizant that social work has to be "culturally sensitive" in providing services, particularly since we have "limited resources for those with language barriers." Can you imagine needing help and all those who could assist you don't speak your language?
If you are now successful at managing your own life, contact those who helped you along the way and take the time to say thanks. It might not have been a social worker, it may have been a school guidance counselor, a relative, a friend, but call and let them know they made a difference in your life.
Studies have shown that people can change, but that many did so after one person made a difference in their lives. Take this opportunity to be that special someone who makes a difference in someone's life. Become a mentor, a foster parent, a Boy Scout or Girl Scout leader. There are so many groups and organizations that need your help, find a way to give back just a little of what someone gave to you.
Congratulations social workers. You deserve the best! Enjoy your month.
Editors' note: Catherine L. Mills of St. Thomas, a former Human Services Commissioner, holds a master's degree in social work. You can send comments to her on the articles she writes or topics you would like to see addressed at source@viaccess.net.

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You get to see miracles, joy and lives so terrible so that you wonder if the people can ever achieve a functional lifestyle. Being a professional social worker lets you hear problems so awful you sometimes just want to shut down and cry as you listen, but your trained response takes hold, and you start the first challenging steps toward helping a person change his or her life.
March is the month set aside to honor social workers, but there is very little understanding of what these mostly front line staff do. They are not just do-gooders; they are professionally trained in a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, have completed a rigorous internship and classes on the post graduate level, and pass boards for professional licensure.
I became a social worker in 1975. Why? I had worked in social service programs for a couple of years observing the problems of many of the children and families that I saw daily, those with chronic alcoholism/drug abuse, no fathers, incest, parents without parenting skills, children out of control. I soon realized that I would need greater skills if I was truly going to make a difference. As a result, I, and many other like me, went to graduate school for two years to become social workers.
Social work is generally not a lucrative career choice. Nowadays, I seldom see high school students interviewed in the local newspapers saying social work will be their chosen career path. Mostly, I see kids of this generation selecting fields that will provide them with above average lifetime income.
I am not knocking these choices, but I am concerned where future generations will get the help they need. Believe me, with each passing year, you find that the issues are increasingly complex and more social workers will be needed. The Virgin Islands cannot even now come close to meeting the demand for these dedicated professionals.
Social workers, particularly (I like to think) those in the Department of Human Services, are in extremely demanding and stressful occupations. At the end of some days, given the frustration of trying to get limited resources for your clients, you find yourself with a sleepless night or unable to really listen to your own family's needs. But then the next day, a family comes in and tells you their success, with pride on their faces, and you remember why you became a social worker.
Two veteran social workers on St. Croix explain why they continue in their difficult jobs: Carol Battuello states she "feels driven to strengthen family life, because a social worker and a Psychiatrist helped me as a young child to survive a very dysfunctional family." She feels distressed when "other professionals don't make a conscious, deliberate and purposeful effort" to help those in need.
Mariangeli Cruz-Hendricks is cognizant that social work has to be "culturally sensitive" in providing services, particularly since we have "limited resources for those with language barriers." Can you imagine needing help and all those who could assist you don't speak your language?
If you are now successful at managing your own life, contact those who helped you along the way and take the time to say thanks. It might not have been a social worker, it may have been a school guidance counselor, a relative, a friend, but call and let them know they made a difference in your life.
Studies have shown that people can change, but that many did so after one person made a difference in their lives. Take this opportunity to be that special someone who makes a difference in someone's life. Become a mentor, a foster parent, a Boy Scout or Girl Scout leader. There are so many groups and organizations that need your help, find a way to give back just a little of what someone gave to you.
Congratulations social workers. You deserve the best! Enjoy your month.
Editors' note: Catherine L. Mills of St. Thomas, a former Human Services Commissioner, holds a master's degree in social work. You can send comments to her on the articles she writes or topics you would like to see addressed at source@viaccess.net.