What image do you conjure when you hear someone is a social worker? Do you envision a soft person with bottomless patience and a strong ethical core? Someone who works long hours showing tenderness and concern?
You’d be right if you thought all those things; social workers are part of what are called the “caring professions.” But when I took a moment during this Social Work Month of 2021 to consider what the team does at Good Shepherd – after a long year of people seeing just how essential social service agencies are – there was another angle to our story I wanted to highlight:
Social workers are not professional hug-givers.
They are highly-skilled experts who spend their careers helping people through the difficult process of personal change. They go through years of learning, training, and practicing… and then more learning, training, and practicing. Leadership at Good Shepherd makes it a priority to support professional development, state licensure, and building a staff with highly skilled social workers. Even after that, some are born for this and some are not.
There is an art and science to what the Good Shepherd team does, and a social worker can’t be successful unless they are that rare person who can combine the two. Fortunately, I get to work alongside so many talented people who fit the bill!
For example, Good Shepherd might shelter a young mother who has nowhere to go and no support system to help her and her baby. Our team might work with a family that’s shattered after generations of abuse and neglect. They might help a youth who’s been left to fend for themselves, relying on unsafe or unstable methods to get their personal needs met.
You can’t just love these challenges away.
Social workers have to be able to both build the relationship with clients (art) and teach the process of personal change (science). They have to see beyond unproductive behaviors (art) and create a recovery plan that will work for the individual (science).
I’m endlessly inspired by our Good Shepherd team and the work they do. There’s nothing quite like the moment they create a breakthrough with one of our clients and know it’s because our organization was able to give them the tools they needed and stuck beside them. It really is a miracle.
So during this Social Workers Month, I’m reflecting on the art and the science, the tough love and the soft love, the care and the expertise that make Good Shepherd’s team so exceptional. It’s not easy to do what they do. But it sure is worth it.