Staff Profile: Denise Ward - Good Shepherd


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What did you do before you came to Good Shepherd?

I’ve been in social services for 43 years. After college, I started my career with the Department of Social Services and eventually landed in Child Protective Services, which was my dream job. Even as a student, I knew I wanted to be an advocate for children. I have worked in crisis intervention, foster care, adoption, and I provided mental health services for Head Start families. I went to graduate school while juggling single parenting and work, so I feel I can be a good role model for my clients who are also working to meet goals while parenting. I tell them, “I’ve been there.” 

Why did you choose to come to Good Shepherd?

After graduate school, Good Shepherd actually contacted me, and it was great timing because my grant from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University was about to run out. I was hired to be the Director of Expectant Parent Services. But after a couple of years, that position ended and I became a direct services worker. It was just my cup of tea. The direct contact with clients enables me to see first-hand their struggles and resource needs. We are a one-stop shop and offer all the services our clients need.

Tell us about a typical day. What do you do in your role?

I start my day by reviewing client files and collecting resources I need for the clients I will talk to that day. Case management is all about planning and organizing, but the best part of my job is talking to clients. No day is ever typical. We get calls and messages outside regular business hours. We hear from past clients when they have new babies or successes. They send us pictures.

What makes you proud of your work?

It makes us happy when we can help, even if it’s something small. Just giving them attention – people like to be heard. Give them advice if they ask for it, but first you have to listen with your heart.

What do you think Good Shepherd does better than any other agency?

Our staff is caring. People come here for help with a variety of adoption and parenting resources and services. It’s all here under one roof. Everyone has different skills and credentials to offer, and we do what’s needed to help people succeed.

What was your first job?

I was a shelver at the University City Public Library. I made about a dollar an hour, but I learned to be dependable and reliable, how the world works, and what it means to have a job and to show up. This is when I realized I was no longer a kid. I had to be responsible and accountable, and sometimes I had to deal with difficult people.

Do you have any success stories you would like to share?

My most resilient client is a woman who lost the father of her baby and then contracted COVID. She has persevered and come through all of it. She’s successfully completed our program, and I admire her greatly. I don’t know how she did it. Many people in my caseload teach me. They’re resilient, resourceful, and they love their children.