By Diana McCue, Teen Advocacy Specialist
March is National Social Work Month.
Recently, I was talking with a teen about her career aspirations. This teen had a big and specific dream. I told her I was proud of her, and that it’s okay if she changes her mind. After all, I said, “when I was your age, I didn’t want to be a social worker.”
“Why did you become a social worker?” She asked. “I meet all these people from CASA and CPS, and I wonder how they got there.”
The only story I can tell is mine. When I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to explore the world and I knew I wanted to help make the world a better place. After a little exploring, I landed at a wonderful job working with teens, and I loved it. But these teens faced problems I had never experienced, and I didn’t know how to help them. I realized that I needed to learn the context for their experiences and the skills to help them. So I went to graduate school to become a social worker.
CASA of Travis County is fortunate to employ staff from a diverse variety of backgrounds. My colleagues bring past work and training in hospitals, Child Protective Services, communications, legal research and even fashion. Our interdisciplinary makeup allows us to bring a variety of perspectives to our work with children and families involved with the child welfare system. I am very proud to be one of the staff members who brings the perspective of social work to CASA.
It can be hard for members of the community to identify what makes a social worker a social worker. Trained and licensed social workers work in settings from state legislatures to prisons, from hospitals to private practices, from nonprofit leadership to corporate Employee Assistance Programs. Many of CASA’s program staff brings some training or licensure in social work. I love the opportunity to share my social work perspective with my incredible volunteers.
For me, social work is defined by its allegiance to our Code of Ethics. The National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics outlines six core values that must guide our work. These values are service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence (NASW, 2008). No matter where a trained social worker is serving, their work must be aligned with these values.
CASA of Travis County is also guided by six core values. CASA of Travis County’s value of excellence in all our endeavors is similar to the social work value of competence; the organization’s value of honorable and respectful involvement in the child welfare system is similar to the social work value of integrity; and CASA’s value of inclusiveness, diversity and respect corresponds to the social work values of social justice and dignity and worth of the person.
When my volunteers encounter difficult ethical situations with the teens that we serve, I can refer back to my social work values to counsel my volunteers toward a path to the teens’ best interest that we can feel proud of. I hope that our entire system of children, families, professionals and volunteers will benefit from the time I invested in learning how to work with people in a way that reflects service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.
Of course, I only told that teen some of this. I am so proud of her ambition and her idealism. I only hope that she will find a career that makes her as proud as it makes me to be a social worker who works at CASA of Travis County.
March Advocacy 2018