My Education: BA, Georgia State University MA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill MSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
My Prior Experience: I managed group home for adults with disabilities, I did community development in rural Honduras, I coordinated a respite care program for disabled adults, I worked in a program to prevent abuse and neglect of children, I did family social work with court-adjudicated youth in a treatment center.
My Company: I work for a large school district in central North Carolina.
Job/Career Overview: I work as a school social worker in a pair of elementary schools and a middle school. That means I try to remove barriers to learning that students bring to school with them. The part of my job that I have to do is monitor attendance of students and make sure that students don't miss too many days. In that capacity I sometimes find that I have to file court papers on parents who do not get their children to school on a regular basis. After that, I work with families and parents to find resources in the community. Sometimes that entails getting emergency food or shelter, especially in these difficult economic time. I make sure our students who are living in homeless shelters get to school and have clothes and school supplies. For other families it means helping them find a mental health counselor or a substance abuse program or a pediatrician. I work with teams of teachers, school psychologists, school counselors and administrators to help identify students with learning disabilities. I also help teachers communicate with parents who are reluctant to become involved with the schools or their children's education process. Since I speak some Spanish, I help out with the growing community of Hispanic families.
More Insights: Most people think of social workers as they are portrayed in the media and movies: overworked, burned out, burdened souls whose job it is to rip children out the arms of their abusive parents. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We are an energetic, caring group with both wisdom, experience and common sense. Social workers are everywhere: in corporations working as Employee Assistance Counselors, in government and government agencies and in private agencies. We're even entrepreneurs. We do community development, private therapy for groups and individuals; we work in hospitals, and we work with the elderly as well as newborns. You should also know that this is a career that demands education; it is not something that anyone can just decide to do. We have been around for centuries and the profession has evolved into a discipline with specific skills that must be learned and practiced.
I rate this career 10 out of 10.
I like doing home visits very much. I can learn so much about our students when I go to their homes. I like linking families with resources that are a real help to them. I like being consistently involved over time with a struggling family and seeing it overcome huge problems of substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness and mental illness.
I do not like working with belligerent parents who think I should mind my own business and not care about their child's education. I intensely dislike going to court with parents over truant students.
If you are interested in working as a social worker in any capacity, volunteer in your community at agencies that help people, such as domestic violence shelters, homeless soup kitchens, or groups that work with people in prison. Social work is a wide-open field that can satisfy your interest in helping people. If you are interested specifically in school social work, volunteer with after-school or tutoring programs. Offer to mentor a student in your community. A woman can offer to co-lead groups for girls; a man can serve as a mentor or work with groups as well. Schools have many fewer men involved than women and would welcome a male volunteer.