Celebrating National Social Work Month
During March, National Social Worker Month, Covenant House celebrates the work performed by our social workers and social workers worldwide. As one of the fastest-growing professions in the country, many of us are aware of social work but often overlook how much time, effort, and commitment go into the profession, and the impact it has on communities. At Covenant House, our commitment to our youth is solidified by the work done by our dedicated social workers, and we are eternally grateful for everything they do.
PURPOSE OF SOCIAL WORK
Social workers help people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses rebuild their lives and overcome a variety of challenges such as homelessness, mental illness, disability, addiction, and abuse. Not only do they focus on the individual, but they further focus on the environment the individual is facing. In addition, they aid in “preventing crises and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life.” Social workers are advocates and problem solvers that embody the social work code of ethics – a set of values, principles, and standards to guide social workers’ conduct. They help individuals cope with the ever-changing complexities of life and provide solutions to relieve hardship. Social work also has been proven to improve the economy in places where the government has invested in it. Rory Truell from the Guardian states “when social workers are active in a community, it tends to have a positive impact on crime rates, health statistics, school attendance and employment” There is a positive correlation between the influence of social work and the welfare of the community it serves.
ROLES OF SOCIAL WORKERS
Social workers are employed in all areas of life and take on various roles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states “there were more than 715,000 social workers in the United States in 2020”. They may serve in:
- Schools, where they may counsel students by developing strategies to improve academic success and offering skills on social interaction
- Hospitals, where critical care patients, as well as those with acute conditions, can receive services from social workers to help them cope or advocate for themselves within the hospital
- Senior citizen centers, where they are advocates and caretakers for the elderly
- Prisons, where social workers help prisoners as they reenter society
Some perhaps unexpected roles that social workers may serve are executive directors, professors, and community leaders.
Social workers are especially needed within mental health services as they play a prominent role. They make up the largest group of the country’s mental health service providers, with over 200,000 clinically trained providers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
This amount is larger than the number of psychiatric nurses, psychologists, and psychiatrists combined, and in some rural areas, they may be the only licensed mental health provider available.
SOCIAL WORK AT COVENANT HOUSE
At Covenant House, our 24/7 Care Center and additional housing programs are driven by the work performed by our social workers. They work in a variety of roles and departments. For example, our Two-Gen Program for young families is led by one of our Masters Level Social Workers, Ebonee C. Adams, MSW, LSW. It has served over 73 parents and 109 children experiencing homelessness and/or human trafficking.
Case managers, led by our licensed social workers,
- Help our youth take the steps necessary to find jobs, housing, and further their education.
- Personalize case plans alongside each individual as they recognize their own unique stories, and treat our youth with unconditional love and absolute respect at all times.
- Make it possible for youth to transition into independent living and off-site housing through our Rites of Passage (ROP) Transitional Living program led by Ashley Toney, LMSW, Director of Transitional Housing. 24/7 case management is offered to our youth when they are a part of the ROP program as they develop and refine the skills necessary for independent living. Once transitioned into independent living, meetings with case managers and staff continue to be held to ensure they are stabilized and maintain housing.
Glenicia Welch, LMSW, Senior Case Manager, is one of the licensed social workers at Covenant House New Orleans.
She defines social work as “the commitment to compassionately help individuals of all various backgrounds overcome unique challenges.”
When asked how social work is different here than anywhere else she has worked, she replied, “Social Work is different here than anywhere I work because each department has its own social work with a specific set of skills to meet the needs of youth, also we have social workers and case managers that continuously work with youth that have progressed to transitional housing and beyond.” Glenicia discovered Covenant House in a way that was deeply personal to her after her friend became a resident here.
“Her parents both struggled with addiction. For a while, she was living with several family members that treated her very poorly. Our junior year she became a resident at Covenant House. She would always talk about all of the unconditional love and support she received from the staff. She eventually gained employment and housing through covenant house. She is now successfully living in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two children. Every time we talk she still references Covenant House as being a lifesaver for her. Witnessing her transformation with the life challenges she faced inspired me to become a social worker and was the driving force to work with the youth as a Case Manager at Covenant House.”
She believes the most challenging aspects of social work are the lack of respect and pay that can occur within the field. But, “having the opportunity to empower and compassionately provide services for the most vulnerable individuals that are often ostracized and treated poorly by society” is the most rewarding aspect of social work to her, and specifically, at Covenant House, nothing is more rewarding to her than witnessing the growth of our youth.
Special thanks to our Social Workers who positively influence our community!
- Ebonee C. Adams
- Corine Brown
- Cheryl Bowie
- Shelita Lomax
- Glenicia Welch
- Robert Wright
- Debra F. Henry
- Patricia R. Slan
- Ashley Toney
- Hosanna Burr
- Kennise Reed
- Cynthia Foots
This was written by Morgan Feustle, Spring 2022 Development and Communications Intern. For more information on the great work that our interns do, see here.