March is National Social Work Month, and we can’t think of a group of professionals more deserving of recognition … especially the 123 licensed social workers who work for COA. The common denominator for this group is the desire to care for others … it is one of the “caring professions,” after all. But COA’s social workers all have their own unique experiences and paths that brought them to social work, and then to COA. We asked several of our own to share their experiences as social workers:
Deneen Glenn, ADRC Specialist
Years as a social worker: 25
Years at COA: This is my third “tour of duty” at COA. I worked for 6 ½ years my first go around; 5 years the second; and a little over 1 ½ years as of today. As they say, “third time’s a charm.” It’s time to sit still.
Other professional experience: Group facilitator for adults dually diagnosed with a mental health condition and chemical dependency
Why did you become a social worker? I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to college. I went to a vocational high school, where I trained to do office work. But I had some great people in my life who told me that going to college was a possibility. Once I settled into college, I found myself gravitating toward classes about human behavior and social policies. College is where I learned that there is actually a field of study that made sense to me in the way I was wired and motivated. I would have made a great secretary but I was supposed to be a social worker… no doubt.
Favorite things about the job: When someone talks to me, I want them to leave or hang up the phone feeling empowered and respected. I get the opportunity to do that every day as an ADRC specialist. It’s one of the favorite aspects of my job. I also work with an awesome group of motivated and productive individuals on my team, which makes for a great time and great days at work.
Other thoughts about your job? Not every call that I take or contribution that I make ends with accolades, but knowing that I’ve done my best feels rewarding and helps me prepare for my next call or my next assignment. I am one of the voices in the beginning that results in dignity and independence for the individuals we serve at the end. I feel good about that.
Bronwyn Julian, PASSPORT Care Manager
Years as a social worker: 22
Years at COA: 13
Other professional experience: Working in long-term care facilities
Why did you become a social worker? I have always been the “helper.” Whether it was my teachers in school, kids on the playground, or anyone trying to finish a project, I would interject myself to help them out. I honestly thought I would become a lawyer where I would be able to help the underdog win, over big corporations; however, as I investigated different professions, I was drawn to social work.
Why is social work rewarding? There are days when I have to assist with problems … however, each day I am able to find that sliver of happiness. It may be a call from an old client who is now in another program and they call just to let me know they are ok, but miss seeing me in their home… or it may be a family member who still has my phone number from years ago… and they will say how thankful they are for the past help.
Favorite things about the job: Getting to meet with individuals and their families and hearing their stories; helping other staff brainstorm different situations; and assisting with process development
One of the challenges of social work? Social workers really are the “handymen” of the health profession… in order to stay relevant we need to know a little about everything and every age group: children, teens, middle age, pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, housing options, medications, behavioral health… and more.
Bob Littmann, PASSPORT Supervisor
How long as a social worker: A long time…
How long at COA? A short time… (2 months)
Other professional experience: Working with children and families who are striving to improve their quality of life through youth development, residential service, emergency assistance, case management, employment support and adult education. I’ve also been involved in a community organization that positively impacted community drug and crime issues.
Why did you become a social worker? I am a baby boomer and took President Kennedy’s call to service to heart. I also come from a family that modeled service. In college, I was interested in public policy and ended up in the UC College of Community Services in Urban Affairs. One of my professors encouraged me to consider switching to social work.
Favorite things about the job: I’m still very new to the agency, and have learned many things about PASSPORT as well as other agency programs. I’m impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the COA staff as well as the agency’s comprehensive onboarding/training process.
Why do you find social work rewarding? As a social worker, I believe that change is possible for individuals, families and communities. Social workers utilize their clinical skills and evidence-based practice to support our clients to achieve their goals. It is very gratifying to see the joy of success when a client has overcome significant barriers to reach their goal.
How do you manage the challenges of social work? Social workers are exposed to a great deal of secondary trauma from the clients we serve. We need to practice self-care … and we all need to find at least one thing that will “recharge our battery” so we can continue our work. Playing music does that for me!
Karen Meere, FastTrack Home Hospital Care Manager
How long as a social worker: 26 years
How long at COA: 15 months
Other professional experiences: Youth specialist and supervisor with a foster care agency, working with children on inpatient and residential psychiatric units
Why did you become a social worker? Following high school, I actually did not have a solid plan. However, my mom knew that I enjoyed talking with, and helping others, and suggested I volunteer at a nursing facility during the summer. I did volunteer, in the kitchen, and found myself asking to serve the trays in the dining room because I wanted to have one-on-one interactions with the residents. My degree is actually in psychology, but I received my social work license in 1992.
Favorite things about the job: As a hospital care manager, my favorite things include interacting with patients and their families, when possible. I also enjoy working with a good team of people, both at COA and at the hospital, particularly when I know that colleagues respect my work and work ethic, and value me as an important asset to the team.
Why do you find social work rewarding? Social work can be particularly rewarding when positive change and growth are actually witnessed, or a client/patient lets me know, in their own genuine way, the benefits they have received from the social work/client relationship. Obviously, this does not always occur, but the realization that I have “planted many seeds,” and may never know the positive that my skills and therapeutic relationships have had on hundreds of individuals and families is also gratifying. I am humbled by the lives I have been able to touch, and take pride in my work.