1995, if someone would have told me that in ten years I would have gone to graduate school for my
Master’s degree in Social Work, graduated, spent several years as a line worker and promoted to
supervisor, I probably would have been more than just slightly skeptical. Social work was
simply not on my radar screen at the time.
I was working at Child Support, trying to get a better job at GAIN as
an Employment Services Specialist. I didn’t really even know what a social worker did! It wasn’t until my supervisor
at GAIN asked me if I had ever thought about being a social worker since that was what I was already
doing with my GAIN participants that I even investigated the profession.
At the time, I did not know about the Cal-SWEC (California Social Work
Education) Program. I made an appointment with Gary Null, who was the Director of
CFS at the time, and
he said that as a long-term County employee, I would be a good candidate for the program. He explained
that the County would help me by giving me a reduced caseload and time off to do the MSW program, but
that I needed to be accepted into graduate school at either Cal State San Bernardino or Loma Linda
University. My responsibility was to “do good” in school and repay the County year-for-year with work
in the Department of Children and Family Services for the time I was in school.
Finishing my MSW took me a total of four years. I had to do a
year of makeup work since my undergraduate degree (Biology) was a little lacking in such classes as
Psychology and Sociology. However, once I started at Loma Linda, I really enjoyed my classes and
Since I have been at CFS, I have had the opportunity to
learn and try out many new things in addition to doing family reunification and family maintenance
with my clients. I was trained in forensic interviewing of children, spent some time in one of
the California Child Welfare Redesign Workgroups, and did my clinical hours and passed the tests for
my LCSW. I have been involved with the “Improving Quality System-wide Advisory Board” since its
inception in 2002 and co-chair since 2004. I promoted to supervisor at the Administrative
Resources Division in 2004 and now have had the opportunity to work on putting some of the Redesign
concepts into practice. I’m still learning new programs, this time Social Security and how it helps
our children and about how we administer our contracts with our service providers.
While I am no longer working “on the line”, my experience as a case-carrying social worker will
never leave me. It permeates everything I do and gives me the perspective I must have when I am
participating in the planning of new policy. The best part of being a social worker is knowing that I
was able to support my clients as they struggled with addictions and other challenges while trying to
complete their court-ordered case plans. Many of my clients were able to successfully leave their drug
use behind, reunify with their children and develop into productive members of society. I will never
forget them, and will never stop trying to make our system work better for all our families.