This Is A Custom Widget

This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.

This Is A Custom Widget

This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.
22 Mar, 2017

There’s No One Way To Be a Social Worker

By | 2017-03-22T15:23:14+00:00 March 22nd, 2017|Categories: Social Work|Tags: , , |0 Comments

March is Social Work Month, and today’s post was inspired by a comment left on the article “I am Getting in MSW, but I Do Not Want to be a ‘Social Worker‘” on the Social Work Helper. The comment reads:

“Although trained to think in a multi-systemic way, many of us choose to specialize. I do a great deal of mezzo and macro work; however, I chose to concentrate on clinical practice when completing my master’s in social work…Outside of our profession, there are some practitioners who do not understand what social work is. When I’ve testified on legislation and engaged in policy making, people assume I don’t have the skills necessary because I am not a lawyer or didn’t major in criminal justice. I can’t help but wonder then if this is why some social workers impose practice goals and assumptions on others (or upon students) as a part of assuaging the anxiety produced by how our profession–as a whole–is undervalued and misunderstood by society.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is one of the fastest growing careers in the United States. The profession is expected to grow by 19% between 2012 and 2022, and more than 650,000 people currently hold social work degrees. If you’re not in the profession, chances are you know someone who currently is or who currently studying to enter the field. And there are some common misconceptions about the field. The biggest misconception about social workers is that they only work with individuals and families, provide therapeutic counseling or link clients to programs and services via case management, or that our days only look like Mrs. Weiss’.

The foundation of social work rests on social justice, with social workers like Jane Addams in the late 1880s dedicating their career to taking action against the injustices of sexism, racism, classism and poverty, taking the approach of addressing these through research, reform, and building up urban areas.

And then professionalization happened 

In 1915, Dr. Abraham Flexner, an American educator known for his role in the reform of the higher education and medicine professions in the United States, stated that social work was not a real profession because it lacked specific application of theoretical knowledge to solving human issues, though he did give several back-handed compliments. He said:

I have made the point that all the established and recognized professions have definite and specific ends: medicine, law, architecture, engineering—one can draw a clear line of demarcation about their respective fields. This is not true of social work. It appears not so much a definite field as an aspect of work in many fields. An aspect of medicine belongs to social work, as do certain aspects of law, education, architecture, etc…The unselfish devotion of those who have chosen to give themselves to making the world a fitter place to live in can fill social work with the professional spirit and thus to some extent lift it above all the distinctions which I have been at such pains to make. In the long run, the first, main and indispensable criterion of a profession will be the possession of a professional spirit, and that test social work may, if it will, fully satisfy.

(He also believed that Black people were inferior and advocated for the closing of all but two historically Black medical schools, that Black doctors should only treat black patients and only serve in subservient roles to white physicians, and that Black people posed a greater health threat to upper middle class white people. But this is a conversation for another day).

As a result, the professionalization of social work began by concentrating on casework, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), research and in developing a formalized education structure, putting it in competition with the psychology and psychiatry professions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with professionalization, but this has led the social work profession down a rabbit hole of trying too hard to look legit in the eyes of other professions.

I get lots of emails and social media messages from professional social workers, social work students, and people interested in the profession on everything related to describing a day in the life of a social worker and what I wish I’d known before becoming a social worker. My answer is always the same:

There’s no one way to be a social worker. 

What you do in one day may look completely different tomorrow. What you do in your role in one agency may look completely different when you decide to move on to another agency. What you specialize in at the beginning of your career can lead you into exploring other avenues of the profession. In fact…

When burnout comes calling, pivot.

Your saving grace lies in recognizing when it’s time to make a shift in your social work career. How this will look for you is subjective. What looks like burnout may be a sign that you’re ready for something bigger. Never stay where you are. Get comfortable with exploring. Take a chance and apply for leadership positions. Channel your expertise into speaking opportunities. Or start a blog that shares your perspective on the profession and promote it on social media. My consulting business started as a blog that I did for the simple joy of sharing my perspective on the Reproductive Justice movement, feminism, and women and girls of color. My voice as a social worker and an evaluator came later. And speaking of consulting:

Think about starting a business.

“Going into business” usually translates to opening a private practice for social workers, and mostly clinical social work students receive this type of preparation. My social work graduate focus was on generalist practice, where I studied community organizing/building/advocacy, program design, and direct practice, evaluation and grant writing, but I was able to take a few classes in the program’s social enterprise administration where I gain insight in administration and management, financial management, and staff development and training. But most of what I learned about starting a business came from connecting with independent consultants who are members of the American Evaluation Association, and I also started following blogs from social work entrepreneurs like Eva Forde and Anneke Krakers. Handling contracts, on-boaring new clients, etc. came through trial and error, but my connections to AEA independent consultants helped me to find a process that works for me, far more than what the National Association of Social Workers provides. If nothing else, starting a business as a social worker gives you more control of your career (and money) through entrepreneurship, and it turns the image of a social worker on its head. 

Cultural awareness is just as important as child welfare.

During program orientation, my grad program held multiple discussions on cultural awareness and recognizing privilege, and tried to prepare us for being placed in nonprofits, agencies, and community organizations that work with communities that we’re not from. And someone in my foundations class complained about the fact that, in her view, the program placed more emphasis on cultural awareness than on child welfare and mandated reporting.

Most of the students she ended up working with were children in the foster care system, youth of color who lived in communities that didn’t have the same resources as children living in neighborhoods with more resources and a higher income bracket. 

Sometimes our lived experiences are shaped by our race, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, and those lived experiences can be compounded by what’s happening in our homes. You can’t separate them. 

Don’t tie your worth into these licensing exams…

Easier said that done, I know. Especially when employment is contingent on whether you have passed the social work licensing exam in your state or plan to take the exam during your employment probational period. I graduated from my program in 2010, and after attending this forum to hear about people’s struggles in passing the LMSW exam, I effectively delayed taking the exam until 2014. My day job didn’t require me to be licensed. I took the exam because I had been out of school for 4 years at that time, and I figured being licensed would show my commitment to the profession. The biggest frustration about the exam was that I wasn’t a clinical social worker, though I was working in a direct practice role. With the exception of a few questions related to administration and program evaluation, my exam was basically all clinical. Some states have a generalist practice license, but not all states recognize it, so I was pretty much stuck in which exam I was able to take. But I studied my butt off. Yes, these exams can make or break you getting hired (or, in some cases, fired), but the more people we have in  taking the Association of Social Work Boards to task on how these exams are designed, the better.

…and challenge these grad programs and the NASW to do better. 

Was my grad program the best graduate program for social work? Well, there were a lot of things I didn’t like about it. But one thing I’ll always be grateful for is the inclusion of a generalist practice focus. My program is one of the few social work programs in the country that offers this type of focus, though the majority of its enrolled students historically have chosen to the clinic route. Social work grad programs often say that they tailor their program offering based on their students’  perceived needs, and I feel that chapters of the NASW does the same. When it comes to social justice hot topics, I feel that the NASW is trying, but with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March, No Ban No Wall, and other social justice movements than are now operating under this new White House Administration, it’s more important than ever for the social work powers-that-be to recognize how the profession started. Developing professional development trainings on social justice principles, entrepreneurship, recognizing privilege and community organizing are just as important as clinical continuing education trainings. No matter what you specialize in, you’re always advocating. For your clients, the communities you serve, and for yourself.

RAISE YOUR VOICE:  In what ways can thinking beyond your specialization benefit you, both personally and professionally? Share below in the comments section. 

 

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4 Jan, 2017

Ask Nicole: Any Advice for Social Workers Leaving New York City?

By | 2017-01-04T14:12:17+00:00 January 4th, 2017|Categories: Ask Nicole, Social Work|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

If you have a question that you’d like to share with the Raise Your Voice community , contact me. 

Ebony, a social work graduate student, writes:

I just completed my first semester in [my social work graduate program] and I  have some questions which are not really being answered in my school. I’m not sure if it is because I am one of the few black women in [the program] or if the my advisor really does not have any answers for me.

I graduate in May of 2018 the the plan is for me to have my MSW along with a certification in child welfare. Shortly after graduation I plan to take the exam for me to get the LMSW. I really want to  get the LCSW because I eventually I would like to open up my own practice working with the youth and obtain my DSW. My dilemma is that I would like to relocate south to Georgia or Florida. I would like to move to a place where it does not snow and the cost of living is lower. I have been living in New York all my life. Do you have any tips or suggestions for me? I do not want to wait until the last minute of my graduate school career to have a concrete plan.

 

You may recall that I was asked a similar question by another student, only Ebony’s question is the opposite: leaving New York City to work elsewhere as a social worker. Here, I focus on what I felt was Ebony’s primary need: how preparing for the LMSW or LCSW exam (and transferring those scores and licensure) varies by state.

Many students wait until their second year (and sometimes the final semester) to think of the next steps in their social work path, so it’s great that Ebony is thinking about her trajectory while in her first year.

And yes, the cost of living in New York City is significantly higher compared to many southern cities, and that’s always been a major draw for many folks moving down south. While it provides lots of career opportunities, it can feel like a completely different world to a native New Yorker. As a Georgia native, it didn’t take long for me to adjust to life in New York, but many of my native New York City friends had to get used to the slower pace of southern life, even in major cities like Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami. That doesn’t mean the same will apply to Ebony (or to you if you’re planning to make a similar decision), but I just wanted to throw that out there.

(more…)

20 Jul, 2016

Ask Nicole: Any Advice for Social Workers Moving to New York City?

By | 2017-01-04T13:54:29+00:00 July 20th, 2016|Categories: Ask Nicole, Social Work|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Blog Post

If you have a question that you’d like to share with the Raise Your Voice community , contact me.

 

I recently got an email from Stephanie, a graduating social work student:

 

I stumbled upon your Instagram today and was pleased to see that you are a social worker who currently resides in New York City; I graduate with my MSW in August and plan on moving to New York City from Florida, thereafter.  Living and working in New York has always been a dream of mine. In preparation for graduation I’ve been doing some online job searching, but  most positions that offer a viable wage require that you are licensed. My passion is working with children, families and women.

What advice would you give to a new social worker looking to move to New York City who isn’t licensed and wishes to work with children and families or women?  Are there any specific agencies you would recommend applying to?

 

Stephanie’s question is interesting because it encompasses many factors, of which I’ve come up with several questions that I hope can guide Stephanie (and you) in thinking more about the next steps in living as a a social worker in New York City:

What is your ideal social work role?

This question can be answered based on where you are currently (education-wise) as a social worker. Do you plan to work as a micro level social worker, mezzo level social worker, or macro level social worker? Do you plan to work at one level for your entire social work career, or do you have expectations of moving up or blending different levels of social work? If you’re interested in working with women, youth, and families, what does that mean? Reproductive or maternal health? Crisis management and prevention? Substance use? Mental illness?

How are you looking for social work positions?

This question ties into the first question. Stephanie mentions women, children, and families as potential populations she wants to work with. In addition to identifying if you want to work at the micro, mezzo, or macro level, are you looking for counseling positions versus case management, teaching versus facilitating workshops, etc?.  I was able to land a case management position within 3 months of graduating, working directly with adults impacted by HIV/AIDS and homelessness. As social workers, we’re conditioned to look for positions that explicitly have “social worker” in the title when there are plenty of organizations and agencies that recommend having the skills of a social worker but it may not be mentioned in the position requirements. I had lots of experience in conducting workshops around youth engagement, sexual/reproductive health and justice, and the like prior to grad school, but felt that I needed something that mentioned “social work” or “case management” in the title. If you find a position that interests you but doesn’t mention “social worker”, highlight in your cover letter and interview how being a social worker lends itself well to that position. The MSW degree is one of the most flexible degrees out there, and the skills we learn can translate to a variety of roles.

What setting do you want to work in?

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15 Jun, 2016

“My Name is…, and I Represent…”

By | 2016-10-25T01:47:59+00:00 June 15th, 2016|Categories: Activism, Program Design & Evaluation, Social Work|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Blog Post

 

Does you voice matter less when you’re not part of an organization?

This became part of my consciousness back in 2012 when I attended the Strong Families Summit. I was invited to assist with Strong Families’ social media team to highlight the goals of the Initiative, the participants’ general feedback, and how the Initiative can move forward.

As attendees introduced themselves, they shared the basics (name, organization, preferred gender pronouns, and their intention for being present at the Summit), and as they shared the name of their organization, there were a few attendees that said:

“My name is [insert name], and I’m representing myself”   or

“I’m [insert name], and I work with [insert name of organization], but I’m speaking on behalf of myself”.

Of course, in discussions around issues pertaining to sexual health and reproductive justice, or any topic that may be controversial, it’s important to raise our own voices. It’s also important to be mindful that what we say may have an impact on whatever group or organization we’re representing.

When I was part of an organization as a front line social worker and direct service provider, my actions and interactions with clients either had a positive or negative effect not only my clients’ impression of me but also that of my organization. Now, as someone who runs her own business, I’ve been able to reflect on the fact that I’m fortunate enough to be representing myself apart from an agency or organization. I’m able to flow in and out of multiple spaces and can be a social worker, program designer, speaker, or program evaluator at any given time, and I can be known for one aspect or all aspects of what I do.

Knowing this, I’m also mindful in how I represent my business in person, through email, or on social media, can impact who wants to work with me as a client. We definitely see this in today’s political climate, sports, and entertainment industries where people quickly lose their endorsements and support.

But back to the original question:

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14 Jan, 2016

How to Manage the Growing Pains of Being an Expert

By | 2016-10-25T01:47:59+00:00 January 14th, 2016|Categories: Activism, Program Design & Evaluation, Social Work|Tags: , |2 Comments

 

At the 2015 American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference in Chicago, I attended a session called “Meet the Pros: Intermediate Consulting Skill-Building Self-Help Fair”. It was a 45-minute skills-building session that featured experienced independent evaluation consultants (including Norma Martinez-Rubin of Evaluation-Focused Consulting, Jessica Pugil of The Working Partner, Susan Wolfe of CNM Connect, Laura Keene of Keene Insights, and Stephanie Evergreen of Evergreen Data) who provided insights and advice on lessons-learned on managing a consulting business.

It was a can’t-miss session for me, so much so that I had to get up at 5am, leave my AirBnB near the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus at 5:45, grab breakfast around 6:15 and wait outside the session room by 6:30. Luckily for me, most people don’t show up for a 7am session, and I was the first one in line.

Set up in the style of speed dating, participants circulated to different topic areas (strategic planning for longevity, managing community dynamics, finding spaces to work outside of the home, how to select projects, and branding). Each facilitator also provided a useful handout that outlined their expertise and recommendations for managing a consulting business.

Compared to attending my first AEA conference in 2014, I strategically chose to attend sessions that centered mostly on independent consulting and business management, program design, and data visualization. I also chose sessions that were more skill-building focused as opposed to panels, listening to research findings, and the like. Starting a business can be rewarding and stressful. Not only are you putting yourself out there as an expert, you have to do everything that comes with managing a business (including paying yourself and employees, reviewing contracts, getting insurance, and the like).

For the longest, I felt more comfortable in my role as an activist, and then eventually a social worker. Given the beginnings of the profession, social work’s ethical principles are in alignment with being an activist. While program evaluation is a requirement in the social work profession, I sometimes look at the practice as being completely separate from social work (and this is in spite of studying it as a graduate social work student. I’ve written several blog posts on how I became a program evaluator and a reproductive justice social worker. It’s an ever-evolving process, and I still strategize on how to integrate my social justice side with my analytical side.

Whether you’re a social worker, evaluator, activist, or occupy another role, there will be times where you feel you don’t measure up. Attending all the sessions, reading all the books, and networking with all the people can’t erase those feelings that you may not know what you’re doing. In reality, you know exactly what you need to know at this moment. How can you leverage the skill sets you have, and managing those icky feelings that come up when you don’t feel as legit as you’d like? Those feelings are merely your inner critic, and that voice will come up no matter what you do. Here are some ways I’ve found to manage it: (more…)