March is National Social Work Month, which makes it the perfect time to spotlight the essential contributions that social workers make for vulnerable populations every day. SAFY thanks the professionals who lead the charge to Preserve Families and Secure Futures for children and older youth in foster care.
What Do Social Workers Do?
Social workers play a critical role in child welfare systems nationwide by protecting the well-being of children and youth and supporting families in need.
Social workers not only evaluate potential foster homes to make sure they are a safe fit for foster children, they also prepare prospective foster parents and families to help children heal from the trauma they have experienced so they can begin to thrive.
Helping Overcome Trauma
Social workers help find permanent homes for children and provide ongoing support to guide families through the fostering and adoption process. SAFY works with a network of social workers in different aspects of care and support.
Treatment Director Shermeka Hawthorne has been with SAFY of Alabama, in Montgomery, for nine years. After graduating with her Master of Social Work from the University of Alabama, she found SAFY through a friend and has been with us ever since. Driven by a desire to be of service to others, Shermeka focuses heavily on training parents on how to effectively care for a foster child, particularly those in therapeutic foster care.
Children in therapeutic foster care have dealt with some type of trauma and 95% of them have diagnosed mental health conditions.
New foster parents must learn how to parent a child they didn’t give birth to while understanding how to take care of a child and mold that child to be the best they can be despite their traumas and mental health conditions. Therapeutic foster parents must be licensed to provide care.
“I work with foster parents to help them maximize the parenting skills they already have and apply those skills to parent children who have been through a lot,” Shermeka said.
License to Care
In Alabama, traditional foster care parents must complete 30 hours of training with a state-mandated curriculum. For therapeutic foster parents, they must complete an additional 10 hours of training.
SAFY dictates what those additional 10 hours look like and Shermeka works with parents in pre-service training classes. She also helps organize monthly group training and support for therapeutic foster care where parents can learn valuable skills and share with other parents.
<H2> Focusing on the Good
Fostering can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, especially when navigating the difficult waters around children who have experienced trauma. It’s all worth it to hear how much a child enjoys being with a foster family or seeing the relationships with their fosters grow. “Those are the days I look forward to because, for me, I know something I shared in class or an interaction I had with that family made a difference,” said Shermeka. It’s even better to see a foster parent decide to adopt a child because of the strong connection that was able to be built using resources and support from social workers.
SAFY Celebrates Social Workers
Without our network of social workers, SAFY couldn’t provide foster care to over 13,000 children and families each year in Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, Ohio and South Carolina. For decades, social workers have worked tirelessly to build families, strengthen relationships and help children find permanent homes.
Social workers aren’t alone. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) provides education and programs to help enhance professional growth and development for the nation’s 680,000+ social workers.
For those looking to join the profession, Shermeka has this to say, “Assess yourself to see if you have what it takes to be successful. This is a high-stakes, fast-paced job and you’re dealing with children’s lives. Expect the unexpected. Anything can happen and no two days are the same. Foster parent adoptions are also the best, especially when the opportunity to adopt presented itself and that connection was made. Always keep those good moments in mind.”
We support the efforts and contributions of all social workers, especially those working in our own sectors. Thank you for your dedication to Preserving Families and Securing Futures!