Have we mentioned how much we love the people who tackle social issues daily, in spite of the many challenges they face? We do, we love you!
In October, we introduced you to two new members of the H.O.M.E. family, Sam and Laura, who are graduate level interns from the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration.
During National Social Work Month, we caught up with one of our social work interns to hear what she is learning and the challenges she sees. Here is what Laura had to tell us:
- Why did you choose to pursue an advanced degree in social work?
I wanted a career where I could interact with people in a way that incorporated their whole being—mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. Previously I worked in the sustainability sector and felt I needed more interpersonal relationships and human connection. A master’s in social work seemed like the best option because it was very open-ended and allowed me to pursue either clinical or policy work with the same degree.
- What has been your most memorable moment working with H.O.M.E. clients thus far?
It was really powerful for me to observe and help Jean become a new member of the Pat Crowley House. Working with Caren [H.O.M.E.'s Housing Coordinator], I got to see the whole process of initial assessment, move-in, transition, and now the maintenance phase as Jean works to become more comfortable in her new surroundings. I have loved seeing how the community has accepted her into their home, and how she has grown throughout the process.
- What has been the most challenging part of working with seniors so far?
Sometimes it can be a challenge to know if residents need additional support and if so, how much. Personally, I am interested in mental health therapy, but for many of the residents talking about their emotional and mental challenges is too personal, or something they might look down upon. It’s a skill to build relationships so that the residents feel comfortable opening up and coming to me when something troubling is on their mind.
- What would you like others to know about what social work in the aging field is like?
Working with older adults has opened my eyes to the specific needs and challenges older adults face. For example, presenters often come in and talk about events around the city or ways to access information through the internet. They may not be thinking about the fact that transportation can be difficult or that the internet isn’t second nature for many older adults. In my experience, a lot of older adults (particularly those with lower or fixed incomes) don’t have enough support to navigate the services they need. It’s necessary to understand the extent of these challenges if you want to be effective with older adults.
- What one tip would you offer to students considering social work as a career or course of study?
If you are interested in working in a clinical setting, make sure you are committed to self-awareness and self-reflection. There is no way we can expect to help others if we aren’t first willing to look into our own challenges and difficulties.
The National Association of Social Workers said this of social workers on their blog:
Social workers contribute at all levels of society, working with individuals, families, schools, universities, non-profit agencies, corporations, hospitals, and government offices to mediate conflict, foster positive relationships and create hope and opportunity for people in need.
We are lucky to work with many of these gifted people every day, and thank them for all the work they do for our seniors. If you are inspired by their work and want to do your part, check out the many ways you can volunteer with H.O.M.E.