ICS Social Workers Talk About Their Work
Social workers have an extraordinarily tough job, yet most will tell you that they have one of the best jobs in the world. They meet with people during their toughest times, when they’re feeling low, sad, and sometimes hopeless—and they help them find solutions to their problems and to see light at the end of the tunnel. They’re a listening ear when people need to talk about difficult topics—and they provide individuals with real, meaningful, life-changing support that they may not be able to get elsewhere. Social workers are expected to be wise and caring, but also firm and practical—and they ARE just that, because of their training, their experience, and their passion for what they do.
This is National Social Work Month, a time to recognize the enormous contributions that social workers make all around the world, including here at ICS. Our social workers are hard-working, smart and compassionate, and they support our members in more ways than I can count. On behalf of ICS organization, I thank them sincerely for their contributions.
To celebrate this month, we asked three ICS staff members to share their ideas about what being a social worker means to them. Read their stories below. We also invite other ICS social workers to share their thoughts on what it means to them to be a social worker in the comments section below.
ICS Social Worker since September 2014
When I was a kid, I was always an informal social worker for friends and neighbors. They would come to me when they needed help with utility bills they found confusing, or if they had language barrier issues. I’ve always enjoyed helping people and knew that I wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference to people. I considered school counselling and being a dietician, but eventually decided to opt for the broader field of family counseling.
After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree from Queens College-CUNY, I found a position working in the same building as ICS but at a different agency another floor! My job was to support public assistance (welfare) recipients while they were looking for work and, while it was quite an interesting position, the compensation was underwhelming, to say the least, and I wanted to expand my skills and professional opportunities.
After weighing all my options, I quit my job and enrolled in an accelerated Master of Social Work-clinical program at Touro College Graduate School of Social Work. For an exhausting 16 months I studied, attended classes and did internships from 8 am to 10 pm almost every day. It was grueling, but I knew that it would be worth it in the end. And it was—I got good grades and graduated on the Dean’s list, something I felt very proud of.
Now I’m in the process of studying for my social work license exam. As those of you who have completed it already know, it’s hard work. But I’m not going to give up—my goal is to become licensed and I will keep studying until I get there.
Being a social worker at ICS is incredibly rewarding. Each day I feel as though I’ve truly helped someone, and often I’ll have members thank me when I call them. Many don’t have families—or have family members that they don’t hear from often—and they are grateful that I remember them each month. The connections that I make with our members are real, and those connections remind me each day why I do what I do.
ICS Social Worker since September 2014
A career in social work is fundamentally a vocation of true meaning. It is one of the few careers where you have the privilege of being able to work really closely with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, to build on their strengths, and truly make a contribution to and improvement in their lives. My first experiences of how social workers truly have the opportunity to help came during my public health and social work studies at Hunter College. During this time I interned at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Turning Point for Women and Families, faith-based organizations such as Aga Khan Development Network, and New Destiny Housing. From all of these experiences I gained many practical skills—it was an enriching time.
In September 2015, I completed my first year at Independence Care System, somewhere that I feel very proud to work. I admire the mission of ICS to support people living with disabilities. Gerontology and supporting people with disabilities is something close to my heart for many reasons—one of which is my desire to support my grandparents, who raised me when I was young. When my grandparents started getting older, learning to be their caretaker and advocate influenced my decision to pursue social work studies. I know first-hand what a difference real support and effective advocacy can make to a person’s life.
As a social worker, it is the people around me that make my job interactive, challenging and rewarding. I am always learning and growing from others and my experiences. My favorite aspect of social work at ICS in particular is the interdisciplinary collaboration between members and colleagues. Before members are referred to us, many of these individuals (and their families) have dealt with the physical, emotional and social stresses of caregiving. When I have the opportunity to work as their care manager, it can be challenging putting in place interventions and setting multiple goals for improved wellness. But with the coordinated care system framework that we have in place, and by working with my colleagues and team members, we can make great strides even when faced with complicated situations.
I feel a great sense of achievement as a social worker here at ICS. It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together. I hope my peers also recognize and celebrate their own achievements this month. Happy Social Work Month, dear colleagues!
ICS Social Worker since January 2013
This year the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), while recognizing the work of social worker Frances Perkins, commemorates Social Work month under the theme Forging Solutions out of Challenges.
Perkins, born in Boston, was Secretary of Labor and cabinet member in President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, a position she retained for 12 years. She was one of the first women to hold a cabinet position in the United States and to enter the presidential line of succession. She also played a key role in the New Deal Legislation.
Perkins was already actively involved in social service, working at the New York Consumer League, where she lobbied for better hours and working conditions, and volunteered at Chicago Commons and Hull House (settlement houses providing social and educational opportunity for working class people). However, her pivotal moment occurred in 1911, when she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a tragedy that killed approximately 146 people—most of whom were young women and immigrants. Francis worked to prevent further tragedy in the city’s factories, and in the aftermath her work resulted in the most comprehensive set of laws governing workplace health and safety. She was a true pioneer who advocated for others in ways that no one ever had before. Her voice, which represented so many, was heard loud and clear.
At ICS, where we work with seniors and adults with disabilities, we are all continuing the work of Frances Perkins when we advocate for our members, help their voices to be heard and—of course—when we forge solutions out of challenges. As a social worker I am proud to know that I am making a difference to others by providing them with practical and emotional support, and helping them to live independently and happily in their communities. Happy Social Work Month to all of our social workers!