I remember being a child and having adults ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question was never followed by “a social worker within the child welfare system.” In fact, it was usually something with much more prestige, such as a doctor, lawyer, or the ever-popular princess.
When I started my career in child welfare in 2006, I was hired as a case manager in Ongoing Case Management. I never dreamed of the experiences and opportunities that awaited me here in Milwaukee within the child welfare system. I had very little experience but began the job jumping in with both feet. I was working with a mentor, as the position was titled then, and was given opportunities to shadow other case managers and take trainings to learn the position.
That mentor role has changed and developed a lot since that time and, in fact, was nonexistent for the past several years. The reality is that everything within the child welfare field changes pretty consistently to accommodate the development of new staff and to find a system that works best for staff to develop and do their job to the best of their ability. When I transitioned from a lead case manager to a mentor recently, it gave me the opportunity to enhance what I knew to be helpful as a new staff member. I believe the mentor position has given me the opportunity to go even a step above my former position and has been a catalyst for an overall positive change in our agency.
I believe this change to be for the greater good of SaintA, and it has also given me and the other mentors the opportunity to think outside of the box to train, support and professionally develop new staff. I think that I can speak for all the mentors when I say we all genuinely care about child welfare and wish to enhance people’s experiences in their careers at SaintA. We all remember what it was like to come to work on the first day in a new position and have some anxiety about what was to come in our career and specifically what the expectations are.
Our hope is to facilitate the transfer of learning from trainings into the field and to support new case managers in their critical thinking and development at our agency. This position gives the five mentors the opportunity to engage new workers in trainings to provide a solid safety knowledge base that they can build on throughout their career. After all, keeping children safe in our community is the main reason why we are working in child welfare and is essentially the epicenter of a case manager’s role.
The mentor role was newly recreated/redesigned, and there is always room for growth and further development. The hope is to offer overall support to the education of new staff and also to support current or more seasoned staff so that the support is continued throughout their career and offers a sense of team unity at SaintA. This should include facilitating communication across departments within SaintA so everyone works together for what is best for the children and families we serve on a daily basis.
My personal hope is to continue to spread a positive image in our community of SaintA and social workers, so that maybe there will be some child out there who answers the career question with “social worker” because they have witnessed the positive impact we can have on a child’s life. I think that this starts with having staff who feel supported and empowered to do great work in our community. Being able to educate new staff on the importance and impact of their role is an opportunity I have been given as a mentor. Hopefully we can all continue to spread that message through our roles and that the positive change in our agency turns into a positive change for our community.
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