Have you read about the About Children’s Corps page on our website and wondered what member support looks like? If so, then this post is for you. Keep reading for a reflection on a Children’s Corps Monthly Meeting and the support component of our program.
As a new social work intern at Fostering Change for Children, I was eager to attend the first Monthly Meeting of the year for the 2018 and 2019 Children’s Corps members. As someone who supports the program “behind the scenes”, it was a great opportunity for me to see first-hand the members’ experiences as new child welfare professionals. Members arrived at around 6pm, got a slice of pizza, and started catching up with each other. It was great to see how connected the members are. They seemed to know each other well and were so engaged in conversation that it was difficult for me to interrupt, even just to introduce myself. I sat and listened for the most part. I heard lots of talk about what’s going on in their agencies and how things differ for each of them. Members shared stories about things going on in their personal life and at work, and Children’s Corps Support Specialists provided coaching and mentoring. I loved everyone’s passion behind their conversation.
During this social time, which was about 20 minutes, members had a chance to record some of the challenges and surprises that they had experienced during their first month of being a caseworker in child welfare. What they wrote down on the posters around the room was used to guide the group discussion. Take a look at what they had to say:
- Getting comfortable with using CONNECTIONS, the child welfare computer system for documenting delivery of child welfare services to families and children
- Having grace with themselves and learning to be okay with not finishing your to-do list each day, and still being proud of the work you did complete, can be really hard and take a long time to do
- Finding the solutions to challenging situations
- Helping young people find their motivation to go to school and learn
- Engaging with parents and foster parents that struggle with being involved
- Experiencing conflict between parents and my supervisor
- Having difficulties working collaboratively with my supervisor
- The quality of email communication within my agency was great.
- Experiencing what it feels like to have only 5 cases out of the 8-10 that I will eventually have, figuring out how to manage their time accordingly
- How much power I have to make a difference in my agency and the lives of the children and families that I work with
- Not having what I think I need in order to perform my job as a caseworker
- Working with infants and young children can be difficult because the way they express their feelings can be hard to understand
Jac, our FCFC Program Coordinator of Training and Coaching, led an amazing discussion exploring what members wrote. As she went through the list, each member explained the reason behind what they wrote. Listening to what they had to say helped me to understand how invested Children’s Corps members are in their work with children and families. There was not a person in the group that didn’t express the desire to make a difference in the lives of the families they work with. It was nice to see their eagerness to learn and grow from the meeting, so that they can use the knowledge they gain to improve their work.
Jac facilitated the conversation so members could learn from each other. She put an emphasis on common challenges; this seemed to help members recognize that they are not alone and have the support of their cohort to face these together. Those that may not be encountering some of these challenges were already prepared for them after discussing them at the meeting. It was clear that Jac was trying to lead the group to think critically about about some techniques they can use to navigate these issues. Members were also able to point out the small successes they encountered. They shared stories of the relationships they had built with families and experiences of effective communication with their supervisors. I loved hearing how much members care about their work and feel as though they have the power to make a difference in their client’s lives.
I saw the importance of Monthly Meetings as a way to highlight prevalent topics among members so the FCFC staff can prepare discussion and training topics for the next monthly meeting. After the meeting ended, I left feeling like I could better understand the community that is Children’s Corps. It is so much more than teaching members how to be better caseworkers. It’s about allowing members to open up, learn from each other, and know that they are never alone. The Children’s Corps support prong creates a cohort of individuals who are passionate about their work in child welfare and provides them with the ability to gain the knowledge they need to set them up for success. Children’s Corps is a family I want to be a part of.
Raquel Barry is a social work intern at Fostering Change for Children, working closely with the Children’s Corps program. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at New York University.