On the Case: Larimer County Caseworker Reflects on 20+ Years Supporting Families
November 30, 2022
Brandie Harnig grew up in northwest Kansas in a small town of 300 people. She had never heard of a degree in social work until she transferred to Illinois State University her junior year. She’d always been passionate about helping others, so it didn’t take her long to decide it was the right career path for her. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Brandie moved to Colorado and gained work experience through positions at the Comitis Crisis Center, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health and Denver County Human Services before becoming a child welfare caseworker.
“Working in residential treatment and then for social services gave me a great perspective on how to navigate various systems and serve the many different needs of families,” said Brandie. “Meeting with people receiving benefits and coming up with a case management plan to help connect them with jobs, housing and additional resources ultimately prepared me for my career as a caseworker.”
Brandie started as a generalist caseworker in Clear Creek County with a tight-knit group of colleagues and a supervisor she remembers fondly more than 20 years later. In 2008, after relocating to Firestone with her husband, Brandie joined the Larimer County Department of Human Services, initially in an hourly position while she raised her three children and appreciated a more flexible schedule. Eventually, she transitioned to a full-time position as an intake caseworker where she evaluates high-risk assessments, looks into concerns and gathers information to determine what types of services are needed for a family. More than 14 years later, Brandie still finds her role satisfying, interesting and challenging.
“I like intake work because I’ve always felt like I should’ve been in the FBI,” added Brandie. “I really enjoy digging into a case—researching, gathering information and putting the pieces together to ensure we’re looking at the full picture.” Brandie’s Larimer County supervisor, Katie Heckman, said that’s one of the attributes that makes her such a special caseworker. “Brandie is truly the most compassionate and thorough caseworker I have ever met,” said Katie. “When she gets an assessment, there is no stone left unturned. She spends hours upon hours researching history, understanding family dynamics and having conversations with family members to decipher what is happening.”
Recently, Brandie went above and beyond to connect a father who was struggling with alcoholism to resources and treatment.
“Even after she had secured safety for the children, Brandie visited this father at his home on several occasions and showed him that she truly cared about his health and wellbeing,” said Katie. “Since he entered his treatment program, he has been in contact with Brandie to keep her updated on his progress and thank her for her support—he even invited her to his graduation.”
Brandie is also passionate about trying to change the community’s perception of the child welfare system and how it supports families. “I try to encourage people to accept the help that’s here for them, while also helping them understand the process to alleviate their fears or
worries about our involvement.”
Brandie has remained in this profession for so many years in large part due to the supervisors and coworkers she’s had throughout her career. She’s learned how to take care of herself and set boundaries, while also continually leaning on her supervisors and coworkers for support when she needs it. She’s also developed strong and lasting relationships with the families she serves.
“I really enjoy making the connections that I do with families,” said Brandie. “Many people will reach out years later and ask questions, which demonstrates a great level of trust. I’m still in touch with someone from my caseload in Clear Creek in 1999.”