On The Case: From Law Enforcement Officer to Lead Caseworker

January 12, 2023

Growing up in the San Luis Valley, Jade Cisneros witnessed her mother care for people in a nursing home and later as a case aide for the county, and vowed to never become a social worker. She wanted to take a different path for herself. Instead, she had dreams of becoming a law enforcement officer.

At age 18, Jade began working at a jail before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. After graduation, Jade returned home and took a job as a law enforcement officer in Antonito, Colo. After some time, Jade began to feel a calling to do more to help the people in her community. So, Jade changed careers in her early 20s and found herself in the job she never expected – as a caseworker for Alamosa County Department of Human Services.

“I am passionate about the work that I do because I have seen firsthand the impact it has on kids and families,” said Jade. “I’ve seen parents work hard to make changes that dramatically improve the lives of their children, and they tell me, ‘This is why you do your job!’ That is a very rewarding feeling.”

Jade has been a caseworker for two years, and her skills and dedication have earned her a promotion to lead ongoing caseworker. She will soon begin training to become a supervisor.

“Jade is a role model for others in her age group. She is committed to doing a good job and serving families. Those of us who work with her hold her in high regard,” said Catherine Salazar, director of the Alamosa County Department of Human Services. “We are seeking to hire additional caseworkers in our department and I wish I could clone Jade to fill those open positions.”

Jade’s favorite aspects of her job are helping families in her community and making connections – not just in her county but all across the state – that benefit the families with whom she works.

“I think there is a misconception about caseworkers that we make life worse for families,” said Jade. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. We are here to help families thrive and stay together, and I have found that my clients are often pleasantly surprised by the kindness and support they receive.”

Jade enjoys living and working in a rural community. She was drawn back to the San Luis Valley by her love for the farming community, and her love for a farmer - she married her high school sweetheart who works on his family’s farm in the area. She was also eager to apply what she learned in school to her small community. Most of the time, her criminal justice classes were focused on larger towns or urban environments and she was always asking how those practices would differ if applied in a rural community.

Jade recommends that everyone consider a job as a caseworker. “In addition to the satisfaction of helping families and the competitive pay, caseworkers are never sitting still. I’ve been able to see many different parts of Colorado and have even traveled outside of the state to stay connected with kids who are in kinship placements.”

The key to success in this role, Jade said, is to be open-minded and open-hearted. “Don’t become jaded.”

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