On the Case: Serving the Whole Person in Teller County
September 2, 2021
As an undergraduate at University of Colorado-Denver, Gabrielle Engelmann, who goes by Gabbie, was headed toward a pre-med degree when she realized she was more interested in helping the whole person rather than just the physical body. She quickly shifted her focus to social work. After graduating, Gabbie moved to Chicago to pursue a master’s degree in social work. Living in Chicago gave her many opportunities to explore different avenues within social work — from working at the Cook County Jail, connecting inmates who were about to be discharged with local services, to helping patients in group and individual therapy at the Hazelden Betty Ford drug and alcohol treatment center.
While completing her master’s degree, Gabbie realized the work she enjoyed most was connecting people to resources in their local communities. Through this kind of concrete support, her clients were able to make real and lasting change in their lives. Casework was a natural fit for Gabbie but she realized a big city wasn’t for her and she looked beyond Chicago.
Growing up as a military kid, Gabbie lived in a lot of different places. One place her family often vacationed was Woodland Park, Colo. when her dad was stationed in Colorado Springs. She had great memories from her time in Woodland Park so when she saw an opening with Teller County Human Services, Gabbie jumped at the chance. She was eager to take a new path and work with a population of people she had never worked with before. Gabbie joined the Teller County Department of Human Services as a caseworker a year ago and has found broad support among her colleagues and supervisors during that time.
As a caseworker, Gabbie is aware that the department of human services has a difficult history. Even in the best of circumstances, involvement in the system can be a traumatic process for families. That’s why Gabbie is focused on strength-centered work to empower the families with whom she works.
“I love using previous experience to bring new and creative strategies to work,” shared Gabbie. “Using techniques like motivational interviewing, I know I can have a personal impact on the lives of families in Teller County by helping my clients realize their ability to make positive changes in their own lives.”
The first interaction Gabbie has with a family is often the most difficult. While she may not feel “welcome” in the beginning, she works hard to build trust and, in the end, often feels like she is a part of the family. From food banks and mental health counseling to summer camps and parenting classes, Gabbie’s priority is finding and connecting families to resources they need but might not have known were available.
“I love working with this community and with the team at DHS. Working in a smaller town, we have a real community-based focus and a feeling like we’re all in this together,” said Gabbie. “Plus, I am well compensated and even have access to continuing education.”