Social Workers are essential: Meet DezJanay
March 9, 2021
When you think about essential workers, you may think about health care workers, grocery store staff and first responders. If social workers don’t come to mind - take a mental note and add them to the list.
March is Social Work Appreciation Month. Social workers protect vulnerable people and provide them with support while working to solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. They are essential and deserve recognition throughout the year.
Making the important decision to become a social caseworker
DezJanay Collier is a Social Caseworker in the Child, Adult and Family Services Division in the City and County of Broomfield. After earning her Bachelor of Psychology degree at Colorado State University, DezJanay began working at the Turning Point Center, a multi-service agency dedicated to turning lives around for youth needing substance abuse treatment. She later moved on to the Adams Youth Services Center (AYSC) where she worked directly with youth.
It was in Dezjanay’s role at AYSC that she became more concerned with the intervention process for youth. “Hearing about what the youth had witnessed and experienced in life - I started to question how life could have ended up differently for them. I began to think about how there needed to be earlier intervention - if no one is there to intervene and protect these youth in a timely manner, how can they avoid entering the juvenile justice system?” said DezJanay. This was the start to her journey in becoming a social caseworker.
Communities play an important role in helping to prevent child abuse
If you ask DezJanay, the most important thing that community members can do to help caseworkers is to not be afraid to report concerns of child abuse and neglect. “If you have a concern about a child or family, make the call. We have avenues other than removing a child from their family - there are many resources and services available for families while keeping them together,” expressed DezJanay.
Sometimes, a family may need a little help. But family is family and the goal is to keep families together. Now employed with the City and County of Broomfield, DezJanay works with family court-involved cases in her department. Her role really depends on the referral type and safety concerns.
The ultimate goal for DezJanay and the families that she works with is to ensure that children are in a safe, stable, nurturing family to build relationships that are intended to last for a lifetime. For many children and youth, that is at home with their biological family and for others, it may not be.
Self-care for social workers working in the pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world by surprise in 2020, many professionals began a new norm of working from home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. In order to ensure the safety and well-being of Colorado’s children and families, social caseworkers like DezJanay continued to make house visits.
On DezJanay’s team, they implemented safety measures to help minimize exposure to the virus such as setting a goal to keep home visits with families at a maximum of 15 minutes. She admitted to having moments where she struggled with putting herself at risk of the virus – explaining that a lot of the time social workers are put in vulnerable situations as they rely on families to be honest about having symptoms or exposure to the virus.
DezJanay also described the impact of the pandemic on social work as being tough but also managed to find the good. “Engagement has improved in some ways. More parents have been more engaged with virtual visits – possibly because the tough conversations feel different virtually,” said DezJanay.
To take care of herself while working in such an essential role during the pandemic, DezJanay says it is important for her to take a step back and do the things that she enjoys. “Without that, it is really easy to work all the time or think about work all the time. I am conscious about not working when I am off work because it is really easy to get burned out in this field,” said Dezjanay. She also described being able to rely on her team as being really helpful, saying that, “just knowing that they are there is helpful. There is no set formula in our work as we have to evaluate things on a case-by-case basis. Having a supportive and reliable team can make all of the difference in the work that we do – my team gets that.”
Do you know a caseworker that would appreciate being highlighted for their contribution to Colorado children and families? Contact email@example.com