On the Case: A Strong Advocate for Teens and Youth in Denver

Foster family

Jocelyn Wright has always been interested in working with children. After graduating from Auburn University at Montgomery, she started her career in Alabama working in social services at a domestic violence shelter. This experience as a case manager supporting kids coming from homes where domestic violence and abuse occurred ignited her passion for child advocacy. Jocelyn’s work also translated to advocating for her son in her personal life.

“My wife and I have a 14-year-old son who wasn’t getting the right education and support for his behavioral needs at the time,” said Jocelyn. “I advocated all the way up to the state level to get him what he needed.”

Ultimately, Jocelyn and her family decided to relocate to Colorado, where Jocelyn started her role as an Intake Caseworker in Child Welfare at Denver County Department of Human Services in June 2020. In her role, Jocelyn works with kids of all ages, but her passion lies in supporting teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. This involves working with the Denver courts to identify placement and services for these youth, including foster or kinship placements or residential treatment programs.

“I know these kids are our future—they’re our next senators, entrepreneurs and business owners,” said Jocelyn. “I’m a big advocate for looking at the least restrictive options for these youth. What resources and supports can we implement in the home with the parents so they can be successful?”

Being raised in a close-knit family in Alabama, Jocelyn’s mom instilled in her that it truly takes a village to raise a child. “I go into every referral with that mindset,” she said.

It’s also important to Jocelyn to relate to the families with whom she’s working to help gain their trust and to let them know she’s there to provide them with resources and support.

“When I’m working with a family, I tell them that I’m not only a caseworker, but also a mom. In fact, I’m a Black mom,” said Jocelyn. “I understand. I have a teenager who’s defiant as well. None of us have parenting manuals. I just try to be human and let them know that I’m not here to talk down to them or criticize their parenting. I’m here to support them.”

“Jocelyn is a strong advocate who is willing to stand up for children and families; best interests. She can build connections with Denver youth in a short time frame to assess for their safety and wellbeing, ensuring that youth voices are included in planning and decision making for their future,” said Anna Vavruska, Jocelyn’s supervisor at Denver County Department of Human Services. “It should also be noted that Jocelyn has demonstrated an ability to work with diverse clients and families. Through her authentic empathy and listening skills, she has been able to engage several families where other caseworkers or agencies have struggled in the past.”

Jocelyn appreciates the flexibility of the job—she’s able to take her son to school in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon—as well as the wraparound support she receives from her supervisor and colleagues. But most of all, Jocelyn appreciates the texts she gets from families who thank her for showing up on their doorstep.

“To not get a referral back from a family because I hear how well the kids are doing is a win for me,” said Jocelyn. “Especially when it’s the families who recognize that while the intervention may not have been wanted originally, it was needed.”

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