Written by: Melanie Crumpler, LCSW at ABC Pediatrics

When we ordered the pictured t-shirts, the goal was to raise awareness and “kick-off” Social Work Awareness Month in March – plus, we thought they were cute.  In wearing the shirt, I got to thinking: why DID I become a Social Worker…

  • I BECAME a SOCIAL WORKER because I learned from my mom, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, my aunts and my great aunts that a little girl from Iowa (from ANYWHERE) CAN make a difference in the world!
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  • I BECAME a SOCIAL WORKER because I believe ALL children’s lives are worth protecting, and that ALL children have a story worth telling and a voice worth listening to.
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  • I BECAME a SOCIAL WORKER because I believe in social justice, and that ALL people have the right to be treated with respect regardless of their age, gender, race, culture, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.
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  • I BECAME a SOCIAL WORKER because I believe that helping others is a responsibility for each of us as well as being a tremendous blessing.
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  • I BECAME a SOCIAL WORKER because I believe NO life should be cut short or permanently damaged by abuse, neglect, trauma, bullying, pain and suffering, addiction, depression or anxiety.
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  • I BECAME a SOCIAL WORKER because I believe the BEST part of the “sentence” – the best part of our respective stories – comes AFTER the struggle…after the SEMI-COLON…and we ALL owe it to ourselves and others to see our story through to the natural end.
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  • I BECAME a SOCIAL WORKER because I believe in rainbows and unicorns, pixies and pixy dust, faith and hope. I ESPECIALLY believe in the magical healing power of LOVE and HUGS!
social work awareness month
We're rocking our T-Shirts for Social Work Awareness Month! Pictured is Autumn Karsko, LCSW-A and post author Melanie Crumpler, LCSW.

Let's continue shall we?

I have had the great pleasure of working as Social Worker since 1992 in a variety of settings and in three different states.  After taking my first Social Work class in 1989 (30 years ago), I vowed to NEVER take another Social Work class again; but God had another plan that unfolded clearly over the next 3 years of my education.  I am thankful every day that I followed HIS plan, rather than my own frustrated and impulsive reaction to a poorly taught course.  When most people think of “Social Workers,” the first association that they think of is Child Protection – that Social Workers are charged with investigating allegations of abuse and neglect and SOMETIMES with removing children from dangerous situations.  I don’t know ANY Social Worker who enjoys separating children from their family, but it is an important task that is necessary and difficult.  It is also not even close to the ONLY thing that Social Workers do.  In my career, here are some highlights of situations I’ve found myself in:

  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have sat up many nights in a Domestic Violence Shelter, holding the hands of female survivors who had the courage to leave their abuser; listened to their stories; brought them food, blankets and pillows; handed them tissues and helped dry their tears.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have worked with teen mothers and their children at various ages, helping them understand their child’s current developmental stage and how to speak their language.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have listened to the homeless, shook their hands when no one else would touch them, listened to their stories as they stood in line waiting to be served a Soup Kitchen meal before being turned back out onto the street where they fought to survive another day in the elements.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have danced and sung, played games, watched movies and celebrated grandly the small accomplishments (i.e. getting a State ID, a PO Box, a job) of homeless, adolescent women so that THEY would begin to see that it is the small steps that help them achieve each of their goals.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have walked parks and looked at every park bench in the middle of the night in inner-city Detroit, searching for a lost lamb who had become self-destructive and went on a crack-binge because nothing else eased her pain.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I worked with young girls growing up surrounded by gangs, drug abuse, and prostitution in a community where it was more common to drop out rather than to graduate from high school.  I met with these girls every week, comforted them when their homes were “shot up” in a drive-by-shooting; dried their tears when they recalled losing a mother to AIDS, a mother to cancer, a father to a gang-related shooting, a father to prison; encouraged them weekly to keep attending and progressing in school; motivated them to set goals for their future and to see their community as part of their past, present AND future.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have shed tears and attended funerals for women murdered by their partners, children killed by their parent or parent’s partner, peers harmed in the line-of-duty.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have met with countless children in the hospital where they received treatment for their cuts, their burns, their subdural hematomas…and after, when the “treatment for visible injuries” was completed, I have listened to the stories of the children and their caretakers as they shared their “invisible wounds”, hidden in their memories, so as to help them slowly heal and recover.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have witnessed, counted and photographed bruises, broken bones, whip marks left by an assortment of different tools, and documented the number of times children tried to cry for help through their misunderstood words and misinterpreted behavior.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have spent years picking up the pieces of CHILDREN’s lives suffering from the collateral damage caused by parental drug use and addiction. In a treatment system that gives addicts permission to “focus on yourself” in their fight for recovery, the DAILY damage done to children during parental addiction and during parental treatment is often unrecognized, their grief ignored, the gaps in their child development minimized and misunderstood.
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  • As a SOCIAL WORKER, I have colored, played games, dried tears, encouraged smiles, shared love, prompted hope, taught skills, advocated in court and within the educational system, corrected, confronted, praised and celebrated the beautiful gifts that EVERY CHILD holds within their small bodies and minds.
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During this SOCIAL WORK AWARENESS MONTH, I submit that EVERY Social Worker has their own story, their own experiences, and their own motivation for continuing their work.  Social Work is often a thankless job, performed behind the scenes, unglamorous and MESSY.  However, the rewards are beyond comprehension to most because they come in the form of smiles from previously hurt children, laughs that mimic rays of sunshine through the clouds of a storm, pictures drawn or colored with care and given with love, progress toward goals that are fought for harder than any child should have to fight.  The grandest reward is seeing children become adults who succeed in graduating, or those who simply make it another day, then week, then month, then year, and then YEARS after their semi-colon.   

HAPPY Social Work Awareness Month!

Why did I become a social worker? Reflecting during Social Work Awareness Month