Monday, March 30, 2015

One Social Worker's Path

To end our series highlighting social workers, Rita Friga, a social worker at Children's Aid Society, shares her path to becoming the social worker she is today. 

When I decided to become a social worker, I thought I knew where my focus would be. I had no idea that fate would step in and alter it. After my first job in my field of specialty of Employee Assistance (EAP), my course changed and I became an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. As it happens, it was exactly where I was meant to be. 

Through a series of changes and luck, I find myself advocating for children in the child welfare system who are victims of abuse. I also often become an advocate for the parents, who have a high probability of being abuse victims themselves.

Working with trauma victims has been happening for a long time. However, studies showing the impact of trauma on child development are relatively new, along with skilled instruction in helping victims heal from trauma. This is the basis of Trauma Informed Care, a practice embraced by Children’s Aid Society.

To be successful advocates, the best chance of helping our victims is to provide trauma informed services. This is relatively new approach and is in high demand.

Often we head to school, thinking we know where we want to focus. As I did, many social workers end up following a different course through choice or accident. I encourage new social workers to take a look at the area of Trauma Informed Care. 

What I’ve learned about childhood trauma’s impact on society is astounding! To learn more about it, review the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) at You can even get your own ACE score.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Intern's Perspective

In honor of Social Worker’s Month, Children’s Aid Society is posting articles written from the perspectives of social workers at different points in their career. Meet Caleigh Alevy, a social work student at the University of Alabama. Caleigh is an intern with the Project Independence Program at Children’s Aid Society. Read what she is learning about social work while serving clients at CAS.

Caleigh Alevy, Intern
My education, both on campus and online, has been helpful in preparing me for my internship. Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families has especially helped me in working with my clients in Project Independence. My top two priorities when counseling my clients have been to meet my clients “where they are at” and to “help them help themselves”.

My internship is teaching me dynamics that can only be learned with face-to-face training and experience. The time that my supervisor takes to review what is expected of me, what needs improvement, and what has been achieved is providing me with the desired education for a social work career. Receiving an A in my classes is one achievement, but working one-on-one with my clients and my supervisor is teaching me how to be the best social worker that I can be. While I still have a lot to learn, I am being given tools for optimal growth in serving clients and society, as well as working with colleagues and supervisors.

The most surprising thing I’ve learned from working in Project Independence is how cyclical the (teen pregnancy and homelessness) epidemic is. Most clients report being brought up primarily by a grandparent. Our clients come to us pregnant or as young moms that are now homeless because their parent or grandparent can no longer support them. These young moms want an opportunity to improve their lives and their children’s lives. Many times their role models during childhood did not set a good example or stable environment which plays a role in their resistance to change. This makes the work that we do more challenging. Our clients need strong, patient mentors who believe in them and encourage them to make strides toward successful, independent lifestyles. Project Independence prioritizes education and job training for the young moms. Attending a parenting class is also a requirement. The hope is that after 18 months, the client will be able to support herself and her child and move forward confidently in life. Their life experience makes it a challenge to help them overcome negative habits over the course of the 18 month program. Our goal is to help our clients know that with hard work, they CAN succeed in their efforts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Retirement, Diane!

On Friday, March 20, 2015, we say Happy Retirement to one of our most beloved social workers at Children’s Aid Society (CAS). Diane Daffron is our current Chief Operations Officer whose service at Children’s Aid began in 1981. In her thirty-four years with us, she has exemplified what it means to have the heart of a social worker. Our staff has many kind words to share about what Diane means to CAS and to them personally.

"Diane has been the heart and soul of Children's Aid Society. Her passion and dedication will be missed by the staff, the clients, and the community in which she was so involved. Diane always treats everyone with respect, whether they are clients or staff. She always encourages, supports and guides her staff."
Audrey Derevenko, LCSW
Adoption Support Program Coordinator

"What I admire most about Diane is her ability to make staff feel so important and loved. She values staff, their families, and children and has been so supportive of our personal lives, as well as professional. She would do anything for us and always shows us just how much she cares about us. She has taught me what is truly important in life and I am forever grateful."
Karla Lawrence, LPC
Director of Clinical Operations

"Although I am not a Social Worker, Diane has told me many times that I have the heart of one. She always encourages me by being in the trenches with me and not just telling me “what to do.” Her best advice has been to “never ask staff to do anything I won’t do myself. “ This is what live by daily when working with my team members. Diane is CAS…and she sincerely cares for “all” clients and staff. The history and stories she tells about her experience motivates you do go beyond the call of duty when doing your job. As my eyes well up with tears… I will miss her always saying good morning…her always asking how I am doing and how my family is doing…her smile…her advice…I will miss DIANE!!!!!"
Nikki Oakes Freeman
Independent Living Program Coordinator

"I’ll miss her objectivity. I can take ANY scenario to Diane, whether it is client or agency related, and she can always provide insight. And, she does it in a very empowering way. Rather than telling me what to do, she helps me to frame these scenarios within the context of social work ethics and best client practices. I, therefore, come out of each meeting having both a solution to my issue and better skills to make future decisions. Many people can solve others’ problems for them but, it takes a dedicated and patient person to teach someone to make comprehensive and fair decisions. She is also an endless source of knowledge about referrals for clients and staff, for everything from utility assistance to housing to counseling to grant partnerships. At any point, I can ask her about a proposed program or intervention, and she can tell me if CAS has done it and when, and if not, who in the community has done it and when. My coworkers and I often joke about wishing we could just “download” her wealth of knowledge to a computer, as she has so much to ever impart to any one other person!"
Catherine Alexander, LGSW
Director of Agency Initiatives/PQI

"I would describe Diane’s work at CAS and with clients as “all in.” Simply put she puts in 100%, from accompanying me and the Project Independence clients on road trips, to making midnight runs to the apartments to defuse problematic situations. She often works with our foster youth at camps and will take on cleaning up, mopping and other janitorial duties, and even has slept in the lodges when she couldn’t make it home. She truly has the mindset of “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do” and that’s what I will miss the most about her, along with her caring spirit of course."
Erika J. Williams, LGSW
Program Coordinator

"Diane is a consummate social worker and wears many hats but remains loyal to her roots of service and caring."
Kathy Hummel, MSW, LCSW, PIP
APAC Regional Coordinator

"Watching Diane’s energy and enthusiasm all day and into the night with the children at Camp APAC never ceases to inspire and amaze me. She is always smiling and supportive of all, whether at breakfast early in the day or at the evening activities! She made a difference in the lives of many children and all of our staff."
Debra Hawk Finley, LCSW, PIP
APAC Program Director

"I can always count on Diane to have my back. She has been my biggest supporter and advocate. She treats everyone with fairness and respect. Not only does that make her a great co-worker, but also a great social worker. She is also a person of great faith, and I will really miss our Monday morning sermon reviews. Best wishes in your retirement Diane, and God bless!"
Denise Cone
Vice-President of Human Resources
Our CEO sums it up when she says "Diane has the heart, mind, and soul of a social worker. She exemplifies what a good social worker says, does, and is. The social work profession is fortunate to have her as a member, just as Children’s Aid Society has been fortunate to have Diane as a long-time devoted staff member."
Gayle Watts, LCSW
Chief Operating Officer
Best Wishes, will be missed!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Honoring Social Worker's Month - March 2015

As an employee of social service organization, I would like to say thank you to the social workers and counselors that represent Children's Aid Society around the state.  Thank you for the countless hours of hard work and dedication to the clients and families that you serve each and every day. I hear stories from colleagues who are out there daily in the trenches. It is hard work that may feel like it goes unseen, but you give our clients a voice. You are advocating for them and helping them see that they can succeed. You are giving them the resources to make life changes, and from small seeds grow mighty trees. You are planting the seeds of strong and stable families in Alabama. Thank you for what you do each and every day serving children and families across the state!

In honor of Social Worker’s Month, Children’s Aid Society will post articles written from the perspectives of social workers at different points in their career. We hope you enjoy learning more about the differences they are making in our community.