My Social Work Journey, Part 2
Well, I’m sorry it’s taken over a month for me to write part 2 of this post! It has been a crazy holiday time and work time. We are working with 5 birth mothers at Embraced by Grace right now, more than the total amount we’ve been working with since I got there in September. Also our Colombian host children have come and gone (or are going right now?) And it has been an awesome time. Now. Back to me!
When we left off last time, I had decided to move down to Orlando on faith without a job or health insurance or too much money in savings, with a desire to work in child welfare and a belief that God would take care of me. I had gotten over my fear of not being able to emotionally handle social work and had a kind of vision of working with a bunch of other stressed but emotionally rewarded people advocating for children. I even researched places I could work and found this one place I liked called Kids Hope United that looked pretty great. I had tried applying to places before I moved but no one wanted to hire a non-local person. So I started applying to places when I got down there, with resume copies I printed out at the library or local work force center. After being in Orlando for one month, with my savings dwindling low, I got a job (despite my low level of experience) at Kids Hope United! And despite having applied for a ‘Family Case Manager’ position, the most entry level position available, I somehow ended up as an Adoptions Case Manager in the Adoptions Unit. God was at work.
I will sum up my 5 years of working at a state-contracted agency as a job with high highs and low lows, with constant stress and a need to build up boundaries. The adoption unit was somewhat protected from some problems that regular case managers experienced, but not completely. I still went on call at times, my time was not my own often (even on evenings and weekends) and I lived in fear of something going wrong, especially with the children I had grown to care about despite their often crazy antics. I decided I loved adoption and social work and applied to get my Masters Degree in Social Work part time while I was working full time. In retrospect, I don’t know if I would do it all again this way, but I survived in the end 🙂
In graduate school, I took classes at night and online, I had 2 internships (one as a family case manager and one as a therapist [where, by the way, I got to do school groups with children of divorced parents— just like I’d wanted to do when I first became a Christian!!]), went a little crazy, managed to learn to cope and keep friendships throughout anyway. I even grew and matured a lot and became more physically and emotionally healthy. I reached a level of mastery at my job that was still at times impacted by stress and a nagging desire to be able to work more with Christian families and be able to do more of God’s work, talk about him more to Christians and non-Christians and impress upon people the importance of (and God’s will for) adoption, particularly adoption of older children and/or children with special needs. I wrote many papers on adoption that never felt like a burden to write as they were based on a deep passion and desire to learn and work.
Around and after the time of my graduation, I was eager to move up or on with my skills. I applied for a job as the supervisor of my unit but the position was given to someone with supervisory experience but no adoption experience. I ended up teaching her a lot– and really appreciating her– in the last 2 months I was there. I was not too distraught over not getting the job, trusting a scripture I had read in Peter about getting “promoted [by God] at the right time.”
My church began a series on loving the world in action, and not just in words, and they focused a lot on sponsorship, foster care, and adoption. I actually was able to speak to my congregation about foster care adoption, which had been a burning desire in my heart for some time. I also started talking with my (now) boss from Embraced by Grace about their need for a social worker who could write home studies, and their desire to begin an adoptive family care and therapy center. Interviews (over coffee) went well, and I began work in September 2012 at Embraced by Grace, an answer to a prayer of my heart that I had never even asked God but had deeply desired: to work with God’s people in advancing his kingdom view of adoption.
I’m not sure if all of this communicates my awe in the work I get to do and the ways that God has worked in this adoption story and calling of mine. I have been able to do amazing things time and again, from having teenagers adopted, to having siblings adopted by families that were friends so they could mantain a relationship even though they had to be separated, to having one of my adopted teenagers become a Christian— and recently tell me he is going to college to become a foster care case manager himself. My heart has burned with joy, I have cried extensively, and have seen my prayers answered time and again. I have put my whole heart into this work, and have seen Ellen and her husband adopt, and supported them throughout (both rejoicing in their joy and cringing under their stress, and experiencing great joy when their adoption finalized recently.) I get to be involved in some of the most important work– and deliver joy to families– and experience a unique part of God’s heart. Hopefully you can see some of that here 🙂 I’m sure there’s even more to come… who knows where God will lead me next? All I know is that He has been faithful so far to work out all the details and make it an awesome and joyful journey.
For now, I leave you with a book recommendation: Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore. Ignore all the parts where he tells you to disregard the advice of social workers 🙂 But read everything else, I have particularly loved Chapter 3 over these holiday/vacation days about how Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father in many ways and our mandate as Christians to care for vulnerable children (which is really kind of all children!)
Happy New Year!!!