Kim Daulton graduated with a computer science degree. Ernest Elliott began college studying for an education major. Lauren DeAnna first focused on policy. Meanwhile Tyra Moore and Lucy Sgroi knew early on that social work was the field for them. CLC’s social work team comes from diverse backgrounds, but on one point they agree—social work is their calling.
CLC social workers partner with attorneys on the most clinically complex cases that CLC handles. They do everything from caregiver assessments to reviewing therapeutic plans and providing psychoeducation to parents and judges. (You can learn more about their work here).
Since March is Social Work Month, we sat down with our social work team to ask them a few questions, from how they knew they wanted to be social workers to what they value most about the work. You can “meet” the team below!
As far back as I can remember, I was that kiddo who wanted to know more about why people behaved the way that they did. I would think, “I know those people are substance abusers, but something probably happened to get them to that point.” What was it? I wanted to know the why and what we could do to deal with the underlying issues. I wanted to understand their world and to help them heal through it. That has been my intention as a social worker for the last 15 years. Specifically at CLC, I love the fact that systemic challenges are not holding us back. We work with a team that consistently encourages us to “go for it.” We are empowered to think big, asking: in a perfect world, what services would be MOST appropriate for this child? Then, we figure out the next steps to overcome the financial and systemic barriers. For me, social work is about the experience of curiosity, cultural humility, mutual values and most of all, a client-centered approach. I’ve seen this social work project grow over the last eight years and am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.
I started doing my first education internship and realized I couldn’t be a teacher because I focused on the one kid who needed the most help and the most work—and as a teacher you need to focus on the entire class. That’s how I knew it was time to change majors. For me, social work is all about dignity for the clients you work with. It’s also about going into the community to work with them in a more formalized way and giving back. I read somewhere that many black children don’t have a black male teacher before the fourth grade. I think it’s important to have a positive role model, a black man, who shows men in a positive light for these kids. That alone can teach a valuable lesson—it shows children that they matter, that they are heard, that they can make their own future no matter what their background. I appreciate this work and what we can do here.
I actually had more of a policy background than anything else. I thought of going to policy school and was weeks away from it, but I realized that social work—where the focus is on working with and empowering individuals and their communities in order to affect change—was what I wanted to do. It felt like what I had been looking for. Social work is very much community and strength-based work, which is what I believe in. A lot of my work at CLC is with teens with a range of complex trauma issues and presentations. My work includes figuring out how to help stabilize them and how to build support for them. In many cases when we meet our clients, they are used to being talked about, not with. We must consider what they need, clinically, and focus on what we know as social workers, but also make them feel heard and part of their own narrative. At CLC, we have the ability to not just check the boxes—we get to take the time to see what’s often missed, and to then form a plan with ALL of the information. Social justice is such a critical part of our work, and I love that it’s embedded in our code of ethics and everything we do.
Even as a child, I was drawn to helping others. I was the kid in middle school who was aware of who came from a different background than me and was attuned to how it may be impacting them, whether it was due to their socio-economic background, family dynamics, or immigration status, and I wanted to be someone who could help them. I would stay behind after class to work with some of the kids who did not have the vital support systems at home or in the community that I had the privilege of having. That translated into my desire to go to social work school. My social work career started in working with adults who were incarcerated, but I realized I wanted to be able to intervene with individuals earlier in their lives. What I love about our work at CLC is that we have the ability to push. We can say “this is what this child deserves, this is how they will thrive,” and then hold people in the child’s life to those standards. We’re also fighting for people to see kids as kids, not as cases. At the crux of social work is that we view relationships as growth opportunities and as a way to make positive change happen. I truly believe in that.
I majored in computer science and graduated with a computer science degree, but I also did a lot of volunteer service in college. As I finished school, I committed a year of service to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I moved to the south side of Atlanta and worked with emergency services for homeless adults. During that time, we were asked to embrace four values: simple living, social justice, spirituality and community. It challenged me to examine how I live my life – are my every day actions a force for good? In a way I chose social work, but social work also chose me. I am passionate about the profession’s values. The roots of the profession are based in seeking social justice, the need to address systemic oppression and inequality and how we can empower those in the community to make change happen—change that community members want to see, not necessarily what we think are the priorities. It’s about not just wanting to put a Band-Aid on the problem—it’s empowering people to access the tools they need to help solve these problems in the long-term. At CLC, I am afforded the opportunity to challenge systems in the best interests of clients to ensure their needs are “best” met, not just simply met.