March is Social Worker Appreciation Month, a time to celebrate the commitment of our team members credentialed in the field of social work. We’re honored to learn more about their career trajectory and recognize their impact on the lives of those in their care:

1. What lead you to the field of social work?

I entered the field of social work after a brief detour into the world of speech pathology. I always knew I wanted to help people, and once I had a glimpse into all social workers do, I was hooked.

2. What is your favorite memory with CHS?

Since joining CHS in June 2020, I’ve had a great experience, but a unique one too. It’s been an interesting ride navigating my first role during a pandemic, but it’s been inspiring, too. Our care and resources are needed always, but the need has been especially clear throughout COVID. It’s been memorable and greatly rewarding!

1. What fuels you in your role every day?

I am fueled by the clients that I encounter, the therapeutic relationship we share, and knowing that I have an opportunity to help others recognize their strengths to help them heal and to develop within them a sense of empowerment.

2. What do you want to be remembered for most?

I would like to be remembered as a person of integrity. I hope that by helping parents to heal and grow, they, in turn, help their children and others to heal and grow, potentially changing generations, communities, and society for the better.
1. What do you want to be remembered for most?

I want to be remembered for trying to make a difference. I want people to know that your voice does matter and that it is okay to speak up when things are not right. You can do anything you set your mind to. I want to be remembered for being determined, hardworking, loving, caring, and always there for my families and clients.

2. What lead you to the field of social work?

I always liked helping people. I was always the one that everyone came to for advice or just to have someone listen. I fell in love with psychology after taking prep courses for nursing school. I changed my major and enrolled in psychology the following semester. I was fascinated with understanding thoughts and behaviors and why we as humans do what we do. After getting a job as a Community Support Specialist for you, I quickly realized I was a lioness for advocating for my clients and was often referred to as their “mama bear”.

What Michelle’s team is saying:

“Michelle has worked as a Targeted Case Manager with CHS for two years and has shown she has the heart of a social worker. Michelle is very motivated to live up to the children and families she serves, working toward stability and support before transitioning them from our services. She links them with the mental health services they need, while also providing the community support needed to promote resiliency and recovery.”

1. What fuels you in your role every day?

One of the aspects that fuel my role every day is my commitment to the fundamental values of social work. We currently live in an era where our role as social workers is of utmost importance to help people who are in need and go through various social problems that respond to challenging social, political, and economic changes. Assisting people in need, vulnerable, and oppressed by our system allows me to advocate for social justice, uphold the dignity and inherent worth of people.

2. What lead you to the field of social work initially?

The reason why I started my professional career in the social work field is strongly related to the way I was brought up and my Christian beliefs. At age 18, I started serving as a volunteer providing food to people in need a homeless population, and an interest in the social field was awakened. My parents have also influenced the steps that I have taken and have been supportive in my professional career and development. My main mentor is my father who helps me and supports me in all my goals. He is the person who has supported me with pursuing the Master Social Work Degree.

What Abigail’s team is saying…

“Abigail is our pre-adoption specialist within our adoption program in Palm Beach County. She recently received her LCSW credentials and we are proud of the hard work she has done for this accomplishment! She has been with CHS for over 4 years and ensures that as soon as the youth are identified as having an adoption goal, we start working to find their forever families!”

1. What fuels you in your role every day?

I am fueled by my passion to help others. Coming from case management to adoption, I have been able to witness a case in its entirety. It is refreshing to see the joy that comes toward the end of our involvement.

2. What is your favorite memory from your time with CHS?

There are too many memories to choose from. However, I have enjoyed my journey with the Palm Beach Adoptions unit that I met in 2014 as a BSW Intern. They have remained supportive of my journey of becoming an LCSW.

1. What lead you to the field of social work?

As a child, I came from a home that was less than ideal. Knowing those struggles as a child, I knew I did not want anyone else to feel that way. After high school, I served in the United States Air Force, but I realized I wanted to continue my service a different way. I knew how important it was to protect our most vulnerable and to provide them with safe, healthy environments to learn and grow.

2. Do you have a favorite memory from your time with CHS?

I don’t know that I have a favorite memory, but I do have one that stands out most. I was working in Panama City, Florida after Hurricane Michael came through. I believe 40 of our 48 team members were left without a place to stay and had no running water or electricity. However, almost every single one of them showed up to check on the families we served. Most of us looked and smelled awful (not to mention navigating our own trauma!), but it didn’t matter because we had each other and we had a mission. 1. What advice would you share with a new social worker on their first day?

I would tell them that when they see someone do the worst things to hurt people, to put themselves in their shoes and search for their perspective. It’s important to recognize trauma and to be trauma-informed to help find that perspective, so you can continue to help that person grow and heal.

2. Do you have a favorite memory from your time with CHS?

I’m still connected to a family that has a 13-year-old son and two infants. As a source of emotional support, it’s an honor to know that I am someone the parents feel comfortable venting to and connecting with for solutions to hurdles they may encounter. It’s been fulfilling advocating for them, too. This past Christmas, they were “adopted” by one of our donors who shared gifts with them. The “thank you” card received brought tears to my eyes and reminded me why it’s all worth it.

1. What motivated you to get into the field of social work?

From the time I was a teenager I always knew I wanted to help people. I was a good listener and experienced a high level of empathy for others at a young age. I had planned on getting my degree in psychology but was coached in the direction of social work by my undergraduate professors due to the wider range of opportunities in the social work field.

2. What is the biggest misconception new social workers have when entering the field?

I am honestly not sure of the misconceptions students may have, but I can tell you that the reality of the field is that this field and our jobs as social workers are far from easy. We face a lot of adversity and it can be exhausting. At the same time, it can be rewarding to see a family reunited or a client confront and overcome the consequences of a traumatic event. You will work hard and you will start with very little. But continuous professional development will open opportunities in leadership and perhaps private practice.1. What lead you to the field of social work?

My interest started when I worked in childcare. I loved working with children, but I wanted to do something that would make a difference for the rest of their lives, not just for the moment. There was only so much I could do to help these children in the classroom. I could teach them give them the attention they needed, and make sure they were fed, but once they left for the day some weren’t getting those things at home. I chose to get my degree in social work so I could help parents get the support and education they need to be able to meet their family’s basic needs and learn how to be the best parents they could be so their children would have better lives.

2. What do you want to be remembered for most?

Helping others change their lives for the better. Some people don’t see any further than what they are going through now or what they have been through. They may feel like things will never get any better for them and just settle where they are. We don’t have to be products of what we experienced growing up, those cycles can be broken and I am a living testimony of that. Anyone can do anything they put their mind to, they just have to have the right people on their side to encourage them and push them to do and be better. I want to be that person for someone else.

What Rachel’s team is saying…

“Rachel has been with CHS since 2016. In this time, she has been a guiding light within the Full-Service Schools program. She has been adaptable and flexible since the start. She was able to quickly integrate and help assist her school when they moved from St. Clair Evans to Northwestern Legends Elementary. More recently, she has even helped integrate another school into her current school during the mid-school year merger. She has been able to provide the ‘calm’ during the storm for all involved. She is actively engaged with her students and faculty. They rely on her as the mental health expert in her school. Not only is she the mental health expert, but she volunteers before and after school to help provide additional supports to teachers and parents. Since becoming an LCSW in October 2020, Rachel has also begun to assist other team members with assessing and providing accurate diagnosis and intervention strategies. She is always dependable, empathetic, compassionate, and highly motivated to meet and exceed any needs of clients, their families, and the overall team!”

1. What led you to the field of social work initially?

As a young child, I had dreams of becoming famous. I decided I would pursue a career in photography to accomplish this dream. While I did enjoy helping others in my teenage years, I never had a strong desire to pursue it as a career. When I entered college for my undergraduate degree, my goal was to become a famous photographer by majoring in photojournalism. During my time in college, I enrolled in a social work class as one of my electives. When I started the course, I didn’t realize it would change the course of my life. I soon realized that my passion for photojournalism was just a hobby and my true calling was helping others through social work. I ended up graduating with my bachelor’s degree in social work and pursuing a career in social work.

2. What advice would you give social workers on their very first day?

“If there is no risk, there is no reward” would be my advice. This quote from Christy Raedeke sums up my life as a social worker. This career will be one of the most challenging jobs you will ever have, but it is also the most rewarding just as the quote states. Being able to see the change occur in others as a result of your passion and hard work is the best reward. Along with reward comes its challenges. I would advise someone new to be careful not to get caught up and emotionally attached to the point that you lose sight of yourself. One of the most important things you can do for your clients is developing and implementing a self-care routine. If you can care for your own emotional and physical needs, then you will be able to better provide valuable care for your clients. The better you feel, the better you will be able to serve others.
1. What lead to the field of social work?

I worked in ESE Pre-K and noticed that more needs to happen at home to help prepare new moms on what to expect. Today, I love working with children and watching moms’ faces light up when they teach their babies an activity they learned. I want to help moms navigate the red tape to make them more successful and better parents.

2. What do you want to be remembered for most? What impact do you hope to leave behind?

I want to be remembered for always being kind and someone you can count on when in a crisis. I hope to make an impact on moms who deal with postpartum depression and provide them with strategies to overcome negative thoughts, calm stress, and improve their moods overall.

What Tynashkee’s team is saying…

“Tynashkee currently serves as an Adoptions Specialist with our Adoptions Program in Palm Beach County. She just recently received her LCSW credentials and we are proud of the hard work she has done for this accomplishment! She has been with CHS for over 6 years and is very knowledgeable about the adoption program and is well respected by the child welfare community in Palm Beach County.”

1. What lead to the field of social work?

From a very young age, I realized that I enjoyed helping people. My interest was first geared more towards mental health and helping people with mental health challenges live a “normal life.” From there I was connected to the homeless community and I worked with individuals with dual diagnoses and other factors that contributed to their instability. In 2014 I joined Children’s Home Society and this is when my career in working with children and families began!

2. What is your favorite part of your role?

I enjoy being in the field and working directly with clients. Seeing clients progress from a difficult point in their life to a more stable and self-sufficient state is beautiful! Working with at-risk communities/at-risk children is so fulfilling when you are able to support them and help them see a different view on life.

3. What advice would you give a social worker on their first day?

If I were to give advice to another social worker who is just starting out I would tell them that “this field can be very challenging, but once you find your niche and what works for you, it is very fulfilling and a beautiful journey when you are able to play a part in another person’s growth.”

1. What fuels you in your role every day?

Today, there are so many people struggling with all different aspects of life; even more so due to the current pandemic and all the barriers and issues that come with it. The “why” behind my passion for GOOD is just hoping to be a support for my fellow coworkers and the families we work with every day and to help them become resilient while working through their struggles.

2. What is your favorite part of your role?

The favorite part of my role as a permanency specialist is getting to be a part of every single case. I love to do an in-depth review of every case before each staffing. This guides me to determine what is the best course of action is for that particular care to try to get the child or children to permanency.

What Briana’s team is saying…

“Briana serves as our Adoption recruiter within Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in Palm Beach County. She is dedicated to finding adoptive parents for our kids in care. She is committed to doing GOOD every day and we are proud she is a member of our team.”

1. What lead you to the field of social work?

I have always loved children and knew that I wanted to work with kids in some capacity. I also knew that I wanted to spend my days doing something that I loved and not just earning a paycheck. When I took a social work class in college, I was hooked. I knew that majoring in social work was the path I was meant to be on.

2. Do you have a favorite memory from your time with CHS?

It really is impossible to pick a single favorite memory at CHS. I have shared so many great moments with my coworkers over the years. I also have so many stories of the children and families I have worked with. When I was new to the adoptions unit, I worked with one sibling group who were in the process of being adopted by their grandparents. The little girl was about 7 years old and her grandmother wasn’t sure how to talk to her about adoption. We talked about openness and honesty, but she had been putting off the conversation. One day, her granddaughter had a friend over and the two girls were playing Barbies. Grandma overheard her granddaughter’s friend ask her why she lived with her grandma and not her mom. Grandma held her breath because it was this moment she had been dreading. She heard her granddaughter reply simply,” because she loves me.” She was 100% right.

What Tracey’s team is saying…

“Tracey Errico originally joined the CHS team as a clinical intern in the MSW program at the University of North Florida. She was such a terrific fit with our counseling program at KIPP Public Schools Jacksonville that we immediately hired her upon graduation! Previously a teacher, Tracey has established herself as a trusted resource and strong advocate for mental health within the school community. Tracey is passionate and authentic in her service to clients and their families, and shows dedication to her profession as she works toward earning her License in Clinical Social Work.”

1. What lead you to the field of social work?

I’ve always wanted to work with people since I went through some adversity as a child. As I became older, I learned about institutional racism in the United States and the major gaps in resources across the nation. I became more passionate about serving children in low-income communities who deserve better and deserve someone who genuinely cares for them. I worked towards my Master’s degree in Social Work after witnessing the impact of trauma on my students’ mental health during my time as a middle school teacher in Teach For America.

2. What is your favorite part of your role?

My favorite part of being a clinical counselor is building rapport with my clients and providing them the tools to help themselves. I work in the school, so I can see my clients in the hallway throughout their school week and that helps them see me as a safe person who is in the building to support them. My position is very rewarding when a client can open up, feel validated, and use skills to help them achieve their goals.

What Cathleen’s team is saying…

“Cathleen works as our Post Adoption Specialist or the Adoption Program in Palm Beach County. She has a crucial role in ensuring that the families are supported after the finalization occurs. Kids and teens can still face hurdles even after adoption, and Cathleen works hard to support them to ensure they and their families are not on their own.”

1. Do you have a favorite memory from your time with CHS?

When I was in case management I carried a case with 3 children for 5 years. They were eventually adopted and when the oldest child graduated from high school the family invited me. Of course, I attended and I couldn’t have been prouder of the young lady and her accomplishments despite everything she had been through.

2. What advice would you give social workers on their very first day?

Have an open mind. In this field, no two days look alike. Don’t give up too easily. The job can seem daunting but if you stick with it you will find your groove.1. What lead you to the field of social work?

It was not until I was older that I truly connected with wanting to pursue social work as a career. I was always drawn to similar fields and I knew I wanted to work in a capacity that made way for change for others, but I did not know what that was going to look like for me. I began doing volunteer work with various organizations; which eventually led me to spend a significant time working with teens in Ukrainian orphanages, showing me that social work was what was right and leading me to my career with CHS.

2. What advice would you give social workers on their very first day?

It is not always about the “big” changes. On most days, you might feel like you are not making any progress or helping the children and families you are serving. Remember that tiny moves forward are just as necessary. Set-backs can lead to even bigger steps. Lastly, keep learning! Try various approaches. Not just in the traditional setting, but from your own experiences, coworkers, and, most importantly, your clients.

1. What advice would you give to social workers on their very first day?

The main thing I try to tell new social workers and new coworkers is to work as a team. I also supervise the BSW interns for our building and try to share that with them, too. Social workers, as a whole, share an interesting bond with each other… we have to, in order to process what we see on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean we don’t internalize what we see, however–but we need our coworkers to help us deal with it, so we don’t take it home with us. Social work is hard enough on your mental and physical health. You shouldn’t make it harder on yourself by not opening yourself up to your coworkers and working together as much as possible.

2. What is your favorite part of your role?

Interviewing “my” kids. I had an on-call one Christmas where I was at the office, interviewing three children. One of the kids gave me a drawing before they left, which said “Thank you for talking about it.” It’s hung on my wall not, and a constant reminder of what keeps me going when I’m down on myself.

3. What fuels you in your role?

The kids I work with make my job, my profession, worth it. I love working with these children–their wonder, their resiliency, their complete lack of filter. They have suffered horribly, in ways they don’t understand, and yet they still look at the world around them with awe and expectation. Talking one-on-one with a child and getting their perspective, and then seeing them blossom as they realize that an adult is truly interested in their opinion and what they have to say– there are no words to describe that feeling.1. What lead you to the field of social work initially?

As the son of immigrants, I experienced firsthand the bicultural and bilingual world of being Latino in New York. The diversity and inequality evident in Queens served as the backdrop for the development of my social perspective and emotional maturity. I had no idea what a social worker was and never knew it was a career until I went to college. In the book A Puerto Rican in New York and other Sketches Jesus Colon asks the readers, “Have you ever heard a man crying? A young strong man crying? Crying of hunger in the midst of what is supposed to be the greatest and richest city in the world? It is the saddest most tragic sight you can imagine.”

That passage changed my life and I have been a social worker for over 10 years.

2. Do you have a favorite memory from your time with CHS?

Even though I only recently moved to Florida and joined Team CHS, my favorite memory has to be my very first day. I received many warm and welcoming email messages from my team and it made me feel like CHS is a place where I can grow and be among not only colleagues but friends and family. 1. What fuels you in your role every day?

Social workers usually see people at their worst and when they need the most. I strive to be the bright light in the darkness and the calm in the storm. I advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves and I encourage growth in those who have been stifled. I am constantly amazed by the resilience, strength, and perseverance both tiny human and fully grown humans show in the face of things most will never endure, and the kindness, grace, and love they continue to show.

2. Do you have a favorite memory from your time with CHS?

In my first year as a DCM in Martin County, my kiddos (on my caseload) would often draw me pictures. I collected all of them from that year and placed them in a book to look back on. Because in this field, wins are rare but the love and impact you have aren’t and it’s good to have a reminder of that.

What Matt’s team is saying…

“Since returning home to CHS with his newly acclaimed Masters in Social Work, Matt took off running in our outpatient program. Matt readily jumped into our on-call programs, and despite having two challenging weeks, he continues to thrive. Matt has the innate ability to build rapport with his clients, their families, and those who are in the field, as well. It is not rare that a caseworker, attorney, or even the Magistrate to ask to work with Matt because of his professionalism as well as his great ability to work with our families. We are lucky to have Matt back at CHS and with our clinical team, and our families are lucky to have him as their counselor #MattDoesGood”

What Amy’s team is saying…

“Amy is currently the program manager for the adoption program in Palm Beach County. She has been with CHS for over 15 years. She is truly dedicated to ensuring that all children who are legally freed for adoption can have their forever family. She has a great passion for the work of adoption and is extremely knowledgeable of this work. She also consistently has social work interns from the local universities to help grow our future social workers and several of those interns have later become members of Team CHS, too!”

What Vincelyn’s team is saying…

“Vincelyn is currently the supervisor of the Palm Beach County Visitation Center and the supervisor of the Community Counseling Program. Managing both programs has been a great deal of work, but she has maintained a positive attitude and is always focused on how we can “Do Good” for the families and youth we serve. Over the years, she has taken on numerous social work students from local universities to grow out future social workers in the community. We are glad to have her as part of the CHS Team!”