March is National Social Workers Month, a time to raise awareness of the contributions of professional social workers throughout the nation. The theme, “Social Workers Stand Up” reflects what most social workers do on a day-to-day basis, stand up for the most vulnerable in our communities.
I have always had an innate passion for helping others. My career as a social worker began in 1999 advocating for parolees who were newly released from prison. Later I switched my focus and began working at a residential treatment home for female adolescents suffering from conduct and behavioral disorders. I always believed my passion lay in working with adolescents, but during my last year of graduate school I interned at Monmouth Medical Center in the Geriatric Unit and my whole outlook changed. My desire to work with adolescents was replaced with a desire to work with older adults. In January 2016, I started as a social worker with FCS (Family & Children’s Service) Adult Protective Services, investigating reports of suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults living in the community, and I never looked back.
My experience with APS has been challenging, yet rewarding. As a licensed social worker with APS, I am blessed with the opportunity to assist our older, more vulnerable individuals living in Monmouth County. Each day is a new challenge and no day is ever the same. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past year and a half. The situations that APS social workers are put through are often extreme and mind-boggling. I’ve become quite the expert at dealing with aggressive behaviors and have honed in on ways to de-escalate certain situations; something I did not know I had inside of me prior to my work here. I’ve been able to reflect on my different strengths and weakness as I constantly reflect on my practice. I find much joy and satisfaction in knowing that my intervention and assistance in a client’s life has changed their life circumstances for the better. One of the greatest rewards I can receive is not a “thank you” but instead knowing that I helped my client in a big or small way. I absolutely love what I do at Adult Protective Services and I look forward to all of the experiences to come!
So Happy Social Worker Month to all the hard working social workers of the world who stand up for those who can not stand for themselves. The world is a better place because of your service!
-Michelle Russell, MSW, LSW