Opinion: Helping Hands sends ‘shout out’ to DCS caseworkers

Dan Shufelt

What does it take to be a Department of Child Safety caseworker?

DCS has shared a video on its website for all interested candidates to view, titled “A Realistic Look at a Career in DCS.

Watching this 20-plus minute presentation tells us much about what complexities are faced by those who wish to become involved and to consider this career option.

The role of a caseworker includes investigation of the circumstances on each case, assessment of the safety of children, coordinating services, assisting in every way possible to keep kids safe.

As a caseworker you would face hostility, lots of paperwork, and stress.  The job is not an 8-to-5 job.

You see the ugliness in our society, horrible home conditions, children who have experienced trauma and abuse — humanity at its absolute worst.

Caseworkers must have strength of character, organization skills and support from their own families to handle the stress that comes home with you at the end of a tough day.

You must be able to deal with negatives – oftentimes the people who need the most assistance will not want you to help. It all sounds like a rather dim view of a job that requires such commitment at every level.

So, why become a caseworker? The video states that caseworkers are committed to making Arizona a safer place for children.  That one person can make a difference for kids in need.  What nobler role could you play?

It’s got to be difficult to find talented individuals with the entire skill set needed to deal with the myriad pieces that go into the job of a caseworker, but thankfully for all of us, such people DO exist.

At Arizona Helping Hands we’ve met some of the amazing people who have been called to do this important job.

We work to make their lives a bit more rewarding and offer them a connection to the children whose lives are impacted daily by their interactions.

Caseworkers can submit a request through our Birthday Dreams program for a birthday package to celebrate a child’s special day, oftentimes a day overlooked for a child in foster care.

Our volunteers will select a few items from our inventory of toys, games and books and gift-wrap them for little “Joey” or “Suzie.”

These gifts are then placed in a plain white paper bag that has been personally decorated with a message of love and hope to the child. By allowing caseworkers to participate in this program and deliver these packages to children in their caseload, we provide an opportunity for them to see joy in otherwise challenging circumstances.

This is a moment to say to children, “I’m here to celebrate you.” What a relief to have a moment to tell these kids they are important, that someone cares, that today is not about the court, the doctor or the problems, it’s about you – the child.  And who better to deliver that message than a caseworker who has devoted so much time and energy to trying to make that child’s life a bit better.

Caseworkers from Somerton, Ariz. participate in the Birthday Dreams program anddriving long distances to pick up birthday packages for kids in Southern Arizona.
One caseworker who utilizes this program regularly is a foster mom herself.   She’s seen the worst of situations and still wants to be that caring adult who can make a difference in a child’s life.

She performs her job and then goes home to parent a child who truly needs all the love and support her foster mom can muster at the end of a long day.  Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty!

We’ve been told that delivering those birthday packages is one bright spot of a difficult job.  We hope that’s so, but I know the best moment for any caseworker has to be when they can look back at the end of a very challenging day and see that because of their efforts, kid’s lives have been changed, that they are one person who can and does make a difference.

We need dedicated, compassionate individuals to take on this difficult task. I am so grateful that so many wonderful, talented and caring women and men choose to do so.  They make Arizona a safer place for children.

View the video referenced at https://dcs.az.gov/about/child-protective-service-specialist.

Having human beings deal with such important matters also may result in questions and potential conflict. DCS information on how to resolve complaints or disagreements can be found at https://dcs.az.gov/resources/resolve-complaint-or-disagreement.

Dan Shufelt is president and CEO of Helping Hands Arizona in Scottsdale. For information on this topic or to contact the author email dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org. Learn about Arizona Helping Hands at www.azhelpinghands.org, and read more of Dan’s blog posts at http://www.azhelpinghands.org/blog-post/.

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