#SocialWorkStories with Caseworker Joseph Volkay

ASCI: What are some challenges you’ve experienced as a child welfare caseworker?
Joseph Volkay: I believe the biggest challenge I face on a daily basis is just to find enough time in a day to do all that the job requires. It is a juggling act, but it keeps you on your toes and you’re making a difference in the community, which brings a great sense of pride.

ASCI: What are the benefits you’ve experienced?
JV: The major benefit I receive is the gratification of being able to give children a forever home by the work we do as social workers.

ASCI: In what ways has social work/casework changed since you first began? 
JV: Social work is evolving as the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) implements more requirements for kinship caregivers to become certified—such as the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) and 10-year Social Security financial statement. This makes the job challenging and makes caseworkers have to come up with ways to get the KCGs to complete all certification items in 60 days.

ASCI: What has kept you working in this field?
JV: I know every day [that] I get up and go to work I am helping shape a child’s future and giving them a second chance at a forever home. A lot of jobs do not give you the satisfaction this job does.

ASCI: How do you keep yourself from getting burned out?
JV: I try to ensure that I have work-life balance. I have three young children of my own, and I always ensure I have time at night for them to watch a movie, play video games with them, etc. They keep me grounded, and I also look forward to coming home to them. I also enjoy watching basketball.

ASCI: Can you recall any specific cases that were particularly fulfilling for you?
JV: The case that stands out to me was a young boy, age 15. When I first started working with him, he was very shy and did not talk much. However, as the weeks and months went by, I began to break through to him during community outings and he came out of his shell, and we really developed a close relationship. His case closed to SPLC, but we still talk to this day. 

ASCI: Have you ever found it difficult to perform your job while adhering to policy/government mandates? 
JV: I feel like there are many challenges to this job. The DPW implements a lot for us caseworkers to do. I believe that you have to learn to evolve on a daily basis in this job to keep up with the ever-changing field.

ASCI: What skills should students of social work focus on developing?
JV: I think prospective social workers need to have strong people skills that you can’t learn in a book. You have to be out in the community and see the struggles that people are going through, and have empathy. You have to treat everyone with respect no matter if you disagree with them or not. You also have to have thick skin in this field, because there are people out there that are going to think you’re not doing enough for them.

ASCI: What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you first entered social work?
JV: To be patient and not stress about every small thing that you can’t control. It took me a good year or two to really feel comfortable and to have the self-confidence needed to do this job like I wanted. Still, to this day I rely on my supervisor Charay Young to give me direction when needed, and I have been really blessed to always have supportive supervisors.

ASCI: What ways can/should employers support their social workers?
JV: I believe the best way that an agency can support their employees is by giving them resources such as vacation time, PTO, sick time, etc. ASCI does a great job of providing its employees with many benefits that other employers I worked for didn’t offer. Also, just being able to go to management or supervisors if you feel overwhelmed and not being afraid to lean on them for support. In this field, there are going to be times when you are overwhelmed.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of A Second Chance, Inc.

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