#SocialWorkSuperhero Domonik Daniels
ASCI: What challenges and benefits have you experienced as a child welfare caseworker?
Domonik Daniels: As a child welfare caseworker, I have experienced quite a few challenges. This work is not easy, it is hard to see children and families separated, going through hardships, and experiencing a lot of difficulties within their families. A few of the benefits of working within child welfare as a caseworker is that this work is extremely rewarding, especially seeing a family succeed in the program. Additionally, it is especially important to be strength-based and positive because a lot of times you may be the only light or solid object in the room for a family. Therefore, I strive to bring as much positivity to every situation.
ASCI: In what ways has social work/casework changed since you first began?
DD: Casework has changed since I began in 2018. The pandemic alone has seen a lot of different changes with changes in regulations, visitation, and what it means to be safe and well. However, even before the pandemic, I noticed that there has been a change in how people care for one another. It is extremely important that we care for each other, look out for each other, and show that we are being safe and support one another!
ASCI: Did you learn about kinship care in your social work studies? If so, what information did you find most helpful to prepare you for working in this specific field? If not, what would have been helpful to learn to prepare you?
DD: I did not learn about kinship care in my social work studies; however, I have always known of kinship care and have seen it but did not have a name for it. I think the information that has been the most beneficial for me in the work that I do is that every family is different, and you need to engage with them in diverse ways to get them engaged with the services being provided. I think something that would have been helpful for me to have learned prior to becoming a caseworker would have been information about self-care and how to separate day-to-day interactions with families and day-to-day life outside of casework.
ASCI: What has kept you working in this field?
DD: What has kept me working in this field has been the genuine connection and care when working with families – it is one of the most rewarding and taxing things to do. Being a caseworker is an extremely thankless job, but if you are in it for the right reasons – you want to help people and aid in the rearing of a child for the better – [the feeling] is unmatched. Seeing a child smile because they know that they have a home that is safe and that they do not have to worry about struggling to eat, be clothed, and be supported is an amazing feeling.
ASCI: What made you practice casework/social in kinship care?
DD: I was not sure that I wanted to be a caseworker [at first]. I did not think that I would have been in this field when I graduated from college. Looking back, I was always meant to be in this field. My mom [was] a product of kinship care before it was regulated and provided the assistance that it does now due to [ASCI] being established. The fact that [kinship care] cannot work [unless] you have someone consistently checking on the child and making sure they are safe was one of the biggest pushes to make me become a caseworker. I was introduced to this field by a sorority sister who was a supervisor at the time, and I have been here ever since.
ASCI: How do you keep yourself from getting burned out?
DD:I keep myself from getting burned out by maintaining good relationships. I have an amazing connection with other staff members that work at the agency including my supervisor, the [leadership] team, and other caseworkers. In addition, I enjoy taking time for myself and practicing self-care. It has been particularly important that I take time to do things that I like outside of work, whether that be axe throwing or spending time with my frat brothers –as I am proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated.
ASCI: Can you recall any specific cases that were particularly fulfilling for you?
DD: A particular case that comes to mind is the family I serviced with a young man who everyone misunderstood. They defined him as hard to deal with, uncooperative, and many other stigmas that did not serve him well. Knowing his story, I took a different approach while working with him. For example, instead of talking at him, I made sure to talk to him and explain things so he could fully understand. We successfully found him a stable placement and assisted him in finding help in his healing process. He is now set up for success and this is one of my most fulfilling experiences.
ASCI: What skills should students of social work focus on developing? How would these skills help them excel as social workers?
DD: Empathy, being honest, and being forthcoming. I would say some of the most important things to work on as a caseworker or a student of casework is to ensure that you are being empathetic and understanding with the families you serve. It takes a lot to be a caseworker, but if you are empathetic, understanding, forthcoming and honest, you will get a lot more information from your families, and from my experience, they will understand respect, and trust you more.
ASCI: What do you wish someone would have told you when you first entered social work?
DD: I wish someone had told me how much it is important to practice self-care and to and ensure your own health is well because this line of work can be very tough on your mental health. If you do not know how to appropriately manage things, you will be overcome by the different traumatic experiences that you are seeing within your families.
ASCI: What words of wisdom would you give the next generation of social workers?
DD: To the next generation of caseworkers, I would say that it is important that you continually be a seeker of knowledge and someone that genuinely cares for others, and [you must] be OK with not necessarily getting the ‘thank you’ that you deserve. Be wise by understanding and understand that you may not know everything!
ASCI: What ways can/should employers support their social workers?
DD: I would say that one important thing employers can do to support the social workers is to listen and not just hear what they have experienced, and to give them an outlet. Give them grace while giving structure!