National Social Work Month recognizes the dedication and empathy social workers across the country deliver while providing services to children and adults in need. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on all healthcare professionals, including social workers. This month, Options for Community Living, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that provides housing and care management for vulnerable Long Islanders, acknowledges the contributions of social workers and human service workers particularly in times of crisis.
“COVID 19 has impacted every aspect of our lives and it is going to continue to affect us for a long time,” said Yolanda Robano-Gross, LMSW and CEO at Options for Community Living, Inc. “Social workers and human service professionals have been on the frontlines along with doctors, nurses, grocery store staff and other essential employees. In addition to arranging care for people recovering from illness, social workers provide a safe place for people to express their feelings of loss and confusion.”
Social work is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are currently about 700,000 professional social workers in our nation, but that number is rising. You will find social workers and human service professionals throughout society – protecting children from abuse and neglect; providing mental health and substance use disorder treatment; assisting active-duty military, veterans, and their families; in schools; helping corporations better serve their communities; in community organizations; as well as in local and state government.
“The quarantines, lockdowns, and social isolation of the last year were difficult for everyone,” said Georgia Kuhen, LMSW, Options’ Director of Strategic Partnerships and Licensed Programs. “Our staff adapted their strategies utilizing phone calls and telehealth to ensure ongoing communication with our clients. They were there to listen, empathize, interpret the situation, and provide support.” Kuhen continued, “Human service professionals and social workers across Long Island worked closely this past year to support community members through their recovery from the economic effects of the pandemic. It is an ongoing collective effort.”
“Collaboration is an essential component of our jobs,” said Diana Schwenk, Options’ Outreach Program Supervisor. “Internally between programs and departments, it allows us to enroll new clients in services quickly.” Schwenk continued, “Outwardly, through partnerships with other agencies, we can connect people with additional support and resources to help them live healthier, more stable lives.”
While social workers and human service professionals are often unsung heroes, they play an essential role in helping people from all walks of life and backgrounds to live life to the fullest.
“I fell into social work quite by accident,” said Yolanda Robano-Gross. “I took Introduction to Social Work as an undergraduate in college because it was a good fit to my schedule. An amazing instructor opened up a world to me that I didn’t know existed.” Robano-Gross continued, “I’m thankful to work in a rewarding field that makes a lasting difference in the lives of others.”