Every March, social workers across the country celebrate National Social Work Month to recognize and appreciate the efforts and contributions that social workers provide to our society. In 2018, the theme for National Social Work Month is “Bringing Change to Life” and to celebrate, we spoke with one of our social workers Lindsay Danko to learn more about the social work profession.
*To learn more about National Social Work Month, visit the Canadian Association of Social Workers website.
Q: How long have you been a Social Worker? Is this a career you knew you always wanted?
A: I’ve officially been a Social Worker in the field for the past 10 years. I have always found myself in the helping profession in one capacity or another, so unofficially, I have been a social worker my whole life! Even as a teenager it was always easy for me to connect with people and develop relationships, so it feels like it has always been inside me in that way.
Q: What exactly is Social Work? People often see social work as a broad occupation with diverse areas of expertise – how exactly do they differ and what does your work specifically focus on?
A: I see the Social Work profession as being concerned with helping individuals, families, and communities. Basically, I see Social Work as a means to enhance the collective well-being for individuals, and my framework around Social Work is to help people develop their own skills and abilities based on the strengths they currently have.
Q: What do you find is one of the most challenging aspects about being a Social Worker? What’s one of the most rewarding aspects?
A: One of the most challenging pieces for me, and I think a lot of my colleagues would agree, is that there’s definitely not enough resources or funding available in the community to help people get what they need 100% of the time. Especially for those clients that have extremely complex or challenging cases, as a Social Worker you have to be fairly creative and do a lot of problem solving. I sometimes look at it like a puzzle, having to put everything together to create a resolution for situations that maybe at first glance do not look quite fixable.
One of the most rewarding parts is being able to see my clients succeed, whether that means getting approved for funding or housing, or if they have come from an emotionally unwell place and they begin to develop coping skills and start feeling better about themselves. It is incredibly uplifting to be a part of their journey and success. A lot of clients think “You’re the reason I’ve been so successful!” but it’s really the fact that they have been courageous enough to ask for help and to want better for themselves. I see myself as a tool to help them overcome their challenges and get connected to their needed resources.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception about Social Workers or social work in general that you often hear?
A: I guess the biggest misconception is that we have all the answers. I joke around sometimes that we should have magic wands that fix everything as part of our tool kit – but sadly that is not the case. We do not hand out money to people, we do not have homes waiting for people that are homeless, we do not provide welfare, we are not lawyers, and we do not lend people money. What we can do however, is work with people, with their existing strengths and abilities to help them gain more knowledge and information and encourage them in that direction to overcome whatever challenges and problems they have in their life.
Q: What types of issues and clients do you deal with in your line of work?
A: I primarily deal with a lot of older individuals; some are people with a medical or health challenge, and with those challenges come issues like lack of housing, or sustainable housing. Finances are usually a huge issue, especially for people who are no longer able to work. Generally, I help people apply for income replacement programs, help people cope with new or progressive illnesses that they have been diagnosed with, support caregivers that are supporting clients to prevent them from burning out, connect people to community resources, provide end-of-life support for patients that are palliative, and everything in between! There’s really no situation that I have not heard or seen, and if I’m not able to help them myself, I make sure I find the right person or support that can help.
Q: What’s the day-to-day life like for a social worker?
A: I’m travelling to and from my client’s houses, and all the work that I do is primarily in person. When I am with my clients it is a lot of counselling, a lot of administrative help, helping people complete forms and make phone calls, connecting with individuals in the community who offer the types of resources that they might need. There is also a lot of behind the scenes work that takes place as well; being on the phone for hours straight making phone calls, talking to clients and case managers, filling in forms, finding applications, liaising with family and friends, and recording all of this information in my clients file so I can keep myself and them on track for the next time we see each other. It is incredibly busy, but I enjoy the work and it is all good stuff.
Q: What about outside of work, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I love spending time with my family and my friends; one of my favourite things to do with family and friends and on my own is just being outside, taking my dog for a walk or going for a run. Winter is usually snowmobiling season but unfortunately the season did not lend itself to riding a lot due to warmer temperatures and lack of snow. In the warmer weather, lots of camping, bonfires, baseball… just enjoying life really.
Q: In some alternate universe where you aren’t a Social Worker, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?
A: This is such an interesting question because I think about different careers all the time, not in the way that I would leave social work, but thinking about what I wanted to be while I was younger. I had such a passion for reading and writing, and I still do, but at one point in time I thought I would be a novelist and just write for a living. I would write beautiful stories for people to read and enjoy, and maybe be in Oprah’s book club one day!
Q: If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do, and what’s the first thing you would buy?
A: The first thing I would do would be to call my husband and share the news with my family. But I’d probably faint first from being too excited. The first thing that I would buy would probably be a little property up north, a little cabin on the lake. After that I would want to pay off debt, help family and friends, and things like that. But for me, I would definitely buy a little cottage or cabin up in the woods somewhere.
Thank you Lindsay for being part of the CTG team, and for all of the hard work that you do each and every day!