Social workers, like Tee Taylor of Lorain County Children's Services, help pick up the pieces when families are torn apart. (Patti-Jo Burnett)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Social workers dedicate their time and energy to helping make the country a better place to live, and in Ohio, more than 9,000 focus that time and energy on children and families.
This is National Social Work Month, and agencies around the Buckeye State are highlighting the vital role of social workers in local communities.
At Lorain County Children's Services, Deputy Director Kristen Fox Berki said social workers deal with cases of abuse, neglect and substance abuse and dependency, and help pick up the pieces when families are torn apart.
"They have a difficult job; it's a job that can get emotional at times," she said. "And social workers really are a dedicated group of people, who really are interested in making people's lives better."
Robin Webb, public information officer for Athens County Children's Services, pointed out that in times of crisis, social workers are first responders - and sometimes, first on the scene in cases of a parent's drug overdose, or child abuse or neglect.
"If a report is made and a child is involved, our caseworkers have to arrive on the scene and make a safety assessment for the child, and spring into action really quickly," Webb explained. "If they determine that the child's safety is at risk, they have to work with our local courts to get temporary custody."
She noted that social workers must have good working relationships with courts, law enforcement, mental-health professionals and educators.
"We have caseworkers making sure children get to have visits with their biological families; making sure families get to any kind of counseling appointments," she said. "We also have caseworkers in our school districts, to work as a sort of liaison between the schools and our agency."
While not all caseworkers are social workers, Fox Berki added, they share the same dedication.
"We're here to advocate for children and to, however we can, make sure they're being cared for and that they're safe in their home," she said. "And if they're not safe in their home, that we can take the appropriate steps to try to make a better life for them."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 680,000 social-work professionals in the United States, and about 300,000 work in the child, family and school-related field.