Social workers are essential to at-risk individuals and recovery from pandemic, county board says
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Ca.—When Dale Vassalli visits his adult clients at home, the Riverside County social worker knows he’s knocking on more than just their doors.
“I love bringing joy, hope, and safety to people who may not have had enough of it in their lives,” said Vassalli, one of more than a thousand social workers serving at-risk adults and children for Riverside County’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). “I love that we, as social workers, shine a light into the darkest places.”
The Riverside County Supervisors on Tuesday recognized March as National Social Worker Appreciation Month. The supervisors praised social workers for sticking to their mission of serving and protecting at-risk children and adults during the first year of the pandemic, while managing their own personal losses and hardships throughout the public health crisis.
“Social workers have made heroic contributions to improve the health of children, the elderly and disabled during these times of uncertainty,” said Board Chair Karen Spiegel, Second District Supervisor. “Social workers were essential before this pandemic. They are essential now and will remain essential as Riverside County continues its recovery.”
Tara Cannon, a social worker in Children’s Services, had just finished treatment for cancer when the pandemic struck last March, shutting down businesses, schools, and community centers. Cannon works with the county’s toughest youth—dual placements; kids between the ages of 13 and 18 who are in foster care and on probation.
One young man on her caseload had experienced at least 16 different placements. Finding a new home was proving to be a challenge. He was failing high school and heading for jail. After a heart-to-heart talk with the young man, Cannon reached out to his former coach. The coach agreed to give the youth a home – and a new start.
Today, Cannon has been invited to many of her client’s milestones, including high school graduation in the spring. The young man will continue to gain skills and receive support from social workers and peers in the Transitional Age Youth Program through DPSS while he attends college in the fall, Cannon said.
“It’s one thing to show up at a youth’s home. It’s another thing to say ‘I am in this fight with you. I am in your corner,’” says Cannon, who earned a master’s degree and entered social services only after she had seen her own son through college. “When a teen knows you care for them and that you are fighting for them, they often come around.”
Sayori Baldwin, director of the Department of Public Social Services, said Riverside County social workers strive each day to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and families. The need for trained, dedicated social work professionals is great across the nation, she said.
“Social workers are on the frontlines every day helping people overcome crises,” Baldwin said. “They are part of our social safety net in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, the criminal justice system, nonprofit organizations and about anywhere else where individuals and communities have needs. Social workers are committed to making a positive difference in lives.”
Vassalli, the social worker who serves adult clients, and Cannon agree that it is professionally and personally gratifying to see those they are helping making strides forward.
“I love knowing that I helped make the world a better place for someone,” Vassalli said. “I love seeing the confidence in my clients as they begin to reach their potential and live more fulfilling lives.”
To hear more about Riverside County social workers and how they served our communities during the pandemic, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSnhZ-uac8Q&feature=youtu.be