fbpx The Village That Holds Us Up: Social Worker Appreciation
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on March 21, 2024

The first time we met our first Nexus Family Healing social worker, Michaela, we were immediately disarmed by her cheerful smile and genuine demeanor. Expecting narrowed eyes and sharply directed questions, we were instead met with gratitude and grace, even as she went through the mountains of paperwork we had completed and the home safety checklist. I nervously chattered to her about the state of one of our bathrooms, mostly used by our four boys, and she kindly giggled at my nervousness and reassured me that I had done a good job – and homes must be lived in, after all.

From that day on, we knew we had an advocate. More than that, Michaela became part of our family. She walked us through the heartbreak when our first placement left to live with family after three short months, which was long enough to bond with them in a very meaningful way. She listened to our needs when another placement came along with some severe mental health concerns, and she did everything she could to make sure those needs were met. We did not know the ins and outs of insurance or securing care, but Michaela did the heavy lifting for us every time. If I ever had a question, she was quick to answer. I never felt on my own through any issue that came up, and this kept us together as a (foster) family.

Michaela would walk in our home with gifts at almost every visit, like donated pajamas that were just the right size and style for our girls, and some that she had picked up on her way based on what our girls said they liked at her last visit (e.g. a favorite kind of cookie or chips, plus a gift card!). We knew she was going the extra mile to love on our family, and we heard the same from every family on her caseload. How could someone make everyone feel so seen?

When our second placement also left, and my heart became injured by this, Michaela sent encouragement and continued to be there for us. She let us take our time to open our home again, checking in on us without any ulterior motives to get a child placed with us. And when we were ready, she made the process as simple as possible, while making sure everything was up to date.

She was there for the adoption of two of our children. She really, truly was like family.

When she moved out of state to be closer to her family, we were devastated, but we understood. We truly felt like we had found a diamond in the rough, and no one would be like her again. Down the road when we re-licensed with Nexus, after taking a couple years to simply “be” after two adoptions in two years, we met Stacy Sikorski, now Operations Director at Nexus-Kindred. She became our interim worker.

I’m not sure exactly what it was about her, like an attribute that cannot be described, only felt. My foster daughter, who is very skeptical and stand-offish to social workers, immediately took to Stacy. When I smiled knowingly and asked my foster daughter why she liked her so much, she said, “She’s just genuine.” And I agree wholeheartedly. You see, youth in foster care can spot phony behavior a mile away, like they can tell by the way someone breathes; it is so innate for them to tell who’s honest with them and who isn’t. 

Gaining Another Family Member

So, once again, we gained a worker who feels like family. Stacy repeated the kindness and thoughtfulness toward my family, just like we had experienced before. For example, when she found out my foster daughter loves Chick-Fil-A salads, and we don’t have a Chick-Fil-A closer than an hour away, she stopped on her way to a visit and got a salad for our girl. She didn’t have to, but she did. That’s the kind of village we have holding us up, and it makes a difference beyond words.

Let me just pause to say that these social workers’ kind gestures aren’t just in their visits to the home. Every time I email with a question or concern, they are there without judgment. When I have vented or complained, they listen and affirm how I’m feeling (but we shouldn’t do this often! I truly try not to take advantage of our licensing workers!). Behind the scenes, the paperwork is being done well, and they work with county workers to advocate for the best of the child and the whole family. What unsung heroes!!! What a difference it all makes so I can keep doing my job as a parent and foster parent!

When people want to applaud me for being a foster mom, I always think of the people who are “behind the scenes” doing the work to hold us up. Social workers have very thankless jobs, but very meaningful and important jobs. If you know one, will you send them a text or an email telling them how much they mean to you? Will you thank them for something specific? Will you encourage them, pray for them, and let them know how vital they are?

To any social worker who may read this: thank you will never be enough. Every time a child has a small or great victory, you are directly to thank for that. Every time a family is reunited, you are part of that joy. Every time a child is adopted, your handiwork is woven into the fabric of the new family. You are important, and you are necessary, and you deserve so much beauty in your life. Don’t forget that you’re worth taking care of, too, and that foster parents everywhere couldn’t do what we do without you.

This blog article was contributed by Cherie Johnson, Foster and Adoptive Parent at Nexus-Kindred Family Healing.

Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health servicesfoster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.