LaTasha Whitley: Oh, so you take people’s children away

I was waiting to meet with a client when another student asked me what my role was at the school.  I explained that I was a Social Work intern (at the time), to which she responded, “Oh so you take people’s children away.”  Over the years, I have heard this statement several times, that I wonder how many other people have this misconception about Social Workers.

I am here to dispel this myth.  I decided that I wanted to become a Social Worker, because I was deeply committed to helping families stay together.  As a foster care caseworker, I witnessed firsthand the detrimental impact that such separation had on children.  The parents often struggled with various forms of addiction, mental illness, poverty, and abuse that hindered them from being able to adequately care for their children.  Meanwhile, their children grappled with anger, resentment, confusion, and hurt.  There were countless times that I worked over 12-hour shifts just to ensure that the children I served were safe.  While incredibly stressful at times, these experiences solidified my desire to become a Social Worker.

We, Social Workers, can effectuate change on multiple levels.  We can act as advocates, working to modify policies to improve social conditions for the masses. We can also work directly with clients to assist them with coping with and overcoming various circumstances.  Social Workers can be found in public agencies, private businesses, hospitals, clinics, schools, police departments, courts, and countless other noteworthy workplaces.  All the while, we are guided by the NASW Code of Ethics, which provides a set of core values, principles, and standards to direct decision-making and conduct when ethical issues arise.  

During graduate school, I had the opportunity to hear what inspired my classmates to become Social Workers.  I remembered being amazed by the wide range of replies and learning so much about the people who embarked on this journey with me.  The overarching theme was that everyone was interested in helping others and working to fight against the injustice within our society.   

Being a Social Worker is not just a job; it’s a way of living your life.  It is a commitment to showing people compassion regardless of your differences in race, gender, socioeconomic status, or culture.  It means having the courage to speak for those without voice.  Lastly, it does not mean that we take people’s children away. 

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