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Outstanding Caseworker: Anna Wood

Anna Wood

“An important part of my work is believing that everyone can change.”

Anna Wood is a social worker in Baldwin County, Alabama. A mother she works with suggested that we feature her as an Outstanding Caseworker. The mother wrote:

“Anna is a fantastic worker. She always goes above and beyond with the children on her caseload. She transports them when we’re unable to, communicates with us very well, and keeps us updated on pertinent information. She has great rapport with the kids and foster parents and is very professional but also personable. As a foster parent, it helps me feel more at ease when she has to make big decisions for the kids because I know that she really cares and understands them.”

How do you describe your job?

I do what needs to be done!

I transport kids, I go to doctor’s appointments, I meet with teachers. A big part of my role is working with foster parents and doing anything I can to make their lives easier. Because they have a really hard job, and they do it 24/7.

You are fairly new to the field. Is your job what you expected?

It’s really not. When I started studying social work, I thought I was going to help everyone and that kids were always going to be able to go home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way.

I also didn’t know that I would be so involved with the parents. But our goal is to reunify families, and that is a team effort. You can only succeed by working closely with birth parents, foster parents, coworkers, and of course, the children.

What have been the biggest challenges?

An important part of my work is believing that everyone can change and that birth families have the ability to make the changes necessary to create safe homes for their children. And often, they do. But not always.

When you put a lot of work into helping a birth parent—giving them the services and the support they need—and they don’t make the changes they need to, it’s easy to take it personally and feel like you’ve been let down. The challenge is not taking it to heart, staying optimistic, and focusing on the fact that change is always possible.

What are the biggest rewards in your job?

Honestly, it’s anytime I see something go right for my kids. They’ve had a lot of trauma and a lot of disappointment in their lives. They’ve had so many things go wrong. So when something goes right, and I have the opportunity to acknowledge their accomplishment and make them smile, that’s a great feeling.

How do you deal with stress?

In school and on the job, there is a big emphasis on self-care. Because you can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. The challenge is to figure out what kind of self-care works best for you, because it’s going to be different for everybody. Personally, I like to bake!

What is the best advice you received as a new worker?

That you can’t please everybody, as much as you want to. In this job, it’s just not going to happen. You need to be able to make peace with that and to focus on the fact that you are doing what is best for this child.

What do you want families who are fostering and adopting to think about?

Have patience: With the social worker, because we are trying! With the birth families, who are working to change. And with the children. They’ve been through a lot, but they’re still kids. Open up your heart and love them through it.

Nominate an outstanding caseworker

Do you know a caseworker who has gone above and beyond to help children in foster care find permanency? If so, tell us about them!