Outstanding Caseworker: Jillian Barath
Jillian Barath is an adoption worker in Ohio. A mother who lives in Kentucky and adopted a little girl on Jillian’s caseload suggested that we feature Jillian as an Outstanding Caseworker.
The mother wrote:
“Jillian has gone above and beyond to make the process smooth. It’s obvious how much she cares about the children. They aren’t just a name and case number to her. She puts her heart into everything she does. I know I can always call her, and she will do everything she can to help us and our daughter. She is the best and we feel honored to have had her on our side!”
You’ve been working with children and families for nearly 14 years. What drew you to social work?
I came from a family where everyone was in a helping field. My dad was a teacher, my mom was a nurse. My grandmother was a foster parent in the 70s and 80s. Back in those days, a lot of the older kids were not adopted. So my grandmother had a lot of long-term placements who became part of our family. Today, many of them are like aunts and uncles to me.
The mother who wrote to us adopted her daughter from another state. Are a lot of the children you work with adopted by parents in another region?
Yes, I specifically work with children awaiting adoption who are not a good match for families in our county. It’s not that we don’t have a lot of great families. But we’re a smaller county and have limited resources. The children I work with tend to need more therapeutic services or be part of large sibling groups.
How did you connect the family in Kentucky with this little girl on your caseload in Ohio?
She was living with a foster family here in Geauga County when I registered her on AdoptUSKids in December 2018. It was just before Christmas. We didn’t get any responses right away, and shortly after I posted her profile, I went away on Christmas break. But by the time I got back, nearly 80 families had inquired!
My whole team worked together to review the profiles and home studies, trying to select the best possible matches. There were so many good families, and it was daunting trying to narrow the field down while thinking that we held the rest of this little girl’s life in our hands. We got it down to about five families. Over the course of several weeks, we had ongoing conversations with all of them. All of the families were all awesome. But this couple stood out. It just felt like there would be a connection. And there was.
The couple started coming to Ohio for weekend-long visits, which all went well. The little girl moved to Kentucky in the spring, and her adoption was finalized this August.
I can’t even describe to you how far she’s come during those six months. This is the first time she’s lived in a health family with people who did not hurt her. Yet she’s been able to build a trusting relationship with her parents in a fairly short time.
Is it outcomes like this that have kept you doing this work?
Seeing children grow and progress are the best parts of the job. It’s not always adoption. This year, I had three young men who aged out of care graduate—two from college and one from trade school. I watched each of them walk across a stage and receive a diploma. Seeing something going right for them when the odds of failure were so high was a powerful feeling.
If I’ve learned anything in 14 years, it’s that I will never know everything. Every child on my caseload has taught me something. The key is to listen to them—to take the time to get on their level and hear what they have to say.