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Outstanding Caseworker: Jonathan Nichols

Outstanding caseworker Jonathan Nichols

Jonathan Nichols is a child welfare caseworker in Summit County, Ohio. He has been working with children and families for 22 years. In his current role, Jonathan works with children and teens in foster care who are in need of a permanency plan and a forever family.

A mother suggested that we feature Jonathan as an Outstanding Caseworker. She wrote:

“Jonathan has been the backbone of our foster/adoption process. He has assisted my husband and me every step of the way…Whether it be paperwork that needs to be filled out, assistance with arranging transportation to visitations, or just someone to talk to with questions, Jonathan has gone above and beyond at all times. He is truly a blessing to have as our lead person throughout this process.”

What is your approach to working with children and families?

I would say that I have several approaches, depending on the situation. I like to use this analogy: my role can be that of coach, spectator, or tour guide.

I am frequently a coach, giving a parent or child direction and support.

I might be a spectator, cheering parents and youth on from the sideline.

But often, my most important role is that of a tour guide, asking children and teens where they want to go—what they want their future to look like. This is critical, because young people need to be engaged and have a say in their permanency planning. And so often, they are reluctant to speak up because they feel like their voice hasn’t been heard.

The family who contacted us said that you’ve gone “above and beyond at all times.” What makes them say that?

First, I should say that this family has a lot to be proud of. They’ve done a great job of listening to the people around them and working with us to come up with concrete strategies that have helped them connect with their child.

On our end, we’ve always reassured them that we’ll remain a support for as long as they need it. As a new family, I know that’s meant a lot. And we worked closely with them from the start to prepare them and the child for this transition.

What do you think are the biggest contributors to a family’s success?

Having patience and trust in the process. Families are understandably eager to welcome a child into their home and move toward adoption. But sometimes giving a child additional opportunities to interact with a family and time to adjust to a new home, a new school—a new everything—can be the difference between a smooth transition and a disruption. It’s about focusing on success over speed.

What are the best parts of your job? What’s kept you doing it for 22 years?

Being a social worker is not a cookie-cutter job. Every day there is always a new challenge and new experience. Of course, you can always draw from past experiences to inform a decision. The strategies are the same, but every situation—every child, every family—is unique.