Each year, the National Association of Social Workers designates March as Social Work Month to recognize the valuable contributions that social workers make to our communities. The organization proclaimed this year’s theme to be “Social Workers Are Essential.”
As a renowned social services agency, CJE SeniorLife has provided the valuable expertise and compassion that many older adults and their family members profoundly need through our social service workers. They have been the backbone of our organization from its early days when CJE’s social service workers fanned out in Rogers Park to check on older adults sitting on park benches to see if they needed help. Now, almost 50 years later, CJE’s social service workers are expertly trained to address the many personal and systemic issues that may interfere with a senior’s quality of life. Our social service workers strive to effect positive change among their clients. Most have special education and experience in addressing the needs of persons going through the transitions of aging. Thus, they embody the CJE mission to enhance quality of life and facilitate independence of older adults.
CJE has been at the forefront of recognizing the importance of social workers’ unique skill sets in addressing the concerns of aging. From its inception, CJE has offered counseling services as well as more traditional concrete services such as housing, meals, and transportation. As such, we were at the vanguard in recognizing that good mental health is as important as good physical health as one ages.
—Sharon Dornberg-Lee, LCSW, Clinical Supervisor
They are to be commended for their commitment and professionalism, especially during the past year when so many of their clients have either been directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19. Along with other CJE frontline staff, they have helped people deal with an unprecedented crisis.
From the early days of lockdown, our social service workers pivoted quickly to telehealth sessions to continue their work. Despite the many challenges in moving from face-to-face nsessions to communicating via computer or phone, they have provided a human touch for those who have been isolated and fearful about contracting the deadly virus. And when the pandemic runs its course, our counseling professionals will be there to pick up the pieces by continuing to provide grief counseling and other support to those physically and emotionally affected by it.
Social service workers have also supported clients with words of kindness and reassurance during the recent political unrest and hate-filled speech our nation has endured. Our social service workers listen to and address their clients’ concerns about systemic racism, the economic downturn, the healthcare system, and all the additional stressors exacerbated by the pandemic. We have a lot of healing to do and social service workers can play an important role in helping us. They can also be applauded for their proactive work on diversity and inclusion— they have a strong commitment to an ethical code that seeks to protect the most vulnerable. Through the efforts of our social service workers, CJE has been proactive regarding LGBTQ issues. CJE social service staff has made many presentations on the subject, as well as serving and hosting (pre-pandemic) the Chicago Task Force on LGBTQ Aging Network.
Social work is the only helping profession which requires social justice advocacy as part of its professional code of ethics and is therefore a large workforce mandated to advance the rights of the most vulnerable in society.
—Statement by National Association of Social Work
Social service workers are everywhere people need help navigating tough life challenges. At CJE, this support is focused on older adults, their families, and caregivers. Our social service workers participate on interdisciplinary care teams at Lieberman Center. They provide care management for those living independently in the community, for Chicago’s 2,000 Holocaust survivors, and for our residents at Weinberg Community. They are most active through Counseling Services, providing personal psychotherapy and facilitating support groups. Through their work they help isolated older adults create life-enhancing social connections, make sure homebound adults get Home-Delivered Meals and other community resources, and they provide information on affordable housing and other supportive resources. They are valuable supporters of the league of family caregivers of older adults, including those with dementia, Parkinson’s, and adults with disabilities.
A testament to CJE’s credibility and reputation in the field of social work is that it is such a desirable destination for interns. Kate Maley is in her final year as an MSW candidate at Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC and is interning for CJE’s Counseling Services, an experience she’s found extremely rewarding: “The care and community among CJE staff is palpable. The encouragement of self-care has helped me to feel valued and respected and avoid the burnout that is so common in our field. Also, because CJE offers such a wide range of services and programming, it’s an excellent place to get acquainted with the field and all of the career possibilities in social work.” On a personal level, she says that the support and encouragement she received helped her grow and strengthen her social work skills. She described the counseling team as a truly wonderful group of people, remarking “I am grateful to have spent the year working and learning alongside them!” Manager Rosann Corcoran made the additional point that three current staff members (Rich Buino, Mariana Sanchez, and Lisa Andrews) completed their second-year internships with CJE.
We invite you to help us celebrate CJE’s social service workers and social service workers everywhere, as we look forward to our journey of healing, inclusion, support, and life enrichment of our older adults and their caregivers. If you are in need of therapy or a support group, contact Counseling Services at 773.508.1000.