The Social Worker Experience for Palmetto Place: Many Hats, All for Love

When I tell people I work at a children’s shelter, I always receive the same question: “So, what do you do, exactly?” The answer is somewhat complex, but, first and foremost, it must be stated, being a social worker at Palmetto Place is full of days which are never the same. This fact is probably the best part of my job here. I love coming into work each day, knowing that I literally have no idea what is going to happen.

Sometimes, I’ll come into work, wearing a suit, because I know that day I’ll be going to court for one of the teens. Hearing more about their story and why they came to us is never the same for each teen. This is where I learn about the environment surrounding the teens and which ways I can possibly help them while they’re at Palmetto Place. This building of understanding is incredibly important as a social worker. Knowing who your client is while they’re with you, is the best way to be able to help them through what they might be experiencing. For some teens, expressing what led them to Palmetto Place can sometimes be difficult—having to relive scenarios, first for police officers or investigators, then again for me as the social worker, is not the way I want to begin their stay with us. I want to make their experience at Palmetto Place as positive and fluid as possible.

Besides attending court hearings, I work on building relationships with each teen to help them uncover their passions and areas in life where they’re interest is expanding. Whether it be, playing soccer, becoming involved in JROTC, or wanting to spend time visiting animals in a shelter, it’s important that each teen knows they have value.

I determine if a teen is in need of additional outlets for trauma they may have experienced, and setup mental health appointments to help them cope with the tragedies they’ve endured. When, they’re getting ready for Prom or some other school function, I help them connect with organizations in Columbia which will provide dresses, shoes, and makeup services. Then, when the time comes, I sit with the teens to talk about life after graduation, and their options for university, trade school, military, or just what they had in mind for that time. Each of these tasks are important for assisting a teen in their growth as individuals.

As a social worker, my focus is on the teens and how to meet them where they are while assisting them in their personal travels toward who they want to be.