By Jacee Baker, MSW, Youth First, Inc.
Every year in March, we are thankful for the opportunity to celebrate our Youth First Social Workers and the remarkable work they do. This year we are celebrating 83 incredible school social workers who provide programs and services to students across 13 Indiana counties. These amazing individuals change the lives of thousands of kids each year.
The Social Work Field has come a long way since it was founded by Jane Addams in the late 19th century. What started as a grass roots, humanitarian effort has transformed into a network of thousands of widespread organizations that help provide individuals and communities with tools and resources to build healthier lives.
Jane Addams and her colleagues created a network that provided vital services to thousands of people each week. They established a system of kindergarten and day care for working mothers, as well as provided job training, English language tutoring, cooking lessons, and acculturation classes for immigrants. They also established a job-placement bureau, community center, gymnasium, and art gallery. Hull House, the social settlement establishment formed by Addams in Chicago, also provided services to individuals with immediate needs such as food, shelter, information, and referrals for other services.
At its core, social work is very much rooted in helping and protecting vulnerable populations. You can find social workers working as outpatient therapists, in homeless shelters, in hospitals, nursing homes, and of course, in schools.
At Youth First, our mission is to strengthen youth and families by providing evidence-based programs that promote mental health, prevent substance misuse, and maximize student success. We do this by placing licensed social workers in schools to provide no-cost mental health services to students. These services include individual counseling sessions, group sessions, classroom presentations, as well as family programs such as Family Connections and Family First.
Because of the ever-changing demands being placed on young people, Youth First Social Workers see students for a variety of reasons. They are well-equipped to help students develop coping skills to manage the stressors of life and find academic success and happiness at school.
Social workers all over the world provide life-changing services to people every single day. I personally feel so lucky to be part of an organization where I work closely with so many wonderful people who choose to spread their knowledge and light with us and our community daily.
Thank you to all of the social workers providing services that help people live happy, fulfilling lives. I’d like to say a special thank you to the Youth First Social Workers who go out every day and change the lives of children and families in Indiana communities.