What it takes to do the work.
As we continue to celebrate Social Work Month, we are highlighting the life-altering services that social workers at Gateway provide. Our team is dedicated to helping children and families in our community work through challenges in order to thrive.
This month, we’re sharing stories from our staff to highlight what it means to be in social services. Our next feature focuses on Tiffany Pope who supervises our Independent Living Program. Her journey into social work has allowed her to serve in various ways, ultimately finding her passion in working with foster youth who are transitioning from care.
To learn more about Tiffany and the rewarding work she is doing, read on!
How long have you worked with youth and what drew you to it?
I’ve been working in this field for four years now. Prior to starting on this career path, I obtained a master's in education as I always had a love and interest in working with children. While going through my undergraduate program at UAB, I interned for the Department of Human Resources where I was really introduced to working in the child welfare system. It was a great experience and I thought I wanted to go into education so that I could serve children who needed additional support within the school system. However, once I graduated, I went to work for Alabama Mentor’s foster care program where I realized how much of an impact you can have working with older youth in the system that need structure, stability and someone to show up for them. I eventually found my way to Gateway’s Independent Living Program where I could work directly with that population, and I’ve loved it ever since.
What are you most passionate about?
My biggest passion is working with children and youth. I’ve always been driven to help others and getting to see these young adults forge their own path to success after being in foster care brings me so much joy. It’s the most rewarding job.
As the supervisor of a program, what is the most valuable skillset someone on your team could have as a social worker?
You have to put in the work to really get to know these youth. You have to understand where they have come from, what their needs are, and be able to build a rapport with them that can translate into supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond that, being knowledgeable about community resources is key so that you can help clients find resources to fulfill the goals they set for themselves. Being a social worker is so much bigger than just checking in and checking the boxes, it’s about providing a service to help others get what they express they need. If you can connect with them and effectively take goals set by the client to craft a plan tailored to them that keeps them on track, then you can do this work!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting into this field?
It takes unwavering passion. I feel social work is truly a calling because if you don’t have the passion and compassion to serve others then you can’t effectively serve your clients.You also have to be knowledgeable about the policies that are in place for your agency and the field as a whole so that you make sure you’re doing all that you can for those in your care within the parameters of the services. It takes patience and commitment to build rapport with clients which is crucial. You have to have that, especially when working with older youth, in order to get them to listen and respect you for them to share their story, needs and open up about how you can help them.
When you started this journey, did you have any hesitations and, if so, what made you overcome them?
I really didn’t have any hesitations. Interning at DHR I had a great understanding of what it took to do the work and I knew I wanted to work with children. I knew working in this field would serve others making a difference in their lives which is what I wanted to do. Again, it’s a calling and it’s always been a calling for me. I don’t regret choosing this career path - I’d do it all over again.
What is your main goal as a social worker?
I just want my clients to succeed. If I can help them along their journey to healing from their trauma and reach their goals, then I have done my job. There's no better feeling than celebrating their wins.
This can be a challenging field. What is something that has helped you get through?
Daily meditations really help me to process. There will be so many days that you take it home with you. You will worry about clients and how best to help them, but the best way to do that is to fill your cup. Take time to process and reset so that you can be refreshed and ready to help them through whatever they are facing.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career so far?
Honestly, I’m still learning a lot of lessons. In this line of work, every day is something new. A new challenge – a new victory. It’s hard work and the biggest lesson I’ve taken away from it so far is to remain open and that there is always new lessons around the corner.