In honor of National Social Work Month, we’re highlighting a handful of the many dedicated social workers who stand up every day for the children, youth and families we serve. Becoming a social worker offers you the opportunity to pursue a variety of career paths, from direct clinical practice to administration to advocacy and policy roles. As such, social workers are found at every level, in every department and program area of Children’s Home + Aid.
Meet Velma Oliver, Adoption Specialist at Children’s Home + Aid’s
Tell us about yourself:
Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, I’m the youngest of three and the aunt/great aunt of many. I attended The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for my undergraduate degree in Social Work, where I volunteered part time as a College Co-Op for TRiO Academic Talent Search Program. In that position, I mentored and tutored middle-schoolers and assisted and mentored high school students with the college application process. After undergrad, I worked as a college adviser for the university for two years in two different Chicago Public Schools high schools with more than 500 students. I also worked with parents and community partners to offer junior and senior students the best resources for college preparation.
I have a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While at UIC, I had the opportunity to become a child welfare trainee and earn the state child welfare employee licensure (CWEL). I have also acquired my CERAP and CANS certifications.
What is your most rewarding experience as a social worker?
I value the opportunities that I have had to challenge myself professionally and personally. I’ve enjoyed problem solving, brain-storming, and getting things done on behalf of the youth in care, the birth parents, and the foster families we serve. I am part of an amazing team at Children’s Home + Aid, who’ve made this very hard work seem much easier and I greatly appreciate them.
How do you use your social work background in your current position?
As an adoption specialist, I serve children and families in three distinct ways. I concurrently license foster parents, provide case management to youth in care, and write adoption/guardianship subsidies, which provide permanency for youth in care. I advocate for everyone involved in a child’s case from the birth parent to the foster parent as well as the child. I collaborate with community resources and agencies to give birth parents support while their case remains open. I support foster parents as they care for children in their homes, giving them resources that aids in caring for the children. I inform the court and testify to the details of the case for the youth in care. I work in partnership with adoption attorneys to ensure the children and their foster families have everything that they may need post-permanency.
What does being a social worker mean to you?
Social work, to me, means an opportunity to change someone’s trajectory through consistency, perseverance, hard work and empathy. Everyone deserves someone to root for them and to help them succeed in life. Children who experience trauma, especially, need an adult who is acting in their best interest to aid them towards a prosperous future. These children deserve someone who is a stepping stone towards their upward mobility. Additionally, parents should have the opportunity to reach out for help and receive necessary resources for the hardships that they face in life.