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Social Worker Appreciation Month: Naomi

This year for Social Worker Appreciation Month, we are spotlighting Case Manager Naomi. Last year you may have seen the article we did on Naomi for Military Brat day, where she shared how her childhood experiences in an Army family helped guide her decisions for her career. This time we’re going to dive a little deeper into Naomi’s career as a social worker here at the VFW National Home for Children. As she told us before, “I grew up valuing service to others. I knew I wanted to help children and families. I knew I had the “gift of gab,” learned quickly, and was flexible. I looked for a career that encompassed those things.” For this article, she explained that when she was trying to decide what to go to school for, she interviewed a therapist. “I said ‘I like what you do. What kind of degree do you recommend’?” And they said that social work is the most marketable degree that will give you a wide variety of choices. “And they were right!” she said. She loves how her position at the National Home gives her so much variety, allowing her to do many different aspects of social work. “From in-person meetings with families, connecting with resources and referrals, educating families on different aspects that fit with their goal plans, assessment, and recommendations, I never get bored with this job!” Naomi bounced around a lot as a kid, but she ended up back in Michigan, staying with her grandmother to finish her last year of high school. After that, she married and had children, but when her children were 5 and 2, she divorced and began looking to build a career. She knew she wanted to find a school in an area that would be good to raise her son and daughter, so she applied to Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, MI. The first day she ever visited the area was for orientation! Naomi completed her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Social Work from MSU, and for her graduation, a friend gifted her a resume writing service. With her brand new resume, she opened up the newspaper to the jobs section and sent it out. She wasn’t planning on working right away, as she was helping a professor with research on Native Americans in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Even when the National Home called her to schedule an interview, she canceled the first interview! But the National Home was very interested in Naomi, and they didn’t give up on asking her to come in. As they were offering her the job, they asked her for a five-year commitment. “I thought, ‘Five years?? I’ve never stayed in one place for five years in my entire life’!” And despite her early resistance, Naomi is beginning her 29th year at the National Home this year. “I’ve loved every minute of it,” she said. “The Lord lays out a path for you.” This past year has offered many challenges for Naomi, but it has also provided some opportunities. Raising two children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Naomi has long been a researcher of the disorder and wishing she could become more specialized in this area. With the stimulus money that came through in 2020, she decided to invest in her education and started a course to become an ADHD Certified Clinical Service Provider. “It has been so interesting to find that the information I am learning not only helps the parents I work with who suffer from the disorder, but also with many of the veterans who are suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other veterans issues.” “For example, coping techniques for Executive Dysfunction (a common issue for those with ADHD) have also been beneficial to some of my veteran clients. There is a lot of crossover with these coping techniques.” And while social distancing and other barriers have affected many workplaces, things happened to fall into place pretty well for the Case Management Team. In January of 2019, the Case Management team did training on life coaching. And in January of 2020, they each received laptops purchased with donations from an annual golf outing in Missouri. The tools they learned during the training for working remotely with their clients and the laptops came especially handy when stay-home orders went into effect in March of 2020 in Michigan. These resources allowed them to easily pivot to online meetings with their families without skipping a beat. However, like everyone, Naomi looks forward to a time when things can get back to more of a regular cadence around the National Home. “What we do miss out on are those opportunities at campus events to interact with our residents informally.” “Also, this isolation has been extra hard on those with limited social support, so we are trying to stay in touch with them more frequently to encourage them and encourage the National Home community, on the whole, to support one another through these times.” She said. “So many natural supports and connections have been more difficult to form this past year the way they usually would. But our families are so resilient! They are discovering just how capable they are of coping with these challenges.” Many of the National Home families have expressed cherishing the unexpected family togetherness that that 2020 brought them. Naomi says they have been using this time to build happy family memories. We hope that in 2021 our families continue to enjoy the extra family time as they work with social workers like Naomi to meet their goals in the new year.

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