Meg - Roadmap to School Social Worker
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
What do you do for a living?
My title is Crisis Stabilization Lead - I’m a school district social worker, but not a traditional one because I only respond to mental health crisis situations. I’m part of a team that provides short-term crisis wrap-around support to a small case load of students in 11 different schools in the district.
What does a day at your job look like?
I may meet with school teams, or parents in their homes, or work with students in a school. I’m there to help support during a crisis with any of my students, and formulate service plans for them. I also train staff in crisis intervention and attend trainings myself.
What path did you take to get here?
Graduated high school—>
Went to college at University of St. Thomas, planning on a business major—>
First semester of sophomore year I was sitting in Accounting 101 and left within 10 minutes, even though it meant I’d lose my spot in the program, because I knew it wasn’t for me. I went directly to the university counseling center and sat in front of their book of careers. Nothing resonated until I found Social Worker and I knew that was what I was supposed to do. I emailed the Chairmen of the Department and was enrolled in the program by the end of the week—>
Got my Bachelors in Social Work—>
Worked with St. Paul's school district as a social worker, knowing that I had to go back to get my Master's to move forward in this career—>
Got my Masters in Social Work in 2002 from University of St. Thomas—>
Moved to Denver in 2003–>
Worked in a small school district north of Denver as a school social worker—>
In 2007 I moved to Wisconsin after my best friend introduced me to my future husband—>
I wanted to try something new so I worked in Child Protection Services as an investigator. I loved that work and was amazed at how much I learned about the systems that impact our families and our communities-->
After 4 years in child protection, I realized that schools have the most access to children, more than any other service provider. There’s a huge opportunity for reaching kids by working in a school—>
By this time I had gotten married and had my second child, and I decided to go back to being a school social worker—>
In 2014 the opportunity to work in a new crisis stabilization program that partners with Catholic Charities, the school district, and County Human Services became available, so I took it and have been there ever since.
What are the biggest Challenges of your Job?
1. It’s a short term intervention program with students who usually have been impacted by years of trauma, untreated mental health and/or poverty. We try to accomplish as much as we can in a short period of time while working against years of trauma.
2. Access to services, navigating insurance and different systems is always a challenge.
What are the greatest blessings of your Job?
The parents and guardians I get to work with are some of the most incredible and resilient people I’ve ever met.
What 3 characteristics do you have to possess or develop to do your job well?
1. Be able to meet people where they’re at in a very non-judgmental way. That includes families and teachers. Teachers experience secondary trauma from their students and their job.
2. Have lots of compassion.
3. You have to be able to maintain healthy boundaries. Boundaries make the difference between a trained social worker and someone who just wants to help.
What are 3 concrete things you’d tell someone on their journey to doing your job?
1. Volunteer or work in different social service settings where social workers are employed. I was a candy striper in high school.
2. Figure out what you’re really passionate about and plan on getting your Master’s.
3. Consider picking up a second language. There’s a huge need for bilingual social workers, so you’ll be more marketable.
FB: Meg Nelson