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Meet Our Team: Every Month is Social Work Month at LFC

Every month at Lawyers For Children is Social Work Month! Celebrating 40 years at Lawyers For Children means celebrating 40 years of every client having a social worker at their side. We are proud to have licensed Master Level Social Workers not just reach and engage with our clients in ways different from attorneys, but the extra mile social workers go in identifying options and solutions, and making them a reality for our clients.

Meet just some of our social workers here at LFC and their journeys to the social work profession!

Raysa Betances, LMSW, Staff Social Worker

What drew you to social work?

For the first part of my life, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I pictured myself in front of a classroom teaching young people. I wanted to be the type of teacher that actually cares and works towards changing the lives of their students, many of whom are set up to fail. I thought teachers made the greatest impact on a person’s life and that was who I wanted to be. At the time, I did not know much about the field of social work. I was introduced to social work during my sophomore year in college when I took an intro class as an elective, and I was immediately drawn to this field which I knew very little about. I started to take more social work courses and learned about the field, and ended up majoring in social work instead of education. I learned that while education is confined to a classroom, Social Work takes place everywhere and covers all aspects of the lives of those deemed at-risk. I knew that I wanted to become a Social Worker due to my sincere interest and desire to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

What is the most rewarding part of being a social worker? What do you like most about working with LFC’s clients?

The most rewarding part of being a Social Worker is having the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of your clients. Being able to provide assistance, build relationships, advocate, and empower all contribute to a fulfilling experience. The field itself can be difficult and sometimes traumatizing, but the positive impact usually outweighs the challenges/difficulties. The best part about working with LFC clients is having the ability to advocate for and protect their rights. Oftentimes childrens’ wants and needs are overlooked and it is our job to give them a voice in family court. As the motto goes “Protecting Rights. Changing Lives.”

What do you do in your spare time?

Self-care is so very important! Social Workers are so often preoccupied pouring into others that we forget to pour into ourselves. During my free time, I like to unpack by indulging in delicious foods, reading and watching documentaries, going on walks/hikes at a local park, and occasionally participating in a yoga class.

Shrimati Sookwah, LMSW, Senior Staff Social Worker & Co-Director, Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation Project

What drew you to become a social worker?

I feel as if I was born to be a social worker. Growing up in New York City, I saw a lot of at risk populations (inequality, discrimination, poverty/homelessness, abuse, illness) and always thought it was important for everyone to have a person in their life who can provide some support and resources when needed, but too often this is not the case, and not everyone will have access to that support system in their reach. I believe social work gives me the opportunity to provide support and advocacy for those who need/want it in order for them to feel safe in their environment and live a more fulfilling life. Social justice is also one major reason for me pursuing a career as a social worker. Working in an office that allows children to have a voice is one step closer to ensuring justice will be achieved on a broader spectrum.

If you could offer advice to someone considering becoming a social worker?

My advice to anyone considering being a social worker, would be to ensure your own personal values connect with the fundamental principle of a social worker. You want to wake up every morning loving what you do and when your core values are embedded in your work, it becomes easy to love the work you do.

It is important for social workers to respect their client’s choices and offer guidance, support and education to help the client choose the path that is best for them and not what anyone else may think is best. Every person has a right to choose how they want to live their life.

What do you like most about working with LFC's clients?

Working directly with my clients is what I love most about being a social worker at LFC. I feel a deep sense of empathy for the children I work with, especially those who have been victimized. Children can be one of the most vulnerable populations but every day at LFC I am reminded of how strong and resilient my clients are. I love the relationships that I have developed with my client’s over the years but most rewarding is being able to watch them grow to reach their full potential and succeed in life. I am very passionate about working in an environment which allows me to be an advocate and give so many children the opportunity to have their voice heard.

Mary Ellen Shea, LCSW, Senior Staff Social Worker & Adolescents Confronting Transition (ACT) Project Pregnant & Parenting Specialist

What drew you to become a social worker?

I always enjoyed helping people and I knew I was going to somehow make it a chosen career. I loved listening to family and friends and offering them a “space” to vent about their troubles/worries. In college my favorite course was Sociology but I wanted more “hands on” with people. My Sociology Professor directed me towards Social Work and the rest was history. Since entering the field, I received my Bachelors of Social (BSW) from NYU, Master of Social Work (MSW) from Adelphi University and more recently my Clinical License (LCSW) after doing 3000 clinical hours and taking an exam. I am forever grateful to my Professor who directed me to my chosen profession.

What do I want the people to know about social workers?

Social workers possess a very unique set of skills that can be transferable to many careers. Social workers can be found in hospitals, political offices, schools, child welfare, legal system, teaching and private practitioners. I also want the public to know that to become a Social Worker you have to obtain your Masters Degree. Once you graduate you can take an exam to obtain your license (LSW) and to obtain your Clinical License you will need 3000 face to face clinical hours and an exam) (LCSW)

Fun fact: If I didn’t do Social Work I would have made my way to become a dancer. My other passion in life.