March is National Social Work Month; an opportunity for human service organizations to honor social workers, and human service and child welfare professionals for their dedication and commitment to serving people and making the world a better place. This year’s theme is “Forging Solutions out of Challenges.”

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Melbourne Chamber’s Women of Excellence convening where I opened by sharing that child welfare is a challenging, yet rewarding field. Challenging because there is inadequate funding, long and often times endless work hours, very high staff turnover due to the nature of the work; and child welfare is a field often subjected to public scrutiny and criticism as a result of the sensitive nature of the work we do.

Yet, in spite of the challenges associated with serving in this field, there are amazing men and women called to protect and care for vulnerable children and their families who literally put their lives on the line and make personal sacrifices to do this work and rarely are they recognized as champions for all they do.

There are more than 600,000 social workers across America and hundreds right here in Brevard County. So what exactly does a child welfare professional do? They are called upon to ensure the children entrusted to their care receive the support and services they need, they get up early, work late, are on call 24/7 including holidays, attend court hearings, prepare case plans and coordinate services, ensure documentation is entered timely, visit the children and their families, transport children to visits and appointments, ensure siblings have opportunities to visit on a regular basis, secure dental and medical appointments, and monitor and ensure academic progress. They also – to respond to and stabilize crisis, and most importantly ensure children are safe and supported; and amidst the daily responsibility of protecting children, at times they are placed in harm’s way.

It is my privilege to represent the unsung heroes of our community who are doing work that many are not willing or able to do for the pay, risk, and heartbreak often associated. Forging solutions out of challenges defines the role of child welfare professionals. While confronted daily with a myriad of challenges these amazing people continue to heed the call to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children; making personal sacrifices by going above and beyond, and by doing so are facilitators of hope and healing. Many lives have been changed because of the work child welfare professionals do.

It is my honor to recognize the dedication and commitment of Brevard’s child welfare professionals. Thank you for all that you do each and every day to protect children, strengthen families and change lives.