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MSW, Masters Social Work, Dominican Woman

January 2, 2013

In 1993, at the age of sixteen, I emigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic.  I will never forget the social worker who assisted me, encouraging me, guiding me, and helping build my confidence while I was feeling helpless, struggling with a new language.  Growing up in the Bronx, and suddenly a minority, I am personally aware of the assorted difficulties facing inner-city youth: poverty, acculturation, childcare inadequacies, racism, discrimination, and English as a second language.  I have walked more than a mile in the shoes of the immigrant and seen the underserved populations, and my compassion for these populations and situations has only grown with my own experiences.  Moreover, I have seen firsthand the perpetuation of social stigmas, a living belief that the poor, the mentally and physically sick, those that are crippled by drug addiction are simply where they are because of choices made.  A sense of justice and passion for helping others was kindled within me and Social Work became a natural path.

 Also, Social Work is a relatively new area in the Dominican Republic, and has yet to firmly establish itself.  Instead, many issues were apparent when I lived there.  While the rise in tourism increased wealth for my country, it also increased the sexual exploitation of women and children.  To date there is an ongoing problem in the trafficking of women and children for forced labor and export to other countries for prostitution.  Simultaneously, drugs are omnipresent, further crushing lives of young men, and drawing others into a life of crime.  Surrounded by these realities laid the groundwork in my mind for bringing about sustainable change in people’s lives, to recover from the unimaginable and go on to rise above it all, contribute to society and flourish.

 For almost a decade, I have dedicated myself to the field of Social Service, both academically and professionally.  In my capacity as a Medicaid Service Coordinator, I served adults and children with developmental disabilities.  Additionally, I am a Housing Specialist for single adults who are homeless and diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.  These past few months have found me a Social Work Intern at the Institute of Family Health as a part of my undergraduate Social Work program’s field placement.  Counseling clients suffering with mental health needs, such as depression, I have developed my basic case management acumen, such as applying for health insurance, assisting with medication management and locating local, community resources.  In the most practical terms, my bilingual abilities have never been put to greater use than in aiding the Hispanic community, a community I am personally acquainted with and their unique experiences and needs.

 To date, no other field ever has nor ever could bring me the same level of personal or professional satisfaction.  I have been left wanting to do more, to expand my knowledge of resources available if not creating them.  To tip the scales in the favor of people wanting or needing to break down the barriers that impede them from accomplishing their goals is truly gratifying.  Knowing I have done all I can to make society better for our children is fulfillment.

 At this point in my professional career, I feel I would quickly exhaust every possible avenue of challenge and promotion at my current academic and skill level.  There is a great deal more change that I would like to affect for more people, and on a larger scale.  The path to a graduate Social Work program is the ideal in order to bring my plans, goals and dreams to fruition, particularly my understanding of creation and management of social programs.

 A graduate Social Work program will allow me to conduct further research into sustainable paths to serving the needs of the homeless and the mentally ill.  It is my understanding that half of the program is spent building a theoretical background upon which the remainder of the program – field experience/education – will bring theory to practical situations.  I look forward to an array of field internship possibilities, and the choice of interviewing agencies of my choice. 

 Overall, I anticipate a program that will thoroughly prepare me for competent, practical promotion of social justice and social change.  The School itself will provide outreach opportunities as well as research institutes that will give me access to cutting-edge research, trends, and issues in the field of Social Work.  In addition, a MSW is a stepping-stone for me, as I am intent upon eventually completing a Ph.D. in Social Work upon increasing my exposure in the field.

 To date, I have brought many of my personal and intellectual attributes to bear in my work and to good effect.  I would describe myself as being persistent, patient, hard working, empathetic, emotionally and psychologically strong, a problem solver, a resourceful, and a teacher.  As a teacher, though, there are also connotations of guide, mentor and person who empowers, attributes which are critical to successful Social Work.  As a Social Worker, in order to do justice by a client, there is a need to be persistent in pursuing every possibility, every resource.  This is also where being hard working comes into play, as well as a strong work ethic and resourcefulness.  Without these attributes, it would not be possible to attend to the majority of clients’ needs or develop newer programming.

 When dealing with clients’ behavior patterns and encouraging them to become more independent, there is a need to be both empathetic and patient at the same time.  Many people’s behaviors become ingrained, all that they know or even addicted to certain stimuli, no matter how unhealthy or dysfunctional.  These cycles are difficult to break, and take time.  Additionally, a Social Worker must be emotionally and psychologically strong.  If you cannot be strong for your clients, then you are not going to be able to give them the support they need.

 In order to be more successful in helping others, I need to increase my grasp of an understanding of the more fundamental and at times dry areas of Social Work, such as administration, management and supervisory skills.  While I would love to work in an environment where everyone knew their purpose and things always ran smoothly and as they should, I realize this is unrealistic.  If I am to be able to enjoy the client-Social Worker relationship, and build more opportunities for them, I am going to have to become more adept in these areas.  By strengthening my weakness, though, I will become a much more well rounded Social Worker and person, and able to give more to my work than ever before.

 The ongoing issues of homelessness in New York City, and lack of housing are of particular concern to me.  There is simply not enough sustainable work being done in terms of supportive housing programs where clients’ needs are truly being addressed, such as substance abuse, and mental health issues.  In my experience thus far, I have seen firsthand failures in communication between governmental agencies, or where issues are weighted down by red tape, or other administrative quagmire.  In the end, the people at the heart of the matter are not having their behavior patterns addressed nor are they developing skills to become independent, further compounding the issues.

 Where we cannot prevent people falling into a downward spiral, more needs to be done to reach out to the lost souls, those lost in fear, convincing them that their lives are worth investing the time in checking themselves into a treatment facility, detoxifying, work through the recovery process, staying off the drugs and, ideally, helping others.

 Social workers need to do more to convince health insurance providers and employers of the importance of providing time off, as well as covering the cost of rehabilitation.  More provisions need to be made to aid the parents of young children, or those who care for an elderly parent(s) as many people only enter rehabilitation after they hit bottom.  Rather than simply finding an appropriate treatment program for a patient, more quality programming needs to be developed, funded and sustained.  And above all, waiting lists for treatment need to be reduced or eliminated completely.

 In addition to eventually pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Work, I envision running several supportive housing endeavors, with a fully qualified social service staff and serving the homeless and the mentally ill.  The ideal would be to ally these projects with a university, ensuring the future of quality Social Work by immersing burgeoning Social Workers in practical situations where they can apply their classroom theory.

 Overall, I want to be an agent for bringing about sustainable change in policies and systems that both educate and reach out to socio-economically depressed inner-city communities.  Indeed, there need to be changes in New York City’s housing system, an increase in particularly the safety of the neighborhoods in general.  More specifically, I envision a homeless system that is better structured, with an intensive social services support system that works in concert with city, state and non-profit agencies.  These agencies need to keep a certain common goal in mind, over and above housing: the independence of the people the serve.  This can only achieved through addressing the emotional and substance abuse needs, education, and job training needs of those that so desperately need it.

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