Alumni In Action: Adult Protective Services Worker
Katreena Hite, LBSW—Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services
Only a couple months after completing her Bachelor of Social Work degree at NMU in May, 2007, Katreena Hite began her social work career as an adult protective services worker. As a student, Katreena completed her field placement with the local Salvation Army. Her degree and determination in job seeking helped get her started in her social work career. In making the transition from student to professional and offers these tips to other prospective social workers:
- Keep an open mind and consider positions in many settings.
- Consider locations beyond Michigan’s borders.
- Don't let a lack of experience stop you from applying.
- There ARE jobs for BSWs; not everyone requires an MSW.
- Graduation doesn't mean the end to learning; practice presents new challenges every day.
When I first started looking for a job after college I found the most frustrating thing to be that all the jobs wanted 6 months or more of experience. I applied for the jobs anyway. About a month after graduation I came across a job on the State of Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services website. They had several postings for “Child and Family Services Worker,” which did not sound like something in that I would be interested. Then I found an opening where the job description stated that the worker would be involved with adults and their families doing investigations. Again this job asked for Licensure and 6 months of experience. I had neither at the time, but I applied anyway, and I got the interview. Later found out that I "rocked it" from one of my supervisors. I was hired on June 18, 2007.
I didn't get my license until July, 2007. It actually turned out to be a good thing that I didn't have my license right away, because it gave me a month where I was tagging along with my co-workers and learning from them before I was thrown into the responsibilities of my own case load. This isn't what I had pictured myself doing after graduation; I had no clue what specific area of social work I wanted to work in, but by taking a chance, and by keeping an open mind, it turned out great. Now that I’ve been doing it for a while, I think this job is an awesome fit for me.
My instructors kept insisting that there really are BSW level jobs out there. They were right; there are jobs, but maybe not in Marquette or even in Michigan right now, given the poor economy. However, in my job search, I found that Kansas and Missouri to be in desperate need for social workers. In one month here in Kansas I applied for 17 jobs, I was offered 4 interviews. I took the first job I interviewed for because it was the one I wanted the most of all the ones I had applied for.
Upon graduation if anyone is looking for a job and willing to relocate, have one of the professors contact me for more information. Kansas truly is in a crisis with the shortage of Social Workers. Another thing that I found after getting hired is that I don't really need to get a master's degree. I can actually move up very far in this agency as an LBSW. I was pretty gun-ho that I was going to get my master's degree about a year ago - not so much now.
At the time that I am writing this, I have 25 open cases. The job is great, I love to be busy and I have the opportunity to be busy all day long. My job title is Adult Protective Services Social Worker Specialist. I finally got my business cards; I thought that was cool on it's own. The job that I do involves going out and doing home visits and then hopefully referring clients to services. When a report comes in to our intake specialists through the hotline they are screened and then assigned to one of the workers here. I deal mainly with cases of self-neglect, exploitation and fiduciary abuse in the elderly. I go and interview the clients and hopefully they are willing to let me make a referral for services to be started for them. One of the biggest frustrations that people in this field often have is that they cannot force a client to accept services. Many times people that call in and make reports assume that I can go out and take someone from their home and put them into a nursing home or in assisted living. I find myself constantly explaining that this is not part of my job. Working with adults it is so important to let them make their own choices in what happens in their lives.
I am happy to have had such a good education - even all the way out in Kansas City-Kansas Northern Michigan University already had a great reputation for producing well-prepared Social Workers. I don't think I was completely prepared for this job, although you never will be 100% ready in this profession. Every situation is so different when working with people that I am constantly learning something new. For example, I was invited by some of the local human service professionals to join a Hoarding Task Force in the county that I work in. In 2.5 months of taking my own cases I have had 3 out of 23 clients that were hoarders. I don't think anyone in my student cohort at NMU researched hoarding, but if you are a student with an interest in geriatrics, hoarding behavior might make a good study project topic.
Licensure is not too bad either. It is frustrating because it takes forever to get all the paperwork in to the licensing boards. I passed 1st try on the exam - completely recommend getting the study guide. Making the transition from student to working professional was exciting. Having this job makes all the education and long nights staying up to get those papers done worth it. I think I may actually write more reports in my job, get used to documentation.
In conclusion - I am very happy that I made the choice to go into social work. So far - it's been worth it. My favorite part - I get to wear jeans to work! Next favorite is that I get to have some cool people for clients.
To find out more about social work jobs in Kansas, Katreena recommends the Kansas Civil Service Jobs site. She reports that the starting pay without any experience is $15.37. After six months probation the wage goes up to $17.36. Employees pay about $16.00 per month for my insurance (health, dental, vision, prescription). Benefits include a pension, and also a 403 (b) account. Employees can sign up for a child care plan where the state pays for half of child care expenses. Katreena says that SRS also offers an education savings account for either herself or any dependents.