March is National Social Work Month, a time to thank our social workers and highlight the critical work they do to support individuals, communities, and society.
Here at University Settlement (US), we spoke with some of our staff who support New Yorkers every day, to get their perspectives on the importance and impact of social work, what a social worker actually does, and why.
First up, we spoke with Jun Zhao, a Clinical Family Child Specialist at University Settlement's Consultation Center at 184 Eldridge Street. Jun has been with US since 2014 when she started working as a Family Child Specialist in our Early Head Start program. She fostered family communication and understanding by visiting family's homes which had children age three and under, and facilitated parent and child support groups.
Jun had always been interested in clinical social work, so when a position opened up at the Consultation Center she was excited to apply. Shifting to the Consultation Center had a big impact on her day-to-day schedule: now, she meets one on one with clients at the Center, her daily agenda booked back to back with appointments. To Jun, though, there is an important similarity between working with families and working with individuals: "When I work with individuals, I always think about their relationships with their family members or their community. I always think about a person in their context."
Our Consultation Center is open to anybody who can make the trip to the Lower East Side and offers both psychiatric and mental health counseling services. Jun's team consists of six other full-time staff and an additional team of nearly 20 part-time staff who do social work in Lower East Side schools and other satellite sites.
Jun explained that social workers are found in a wide array of fields and roles: some working with individuals or families, some work with communities, hospitals, or schools, and some work in politics and policy to advocate for the needs of communities. For her, the most rewarding aspect of being a social worker is having an impact:
"Change, for me, looks like empowering individuals and families to recognize the strength within themselves so they can face their challenges and really mobilize their own resources to connect to their preferred version of themselves, connect with their significant others, and create the change they want to see in the world."
Stay tuned for more profiles of US social workers over the coming month.
Check out our video with Jun below. We'll be updating this page throughout March with videos from other US social workers. Check back often for updates and don't forget to share this story.