March is National Social Work Month. It’s a time to recognize and celebrate the workers who have dedicated their lives to lifting up Iowa families with nowhere else to turn. They work long hours. They see children and parents at the most difficult moments in their lives. But they get up every day, committed to strengthening Iowa families.
The social workers at Lutheran Services in Iowa impact thousands of children and adults each year through child abuse prevention and services to families and youth in crisis. In my role at LSI, I am privileged to work with hundreds of social workers across the state. But social work also has played a significant role in my personal life.
My mom, Gale Quirk, was a strong voice and advocate for children during her 84 years of life. She was a social worker serving the Waterloo community for more than 50 years. She founded several organizations and created programs to support vulnerable children. She also was a court-appointed special advocate, a foster parent mentor and a constant champion for disadvantaged youth. She devoted her life to making sure every child had a safe, stable home.
I was blessed to be at my mom’s side during her last days. She founded Cedar Valley Hospice with her friends in 1979 and spent her final eight days of life there after a long fight with cancer.
My mom constantly reminded and challenged me to ensure all Iowa children have a safe, happy space where they can grow and thrive.
Every day, Iowa social workers are answering the challenge my mom issued. They are our community members and neighbors, and they are stepping up to fill the desperate need our state has for more compassionate people like my mom.
They spend long hours away from their own families, doing difficult work to help other Iowa children and parents succeed. They play a vital role caring for members of their community while at the same time, many face caregiver fatigue and secondary trauma while going for years at a time with no pay raise due to the low reimbursement rates many providers receive from the state.
More pressure must be applied at the state legislative level to support the social workers who serve as Iowa’s strongest safety net. At the same time, let us join together and thank all the human service workers in our lives for the life-changing work they do every day. Let us lift up our Iowa social workers this month, and every month.
Steve Quirk is the Associate Vice President of Child Welfare Services at LSI. He can be reached at Stephen.Quirk@LSIowa.org.
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