Volunteer finds career path at CCAS
Facing a crossroads in her career, 28-year old Samantha McLaine-Asaka was unsure about what steps to take next. But what she did know was that her career had to involve children. After obtaining a degree in psychology and criminology from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Samantha had taught English as a second language to children in Korea.
Now that she was back in Canada, she was considering a new direction in her career, which would begin with obtaining a post-graduate degree in either social work or psychology.
“Working with children is so rewarding. They make you appreciate the simple things in life,” she says. Samantha’s passion for children started in high school where she supervised a group of special-needs children. She heard about CCAS’s work with children, and approached us about volunteering. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in child welfare, which would hopefully help me decide about my post-graduate studies and future career,” she says.
Samantha began volunteering with CCAS’s Child Access Program in Fall 2009, where she supervised family access visits on Saturday mornings. Isabel Dutra, Supervisor of Volunteer Services at our City of Toronto branch recognized Samantha’s potential and offered her a position as a Team Assistant providing direct service support to a team of child protection workers. “Samantha’s background and experience are a perfect fit for this role because she is knowledgeable in child development and therapeutic intervention,” says Isabel.
Samantha recalls her first home visit in her new role as a Team Assistant as a valuable learning experience. “It was a domestic dispute. The mother had a 3-month old son,” she says. “What struck me most during the visit was that our child protection workers were there not only to protect the child, but also to support the mother. Our role is about making the family a safe place for the child, and often, that means helping parents find the resources to make that happen,” she says. After the home visit was complete, Samantha returned to the office with the case worker to discuss how they could support the family. Part of Samantha’s role was to help the worker find community resources for the mother, and then connect her to these resources upon their availability.
Fostering collaboration and teamwork with community organizations is a fundamental objective of recent child welfare improvements mandated by Transformation, and volunteers help us achieve these objectives. “Samantha’s support provides an enormous amount of workload relief to child protection workers because it can be quite time consuming to connect with organizations,” says Isabel. “This kind of support is critical because it allows workers to focus on the crisis, while the Team Assistant finds supports.” Many families have expressed appreciation for the practical support received, such as, helping them fill out forms, answering questions, or just having someone to talk to.
“Samantha’s help has been invaluable. She has supervised access visits, attended home visits, taken case notes and entered them into the system, attended court, and participated in case consultations with external consultants,” says Melanie Dignam, Child Protection Supervisor. “As Samantha’s role develops, I can see her becoming a very important part of how our team functions, and hopefully in turn, she will fulfill her own goals of understanding child protection work.”
Maximizing the volunteer experience is what CCAS aims to offer all of its volunteers. Samantha discusses her development goals and training opportunities with Isabel on a regular basis.
“Isabel has been so helpful,” she says. “She wants me to get the most out of this experience. I’m going to be shadowing a child protection worker for a day, attending CCAS orientation training, and getting exposure to all service areas including foster care, adoption and intake,” she says.
“In the end, I hope that this is a good learning experience for Samantha, and that it helps her reach a decision about her career,” says Isabel. Samantha hopes to be accepted into a Master’s program in either Psychology or Social Work at York University. Because of her work with CCAS, she is leaning towards a Master’s Degree in Social Work. “This is has been an incredible learning opportunity for me. I can’t wait to begin a career in this field!” she says.