The field of social work is complicated, challenging, rewarding, exhausting, and incredibly impactful. Social workers are usually the first point of contact youth have when they enter the foster care system, which means they have the first opportunity to create positive change and address their needs and concerns. Social workers often form close bonds with those they serve, and Marlene Medina is no exception.
Marlene got her start in the field while working as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at the Boys and Girls Club where she helped youth gain funding for college. She then went on to work as an academic counselor at the Community College Foundation where she fell in love with her role as a mentor to young adults as they navigated their journey through post-secondary education. After earning a master’s degree in Counseling from California State University, Long Beach, Marlene came to work at David & Margaret as a social worker in the Transitional Housing Program (THP) which serves transitional-aged youth (TAY) who are aging out of the foster care system.
In her role, Marlene holds case management sessions with the TAY she serves on a weekly basis where they discuss goals, learn life skills, connect to additional services, and receive general support with any issue they may have. Above all, Marlene says, “be there for them, be present, listen to them” because often times, these young adults do not have a strong support system. Marlene shares that to be successful as a social worker within the foster care system, one must be “open-minded, patient, positive, empathetic, a good listener, and have an understanding of where the population comes from.” Without these characteristics, youth and families can fall through the cracks of the system without receiving the crucial support they need. David & Margaret, through the hard work and dedication of people like Marlene, ensure that does not happen.
In California, over 4,000 youth age out of foster care every year, 65% of them do not have stable housing upon exit and only 3% earn a college degree. Statistics like these are why the COMPASS Programs at David & Margaret exist and that is exactly what drew Marlene to David & Margaret after working as a mentor to college-age youth. Of all her duties, Marlene most enjoys supporting the academic journeys of the youth and young adults she works with by assisting with college applications, FAFSA, scholarships, and connecting them to additional resources needed to support their education. One youth Marlene works with just learned she was accepted into her school of choice, as well as a few back-up schools, and will begin in the fall. These victories are why Marlene is so passionate about her role as a Social Worker.
Like any field, there is always room for improvement. Marlene feels the field would benefit from practicing more self-care among social workers, who experience burn-out quickly with heavy caseloads and emotionally taxing work. She shares that working at D&M allows for manageable caseloads, more hands-on supervision, and a sense of community for staff and the populations they serve. She is proud to work at David & Margaret and says that the support she receives from her supervisors is essential, something that is often lacking in the field.
COMPASS Programs at David & Margaret are grateful to have passionate and caring social workers like Marlene who support the TAY served by these programs and the community at large.