(Posted 2023 March)
Position: Child Witness to Domestic Violence in Domestic and Sexual Violence Services
In my role, I manage aspects of the federal grant we have for children and domestic violence. I run meetings for some of our Council to End Domestic Violence workgroups, as well as workgroups for our Step Up 4 Kids coalition, which is an initiative that provides a coordinated community response to children who experience domestic violence in Fairfax County. I also facilitate trainings. As we build awareness of an issue we need to address within the community, one of our strategies is to educate people about why there’s a problem and introduce them to tools that will help them do their job more effectively so they can be part of the solution.
My entire career has been in Fairfax County government. Originally, I wanted to go to law school, so my undergraduate degree is in political science and psychology. An internship at a crisis hotline—on a new project the organization had started—I saw that survivors of rape, incest, and abuse could get emotional support. That—and seeing how focused law interns were and that they had very little people interaction--was a big turning point. I volunteered in Fairfax County’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDRDC) on a supervised visitation program and started coordinating that program when I graduated from college in 2010. I decided to get a few more tools under my belt so I went to social work school with the county’s tuition assistance program for my graduate degree. I moved from the JDRDC to Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in 2018.
I do this work because I really like how social work conceptualizes how we interact with people and the impact the environment has on the person. People don’t exist independent of other things happening around them. There’s a historical, familial layer to an individual. And now we understand better through research how adverse childhood experiences and historical oppression impact people and their lived experiences.
The thing I really like about social work as a profession is it’s really diverse. My direct experience with clients and being able to see how individuals in a family were impacted by domestic violence and the lack of services allows me to apply my clinical skills at a macro level during the day. I can do the micro level working with adults during the evening in my private practice. Being able to have a balance between the two keeps me at my best.
And no day is ever the same. In addition to all the different people and the nonprofit partners I work with, I get to interact with people who do some amazing work in the community--work you don’t know is happening on a regular basis unless you go look for it. I get the benefit of seeing how all the puzzle pieces fit together.
Working for DFS gives you the opportunity to make a real difference. I didn’t anticipate staying with the county for more than three years. I really enjoy the work and helping people. And I also like working inside a larger system and advocating for change. The county tries to provide the best services we can, but people sometimes fall through the cracks, or the unique circumstance of their case prevents us from providing all the services they need. Being able to advocate and create change is important to me. That’s why I’ve stayed.
If you’re a social worker and you want to create systems change, do it in a county government. You have to get the micro-level experience with clients in order to understand how change will trickle down. But as you’re getting that experience, look for collaborative teams you can be on that are trying to create systems level change. In the Department of Family Services, particularly in DSVS, we often try to pull in direct service staff as much as possible to get their input and feedback. You can go after federal funding and grants and implement it at a county level. The county gets a lot of state and federal funding to implement at the local level. If you’re working at the state and federal level, you don’t see the local changes. If you want to see the change happening from the ground, come work for the county. That gives you a lot of experience and allows you to do some really cool things.
DFS also gives me flexibility for a work-life balance. When I’m not at work, I take care of my three fur babies—two horses, Lexi and Milo, and my cat Chloe. I spend time with my godchildren. And I love going to Nationals’ games. I cheer for them year-round, even when it’s not baseball season!
Join our team to discover why I enjoy working with DFS so much.