Ever wonder what motivates someone to be a social worker?
After all, it isn’t a profession full of glamor or power and most don’t do it for the money. But for Janice Klein none of that mattered. “I decided I wanted to be a social worker as a result of volunteering when I was a student at St. Mary of the Woods College. I played with kids on Saturdays at the Hyte Community Center in Terre Haute and I played the organ on Sundays for prisoners at the Federal Penitentiary,” she explained.
In 1973 Janice landed at the Children’s Bureau for her field placement work. “I must have done an ok job because they offered me a position,” she said. She spent the first 13 years at Children’s Bureau running its adolescent girl’s group home called Garrard House. When asked what kind of challenges she incurred, she said she dealt with everything from bomb threats to teen pregnancies. “I was 23 and supervising staff that were much older than me. The kids would tell me stories of how they were being mistreated; I was played a lot! But I think I caught on pretty fast,” she said with a smile.
Janice reflected on the cultural and value shifts that have affected the social services sector and organizations like Children’s Bureau. “In the 50s, 60s and 70s unwed mothers were stigmatized, it was a pre-abortion era and there simply weren’t the choices that there are today. As a result, Children’s Bureau managed a lot of private adoptions,” she said. “Today, our work focuses on placing mostly special needs kids with foster families who very often end up adopting them,” she added.
Since the late 90s, Janice has been a part of the prevention initiative; that is, programs designed to keep kids and families out of the system. “The success rate of Children’s Bureau prevention programs is probably 95 to 97 percent. To keep that percentage of very high-risk families out of the system is phenomenal,” she explained.
“The best advice I can give to anyone going into social work is make sure you love people.” Janice’s fondness for the profession she chose is best seen when she reflects on the success stories she has witnessed. “I relish those kids that made it,” she said.
If she wore a jersey with a number, Children’s Bureau might just retire it. The young, enthusiastic woman who came to the bureau 40 years ago with a passion to help people will retire at the end of 2013. Her tenure is filled with many different titles, but her passion for people has never changed.