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June 2011 Caseworker of the Month

Linette Torrefranca

Linette Torrefranca

Florence, Kentucky 

The first time Torrefranca, 34, had to remove a child from their home, she couldn’t keep her hands from shaking. It was a traumatic experience for all involved, including Torrefranca who was fresh out of college and a newly minted social worker. She’s kept that memory of her trembling hands throughout her career.

Years later, standing in an elevator on her way to work, a young woman walked up to Torrefranca and asked her name. The young woman had been a 16-year-old girl Torrefranca worked with years earlier.

"You got me out of my home," Torrefranca remembers the young woman saying. "Now I'm OK."

Torrefranca counted it as a success.

The moments that make it worthwhile

"The best thing is the child telling you that she is doing OK now," Torrefranca said.

For a social worker, those are the moments that make the blood, sweat, and tears worthwhile. Particularly for Torrefranca, who for the first half of her career with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services dealt primarily with biological families whose parental rights were in jeopardy.

"It is rewarding, actually," she said. "But you have to have a strange sense of humor."

For the tough times, a touch of gallows humor comes in handy.

"It's the little things" that justify the emotional hardships of the job, she said. Then she laughed. "They come few and far between, trust me."

A career by happenstance

Torrefranca didn't start out to be a social worker, especially in Kentucky. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and went to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It took her two years to declare a major. She picked sociology; something in the classes spoke to her.

"I liked it. I liked the classes and liked what they had to tell me," she said.

But despite having that connection to what she was studying, Torrefranca lacked a clear idea of what to do after college. She figured she’d apply for law school, which was one of the reasons she picked her major. She never imagined the path it would take her on.

"I seriously did not believe it would be social work," she said.

However, a friend from Kentucky suggested she apply for a social work job because the State was in need of them.

With nothing more than a duffel bag, a laptop, and her degree — and telling her parents she was just going for a visit — she took a long flight to Kentucky for the interview.

She got the job, social service clinician I, in September 1999. She was what the state called an "ongoing worker," working mostly with biological parents to see they have the resources to regain full custody. After about six years she switched to working mainly with foster parents and is now a social service clinician II.

It was a change she needed. Although her current position requires a lot of emotional strength, especially when helping foster parents deal with giving children up so they can return to their biological parents, the previous position was almost too much for her. She remembers, at one point, on the phone practically begging a biological parent to come visit their child.

Being nominated caseworker of the month

When Torrefranca learned she’d been nominated AdoptUSKids’ June Caseworker of the Month, she said she didn't feel deserving of recognition when others do as much as her.

"This is what I do, this is my job," she said. "I felt bad that I'm getting something all my coworkers deserve as well. What makes me so special?"

But for Cristy Small, 42, who nominated Torrefranca, it was her consistency, her compassion, her dedication, and for being there when Small needed help.

For the past six years since Small has been a foster parent, and for the 12 children she has taken in, Torrefranca has been the only caseworker.

"I know foster parents who have had three or four case workers within a year or two," Small said. The two have formed a relationship built on trust.

"Lin is always on top of things," Small said.

Whether it’s paperwork, coordinating biological parent visits, or trips to the doctor, Small knows she can rely on Torrefranca to be there.

"She's right on it," Small said.

Besides supporting her, Small said Torrefranca gets to know the children personally and takes an interest in them as people.

"They feel very loved by Lin," Small said. "It's all about the best interest of the kids, and Lin always makes sure the best interest of the kids is being looked at."

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