Outstanding Caseworker: Brianna Chavez

A New Mexico caseworker talks about why, in her work, wearing rose-colored glasses can be a good thing.

July 27, 2017

Outstanding Caseworker: Brianna Chavez
"Part of working with kids is figuring out how to bring out the light inside of them."

Brianna Chavez is a placement supervisor in Albuquerque, NM. She leads a department of five caseworkers who support foster families and finds homes for children when they come into care.

Brianna’s efforts were recognized by a foster parent who suggested that we feature Brianna as an Outstanding Caseworker. The mother wrote:

Brianna is genuinely passionate about her work with youth in foster care and the foster families she serves. Every interaction I have had with her has always been positive, even when stress and pressure of her job run high. She is thoughtful and courteous, and she always replies to questions with a solution-oriented approach. In her supervisor position, I have witnessed her lead her staff from the front with grace and kindness, without ever looking for recognition.

We talked with Brianna about where she finds motivation and how she approaches her work with children and families.

The foster mother who nominated you was impressed by your passion for this work. Where does that passion come from?

Life circumstances. I was raised in what you might say was an atypical family. I made it through because I had a lot of support from family members and teachers. My teachers probably saved my life.  

Because of the way I grew up, I connect with kids who are resilient—who are working with what they have and are figuring it out. I’d like to think that maybe I could inspire another kid or another family. I definitely feel like I owe the world for the life that I was given.

How do you approach your work with children and teens?

With hope. These kids are complex. They’ve been through so much. Part of working with them is figuring out how to bring out the light inside of them, no matter how dim it might seem at first.

When I started in this field, I was given a caseload of four or five teenagers. They all had difficult backgrounds. One girl in particular was really shut down. There was negativity all around her. But I kept at her, always recognizing her successes, no matter how small. By the time she aged out, her outlook had improved 100 percent. I was so proud of the person she had become.

Experiences like this have convinced me that having a rose-colored glass look on life isn’t bad. It keeps hope where there is none.

What do you see as they keys to success in working with foster families?

Recognition and respect are at the top of the list.

As caseworkers, our job is challenging and at times chaotic. But the really hard work is done by the foster parents. So if there is any way that we can support them, we try to do it—whether it is finding respite care for a day or help getting a kid to a medical appointment or a sending a quick response to their text.

Also important is recognizing their emotions. Foster parents’ hearts are on the line with every child, especially when they are fostering to adopt. I keep them as informed as I can, and I support them when they are experiencing heartache of loss of child.

At the end of the day, if we’re not helping the people who are nurturing the children, then obviously we’re not giving our kids the best chance to succeed.

What are some of the most important things you’ve learned doing this work?

I’ve learned a strong lesson about the importance of community. Life can be hard. It’s pretty much only people around you who can make it easier.

There are a lot of people who want to help, but don’t necessarily want to become foster parents. It’s important to recognize what people’s capabilities and interests are and find ways for them to get involved.

I’ve also learned about all of the resources that exist in our community. We team up a lot with other organizations to get our families what they need—from trainings for foster parents, to treatment for kids, to gift cards for kids aging out.

Final thoughts?

I don’t do this job for the money or the recognition. I do it for the cause. The kids you meet—the new faces, the new personalities—inspire you every day. I think the motivation is the same for the foster parents. We are all doing this work for the well-being of the child.

Nominate an Outstanding Caseworker!

Do you know a caseworker who has gone above and beyond to help children in foster care find permanency? If so, nominate them as an Outstanding Caseworker to be featured on our website.


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