Three Generations of Social Workers

PhotoNot everyone is built to become a social worker. The work is challenging. The days are long. There is a fair amount of uncertainty. It’s no wonder then that Meghan Jenkins Morales wasn’t sure about her own career path when she took a year off from college in Iowa to figure out what she wanted to do.


She had some interest in psychology, but she wasn’t sure where that would take her. Her mom was a special-education teacher. The helping professions were not unfamiliar. But it was her grandfather who, sitting in her dorm room listening to her question her future, provided guidance. After some consideration of the unique set of interests and skills, he simply said without pressure, “I think you want to be a social worker.”


“I think it was always in me, but I didn’t know what to call it.” Meghan recalled. “He helped me process it.”


She signed up for an Introduction to Social Work class and has been hooked ever since.


Meghan is the third generation in her family to make such a decision. Her grandpa, Joe Jenkins, was in the first MSW class at the University of Texas and spent a career in family therapy and as the director of an agency specializing in hard-to-place adoptions. Her aunt, Dian Barns-Jenkins, received an MSW from Texas Christian University and went into child welfare services before moving to Australia where she continued as a social worker. Meghan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Social welfare from UW-Madison.


“Family support is always helpful and having family in the social work profession is especially nice,” Meghan says. Her aunt and grandpa recently visited Madison and the SSW. “It was fun! They had the opportunity to meet some of the wonderful faculty and appreciated all the social justice posters around the school.”


Meghan earned a BSW from the University of Iowa and an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked as a residential counselor, a program planning specialist, and as a manager for a nonprofit agency on aging. Her research interests include aging, institutionalization prevention, social and economic inequality, and organizational culture change.


She talks about the profession with her relatives when she can.


“Since my Aunt is a social worker in Australia it is helpful to learn from her experience in a different context. For instance, we will talk about strengths (and weaknesses) of the healthcare systems and services for older adults and people with disabilities. My Grandpa also has years of experience in the field of social work, so we will often talk about different social issues and how things have changed (or stayed the same) over time. He is always sneaking in ideas on what I should focus on for my dissertation!”


More than any specific insight into the field itself, Meghan feels she inherited the values of the profession from her family, such as: approaching work knowing that everyone has value; giving back in any way you can; and prioritizing inclusion and ensuring everyone has a voice.


For students who are considering social work Meghan recommends taking a class at the School of Social Work and volunteering at a local agency. “There are so many opportunities within the social work profession, so know that if you don't like working in a particular area there is still more to explore.”


Also, not everyone has a grandpa and aunt who went into social work, but, Meghan advises, “Don't be afraid to reach out to social workers you have met and ask if they would be willing to talk with you more about the profession. Social workers love talking about how they got into the field and are happy to help!”

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Last edited by jmlee29 on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 | Printer Friendly Version