This year the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) is celebrating national social work month with the theme: In Critical Demand. The CASW acknowledges that the work of social workers “was essential before the pandemic, crucial during the pandemic, and now more than ever, social workers are in critical demand”. CASW will be celebrating over the month of March across Canada.
In Ontario, social work week is recognized March 7-13th. The Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) identified social workers play an essential role “in ensuring mental health access for all Ontarians”. Under the theme, Mental Health Access for All (#MoreThanEver), the OASW is raising awareness of the unprecedented need for mental health care and support across Ontario, and the 20,000 social workers working every day to remove barriers and deliver high quality service.
This theme resonates with us in CWICE as many people we support have experienced a great deal of change, multiple transitions, and sometimes trauma during pre-migration, migration, or post-migration while settling in Canada. Therefore, we support the call for access to mental health care and support across Ontario, while removing systemic barriers. Within CWICE, our work involves breaking down barriers and navigating multiple complex systems every day. As we celebrate this month, we wanted to take the opportunity to thank our social workers and share some of our reflections and moments of celebration.
Please meet members of CWICE:
Mandisa Sifelani has been in practice for over 10 years and is a registered social worker. Currently, she is one of two CWICE Assessors. This role entails attending Toronto Pearson International Airport when needed, including to assess and assist arriving Unaccompanied And Separated Children. Mandisa also works with newcomer children and families living in the community, and helps them navigate services and systems locally, such as the education system, healthcare, and any legal services needed. When asked to share reflections about what it means to be providing service as a social worker during this particular time in history, Mandisa shared that she is thinking about how resilient and resourceful social workers are, “It shows me how much social workers continue to bring to the field and our clients; so much more during these past 2 years. We have attended homes, hospitals, schools and the airport to ensure that our client/s are safe and have their immediate needs met”. Though there have been many successes to note, Mandisa was integral in supporting a youth repatriating back to Canada. Mandisa collaborated with the federal government to ensure this youth’s safety following the risk of forced marriage abroad. Mandisa is happy to share that the youth has returned to Canada and is safely settled.
Abimbola Oyeyinka has been in practice for five years and is a registered social worker. Currently, she is a CWICE Immigration Specialist/Child Protection worker. Upon reflecting on this year’s theme for social work week, Abimbola shared “the theme means more than ever before. We have to be supportive of the vulnerable people in our community, we have to be reflective in our work with our clients and we have to be supportive by removing as many barriers as possible”. Abimbola shared that the pandemic has highlighted the poverty that marginalized and vulnerable people face within the community. Moreover, she reflects that many individuals have not had access to space to work at home or stable access to the internet throughout the pandemic. Abimbola believes strongly in our role, “it is important that we work tirelessly to help people reach their potential”. During the pandemic, this has meant she will help clients obtain permanent immigration status or remove barriers to access services such as safe housing. In terms of successes, Abimbola shared that she and her colleagues remain steadfast in their dedication to helping youth and families regularize immigration status. She encourages anyone in need to reach out to CWICE for service or referrals.
We champion the work of social workers and their impact on individuals and communities, especially now #MoreThanEver as we celebrate #SocialWorkWeek2022.
The CWICE teams wish to thank all social workers for their tireless and sustained efforts supporting and advocating on behalf of others, particularly over these last two challenging years of the pandemic.
About the Author:
Danielle Ungara (RSW) manages the day-to-day operations of the Ontario-wide Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence at Peel CAS. An inclusive leader of integrity, she believes in furthering social justice outcomes and equity in practice through service excellence and research.