By Zoe Berrier
As businesses and non-profits work to transition their services to remote modalities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the field of social work remains vital. Laura Golomb, a Millersville University alumna who graduated in 2017, works for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lancaster County, a non-profit organization which provides volunteer advocates for children in the foster care system who face abuse or neglect.
Golomb began college unsure of her career path, but after trying a few different majors she landed in social work. “Social work just made sense to me, I had always had an interest in social justice and policy and human behavior, and social work is the discipline where all of those topics merge,” Golomb explains. “Once I found social work, everything else fell into place for me!”
As Golomb continued her education, she found a focus for her career. “Social work is classified into three levels of practice: micro (individuals), mezzo (families and small groups), and macro, which is social work on a larger, community scale. It often involves different community agencies working together, or how an organization serves a community. I had learned about this a little bit in my undergrad program, but it really came to life for me in my master’s social work program at Millersville, and I had the “a ha” moment of knowing that I was meant to be a macro social worker,” she explains. “CASA allows me to be a macro social worker, holding community awareness events, training large groups of people, and interacting with other child welfare agencies.”
Golomb’s education at Millersville still inspires her today, “The School of Social Work at Millersville has some fantastic faculty members, and they really inspired me and encourage me during my time there. I met two of my best friends in the MSW program, and even though we all chose different career paths, we still connect because of our time together at Millersville.”
CASA was not organized to work remotely before stay-at-home orders came into effect. “We recruit, train and support volunteers to advocate for children in foster care, so our office serves as a hub for our volunteers in addition to the employee’s daily workspace,” Golomb shares. “We had an all staff meeting before the shelter in place order and figured out how to make working from home work! We have had to pivot several large events, like fundraisers and continuing education opportunities for our volunteers.” Golomb says the CASA team have all been creative and flexible during this time.
Early on, the CASA volunteers were required to stop visiting their assigned children in person, meaning the organization had to find alternative ways for the volunteers to continue communication while still maintaining confidentiality and privacy of the families which CASA serves. They have allowed video calls with children, and the court system is now working on a modified schedule, all of which have been big adjustments for the workers. Golomb also shares some ways in which internal parts of the organization have changed, “Internally, we have had to figure out how to hold our new advocate information sessions virtually, and we are also preparing to hold a virtual training class!”
Golomb explains how she is adapting to the changes, “I try to take everything day by day and not get overwhelmed. We have started some new initiatives and had to adapt to new technologies and new methods of communication, which is challenging to begin with, but especially challenging when you are alone in your home and you can’t just walk into your co-worker’s office to ask a question! Our number one priority is making sure our advocates continue to feel supported, that they remain in communication with the parties on their cases, and that everyone stays safe and healthy. We want to make sure we are always communicating effectively with our advocates, so they know what is expected of them.”
Pennsylvania’s Mandated Reporting laws mean that much of the reports come from teachers, day care providers, and others in the community who have interactions with children. Because of stay at home orders and the closings of businesses, the reports which the state hotline receives have greatly decreased. Golomb says that CASA is trying to prepare for a possible influx of reporting once restrictions are lifted by recruiting new volunteers and preparing already existing volunteers for new cases.
Outside of her work with CASA, Golomb shares how she has been using her extra time at home, “My fiancé and I have been taking daily walks through our neighborhood, and we have ordered takeout from some of our favorite restaurants. When I’m not working, I’m crocheting blankets and organizing my house room by room. Now that the weather is nice, we have been hanging out in our backyard and taking on some gardening projects!”