Title IV-E Alum Is Making Her Mark at Alameda County Social Services Agency

Editor's note: Since this was written in 2012, Ms. Love has become Director of Children & Family Services, Alameda County Social Services Agency.

Who: Michelle D. Love, LCSW; BA and MSW (Title IV-E Stipend Program), University of California, Berkeley

Current position: Assistant Director, Children & Family Services, Alameda County Social Services Agency; also, instructor in Community Social Services and Substance Abuse Program, Merritt College (Oakland, CA)

Finding her niche: At Children & Family Services in the Alameda County Social Services Agency, Ms. Love has found her calling as well as an opportunity to grow professionally. She started out as a Child Welfare Worker II, then became a Child Welfare Supervisor, a Social Services Agency Program Manager, and the Social Services Agency Division Director. She became the Assistant Agency Director after serving as interim director. She has also been a TDM Facilitator Trainer at the University of California, Davis Extension.

RELATED: Read other CalSWEC Graduate and Alumni Stories

Q: What motivated you to become a social worker?

Ms. Love: Prior to graduate school, I worked at Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center as part of the alternative school site administered by the Alameda County Office of Education. At the time, I was unsure of a career path but liked working with young adults. Gradually, my focus shifted to wanting to be a teacher as I thought I would be able to make a difference with this population. However, working at Thunder Road, I came to realize that a significant number of the youth in treatment had been the victims of child abuse. At one point, every girl in treatment had experienced sexual abuse. Once I became aware of that reality, I realized I wanted to work with youth who had been victims of child abuse and neglect.  More specifically, I wanted to work in child welfare.

Q: Do you think that being in the Title IV-E Stipend Program prepared you for your career?

Ms. Love: I absolutely believe the Title IV-E Stipend Program prepared me for a career in child welfare.  The curriculum and the opportunity to intern in a child welfare agency were invaluable.

Q: You were a child welfare worker, then became a supervisor.  What were the challenges of making that transition? And how did you deal with those?

Ms. Love: I believe the transition from a child welfare worker to a supervisor is a natural one.  As a seasoned child welfare worker, you learn to navigate the various “systems” that are involved with child welfare (e.g., families, courts, law enforcement, providers, etc.)  It is a supervisor's role to coach/develop others to do the same.

The more difficult transition is from being a supervisor to a manager.  If your education is focused primarily on direct practice, moving to a role that focuses on operations, policies, and systems is challenging.

Q: From the perspective of your current position and also based on your experience, what would you say are the biggest challenges facing the field of social work today?

Ms. Love: From the perspective of my current position, I can only speak to the challenges facing social work in child welfare. I think there are a few trending issues:  improving the outcomes for children and youth impacted by the child welfare system; increasing permanency for all children; modifying the framework of practice so that it is culturally appropriate and fully addresses the trauma experienced by children and their families; improving the well-being of the children, youth, families, and communities we serve; and incorporating evidenced-based and placed-based practice whenever possible.

The last challenge facing child welfare is accomplishing all of the above, and more, with the resources that are allocated to child welfare.