Roberta Jones is BCS’ longest serving social worker, having been with us since 1987, the same year she received her masters in social work.
In her 30+ year career, she has worked her way up through various ranks: intake coordinator, supervisor, director, then took a break and came back to do consulting for BCS.
She has worked in so many different environments; in a school setting, in preventative services, middle school, elementary, pre-school, and has a wealth of knowledge from each of these experiences. She currently consults at BCS’s Atlantic Avenue Early Learning Center.
How did you get into social work?
Prior to coming to BCS I worked as a counselor in a group home. It’s always been my profession. I was recruited by the director of the Bed-Stuy family center. It was just amazing coming in to do that work. She had a unique vision for working with families. It was really educational for those of us who were learning & developing our clinical skills. She was so supportive in an environment where the work is hard.
You’ve been doing this for a long time, do you feel as though the social work field has changed over the years?
Any profession evolves, and if it doesn’t it dies. I think the most recent outward thing to know is that social workers now have to accumulate CEU’s (Continuing Education Units). Unlike some other professions, it is a requirement that you continue to learn and keep yourself fresh. We learn about people and expand our understanding of the brain, trauma, and attachment, and how they manifest in a family. I think as a profession, we’ve always been aware of the “isms” in the world, poverty, sexism, racism; the impact of the community on the family. I think it’s important when we look at families that we understand that family is part of a broader system that they have little control of, so that has always informed us as social workers; the fact that there is this social piece to family functioning.
What is your favorite part about your job?
The job I have right now is working with children. This is an absolute choice on my part. I like preschool children & the way that they think; their way of making sense of the world around them and the fact that sometimes they don’t make sense. I love watching language develop. It feels miraculous when you think about a child who, a year ago, couldn’t say anything and now can’t stop talking. I like watching the light bulb go on when they ‘get’ something.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
Probably those “isms” I referenced. Our expectations of families and their ability to be self-sufficient is sometimes laden with judgement. And there’s the frustration about what’s available in certain communities and what’s not.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your job?
It’s not a surprise necessarily, but it’s continually encouraging that parents & families who are struggling in the most horrendous situations can find joy, pleasure; somehow they can dig for some optimism and find it. That kind of resilience will pay off for their children as well, and will help them bounce back from all kinds of things.
Do you have any moments in your career that you’ll always remember?
On the pre-school side I can recall children who had severe developmental issues. In one of the families, a mother had twins and both twins were developmentally delayed and both ended up being diagnosed as on the spectrum. They attended a special school during the day and came to Duffield at the end of the day. The girl had enormous sensitivity around her mouth, she was very texture intolerant, so there were lots of foods she just couldn’t eat and wouldn’t eat. I remember one day, one of the teachers ran into my office because the little girl actually asked for a banana and ate it. They were so excited. I went into the room and she was just sitting on the teacher’s lap eating the banana. It’s these small things.
Did you ever expect yourself to be BCS’ longest running social worker?
I’m not surprised that I’m still at BCS. One of the reasons I’m still here is because I have an appreciation for how broad the mission is and how many lives BCS has touched through its work. People will come and go, but the essential mission has been to support and make stronger individuals and families.