- January 25, 2023
Social work is a profession that concerns itself with individuals, families, groups, and communities in an effort to enhance social functioning and overall well-being. That is a noble-sounding ideal, and it attracts idealistic young people with a strong moral purpose. Some years ago, a South Williamsport native by the name of Heather Wood was an
Social work is a profession that concerns itself with individuals, families, groups, and communities in an effort to enhance social functioning and overall well-being. That is a noble-sounding ideal, and it attracts idealistic young people with a strong moral purpose.
Some years ago, a South Williamsport native by the name of Heather Wood was an education major at Bloomsburg University and came to realize that she did not want to be a teacher. She found a professor who was willing to talk to her about her career, and as a result of that conversation, Heather decided to change her major to Social Work. She was a little worried about how her parents would take it, but it turned out they were supportive. It is a good thing, because if ever someone was born to be a social worker — it is Heather Wood.
Officially, her job is resource family caseworker for Lycoming County Child and Youth Services. Her responsibility is to recruit new foster parents (now formally known as “resource parents”), and then work them through the training and licensing process. The next step for Heather is the challenging task of matching up these resource parents with the children that come into the foster care system.
Every facet of Heather’s job is challenging, starting with the recruitment process itself. Finding families who are willing to take a youngster into their home and care for them, as one of their own, is not at all easy. There are those, of course, who would like a baby with a goal to adopt. But many more are needed, especially for homes for older children and for the housing of multiple children so that brothers and sisters are not unnecessarily separated.
So Heather must talk to anyone and everyone about the joys of being a resource parent. She speaks at churches, community events, attends community fairs, informational fairs, and advertises in the newspaper, social media, and anywhere that she thinks people might be interested. She is an excellent salesperson, but what she is selling comes at a high price.
It begins with an extensive application and clearance process that can take a month or more to complete, and also includes three evening training sessions. The two syllabuses for the training cover over 500 pages of material! Though this might seem overwhelming, it does tend to sort out those who are serious about the process and not just window-shopping.
Once the resource parent or parents are officially approved, Heather makes a point to know these parents very well. This helps her with the second step, which is to match up these parents with the children that need to be placed. Children and Youth has a “snatch kids stigma”, but this is far from the truth. The interest of the organization is to preserve the family with the intent of minimizing the trauma to the child or children as much as possible. This is why the county utilizes its own system so that when the children do need to be placed, it will be in homes in the county, unlike private agencies, which can ship the children anywhere in the state.
Heather Wood’s greatest joy is being able to see a parent or parents that had a child removed to be restored and have the family back together. She notes that some resource parents not only act as good role models for the children but also serve as mentors for the struggling parents.
This woman’s life is in her work. Her husband, Matt, also works at Children and Youth, and they are the parents of two children themselves. Heather Wood believes that every child deserves good, loving parents and a stable home environment. For those who share this conviction, give her a call at 570-326-7895 or visit the website: lycomingfostercare.org.