District Council 57

Merced County Social Worker: ‘I Just Try to Do as Much as I Can for as Many People as I Can’

As a social worker who deals with foster youth on a daily basis, Holly Karim knows how important trust is with each client.

In her role, she is responsible for ensuring that young people who have aged out of the foster care system get the care they need to transition to adulthood when their families aren’t up to the task, either temporarily or permanently. Because her clients are facing one of the most difficult periods of life, Karim has to prepare for a whole host of challenges.

Karim once had a client who was eight months pregnant but didn’t want to tell her in fear that the young woman would be kicked out of the foster care system. It took a little time and some persistence from Karim, but the young woman eventually disclosed her pregnancy to Karim.

“When she finally did tell me, she realized that she didn’t have to hide things from me and that I could help her get the services she needed,” said Karim, a member of AFSCME Local 2703 who works for the Merced County Human Services Agency.

The practice of building trust with some of society’s most neglected population is a daily challenge for all social workers. But Karim has always welcomed the challenge because she sees her job as a calling despite the stigma attached to the often thankless profession, which comes with a mountain of paperwork and a long list of laws to comply with.

“Doing social work, you could work 24/7 and still have more work to do at the end of the day,” Karim said. “So I try to do as much as I can for as many people as I can, which is why I wanted to be a social worker in the first place.”
There are many negative stereotypes associated with being a social worker. Some people think they’re out to intentionally break up families. Others say they don’t make themselves available enough. Aware of how her job is affected by those false assumptions, Karim said she is able to break through with people by simply wearing a smile and being courteous.

“I just try to be an ambassador for the agency,” she said.

That’s why Karim never quits trying to make a difference in her clients’ lives and why she has remained dedicated to public service for the last nine years.

It all pays off in the end, she said, especially when she gets to see young people find success despite their life struggles.

Two of her former clients who recently graduated from college are good examples. One student just received a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz. Another graduated from the University of South Florida and is on her way to pursue her master’s degree.

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