To celebrate National Social Work Month, we sat down with Texas CASA Collaborative Family Engagement Director Candice Dosman to learn about her educational and professional journey. Candice is on track to graduate with her Master of Social Work degree this June.
What drew you to the social work field?
I’m not really sure why I was originally drawn to the field, but I can easily see now that my values of believing in relationships, connections, family, second and third chances, community, justice, and fairness have always aligned well with my work and the values of social work. My whole career has been in the helping field, starting in a shelter for youth experiencing homelessness, to the John Howard Society, then to CPS and CASA.
The CPS system I worked in for a long time was set up to where, despite how much experience one had, it was the education and letters behind the name that mattered most for job opportunities. So, even though I had been working at the same organization for over a decade and had a wealth of experience, I was unable to apply for postings that required an MSW, which was also one of the driving factors for me. Now that I will soon have those coveted letters behind my name, I am still an advocate for experience, and in particular, lived experience, to be an equal consideration to education in job qualifications.
What has it been like pursuing your Master of Social Work?
My path to my MSW has been a long one, with plenty of forks in the road. In 2008, I began Bachelor of Social Work courses online at the University of Manitoba (Canada), which I continued through 2012, and then in 2013 I was accepted into the Master of Social Work program at Wilfrid Laurier University (also in Canada). This MSW program at WLU was designed for working professionals, and was offered in person, part-time. Throughout this time of studying online and in person, I was also working full-time at my child protection job.
I was on the path to graduate with my MSW in June 2016. But then, in late 2015, an opportunity with Texas CASA arose to do what I love the most: working to build connections for children and families involved in the foster care system.
So it was time to make another decision: Do I finish my degree or move to Texas? At the time, doing both wasn’t an option. So, I chose Texas, and took on the role of creating and implementing Collaborative Family Engagement alongside the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. After a few years working here in Texas, I had to officially withdraw from the MSW program in Canada—but fortunately in 2019 the program moved to a virtual format. So I re-enrolled, and here I am!
I’m excited to say that the end of my MSW journey is finally in sight, as I will be finished with my degree in April of this year, and convocation is in June (virtually, of course).
What has stuck out to you in your social work education over the years?
Having been in the field in various capacities for my whole career, it’s been interesting to see how much social work and social work education has changed over the last decade. Some theories and practices I first learned about as positive and beneficial back in 2008 are no longer regarded as such, and so it has been a true evolution in education, and therefore my social work practice.
Maya Angelou’s quote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” is a good reflection of my thoughts on social work and my learnings. Social workers care about making the world a better place for others, righting injustices and inequalities, and helping others to learn and do better (as we do for ourselves). A key example of this is the history of residential school system in Canada, similar to the Indian boarding schools here in the U.S. This was not something I had learned about until my BSW courses in 2008… how was I a 30-year-old who had not learned this important part of Canada’s history up until this point? Once I knew better, I had to do better. We know that Indigenous children continue to be overrepresented in the foster care system, and that more Indigenous children are in foster care now than at the height of the residential school systems. I have made an effort to share this information with others, raise awareness, and focus efforts in my work as possible.
How do social work & CASA intersect?
The work we are doing in the CASA network, with Collaborative Family Engagement and in so many other ways, really has social work values and principles at its heart. Amplifying voices for children and families (not being their voice), advocating with children for their best interests (self-determination), creating connections and a sense of community (belonging), as well as influencing positive policy change are just a few of the connections between social work and CASA that I have observed. As an intern with the Public Policy team at Texas CASA as part of my MSW program, I’ve in particular been learning so much about the legislative process and importance of legislation for the work we do and for children and families. The amount of collaboration, communication and partnership that our Public Policy team does with external partners, stakeholders and legislators is astounding. It truly takes a village, in this case, to create and influence policies that will help support a positive future for all Texas children and families.
Any final thoughts?
There are quite a few social workers on staff at Texas CASA, in different departments, and I suppose this should not be surprising. The CASA mission is all about caring and helping others, and the CASA network is full of wonderful, dedicated people with big hearts, who are advocating for better futures for Texas children and their families. So, to me, CASA and social work go hand in hand; it’s almost like my social work journey has come full circle when it brought me to Texas.