Ms Grace Koh, Social Worker at HEART@Fei Yue, received the Promising Social Worker Award from President Tony Tan on 30 November 2015. The Promising Social Worker Award recognises social workers who are relatively new in the field but have made a difference in the lives of their clients and the community.
Why did you decide to become a social worker?
After junior college, I knew I wanted a job that allowed me to interact with people and channel my passion for social justice in a productive way. I applied for medicine hoping to help others in physical pain, but then I met my mentor who happened to be a social worker, and through her I discovered that social work was a viable profession in Singapore. I connected with other social workers and undergraduates to research about social work, and since embarking on this journey that started with my undergraduate course at NUS, I now know social work is a core part of my calling in life.
What do you like most about your job as a social worker in a Child Protection Specialist Centre?
It is a truly rewarding vocation and career that allows one to connect at a deep level with people and accompany them on their journey to achieve their goals for themselves and their families.
What are some challenges you face at your job and how do you overcome them?
The emotional intensity of the cases can be overwhelming at times, especially when we enter when families are highly stressed or are going through a crisis. There can be a spillover effect on the worker himself/herself, as you have to manage expectations, anger or frustrations. We do understand that the families are going through difficult times, and we have to be grounded ourselves in order to be a space of stability and resource for the family to tap on.
What gives you the motivation to continue to serve the children and families you come in contact with?
The growth in my clients is a key motivator in my work. To see them shift and grow from where they started off makes me feel excited and encouraged to keep pressing on and not to give up. Change takes time, and I have learnt not to rush change, but to provide a safe space for children and parents to increase in their resilience and skills.
What is one memorable incident you have experienced in your profession?
A family with five young children who had to be removed for a short period of time due to high family stressors which made caregiving too challenging and resulted in child neglect. After 1.5 years of co-working with a colleague to provide intensive casework and counselling, and collaborating with other partners like the Family Service Centre and SSO, we stabilised the family and now the parent is even helping to support the Family Service Centre to organise parties for the residents. The children are happier and more settled and are going to school regularly. I am so proud of the parent!