Season 1 / Episode 9
BONUS EPISODE: NAVIGATING TOGETHER WITH JAQUIA AND RAVENHow mutual respect and admiration blossomed between a youth in care and her social worker.
On this bonus episode celebrating social work month, Jaquia Wilson returns to the mic with her former social worker Raven Mitchell. Hear from Jaquia and Raven about the solid foundation they built during Jaquia’s time in foster care. Get insight on the importance of relationship building between youth in care and social workers and how impactful Raven has been on Jaquia’s early years.
On S1, E5: CRACK THE CONCRETE WHEN YOU WALK we meet Jaquia Wilson and learn about her experiences as a youth in foster care, meeting an influential social worker, and aging out of the North Carolina foster care system.
Meet Raven Mitchell, Senior Human Services Worker at Prince William County Department of Social Services in Virginia. Hear how Jaquia describes the lasting impression Raven had on Jaquia as her social worker.
Hear from Raven on her aspirations for youth in care as a social worker.
Hear from Jaquia about the impacts of her social worker being consistent, reliable, and treating her like a person first.
What could’ve happened if Raven wasn’t as present in Jaquia’s life during her time in foster care? Hear from Raven and get insights on how she managed her relationship with Jaquia.
“Every day wasn’t progress or no progress, sometimes it was ‘How are you doing? Is there anything I can help you with?’ and that was important to me,” says Jaquia.
Hear final thoughts from Matt Anderson.
Matt: Hey everybody I’m Matt Anderson welcome to Seen Out Loud. Where we bring you the stories and conversations that recognize child welfare transformation starts with seeing families for who they truly are.
So here we are in March, March is social work month and so we wanted to do something a little bit different with a special bonus episode, and in this episode, we just want to show how much we appreciate and value the work that you all do. In our first season, we did a story with Jaquia Wilson, and Jaquia was put in foster care around the time that she was 15 years old when you go back to that episode and listen to it there’s a moment that really stood out for me. It was the moment when she first met her social worker Raven and then got into a conversation with me about how much of an impact Raven had on her during those, those early years and so rather than me saying more about that why don’t we just go to the tape and play a little clip of that conversation
Matt Old Tape: Let’s talk about the social worker a little bit so you said she was a really important person in your life talk about that relationship and why it was so important to you and what about her you really connected with
Jaquia Old Tape: So initially it was personal things I remember you know she came to my school and she picked me up and she was petite like me like skinny. I know that’s gonna sound weird right but no she was shorter, she always wore heels though black woman, I mean she rocked every outfit like she was on a runway. I mean, that would that would simply like initially what really drew me to her and she gave me confidence you know to be able to really be small and tiny but still you know crack the concrete when you walk.
Matt: Like I said earlier this moment in the conversation with Jaquia has always really stuck with me so we decided you know let’s just get the two of them together. So we reached out to Raven and Jaquia and set up this little recording session.
Jaquia: Can you hear me?
Raven: I haven’t seen you in such a long time let me see you real quick.
Jaquia: But I’m looking at a corner in my living room
Matt: Hiding in the dark under your modem
Jaquia: Yeah no for real like it’s like blackout curtains in my living room but we are gonna go for it
Matt: And so now today let’s play a few moments from the conversation that I had with JO and Raven let’s go ahead and start with Jaquia
Jaquia: I remember her pulling up to my school really just had a fly outfit and I was like I like the way she dresses. I just remember like feeling OK and safe and happy that’s who they sent to come get me it’s like a big sister coming and pick me up instead of who’s this random lady who’s this?
Raven: I did not know that the way that I was carrying myself or the way that I was dressing had that type of impact. I was just you know being me you just never know what people are paying attention to.
Jaquia: It gave me self-confidence to see another black woman in that light in a positive light as a businesswoman as someone who cared about the community and was involved and independent and got up every day and put her best foot forward. To me that was you know important so I was like oh I gotta make sure when I get older I got a wardrobe like that. ‘Cause I was like where is she getting these outfits like where she’s coming from? I think I remember having a conversation with her about her closet actually one day I was like, “I need to raid your closet or something” and she was like “anytime any day” or something like that “you can have anything you want out my closet.”
Raven: You want to be able to get them the help that they need you want to be able to help them succeed. ‘Cause a lot of times kids who come into foster care don’t go back home. You’re trying to link them with services you’re trying to link them with support if you can rebuild them back with families. That’s what you’re trying to do. It’s hard work but it also is rewarding at the same time. You want to be able to influence them in a positive way. The fact that we even to this day even though it’s not often we’re still in communication. The fact that you still trust me, you still know that you can count on me and call me if you ever need anything, it makes it worth it and this is what it’s all about. I’m gonna get a little emotional.
Jaquia: She was a consistent person in my experience in foster care and that was very rare she really carried the burden for me for a long time on some things that I just didn’t want to deal with. You know I just wanted to be focused on the things that I could control navigating those waters in itself was hard enough. So she really gave me a good sense of relief and consistency and she was there up until right before you know it was time for me to graduate. We didn’t just let our relationship end the day she stopped being my social worker she was always my social worker. She was always you know there for me even when I was going through other social workers that was like “this ain’t it!”
Raven: And Jack we used to always say to me you actually come and see me. And I just use to be like that’s what I’m supposed to do. She always talked about how other children that were at the group home. How they barely saw their social worker and so I definitely think just with me being consistent is definitely helped build the trust. I think that being honest whether it’s good or bad is how you also build that open communication and that trust we don’t always have the greatest news. Things don’t always pan out how we hope or things will always work out the way that they may want. And so you still have to be honest about that.
Matt: Raven a lot of people in your position might have picked battles or might have pushed or challenged some of what I could imagine was throwing your way. What do you think would have happened if you had engaged in a different way that was maybe more like almost confrontational?
Raven: I don’t think we would have had the relationship that we would have had. I don’t think she would have been maybe as open to me. I didn’t come to Jaquia and say “they said this, you did this, why did you do this?” I just came to her and I would let her tell me her side and what went on in that sort of thing and then we would just discuss it and talk about it. And if I felt like she was in the wrong I would let her know that she was in the wrong but we just had more of a conversation about it.
Jaquia: It so talking to my social worker and her just being there always taking my calls and listening to me rant ’cause that’s what I used to do. That’s what made the difference in of getting things done. And honestly just realizing the realities of our experience as teenagers. She was very helpful in making me feel comfortable and yeah honestly just getting to come see me and doing that consistently and not making it feel like it was ever her job.’Cause Lord knows other people were just lumped into this big category and I really felt an individual experience of being able to talk to her about what I was going through and not making it all about foster care on a day-to-day basis.
So every visit wasn’t progress or no progress it was sometimes just “what’s up, how you doing, what’s going on, is there anything you need, can I help you with anything?” And that was important to me. I did used to be a bit of a firecracker but mostly when I felt backed in a corner and like I had no other way of expressing myself. Like I always felt like I was kind of screaming in a glass jar where nobody could really hear me and so when I called her when I was on the phone with her used to just always calm me. She was like my biggest cheerleader that was the first social worker that I had coming into care and for the amount of time that we got to spend together like I got a lot done with her. I don’t think I could have been paired with a better social worker.
You see so many times people cases get shuffled from desk to desk and you don’t see any of their goals being met. I just was able to trust my social worker had my best interest at heart she still showed up every day and did above and beyond what was required of her.
Raven: Jaquia definitely had her own mindset and what she wanted for herself things that she was striving for and she definitely did not want to be a statistic. I think she was striving to be better than her circumstance. And so we definitely navigated through that together. I am very, very grateful that Jaquia gives me all of this credit!
Matt: Raven how you showed up with Jaquia to see her for who she is and to be her advocate and her cheerleader that really matters and then to be consistent. I’m going to do this and then you do it, I’m going to be here and then you’re there. Like those kinds of things done consistently over time demonstrate how you value somebody and when those things are not done consistently over time it also demonstrates how you value somebody. And I think that’s the power of what social workers can bring but it’s also you have to recognize that that power is there right? And if you don’t show up unconditionally if you don’t show up consistently if you’re not seeing to Jaquia for who she truly is, that can really communicate something that can, and I agree Jaquia as an amazing person is gonna to do a great things undoubtedly. But, at the same time, the fact that you were there and so consistently and in such a connected and present way really I think is why we’re having this conversation.
Raven: I’m just extremely proud of her and I’m always here for her and she knows that no matter what it doesn’t matter how long we, you know have been spoken she can always call me if she ever needed anything that would never change. And I love her. Wish I could give her a hug.
Jaquia: I love you too.
Matt: I hope you enjoyed this bonus episode and lastly I just want to say thank you to all the social workers who are working alongside children and families every day. And honestly, I can’t think of anything more important to do. And if there’s anything I want you to take away from this episode it’s really just that we do have a major impact on people’s lives. And you know at times we don’t know that it’s happening in the moment but I think today’s conversation is a reminder that we’re always making an impression. And as Raven said let’s be curious about the people we work with. Let’s take the time to get to know their story and let’s focus on working together to achieve their goals. Thank you for listening that’s it for today and I’m going to kick it over to Isaiah for our credits.
Isaiah: Hey listeners I’m Isaiah and I’m here to say thank you so much for listening to this bonus episode of the Seen Out Loud podcast. And a special thanks goes out to all of our social workers across the country who are working to ensure that families have the supports they need to thrive. As always don’t forget to go to our website seenoutloud.com for videos, articles, additional clips about our guests, and topics that we discuss on the show. Continue to rate us and leave us a review because we want to know how these stories are influencing your work. Season one was only possible because of our amazing team and this team came back around to give us these bonus episodes so I gotta say thank you. Our executive producer is Michael Osborne. Editorial assistance from Paige Williams. Mixing, mastering, and sound design by Morgan Honaker and our composer is Christian Haigus. Thank you guys so much for listening and I’ll see you again in season 2.