We are pleased to shine a light on Allison Stahl in honor of National Social Worker Month. Allison is an incredibly valued partner of The Sharing Shelf and she is the most amazing advocate for the families and children that she serves. Our organization and our community at large is better for having Allison in it.
How did you gets started in social services? I began volunteering as a CASA (Court Appointment Special Advocate) in 2019 (CASA's work with foster children as the family court judge's "eyes and ears," keeping in touch with the foster kids and everyone who touches their lives like teachers, therapists, bio and foster parents, caseworkers, doctors, and others, working to make sure the kids needs are met and communicating with the family court judge), and was a board member at Student Advocacy (an amazing organization in Westchester that provides legal advocacy services to disadvantaged and disabled kids in Westchester's public schools, ensuring that they are receiving an appropriate education, and truly changing their lives). Those experiences were amazing, but they led me to want to become involved with at-risk children and families in a more hands-on way, to try to really help them improve their lives, possibly avoiding the need for kids to require CASAs and legal advocates. I made the decision to get my MSW during COVID and started working as a therapist full time in June of 2022. Who are the children/teens you serve?
I work for WJCS, and my clinic is the DSS (Department of Social Services) Satellite Clinic. All of my cases are referred by DSS, so they may have CPS involvement in their lives, Preventative Services, or their families may just be getting some help from DSS. My client's range in age from early elementary school age to adults. The majority of my clients have faced tremendous adversity in their lives and are working to overcome it. What are some of your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge we face in my clinic is that many of our clients struggle to meet their basic needs; they live with housing insecurity, food insecurity, they struggle to deal with transportation, if we are conducting sessions virtually many don't have privacy or access to decent internet services. My job is to work with them on mental health issues, but it is difficult for anyone to focus on their mental health needs when day to day life is a struggle. What is your favorite part of the job?
I adore my clients - I work with so many children and adults who are incredible people and I am constantly in awe of their resilience and capacity for joy despite the traumas they have experienced and the obstacles they face. My clinic deals with a challenging population because their needs are so great, but I truly love going to work each day.
How does The Sharing Shelf help you serve your clients?
I have donated to The Sharing Shelf for years, so I already knew what an amazing organization it is when I started my job, but when I started having clients who were being made fun of at school because of their clothing, or who had almost no clothing because they fled a dangerous situation and had to leave everything behind, or because they were moved to a shelter and somehow their clothing got lost, and I saw their faces when I was able to give them the giant bag of clothing, customized to their size and their taste and interests from color to style to character, the importance of The Sharing Shelf took on a whole new meaning. The Sharing Shelf lets the kids I work with go to school feeling like they belong, and you truly cannot underestimate how critical clothing is to a child's self-esteem, especially when they are going through a difficult time and struggling to just get by. And I see how Sharing Shelf can boost the self-esteem of the parents of the children who receive the clothing - who are heartbroken at not being able to provide their children what they need, sometimes having to fight to get them to go to school at all when they feel like they don't fit in, and who get their kids a clothing package and can check one major worry off their usually very long and difficult lists.