Staff in Action: Alma Woodard
Alma Woodard, Home Approver/Trainer, is one of the amazing staff members here at AFS. Here’s what one San Francisco child welfare worker had to say about her:
“I am a San Francisco County Child Welfare Worker in the Adoptions Unit. I am writing to express how much I appreciated working with Ms. Alma Woodard in helping me place this 7-month-old with his grandmother. This case was challenging in that there were so many barriers that the grandmother kept encountering in order to get her grandson in her care. It was also emotionally loaded due to the time-sensitive pressure the grandmother and the agency were working under – and then we were faced with the pandemic.
In the short time I worked with Ms. Woodard, she was not only prompt in responding to my calls, but took the time out to explain the placement process and the barriers that needed to be tackled. Ms. Woodard was also efficient in the level of documentation she provided me, that would help prove all the efforts being made to place this baby.
But what I valued the most and what came across for me was the level of reassurance and support she provided to this grandmother. The grandmother could not understand why our agency was taking so long, and the longer it was taking, the distrust between grandmother and the agency grew. However, Ms. Alma served as that bridge between the grandmother and the agency, reassuring her and being a hopeful sounding board, and promoting collaboration between all of us, that led to the grandmother’s union with her grandson.
Ms. Woodard’s level of professionalism and collaboration provided me a good impression of Alternative Family Services.”
Get to Know Alma
What are your main responsibilities at AFS?
- Responsible for the approval of families applying to become resource/adoptive parents.
- Orientation with new applicants and initial walk-through of the home.
- Facilitate RFA Pre-Service Training for new applicants.
- During the family interviews, ensure that the applicants understand the fundamentals of the resource family process, including child development, child welfare overview, understanding your role as a resource parent, positive parenting and psychotropic medication, child trauma, loss and transition.
- Verify that applicants and adults living in the home are cleared of a criminal background.
- Write a comprehensive family evaluation assessment of all applicants.
- Confirm that the home is in compliance with safety guidelines by the time of the final walk-through.
- Facilitate post-approval training on various fundamental topics for the AFS district offices, other foster care agencies, and local counties.
What led you to work in this field?
I chose this field of work because of my childhood experience of living in poverty and being raised by a single mother. I have the compassion to help relieve people’s suffering, with the hope to improve the lives of disadvantaged children. I am committed to social justice, with a strong desire to help families and children live productive lives in a safe, healthy environment.
Why did you choose to work at AFS?
I had been in the field of foster care for 20 years when I crossed path with various members of the AFS leadership team. I learned of their outstanding reputation in the community, with other foster care agencies, and the greater Bay Area counties. The small agency I was employed with at the time was closing. AFS offered me a position to join their staff as a home certifier, and that has lasted 10 years.
What are the three best things about your job?
- Interacting with families during the training and approval process.
- Group training of applicants, engaging with an audience, sharing professional and personal experiences.
- Approving families who are able to provide permanency for children.
What are the three toughest things about your job?
- Writing family evaluations, which are very time consuming because it requires a thorough process and cooperation of the applicants.
- Learning that some families were decertified within a year of approval.
- Families who procrastinate about continuing the approval process after the lengthy family evaluation has been completed. It makes me feel like all that work was for nothing.
What are three common misconceptions about foster care you would like to address?
- All foster children are bad, juvenile delinquents, or runaways. Child Welfare Services intervene with children and families due to child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, utero drug exposure, alcohol exposure, parental substance abuse, parental criminal activity and commercial sexual exploitation and pornography. These family issues caused trauma, which is displayed in the child’s behavior.
- Families become resource parents just for the money. Resource families are responsible to provide a loving, nurturing, and safe environment for each child. Families are part of the professional team; they are to recognize the rights of foster children which are critical to ensuring their overall well-being. They are to adhere to the reasonable prudent parent standard. Resource families do not get paid, but they do get reimbursed for each child through a monthly financial assistance. In addition to clothing and general allowance, the monthly stipend provides support for the child’s monthly living expenses.
- Child Protective Services and the foster care system like to break up families. The goal of the child welfare system and the foster care agency is to provide safety, permanency and well-being for children and their biological families.
Tell us about one impactful moment you’ve had since working at AFS?
As site manager for The Gathering Place, I was responsible for the daily operations of the facility by providing a safe and comfortable environment for family visits between biological parents and children who had been separated. It was good to know that we have a decent place for parents to come and engage with their children with the hope for reunification.
What are interesting facts about you that others wouldn’t expect?
- I am number six of 16 children.
- I have a Bachelor of Arts in Drama.
- I was Honorary Lieutenant Governor of the State of Alabama on July 14, 1988.
- I presented one-woman fashion shows.
- I make flower arrangements.
- I can play the drums.
Please tell us about a particularly memorable success story!
I worked with a single mother in April 2018 who desired to foster a child between age 2 to 8, preferably female, with no plans to adopt. She was approved on March 3, 2019. She accepted a placement out of her age range and preferred gender, in late April 2019. The placement was a 12-year-old male of another race. After a month, the child was so connected with the foster parent. He calls her Mom, and told me that his adoptive parents had money and bought him many things but didn’t show him love like his foster mother. The child has been in her home for a year and a half. She will be adopting the 13-year-old male in November 2020. Both are excited and extremely happy.
What is one piece of advice you would provide to someone just starting out in a similar role?
I would advise that one must possess compassion, empathy, and patience to be a social worker. You have to be sensitive to the client’s needs. One must have effective communication skills because you have to ask a lot questions and make clinical assessments in order to meet the needs of children and families. Analytical skills are important as well as having professionalism and good judgment because you will have to observe, research, and problem solve to write a comprehensive family evaluation.