Behind all 40 children at the Masonic Children’s Home is one social worker who helps to ensure each child’s needs are fulfilled.
“[The social worker] is a part of the glue that holds everything together,” said Paula Haldeman, who served as the children’s home’s social worker before becoming the assistant director in February 2021. “They are the person who makes sure the families are updated all the time on how their children are doing.”
To be eligible to live at the children’s home, a child must have a legal guardian who resides in Pennsylvania, whether that be a mother, father, aunt, uncle or grandparent.
Paula said the main source for keeping families up to date on their children is through monthly reports. These monthly reports, “Individualized Service Plans,” provide a glimpse of what each child has been doing throughout the month and what goals they have set. Within these reports, the social worker writes about any progress the children have made toward their set goals.
“They also make a schedule to meet with the children. I’d meet with them to just check in and see how school’s going, how it’s going up at their cottage and if there are any new things going on,” Paula said.
“You need to get to know [the children],” Paula said. “The social worker works on socialization skills and making the children feel comfortable enough to open up. It can be pretty scary for them to find their voice … We just try to get them to understand that how they’re feeling is very important.”
Aside from working with the families and children, another key aspect of the social worker’s job is to work with the local school district, which the children attend. They assist with educational planning for the children who may need additional support in academics or developing social skills.
Paula said she also spent a lot of time attending school events, like football games or concerts, to support the children.
“We’re always there to support the children,” Paula said. “Something I’ve done, too, is work with the music therapy department at Elizabethtown College. I’d take three children there once a week. They got to learn how to play different instruments and incorporate their emotions into that.”
Because the role of the social worker is so important at the children’s home, Paula says it takes a special kind of person to do it.
“You need a lot of love; a lot of compassion. But then you also need a little bit of firmness and a sense of humor,” Paula said. “You need to treat all the children equally. They’re all different and unique, but you love them all.”
Alison Izer-Bowman, shown above, is the new social worker for the children’s home. She began her new role in April 2021. Paula says she’s looking forward to watching Alison grow in the role.
Alison said she is looking forward to “building rapport with the children and their families in order to build successful relationships.”
“I know she’ll be great, and the children will love her. Alison has a good heart,” Paula said.