Janet Urdahl, who has been a social worker since 1982 and a clinical social worker since 2000, said that she became a social worker after her experience living as a single mother in New York. Ms. Urdahl, who moved to Delaware in 1991, was a native New Yorker who grew up on Long Island and she felt as if single mothers such as herself were treated with total disrespect.
“In 1975, I was a single mother on welfare in New York,” Ms. Urdahl said. “The volume of welfare recipients in New York was 20-fold what it is in Delaware and, for whatever reason, people like myself at the time were treated with total disrespect. I decided that no one deserves to be treated disrespectfully no matter what their circumstance. That has been my theme throughout my career – providing respect for folks who are struggling and empowering them to make some different decisions about their lives.”
Ms. Urdahl holds a bachelor’s degree in social work, a master’s degree in health service administration and a master’s degree in social work. She has two adult daughters, one who is a paralegal for a Dover law firm and another who is in law school in Savannah, Georgia. She says that when she decided to make a job change, she wanted to move to an agency with a positive reputation and exceptional community service. This led her to LaRed Health Center.
Having worked in a variety of venues which included hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and the Department of Defense, Ms. Urdahl said she was fortunate to work in the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Division of Services to Youth and Families, Truancy Court and the public school system through the state of Delaware. She retired from the state in 2010, but enjoyed the work so she applied to LaRed.
LaRed Health Center refers patients to Ms. Urdahl once a Family Practitioner identifies a behavioral health need. Ms. Urdahl then works with LaRed’s Family Practice practitioners to provide patients with integrated behavior health services. This helps promote LaRed’s focus on being “patient-centered,” offering a network of quality care for individuals and families.
“I am not someone who tells a client ‘you have no options,’” Ms. Urdahl said when asked about the challenges of her profession. “The challenge has been finding a way to engage the system to get the client what they need to make some life changes.”
Ms. Urdahl said that anyone who is considering a career in social work should consider two different aspects of the job. First, she said that a master’s degree in social work is the service track providing the most opportunities for professionals who want to work in the field. She said the degree focus should be on anything from case management, counseling, therapy and administration.
“The second piece of advice is to take care of your own personal issues,” Ms. Urdahl said. “The majority of individuals who come into this field come for very personal reasons, experiences they have had themselves that have create struggle, pain and long-term concern, whether it is themselves or someone they love. Everyone who falls into this category and wants to be an effective social worker must have professional assistance to come into their own resolution, if not your own issues will always get in the way of the work that you are trying to do. This is never a helpful way to begin a career in social work.”
Overall, Ms. Urdahl said that she has found her career in social work to be very fulfilling and she is excited to be working with LaRed. It is the comprehensive nature of integrated health care at LaRed that makes high-quality care possible.
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