Rosie Solinas is a bilingual Kinship Social Worker out of our Santa Cruz office. Earlier this year Rosie was recognized by Lilliput Families as Rookie of the Year, an award voted on by her peers. We caught up with Rosie earlier this month to ask her questions.

What is your role at Lilliput Families and when did you start working here?
I am the Kinship Support Services Program (KSSP) Social Worker for Santa Cruz County. We’re the newest KSSP location within Lilliput Families. We started this contract with the county in late 2018 and I started soon after. I just celebrated my 1 year work anniversary in February of 2020!

What made you want to start working in your field? 
My family has a strong history with social justice work, starting with my grandparents on both sides. My grandparents were very involved in the Civil Rights and Chicano movements, working with farm workers in central California. My grandfather was a contractor and he worked closely with Cesar Chavez in Delano, California to help teach farm workers how to build their own homes. My grandmother was very active in the community as well and my grandparents raised my dad and his sister with those same values. My mother was raised with very similar values from her mother, who was also very involved in her community in East L.A. My parents ended up settling in Watsonville intentionally so that my dad could start his family clinic in an area where there were underserved communities. He wanted to be there to serve that community and he’s still there. Growing up my parents instilled those same values in me. It’s always been very natural for me to want to help out, social work is in my blood.

What's your first memory of being drawn to work in this field?
My first experience in this field was being a therapeutic aid in Santa Barbara County for children who were dependents in the system. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to get my masters yet and I was more focused on the therapy field and not so much on the social work field. I was drawn to working with kids and that job was my first real exposure to working with kids in the system who’ve had a history of trauma. I started learning that one healthy adult relationship for these kids could make the world of difference for them. So that experience is what really pushed me to seek out a masters program in social work. 

Can you walk me through a typical day for you working in your field at Lilliput?
Everyday is different and I love that about this job! The goal with our KSSP contract in Santa Cruz is to serve 20 families every year. In the beginning a lot of my time was focused on promoting our services to the various county workers to drum up work for the program. Once the referrals started coming in and I had a fuller caseload, my typical day started at my cubicle doing paperwork, checking in with county contacts and then checking in with families virtually or in person. I almost always reserve time in my day for short breaks before and after my visits with my family, and this really allows me to recharge and remain present for them. Some days I spend a lot of time checking in with local agencies, resource partners and community partners to pick up donations, supplies or gather resources for my families. I try to be a sidekick for my families and caregivers, so that they know they’re not in it alone. 

What has surprised you most about working in this field and for a non-profit?
I’ve learned a lot about myself doing this work, both challenges and strengths. What I’m most surprised about, is that after a decade of doing this work I’m still excited to continue and motivated to move forward. When I was younger I wondered if I would ever get burned out or grow cynical within the field, but I’m thankful that I haven’t experienced that and feel like I’m just getting started.

What do you find the most challenging about working in this field?
It’s very challenging when you're trying to support a person or a family on a specific goal and there’s a mixed response in their motivation or their ability to engage. For example they may be voicing a goal or a need but maybe not really ready to attack it together. It’s tough when you’re working really hard and wanting to help and wanting to make a positive difference but feel blocked by something that’s in the way. It’s a challenge to address that in a sensitive way and still be motivating, but in those situations I have to remind myself to not work harder than my client. I try to take a step back and remember that my role is to support this person and I try to find a different starting point, and meet them where they're at.

What's been your proudest moment or favorite accomplishment so far?
Earlier this year I received the Rookie of the Year award at Lilliput Families and that was a really proud moment for me. It wasn't just an award handed down from the executive team, it was voted on by the staff. It was really awesome to get that kind of recognition from my peers and to have that kind of support from the entire agency. It was really nice to know that we made an impact in the agency with our new program. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?
People might be surprised to learn that I’m Italian-American along with Mexican-American and I actually speak a little Italian. I love interior decorating and doing home projects. I also love getting together with family and friends to do makeovers!

What would you say to someone just starting in this field or still in school?
I would say don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up, shake it off and drop your issues at the door when you're helping families. Don’t be so serious and professional when working with families and try to be more relatable. Just be yourself.

If you could change one thing about this field, what would it be?
I would require on-going training for all social workers. Lilliput has been amazing with this and very supportive. I’ve done a lot of additional training through Lilliput and it has given me more tools and has helped me become a better social worker. I wish all other agencies and counties were this way.

Social work is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States. Today, there are more than 700,000 social workers in our nation and that number is expected to rise 11 percent in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can become a social worker, learn more at lilliput.org/careers.