“Before I came to America, I did not even know about social work,” said Shouzhi Jiang, who is retiring from Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS) after 19 years.
Shouzhi came to America from China in 1988 to get his master’s degree in education from St. Joseph’s University. In China, he taught English at a University and planned to finish his masters and move back to China to continue teaching. His plans changed when his friend, who was a social worker, introduced him to her work.
“I never realized that there was poverty in America,” Shouzhi said. “I saw more and more of these situations and I thought maybe I wanted to do some meaningful work.” So Shouzhi decided to stay in Philadelphia, and got a job as a foster care social worker with LCFS. “I could feel that these people really needed someone to help them,” he said.
In addition to domestic foster care and adoption, Shouzhi also worked with the unaccompanied refugee minors program. His youngest case was an Indian boy who was only six years old.
Shouzhi was promoted to a supervisor position, which he particularly enjoyed because of his background in education. “I look at the supervisor position as a teaching position,” he said. “I get new workers out of college and I teach them to be good social workers and help them to become professionals.”
“When you work as a social worker you really change a child’s life. They go from being abused or neglected to a loving home,” Shouzhi said. “As a supervisor, not only do I get to influence children’s lives, but I also influence my employees’ lives.”
Although Shouzhi’s family still lives in China, he plans to remain in Philadelphia. He is looking forward to being able to visit his family more often and for longer periods of time.
Before coming to America, Shouzhi didn’t know what social work was. Do you think that the importance of social work is overlooked in our society?