CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wlison Sheila Smith, a social worker at the Children, Youth and Families Department, takes a call in her office Monday. On Wednesday Smith will receive the Rose Praisner Award from the National Association of Social Workers New Mexico Chapter in Albuquerque for 22 years of service.
Sheila Smith was working toward a master’s degree in psychology at Eastern New Mexico University in 1989 when she decided to devote her life to helping children.
At the time, Smith was working as a children’s counselor at a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Portales. A year later she moved into the field of social work, beginning a 22-year career with Children, Youth and Families Department in Curry and Roosevelt counties.
“During my 15 months working at the shelter I saw women continually going back into abusive situations,” Smith said. “I saw children continually exposed to abusive situations involving drugs and alcohol. At the time I was unaware of just how bad children get hurt at the hands of their parents. I wanted to be able to help the children.”
On Wednesday Smith will receive the Rose Praisner Award from the National Association of Social Workers New Mexico Chapter in Albuquerque.
“It’s an incredible honor and I’m very humbled,” said Smith, In Home services supervisor for CYFD in Curry and Roosevelt counties who obtained a master’s degree in social work in 1992. ”This isn’t just like employee of the month. This is a huge thing. I never imagined that I could reach this level.”
Smith said she has worked every unit at CYFD, including adoptions, investigation, adult abuse and neglect, foster care and legal cases. Her work with the In Home services unit involves working with children and their families at home to keep children from being placed into foster care. She also trains new CYFD social workers in Albuquerque.
Angie Spears, clinical director at Teambuilders in Clovis, collaborates with Smith daily through In Home services. She said Smith’s willingness to go the extra mile in the field of social work is why she deserves the award.
“Sheila is a generous, generous spirit,” Spears said.
Spears said Smith’s willingness to mentor and collaborate with other entities helps eastern New Mexico develop social workers builds safer families and safer communities.
“Sheila’s award makes me so proud to call her a friend, to call her a colleague.”
Smith is more passionate than ever about helping youth.
“I come to work everyday and I feel so blessed that I get an opportunity to help children in our community,” Smith said. “I never know what each day is going to bring. I never get bored.”
Smith said she plans to work another two and a half years with CYFD. After that she plans to continue teaching and mentoring social workers in the area.
“I want to keep qualified and quality social workers right here in this community for our families so they don’t have to go elsewhere.”
She said throughout the next 25 years she may move her focus from children to senior citizens in Clovis and Portales.