What it's Like to be an EveryStep Social Worker: Laura Lentell

Becoming a parent can be a challenging, but rewarding experience. For Laura Lentell, becoming a mother set her on a path to ensure others had the support, resources, and information they needed in their new roles.

And so for the past two years, Lentell has worked as a maternal-child health social worker with EveryStep.

"Social determinants of health affect everyone," Lentell says of her work. Social determinants of health are the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age. "Some of our most vulnerable community members are affected and it seems like the systems that are in place to help are not always helpful,” Lentell adds. “People need help and compassion and social work allows me to serve others and treat them with respect. 

That's just what Lentell has set out to do with her work.

"I get to meet amazing families every day," Lentell notes. "I feel like I can make a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s a small difference. 

Some days, this means simply listening and making someone feel validated and heard.

"It's a small thing that can make a huge difference in someone’s emotional well-being," Lentell says of simply offering to listen to clients.

Or, Lentell might be educating parents on their child's development. Such was the case recently when she offered a developmental screening for a client at one of EveryStep's Play & Learn meet-ups. 

Play & Learn events are hosted across the Des Moines area each week, providing parents with child-directed, open-ended, playful learning activities designed for children 0 to 8 years of age. Lentell attends the groups once a month, offering developmental screenings if parents are interested in getting their child screened. 

One mother wanted to make sure her daughter was on track for when she started school. The screening, however, opened the mother's eyes to other things she might be able to do with her daughter at home.

"The next time I saw her she told me that I totally changed her life," Lentell recalls. "She said that I had given her so many ideas and she was so excited to try different things with her daughter. Something that is so routine for me was so impactful for someone else and that was eye opening for me."

In another case, Lentell says she was able to assist an EveryStep Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) client when she was kicked out of a relative’s home. The woman, who came to the U.S. alone, had made a connection with Lentell during their short meetings, and reached out for help during her difficult experience. 

Lentell and the woman's NFP nurse were able to provide extra support during that time, throughout the end of her pregnancy and after delivery. While the woman is no longer in EveryStep's care, she still checks in with Lentell.

"Social work is not easy," Lentell says. "You see some people at their worst, but when you are able to help them even in a seemingly small way, it is so rewarding."

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