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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs run by state agencies, including information for parks, natural resources and social and health programs.

~ February 2005 ~ Topic

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Volunteering Within a State Agency

Many people don't think about all of the possibilities for volunteering within state agencies. Park Departments, museums and tourist information are areas where most people assume will need and utilize volunteers. However, often the social service agency within the state will also utilize volunteers (in the State of Washington, that's called Department of Social and Health Services - DSHS). These social service agencies serve a large number of the state's population and utilize volunteers in a number of different ways.

I have spent the last 28 years working for one of these agencies, Department of Social and Health Services, and the last 20 years working with volunteers and interns. I have found that the general public is often surprised to find that our agency utilizes volunteers. Some of the ways that volunteers have been used within Children's Services is to assist social workers in transportation, supervising visits, putting together packets, assisting with filing, copying, etc. Interns will typically follow a social worker and learn the process involved in either Child Protective Services (CPS) or Child Welfare Services (CWS) – ongoing services for children placed out of their home and assist the social worker in working with specific cases. The level of involvement an intern will have on a case depends on whether they are doing an internship for a bachelor's degree or a master's degree.

Volunteers and interns who show that they are reliable, dependable workers are often hired within the agency. I have talked with several social workers who started as interns and subsequently were able to be hired. And, in my 19 years at another division, I saw several volunteers and interns become hired by the state. It really shows that, even in state government, one way to get that job that you really want is to spend some time volunteering in the area you are interested in working.

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Terry Schroeder is a social worker at the Division of Children & Family Services in Bremerton, WA. She has worked for the department for 28 years, the last 20 working with volunteers in some capacity. She is also an avid volunteer, currently serving on three local non-profit boards and one advisory board. She can be contacted by calling: 360-475-3571 or emailing her at: thes300@dshs.wa.gov.

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