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Celebrating Bread for the City Social Services: Ashley Moore, LICSW

What do you do as Associate Director of Care Management?

As a team, Care Management meets with medical patients to provide resource support and problem-solving around topics such as housing, IDs, food stamps, and transportation. We also provide more intentional outreach for care coordination, helping patients reach their health and wellness goals and providing support to keep them connected to our medical services as well as other appointments.

I sometimes describe care management as trying to catch issues that fall through the cracks and are out of the scope of the medical provider’s care.

How often are you immediately pulled into medical to provide support to a patient?

All the time – that’s a big part of our work, meeting and assisting someone at that moment to address their needs as quickly and conveniently as possible. What makes Bread for the City so special is that clients can come in for one thing, like a medical appointment, and come out having other needs met, too. We use a “warm handoff” model, a client-empowering approach to ensuring that clients can receive services from all of our departments while giving them the dignity of being the agent of that transfer process.

What was your journey to this role?

I’ve worked at BFC for almost 11 years, I started interning here during my Master’s of Social Work program and haven’t left since. Before we created the Care Management team in 2018, we mostly had a walk-in format for anyone who wanted to request social services. But both our Medical and Social Services departments realized that our work needed to be more closely intertwined to create a more formal care management practice. In the past four years, we’ve built this care management program from the ground up, and we’re still envisioning how this program can improve and evolve to meet the needs of our clients.

Why did you decide to become a social worker?

Both of my parents are Methodist pastors and I grew up in a social justice-minded congregation. This planted the seed for my passion for helping people. After college, I applied for a Master’s in Public Policy, thinking that policy work was the best way to effect change. The summer before the program I spent a few months volunteering in Bolivia, which made me realize how much I love direct work and engaging with people one on one. I deferred my spot in the policy program and, thanks to the guidance of a college mentor, began my Master’s of Social Work at Catholic University a year later. I was so lucky that Bread for the City was my first internship placement during my program – I knew that this was the kind of work I wanted to do.

What motivates you to do this work? What brings you joy?

I had the benefit of being a student of Wendy Guyton and Tracy Knight, who modeled how to have both good boundaries and the importance of seeing people for everything that they are, not just their struggles, two critical pieces of advice to continue in this work.

The best part of this job is the people, both our clients and our team. It’s an honor to get to know the patients we see regularly, like what books they’re reading and what they did with their families that weekend. I also celebrate the small wins. But obviously, the big wins are especially great – things like getting people tangible resources like social security disability benefits.

Another fun thing is that I get to supervise and train social work students who intern with us, which allows me to teach and be inspired by the next generation of social workers. We’re a good spot to learn because there are so many different types of social work that we do here and we have an incredible group of people working in Social Services.

Are there any exciting projects happening right now?

Something I’m super excited about right now is a new partnership with Produce Rx. It’s an agency that partners with medical clinics like ours to offer patients with hypertension and diabetes money for fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, $240 every 3 months. So right now we’re signing up as many people as are eligible.

Some other good news: we are participating in the DC government’s coordinated entry system more meaningfully. Last year DC government made a historic investment toward ending chronic homelessness. We are working diligently to identify ways to link patients who are experiencing homelessness and meet the coordinated entry criteria to this resource whenever we can.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a social worker?

Definitely look at what social work schools are doing before deciding to invest your time and money. Like what classes they offer, what the professors are teaching because that’s what you’ll be learning from.

Also, talk to people in the field in a variety of types of work. Social work licensure can get you into so many roles, so figure out what part is interesting to you!

And even if you don’t have a social work license, there are lots of ways to be involved in this work. Being able to get a master’s is a privilege some people may not have. We recognize that at Bread for the City and are intentional about hiring with access in mind. Lately, we have started working with more online MSW programs for student field placements. These offer a more flexible alternative to a traditional program. There are also three or four-year programs that allow you to work part-time during school to make it more financially feasible.

“If you really want diversity in social work, you have to make it more accessible.”
What do people get wrong about social work?

People have a narrow idea of what social work is, social workers do all kinds of things, many would be surprised to know that social workers provide 60% of mental health treatment in this country. We’re also doing direct service work, policy work at all levels of government, advocacy and organizing, and way more.

The second thing is, that people assume social workers can fix systemic problems. When discussing a social issue, I’ve heard people say, “let’s just hire more social workers” – no. We’re not a replacement for flawed systems, unaffordable housing, and high-paying jobs. Hiring more social workers to connect people with poor or nonexistent resources isn’t going to do much.

Another thing people may not understand is that the hardest part of the job is working within and with dysfunctional underresourced systems, things like unorganized affordable housing options and complicated and nonfunctioning government forms and online portals. The issues we’re tackling with people are not simply about a lack of resources. It’s about resources and it is also much more complex and has to do with how people do or don’t have access to resources.

What do you do to decompress from your work?

I love hanging out with my two young kids. Lately, I have been intentionally re-introducing them to the city since the pandemic. We love being outside doing things like hiking and camping. I also love reading and visiting libraries, which are almost separate hobbies for me; as a mom, I’ve developed a deep love for children’s library spaces. I also love doing jigsaw puzzles with my husband, Dave, way past our kids’ bedtimes.

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