Olivia Barrios has been working as a bilingual intercountry caseworker for International Social Service, USA (ISS-USA) since the summer of 2018. She takes a passionate approach to health education and social services. Prior to joining ISS-USA, Ms. Barrios worked for non-profit organizations serving youth and low-income families, helping them achieve their personal goals. We recently interviewed Ms. Barrios for an inside look into her experience as an intercountry caseworker for ISS-USA:
What do you enjoy most about being an intercountry case worker at ISS-USA?
“I enjoy looking for the independent contractors in the areas where I need to provide services for a vulnerable child or family and reaching out to them and informing them about how ISS-USA works to connect cross-border families. I also enjoy reading the positive reports of the family members and the plan they have to support the child or children once they are placed in a safe home. What I enjoy the most is reaching out to the family members in foreign countries to notify them about a case update. I can hear the happiness resonating in their voices through the phone.”
What life experiences led you to a career in intercountry case management?
“I worked for an unaccompanied minors program and I had the opportunity to experience the processes minors have to go through to be reunified with their family members or sponsors. I was also teaching health education classes to the Hispanic communities of Jefferson City and California, Missouri (MO). A couple of months after I started working in that position, I realized that these communities need a lot of support, especially in the area of medical services, social services, and education. When my family moved to Maryland (MD), I started looking for jobs in case management and I found ISS-USA, as they are based in Baltimore.”
What populations do you serve?
“I have served many populations throughout my career. However, I have provided the most services to Americans, Guatemalans, Ecuadorians, Dominicans, Netherlanders, Germans, Russians and Northern Irish.”
What are the greatest challenges you face while completing your case work?
“The greatest challenge has been overcoming delays in in the reception of case updates. I have some International Social Service (ISS) partners and independent contractors that would like to know updates in their cases. For recent cases I have worked on, family members will call and ask for the case updates and it is difficult for me to give them the most updated information when I have not received any updates in the case.”
Why is your position essential to ISS-USA’s mission to “mobilize a domestic and international network of legal and social work professionals to efficiently connect vulnerable children, adults and families who are separated by international borders to the services and support they need?”
“My dedication to find the agencies or independent contractors that can work with us to provide the services we need in different countries or states is essential to ISS-USA’s mission. This includes working for our Guatemala Reunification Project and knowing the Guatemalan community areas helped me to identify different agencies which could provide services to children and their families during the reintegration process.”
What do you wish more people knew about your work at ISS-USA?
“I wish more people could recognize how difficult it is to coordinate social services in foreign countries. It is time consuming when we do not have a partner or an independent contractor in that specific area and need to find one to work on the case. We have to also follow procedures and regulations so in some cases, the cases cannot be completed within two or three weeks as we would like them to be.
I also wish more social work agencies would know about our work and possibly give us a chance to provide the social services they need to help reunify children with their families.”
Any comments on working for ISS-USA? (What do you enjoy, how is working for ISS-USA compared to other organizations/past positions?)
“In other agencies, I had to work weekends, holidays and twice per month on call during my days off. It was challenging because sometimes I did not know how long my shift would be. At ISS-USA, I love having the weekends and holidays off so I can spend time visiting my children and friends.
I also enjoy helping the referring agencies and coordinating social services in other states and countries. I also enjoy communicating with our partners and independent contractors about the cases.”