ST. CLOUD -- The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way social workers do their jobs.

Lacey Smith is the Child Protection Supervisor for Stearns County Human Services. She says her staff has been working from home for over a year now.

We had to adapt to go from all of our contacts face to face to pretty much all of our contacts virtually now, so we've had to make some significant changes to the way that we work and have some creativity on how to maintain safety of kids in a virtual world.

Smith says child safety is still their first priority, so they do send workers to homes for face-to-face contacts when it's required.

She says when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit back in March of last year they initially saw a decrease in reports.

But over the past six to eight months we've really seen an uptick in the amount of child maltreatment reports and different concerns for children and families that we service.

Smith says more social workers are needed as cases are becoming more complex.

So we may have mental heal concerns, chemical health concerns, behavioral concerns, homelessness all wrapped into one, and so it's definitely more complex.  There's more families we need to serve.

Smith says besides children, social workers also work with adults with mental health issues, people with disabilities, and the elderly. She says while they sometimes have to deal with a lack of trust with their clients their ultimate goal is to help better the lives of the people they serve.

She says more social workers are always needed and at Stearns County, they are always hiring for that position.

March is National Social Workers Month.

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