While AFTH is sad to say we are losing a valuable member of our team, Ashley Kodet, we are excited for her new role where she will be continuing to make an impact in the world of adoption. We are also excited to announce Jenna Smith of AFTH’s Allentown Office as Ashley’s successor as Domestic Program Manager. We sat down to talk with both Ashley and Jenna as the torch passed from one to the other.
Ashley, your job has always been your passion. What was it that initially got you interested in social work and the position at Adoptions From The Heart?
I have always had a passion for helping people and first learned about the job of social workers through a book I read in high school. It felt like a perfect fit for me, especially as I got into college and graduate school and learned about all of the different aspects of social work and the many different roles a social worker could play. After graduating, I got my first job working in foster care and quickly became interested in permanency in the child welfare system. When a position at Adoptions From The Heart opened, I knew it was the right place for me to continue learning and growing. I worked with AFTH for over 8 years, starting as a social worker and eventually becoming a supervisor and Domestic Program Manager.
What has been the most growing experience working in the field of adoption?
As I gained experience in adoption, I became more and more interested in the experiences of birth parents. I have had the privilege of walking alongside over 100 women considering adoption at different stages of their journeys and have found their stories, both touching and compelling. While working with birth parents will always be close to my heart, I was shocked to realize how much I also enjoyed some less client-focused, more agency-wide tasks I began to take on in my later years with AFTH. While I would always treasure a chance to jump into an emergency placement, I also appreciated more administrative tasks that contributed to the bigger picture instead of one individual client.
As you leave for a new incredible opportunity, you are passing the Domestic Program Manager torch to Jenna Smith of AFTH’s Allentown Office. You and Jenna have worked together during your time at AFTH. What are you excited about her bringing to her new role?
Jenna and I began working together on the Transracial Adoption Education Course and quickly realized that our work and supervision styles were quite similar! I have been so impressed with Jenna’s growth over her last 5 years with AFTH. She started as a social worker passionate about helping clients, and has slowly but surely realized that she, too, thrives in both that area as well as the bigger picture, more administrative aspects of the agency’s work. Jenna is a tireless advocate for her clients, and her experience as a social worker always informs her policy and procedure work. Jenna has many great ideas for continuing to move the agency forward, and I have no doubt the role of Domestic Program Manager is in excellent hands with her!
Adoptions From The Heart has been your home for the past 8 years. What’s in store for your next chapter?
I have taken on the role of Administrator for Montgomery County’s Orphans’ Court, managing the Court’s handling of adoption and guardianship matters. Without AFTH, I would never have learned of my interest in an administrative role, and I feel so lucky to be able to continue working on adoptions in a different manner.
Welcoming Jenna Smith as AFTH’s New Domestic Program Manager
Jenna, can you tell us about your passion for social worker
My parents have connections to foster care and adoption, and so bringing families together to serve the child best is so incredibly important to me. I stepped into social work because I really believe in what we do. I cannot imagine doing anything else!
One of the highlights of my job is the variety of people I meet. As a social worker, I have the unique and privileged opportunity to assist people and to help improve their circumstances. As a social worker, there are times when we are asked to manage stressful and heavy situations as we walk alongside our clients through their ups and downs. I enjoy working closely with clients and my days are rarely predictable, which I like!
You have been at AFTH for 4 1/2 years. What has your role been, and how has it grown and changed? What are you most excited about as you enter your new role as Domestic Program Manager, what do you hope to bring in this new position building on your experience at AFTH so far?
I was hired in January 2015, as an Adoption Social Worker. A little over two years later, I was promoted to District Supervisor and New York Program Coordinator. This new role certainly had more administrative and supervisory duties, but I continued to manage a caseload of about 30 families. I also kept myself on the on-call schedule and continued to work with expecting and birth parents. My front-line experience in the field of adoption has helped to prepare me for my new role as Domestic Program Manager.
While this new position does not afford me the same ability to maintain such a heavy caseload as before, I’m will be sure to keep my feet wet by jumping in to help with emergency placements and holding a few clients at a time. Continuing to be an active front-line social worker in this way will benefit my new role. I have such fond memories of my one-on-one time with clients. I still laugh at the thought of all the times I walk into a home and saw fresh vacuum lines on the carpet or families frantic cleaning and being treated to the fanciest of cakes and the finest coffee during home visits.
I am most excited about being involved in the development of the agency. I enjoy brainstorming, adjusting, and coordinating programs. I like to think I am a strong advocate for our clients and look forward to taking their feedback into policy and procedure decision making.
I have had the pleasure to have Ashley mentor me for a bit prior to taking on my new role. Ashley was a great leader and incredible social worker. She has left big shoes to fill but I’m up for the task.
Your work can be really stressful. Tell us how you like to spend your personal time.
Because our roles as social workers can be really stressful, it’s essential to establish good self-care habits as well so you can recharge. Since weekdays tend to be very busy and highly emotionally tiring, I try to make sure the weekends are my own. Getting out for a run inevitably leaves me feeling better, mentally, and physically. I also enjoy live music, cooking, and gardening.
This past year has been extra busy as I have been planning a wedding. I look forward to marrying my best friend this June!