Zhaniizha Khanii-Kevii has served more than 30 years as a staff supervising social worker with Sullivan County Department of Community Services Mental Health Clinic. She knew she wanted to go into social work starting when she was a junior in college.
“I’ve been with Sullivan County since 1985. June 1985 is when I started, a week after I graduated from Fordham University, and I’ve been with the county ever since,” said Khanii-Kevii.
She said her college professor inspired her to go into the field dedicated to helping others.
“To work with people, to work with clients to understand that they are diverse people that we serve, that come from all walks of life with a wide range of issues,” said Khanii-Kevii.
But a big issue Khanii-Kevii said she runs into is staffing. It’s been going on even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What You Need To Know
- The average entry-level social worker salary in New York state is about $50,000, but the salary range can fall between $46,000 and $60,000, depending on certifications and educational levels
- A report from the National Association of Social Workers finds 34% of social workers surveyed are at the same salary they were when they started their jobs
- According to an audit published late last year by the state Comptroller’s Office, about 80% of schools within the Department of Education fell short of having enough social workers at the schools, with over 27% of schools failing to have a social worker all together
“We're bare-bones, practically bare-bones. It's myself and another worker, social worker,” said Khanii-Kevii.
The average entry level social worker salary in New York is about $50,000, but the salary range can fall between $46,000 and $60,000, depending on certifications and educational levels.
A report from the National Association of Social Workers New York Chapter finds 34% of social workers surveyed are at the same salary they were when they started their jobs.
Another factor is many colleges and universities are not offering graduate-level social work programs.
Sullivan County Community Services Director Melissa Stickle said one way she plans to tackle the issue is to give incentives to people studying in the field.
“Trying to bring people in at a bachelor's level who are enrolled in a master's program and looking to offset some of their educational costs,” said Stickle.
Stickle believes the shortage of social workers is due to the low salaries, so the county is doing whatever it can to address the need.
“And then it's also not having enough young people going to school to be social workers. It's not glorified the way it used to be. It's hard. It's really hard work,” said Stickle.
Khanii-Kevii said she does what she can despite the challenges.
“I still do intakes. We still see people, but I know what my limit is. I do my best to try and accommodate. But I’ve learned not to try, not to overwhelm myself. It's tough. It is tough being so short-staffed, but we just do the best we can, and being short-staffed, it does limit the amount of people you can see,” said Khanii-Kevii.
In 2021, a bill was introduced to the state legislature to address the high demand for social workers, but it did not reach the governor’s desk.