On the front lines: Caleb Blackman finds fulfillment as clinical social worker
Photos by Jeronimo Nisa and contributed
Every day when Caleb Blackman goes to work in the social services department at Decatur Morgan Hospital, he is able to share insight and information that helps his patients better themselves and their situations – which he said was the driving force behind his career choice.
During his freshman and sophomore years of college, Blackman studied history and anthropology, but he said he soon found those fields left him unfulfilled in life. In his job at Decatur Morgan Hospital as the child and adolescent program coordinator, the Hartselle man said he loves being able to help others every day, and through his work, he has found fulfilment.
Blackman graduated from Hartselle High School in 2008. From there, he first studied at Wallace State before transferring to the University of Alabama, where he declared a major in social work.
“For me, I don’t know how to describe it other than a ‘calling from God,’” Blackman said. “I worked in a computer lab at the university, and I was at work one day and just felt this pull like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing – like I was going in a direction I wasn’t supposed to be going in.”
Blackman said he knew then that while he enjoyed his studies in anthropology and archaeology, the fields and any career opportunities that would come his way after graduation would leave him wanting something more.
“I had decided on archaeology because I love history and going to museums, and I wanted to be the person who found those things and got to preserve them – but at the same time, I didn’t feel like it was the right thing and felt somewhat selfish, so I started praying a lot about it and trying to figure out what the right move would be,” he said. “That’s when I found social work.”
A friend and mentor who was a social worker helped give Blackman needed insight into the field. The year was 2010, when he was a sophomore at the University of Alabama. A decade later, Blackman said he has no regrets about his decision.
“As soon as I made that choice and committed to it, it was like a huge weight was lifted,” he said. “I think I would have been happy on the path I was on, but I could just tell this would bring so much more fulfillment.”
Blackman said his contentment and joy have only grown in recent years. “I have so much I want to give, and it feels really good to be able to do that, especially with children who sometimes come from less-than-ideal situations,” he said. “I came from a very fortunate and blessed background; my parents are still married, and I have great relationships with all of my siblings. This job gives you, or at least it gives me, a different perspective on children who are getting themselves in bad situations.”
Blackman is working toward a degree to become a licensed clinical social worker so, in addition to his work at Decatur Morgan, he could see patients on his own time. He said his work should be completed sometime this summer.
He said is goal is to help people realize “that no matter what situation they are born into or handed, they have more control over that than thy think they do. That makes my job enjoyable,” he said. “The more they think that and notice that, the more they will be able to take responsibility and get themselves out of situations like that, and the more of the cycle they will be able to break. I hope I’m making some kind of difference; even if it is one in every 10 kids I see, that’s still some sort of difference.”
Blackman said individual, group and family therapies are used in his department. His favorite clients are the children.
“As your life is going along, you compile baggage, and especially if you start off with a lot, it can become very difficult to resolve that in adulthood,” he said. “It is often easier to help a child change those habits when they’re young.”
Blackman said he’s doing his best at his job when he conducts group therapies, and he gets good feedback from the children. “My favorite part of the family sessions is when everyone is involved and hungry for information on what they can do to improve their family lives and situations.”
Caleb and his wife Rebecca have a son, Nathanael, and are expecting another baby boy next month. The family are members at East Highland Baptist Church, where Caleb’s father is the minister.