Social Work Month Interview with Andrea Imafidon, LMSW, LCSW



“Healing is an evolving action”, says Andrea Imafidon. During her interview for social work month, Andrea shared her desire to help the whole person heal – without red tape. She doesn’t just want to treat those she encounters in her work, she wants to get to the root of the issues. Andrea wants people to be whole. She wants us all to do better and heal collectively.


Andrea grew up in Boston in a home with two working class parents in a community of African Americans who migrated from southern United States, Africa, and the Caribbean. Her father worked in the medical field. She watched her mother become the caregiver for her grandmother and adopt and raise her uncle. Andrea spent a lot of time volunteering in her community and with her elders. She says that there is no way that she couldn’t be an activist growing up in the household she was raised in. Andrea had lots of practice advocating for herself and making sure her voice was heard living in a home with four males.


Andrea is a first-generation college graduate who began her undergraduate education as a nursing major. Due to the challenges of passing anatomy and the disappointment in learning that nurses don’t spend a lot of time providing micro level caretaking, Andrea was at a crossroads.  She knew that she wanted to help people make a change, so she decided to change her major to social work during her junior year. Although there was a bit of a culture shock moving from Boston, Massachusetts to rural Tuskegee, Alabama, Andrea says that her social work classes provided the nurturing environment she needed. She enjoyed the creativity and diversity of the major. Although it took time to earn the trust and respect of her classmates and professors, since she was new to the major, Andrea went on to become Vice President of Student Social Work Alliance and Miss Social Work.  Andrea and her classmates created community programs for the youth and families of Macon County, one of the poorest counties in Alabama, as well as a mentoring and literacy program. She takes pride in knowing that the programs are still in existence today.


Andrea spent an extra year in college to earn her B.S. in Social Work from Tuskegee University in 2006. When asked why she chose a career in social work, Andrea says that social work chose her.  Andrea decided to take a gap year before entering graduate school. With a new BSW as a 23-year-old foster care social worker in rural Alabama in a community plagued by crystal meth and 30 kids on her caseload, Andrea saw a system that was broken. The parents and families had been broken down by life and the social workers were burned out. She earned a M.S. in Social Work from The University of Southern Mississippi. Through this experience, Andrea realized that we have a lot of work to do on a micro, mezzo, and macro level related to the foster care system.


Andrea is grateful for the generalist graduate social work education she received at the University of Southern Mississippi. She was able to cover a range of issues and learned varies social work techniques while completing an 18-month Graduate Assistantship. This was one of the most challenging but developmental social work experiences that molded her into who she is today. Andrea further describes this time as being filled with growth and healing. During graduate school, Andrea was able to study abroad in Jamaica and engage in international social work.  She lived in a townhouse in the community she served and witnessed the resilience of Jamaicans working consistently and intently, even with limited resources. She also dedicated time to “finding herself” and after a bit of soul searching Andrea knew that entrepreneurship would become a part of her journey.


Andrea has completed an internship in a hospice and in juvenile drug court. On a micro level, Andrea has conducted therapy with individual clients and held medical social work jobs. Her career has also included social work with the Veteran’s Administration – another system which she described as broken. Andrea reached her ultimate career goal when she served as a Director of Social Services. It was this position that propelled Andrea into politics and confirmed for her that she could successfully run her own business.


Andrea earned a LMSW/LCSW in Alabama and Rhode Island. What she loves about social work is that it is a diverse profession that looks at the world through an interconnected lens. She has always been for the people and always rooted for the underdog. Social work is about working with throw-away populations – people no one else wants to work with. Social work encompasses safety (no judgment), advocacy, policy, radical action, and critical thinking to support marginalized people and communities. Often social workers are speaking an unpopular truth, she said. Andrea wants people to understand that it is not about “me” but it is about “us”, and we need to help each other in order to make real change.


Andrea’s advice to social work students and new graduates is to find your path in social work. To seek a career in social work that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. Andrea describes social workers as unsung heroes and encourages all social workers to be a holistic healer all the time – not just when you are at work or in a professional setting. She recommends that we ask ourselves if we are exercising true social work values to heal our communities.


Andrea believes that a course on self-care should be offered in all social work programs as this is a missing piece in social work education. She encourages social workers to take care of themselves – to heal ourselves. She employs us to do our own healing work along the way. Because social workers take on other people’s energy and problems, Andrea wants social workers to know that it is OK to go to therapy for guidance and healing while you assist others with guidance and healing. Are you feeding your spirituality, moving your body, drinking enough water, and setting healthy boundaries, she asked?  Social work can burn you out and Andrea recommends that we all take inventory and make ourselves a priority. All social workers need an outlet, she says.


The three words that Andrea uses to describe the field of social work are challenging, rewarding, and creative. Today, the Brown Girl From Boston is living in Alabama in a community with many young, single parents that lack resources and have limited transportation and youth without after school enrichment activities. Andrea’s goal is to be a part of the holistic solution. In 2019, she will launch a nonprofit organization that offers wellness and holistic programs including parenting support, GED classes, and supportive social services including housing. She is also preparing to teach Psychology and Sociology classes at a trade school in Alabama and transitioning from being a Business Coach to return to expressive therapy work with plans to open a holistic healing practice. Andrea feels like she has gone full circle from child protective services to a nonprofit organization serving her community.


Andrea also has a successful speaking career. She will be a panelist on “Why Having A Side Hustle Is Essential For The Black Community” at the Annual Black Communities Conference from April 23rd – April 25th in Durham, NC.


We need more social workers, social workers of color, and men in social work, Andrea says.  Andrea wants us all the be change agents, use our voices to speak up for the voiceless, and do the work that needs to be done to heal our communities.


Nicki Sanders, MSW, is a travel and cupcake lover with a passion for self-discovery and career development. She has a strong background in developing and managing interns and successful internship programs. She is an accomplished manager, professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has packaged her Master of Social Work degree and 20 years of diverse work experience into Packaged For Success, a full service training and professional development company.

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