Social Work Month Interview with Shandra Parks, PhD, LGSW, CFSW


Dr. Shandra Parks has been a social worker with children, youth and families in the areas of child welfare, community social work, and ministry wellness for nineteen years.

Dr. Parks is a self-identified “Jersey Girl” who entered college as a business administration major. She planned to pursue a career as an accountant. After struggling with her financial and accounting classes, she determined that working with “numbers” may not be the career path for her. Dr. Parks transferred to social work and earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in business from Seton Hall University.   She then went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from Rutgers University’s as an advanced standing student on the macro track. She entered the Administration, Policy, and Planning concentration with the goal of running a program, not becoming a clinician.

Dr. Parks received a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Christian Counseling from Family Bible Ministries Worldwide and a Christian Studies Diploma from Jericho Christian Training Center. Dr. Parks also holds an additional certification in Financial Social Work from the Center of Financial Social Work.

After moving to Maryland in 1998, Dr. Parks became a receptionist in a wraparound therapy program then went on to work in foster care and child welfare with Lutheran Social Services and Child and Family Services Agency. Her next position was with the Edgewood Brookland Collaborative as a Family Service Coordinator where she was able to practice community social work.  The agency focused on housing, advocacy, and wraparound services. Grateful for a supervisor who understood the value in developing the next generation of leaders, it was in this role that Dr. Parks began her management career. Dr. Parks has been employed with Howard County Department of Social Services for ten years. She is currently a Family Involvement Facilitator, Resource Home Worker, and a Field Instructor for graduate students at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work.  Dr. Parks has also worked as a part-time mental health therapist and served as a Field Instructor for University of the District of Columbia, Trinity Washington University, and Howard University.

Serving as a field site for MSW students allows professionals to give back to the social work profession. Dr. Parks believes that it takes trust and understanding to help guide and develop new professionals.  She encourages her interns to think outside the box and take a look at the entire field of social work. She always poses the question, “what does your ideal job look like”? Field Supervisors must be able to correct in love and understand their intern’s learning styles, age and life stages and responsibilities outside of their position, she said.  Dr. Parks recognizes that today’s students need and want mentorship because of the pressure to obtain and excel as well as the pressure to determine a niche in the field.

What Dr. Parks loves most about management is the ability to help people develop and thrive and to do what they are purposed to do. What she doesn’t like about management is the bureaucracy, red tape and “we have always done it that way” syndrome.  Dr. Parks believes that to successfully transition into management, one must have a certain level of maturity and also a mindset shift. She affirms that management is not for the faint at heart and encourages managers to seek out a mentor as they plan their path. She continued with the following advice for new managers:

  • Develop a self-care routine
  • Know your triggers
  • Take part in peer consultation
  • Find a mentor for guidance and support
  • Enroll in therapy because you need a safe space to discuss your personal and professional issues
  • Set and stick to your boundaries
  • Advocate for and empower the people you lead
  • Learn from your mistakes because mistakes will happen but that is how you improve
  • Develop your own management style instead of trying to be someone else

What Dr. Parks enjoys most about social work is the blessing of creativity in the ability to design what we do. She also loves that social workers can be found in every industry from mental health to policy to finances to development programs. Social workers are gifted to deal with people at each stage of life and impact wellness in every life domain.  Social workers are blessed to be a part of the care and responsibility of others. With that in mind, she has always charted her own career path by creating the titles that fit the roles and responsibilities she had an interest in pursuing.

Dr. Parks believes that today the path to entrepreneurship is different than years ago and students understand that entrepreneurship encompasses more than starting a private practice.  She is also the owner of Soul 2 Soul Wellness, LLC, a holistic counseling and wellness practice that works with adults in the areas of spiritual health, physical health, and financial and emotional literacy. Dr. Parks asked, “what does holistic healing look like”? Part of her answer is leading her back into community work. She works diligently to eliminate the stigma around mental health in the faith community and partners with clergy to provide the tools to help strengthen both families and communities. Additionally, she is also certified to help people with problem gambling. Dr. Parks’ main goal is to see people healthy, whole, and thriving

Dr. Parks is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, National Christian Counselors Association, Black Therapists Rock and serves on the Ministry Team with True Freedom International Ministries.

The three words that Dr. Parks uses to describe social work are authentic, compassion, and serving. She believes that social workers must be genuine and show up as their authentic selves, have compassion and show care for others, and be true to the people that they serve.

Nicki Sanders, MSW, is a travel and cupcake lover with a passion for self-discovery and career advancement. She has an extensive background in developing and managing interns and successful internship programs. She is an accomplished supervisor, professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has merged her Master of Social Work degree and 20 years of diverse work experience into a thriving business.  Nicki Sanders Consulting helps businesses increase employee recruitment and retention and helps managers uplevel their leadership skills.  

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