November 8th, 2022

Article by Ava Marante

Ice cream, it’s a classic! A type of food that can be prepared one hundred different ways, and each way yield a whole new taste. From chocolate to strawberry, ice cream is a comfort and happy food that appeals to almost everyone. Veronica Jackson Elder is ice cream to the social work community, where she currently holds the title of Child Welfare Trainor for the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Elder said, “If I were a food, I think I would be ice cream. It’s very rare to find people who don’t like ice cream; even if they can’t eat it because they are intolerant of it, they still want it… Kids love it, they make your eyes light up, and you can put sprinkles on it.”

With a passion for serving, UA School of Social Work (SSW) alumna Veronica Jackson Elder knew early on in her college career that she wanted to give her life’s work to the field of social work. After completing her undergraduate degree in 1994 and her master’s degree in social work in 2002 at The University of Alabama, Elder honed in on her passion by joining the Alabama Department, where she has been employed for the past 26 years.

As a Child Welfare Trainor, Elder conducts training for new employees and instructs them on how to conduct assessments and work with families to determine whether abuse or neglect is occurring and provide these families with services if needed. Elder said, “The rewarding part about working in child welfare is that we’re helping families who have gone through or are going through some adverse situations usually around abuse and neglect… being a support to them and being able to show humanity.”

While Elder was completing her undergraduate degree at The University of Alabama, she had an advisor, Dr. Ginny Raymond, who was a huge supporter and advocated for Elder’s success here at The University of Alabama. When Elder was 20 years old, she experienced one of the most devastating situations young women could have, the death of a mother. Former UA advisor, Dr. Ginny Raymond, encouraged her and stood by her side during these difficult times. Elder said, “I appreciated her support because it helped me to know that when you’re going through things in life, you got to sometimes go through with the situation and still get other things done in your life. Once you get things done, then you can have your meltdown… It is possible to have the support to do both.”

Elder’s main advice for students going through the process of getting a degree in social work is to continue learning. Elder said, “The University of Alabama is giving you the foundation… it’s your solid rock that you build on.”

Elder also advises students to push through and always “stay on the course” with social work, even when some days on the field are difficult. Elder was once told by a peer, “social workers don’t get into the field for the income, but rather we get into it for the outcomes.”

Leading. Advocating. Training. Veronica Jackson Elder, like ice cream, is a staple favorite at The University of Alabama and has spent the past 26 years making a mark in the social work community. She trains and supports individuals and helps them build upon the bedrock foundation provided by their education, all while bringing a smile and adding sprinkles to their journey.