The essence of social services work can be described as a practice-based profession that promotes social change, development, cohesion and the empowerment of people and communities. Karen Ip, a Clinical Case Manager for Felton’s Senior Services Division who holds a master’s degree in social work and is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, gives a more poetic description of the work she provides. In the Intensive Case Management (ICM) and Outpatient Mental Health (OMH) Services program, serving older adult clients who are experiencing severe mental illness and linking them to life-saving services and resources through their recovery, Ms. Ip asserts, “being a social worker is like being a gardener. We work to feed and nurture. We want to give a person what they need for them to thrive.”
Karen Ip provides support, compassion, and a wealth of transcontinental experiences to her clients. Originally from Hong Kong, her multilingual background provides invaluable support to Felton’s monolingual clients. She recounts working with a client who was experiencing suicidal ideations. The client, who was originally from China, did not speak English. Because of the language barrier, she was having a difficult time accessing resources. “We worked really well together,” Ms. Ip reflects. Communicating in the client’s native tongue, Ip was able to connect her client to mental health services and continued to provide support during recovery. Building trust is paramount in this process. She says of her client, “I can support her, and I can trust her to make things better.”
As any skilled gardener will attest, assessing need and providing resources is critical to the success of the garden. Similarly, Ip explains, “we provide therapy for clients and a clinical assessment to get to know their needs. And we also work with their support system.” Reflecting on her professional experiences in the United States, she surmises, “I’m amazed by the professionalism of social work in the U.S.,” adding, “at Felton, we work one-on-one with individuals.” In addition, Ms. Ip stresses the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to her work, “my role is to make sure clients are in a safe place and supporting them in their recovery. When they transition back to the community, I work with them to make sure they get what they need.” She adds, “It’s an exciting journey.”
Karen is grateful for being part of Felton’s diverse social service programs that transforms lives. “I really appreciate all the experiences that I have had here. The work that I’m doing right now is really making a big impact.” Yet she hastens to attribute her capacity to excel to the support and influences she has received from two important women in her life, her supervisor, and her mother. She credits her supervisor Ellen Harrington for her leadership, “She is courageous. She inspires me,” Ms. Ip says. “I’m always amazed by her ability to lead the team and intervene when there is a crisis.”
This grounding in initiative and self-confidence began at home with inspiration from Karen Ip’s mother whom she credits with always supporting her aspirations. Her mom, who lives in Hong Kong, “is a very important woman in my life,” Ms. Ip says warmly. “She’s always positive and when challenges come, she’s the leader in our family.” She adds, “my mom has always provided for the family. I really appreciate that and I’m grateful for her support so that I could come to the U.S. and pursue my dreams here.”
The diverse background and wealth of experiences that Ms. Ip brings to her role as clinical case manager provides a lifeline to vulnerable and under-represented populations. She uplifts the sentiment of social workers in that “we look at the bigger picture of the system and the environment the client is in.” Elucidating, “we don’t just look at what the person’s physical needs or psychological needs are, but also the social needs.” This approach is reflected in Felton’s diverse programs and services that foster support and engagement with individuals and families, so that they may thrive in their communities.
For more information about Felton Institute’s Intensive Case Management and Outpatient Mental Health Services (ICM-OMH) program, you can visit our program webpage.
Felton Institute responds to the needs of our community by providing innovative, evidence-informed social services to transform lives. Our organization offers 50+ programs that address mental health, the unhoused, early care and education, those impacted by the justice system, transitional age youth, as well as aging adults. Our award-winning programs, which have been recognized as national models, combine the latest scientific research with cultural sensitivity and a deep commitment to supporting and reflecting the communities we serve.
Founded in 1889, Felton is the oldest secular non-profit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. We have expanded our services across most Bay Area counties and continue to be at the forefront of pioneering new approaches to meet the emerging needs of underserved populations.
We know what it looks like to successfully build community.
We foster impactful change by strengthening the community as a premiere service provider. We also strengthen other service providers by supporting them in their fiscal, human resources, communications, IT and overall agency operations. With Felton’s support, they are able to focus on providing the best services to their clients, doing the work they were meant to do.
Felton empowers the community and ensures successful outcomes to all we engage with.
Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.