As part of Social Worker Month, we are highlighting a Lifeline social worker. The individuals who fill these roles at Lifeline are essential to helping children find families and helping families become healthy places for children. We are grateful for our social workers every day and celebrate them this month.
Melissa Steltz did not have to think long about what she finds rewarding in her role as a Casework Supervisor at Lifeline in South Dakota. Her answer encapsulates Melissa’s heart for her vocation as well as her quiet humility and strong dependence upon God: “I love being able to be this very, very small part of how God puts families together.”
God has woven adoption through Melissa’s story from the beginning of her life, giving her a heart for working with adoptive families through social work. Melissa was born in South Dakota and has lived there her entire life. Adoption became a part of her personal life story when she was adopted domestically as an infant. As she continued college and graduate education, she desired to be involved with adoption through her social work training. Opportunities with agencies or options to gain experience in the area of adoption were essentially non-existent for Melissa at that time.
Melissa’s life is a testament to God’s good plan, in His perfect timing to ready His people for His purpose. Although God’s plans would eventually lead to serving in adoption agencies, He first led her to spend 10 years focused on end-of-life issues in a nursing home, not the welfare of young children and families. Her supervisor at the nursing home served as a great source of encouragement and wisdom, guiding Melissa as she grew into her role as a social worker. In 2008, God opened the door for Melissa to begin serving in a Christian adoption agency, and she came to Lifeline in 2021.
Although adoption has been part of her personal story since she was an infant, it became even more entrenched in her life after she married. A journey through infertility led Melissa and her husband to pursue adoption as a couple. Their first path toward adoption led to their birth mother deciding to parent. Despite this grief, they remained committed to adoption and ultimately adopted through foster care. Additionally, God’s plan included two biological children for Melissa and her husband.
Because of the way God has entwined many aspects of the adoption journey in Melissa’s story, she uniquely brings experience, understanding, and compassion to the families she serves daily. Melissa shares small parts of her story with families when she can provide beneficial encouragement or insight. Her personal connection, as well as her consistent calming demeanor, helps set families at ease even in the stressful circumstances of their journeys. She is able to build trust with them through her honesty and straightforward explanations of expectations.
As an introvert, Melissa prefers to work in the background quietly. Nevertheless, God has grown in her a meek confidence for His calling in her life. She knows “she has some things to share that can help other people.” She would never have thought she would share openly with numerous families about topics such as trauma and brain development, but “God has taken that introvertedness and shaped it to be an asset for Him.”
Through the experience of her first job in the nursing home, Melissa became more confident praying with and sharing gospel truth with those she serves. As she’s continued to serve in a Christian environment, she considers it a privilege to have a common faith with her clients and to be able to speak openly about the gospel and how God’s truths impact their lives.
Although Melissa is thankful for the “small” role she plays in the lives of families, God uses her as a significant part of their lives, and Lifeline is grateful for her life and calling.