Mildred Otero: A Child Advocate’s Path to Congress
“I tell people all the time: the reason that I pursued an MSW is that your career opportunities become limitless,” said Mildred Otero (MSW ’03), Legislative Assistant to Senator Hillary Clinton since March 2006. As an aide to Senator Clinton, Otero has been working on issues that include education, child welfare and families, including helping to draft and analyze legislation. Earning her MSW enabled her to open many doors along the way to Capitol Hill: “The field of social work is making so many transitions now,” Otero said, that she considers an MSW “one of the more flexible degrees to have.”
Otero’s interest in helping children and families is long-standing. She began working in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in 1998, and eventually transitioned to work on case management with a focus on child welfare and child abuse. In the course of her duties, she would conduct forensic interviews of children – in many cases, children younger than ten years old – to determine details about particular events, helping them and their families prepare for court and navigate the criminal justice system. “It was doing that work that encouraged me to get my Masters in Social Work,” said Otero. “I was already experienced in case management, but I didn’t have the clinical skills. Getting my MSW gave me the foundation I needed. I definitely feel that my clinical education helped.”
She entered NYU’s School of Social Work in September of 2000, and graduated with her MSW in 2003. Prior to joining NYU, she had earned her bachelors degree in Spanish Literature; afterwards, she went to work for New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for three years, two of those years in Albany. When Otero left Silver’s office for the post in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, she rose from Victim’s Advocate and began working as a counselor in 2000. After earning her MSW, Otero was accepted into the Washington, D.C – based Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Fellowship, a program that accepts twenty Latinos every year from around the United States for a nine-month fellowship on Capitol Hill. Otero’s fellowship was in Senator Clinton’s office, ending in May 2004.
After her fellowship in Congress, Otero joined the Children’s Defense Fund as Deputy Director of the Early Childhood Development Division, and in 2005 worked briefly for Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island. Otero returned in March 2006 to work for Senator Clinton as her Legislative Assistant on Children’s Issues, and she has been working there ever since. Specifically, Otero assists Senator Clinton in her role as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Otero noted that there are four staffers in Sen. Clinton’s office with MSWs, including an aide that works on health care issues. In April 2007, Otero met with SSW Professor of Social Work Jeane Anastas in Washington, as part of Anastas’ work advocating legislation supporting “reinvestment” in the social work profession.