By Lydia Huth
When Jerry Sprague, AGAPE’s Social Service Supervisor, was in college, he didn’t see counseling in his future. He intended to become a veterinarian but ended up studying forestry. Degree in hand, Sprague spent thirty years researching forestry genetics on North Carolina State University’s faculty. It was after he became a Christian that he found himself pulled towards counseling.
“I became more interested in relationships after I found Christ,” Sprague explained. “Though, for a while, I was a little scared of social sciences… they could be anti-Christian.” Despite his uncertainty, Sprague did follow the call. He took one class a year at N.C. State—one of his benefits as a faculty member—and eventually completed the credits for his masters in counseling. Not long afterward, his minister called him and let him know that AGAPE was looking for counselors. That began Sprague’s twenty-five years at AGAPE of N.C.
As for his move into social work, it was less difficult than the jump from forestry to social science. “You basically use the same skills in social work and counseling,” Sprague said. “You use active listening, you use reflection techniques. A lot of basic counseling skills transition over to social work—listening and communication skills especially.”
Now, as the Social Service Supervisor, Sprague oversees one of the regions that AGAPE services. He supervises AGAPE’s social workers for that region, but will also have families that he interacts with directly. When working with the families, Sprague will be involved with training them for foster care and meeting with them regularly, as well as performing a quarterly review. “It’s a lot of paperwork,” Sprague explains. “A lot of attention to detail.”
Sometimes when working within his region, Sprague practically becomes a part of the family. For example, there was one family that fostered to adoption through AGAPE, taking in two infants and a child who had previously suffered severe abuse. Even now as the children grow up, Sprague still keeps in touch with them. “The kids still call me Uncle Jerry,” he said with a smile.