In the final few weeks of my internship at Lawyers for Children, I spent more time accompanying the social worker I was shadowing on court appointments and client interviews. I also started to form closer bonds with particular clients I had met multiple times over the course of the summer. Two of the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the summer were to learn how to be a more effective advocate and to improve my communication and listening skills. By watching the way attorneys spoke to their clients before court and spoke up for their clients in court, as well as observing the way family court judges took into consideration a child’s wishes, I’ve seen first hand the way that advocates work to help those in need. I also learned a lot about how to listen effectively to children by observing the way the social worker conducted interviews and in speaking with the clients myself. One of the skills I observed and developed at LFC that I think will be particularly helpful in the future was how to talk to kids about trauma in their lives in a way that is empowering to them and does not require them to relive the experiences we needed to get on the record.
Although it was often disheartening to hear about trauma in children’s lives and not know for sure whether or not we could help or heal them, I felt sure at the end of each day that the work we’d done had a positive impact in our clients’ lives (whether we were acting only as a listening ear or fighting in court to get them removed from a dangerous home environment). Having a positive impact in our young clients’ lives made all the work I did this summer entirely worth it. I would definitely like to continue working to improve the lives of children in the foster care system in the future.
If I were to give advice to another student who wanted to work at Lawyers for Children, I’d tell them to prepare to work hard. Interns were with their supervisors all day which meant that they were living the life of an attorney or social worker during the whole internship. The advice I would give to an individual interested in an internship working with foster care children is to think hard about whether or not they have the patience to work with children and whether or not they really enjoy it before they sign up. Children can sense whether or not someone is invested in their lives and is listening fully to their narratives.
The thing I am most proud of after working at LFC for 10 weeks is the connections I made with two clients in particular. One child, a 14 year old trans girl, was in a situation where her case planner was transphobic and she wasn’t getting the support she needed at her placement. During a conference about the youth’s progress at the facility she was placed in, I got on the phone with the facilitator and explained what was going on. Our client heard me, and seemed to appreciate my standing up for her. Another client who I was helping get supplies for her unborn child was telling me about her life and stopped to say, “You know, I think you’d make a great social worker. It seems like you actually care about what I’m telling you.” It was then that I felt most sure that I want to continue working in this field in the future.
Rachel Geller, ’17
Social Work WOW Fellow