A Humbling Experience: Seeing the World From A Different View

Just in my time with The Fortune Society thus far, my experiences have already far surpassed any and all expectations I held for my internship before it began. The people I work for and with are some of the most genuine and driven individuals I’ve ever encountered; their unremitting desire to help others, despite the constant uphill battle, is a truly remarkable trait that makes this organization one-of-a-kind. In my contact with clients and staff thus far, one thing has become abundantly clear: a lot of people take a lot of things for granted. The fact that people can drive, gain employment with no clear discrimination, or even obtain individual housing or food, is now something I consider to be privileges rather than rights. To contextualize this idea, about a month ago I took a client to the Human Resources Administration to receive his food stamps benefits but was told he did not qualify due to his citizenship status (despite being in the country legally and even showing the staff proof of his legal status).

Another humbling event, or rather sequence of events, was a New York State Assembly hearing I attended in which the president of Fortune, JoAnne Page, testified along with others concerning housing barriers encountered by those with criminal justice system involvement. Within a couple weeks of the hearing, I attended a rally outside New York Governor Cuomo’s office to protest his reneging on a promise to construct 20,000 new supportive housing units over the next fifteen years with 6,000 of those coming in the next five. This was an issue that was explicitly mentioned by every individual who testified in front of the Assembly members.More information on his original promise is available here.

Rally outside Gov. Cuomo's office in New York City surrounding suppotive housing issues.
Rally outside Gov. Cuomo’s office in New York City surrounding supportive housing issues.

This summer, disregarding the obvious differences from my academic work, has contrasted from my experience at Brandeis because I’m able to observe concepts I’ve learned as theoretical, abstract ideas as real issues that impact real people. One particular course I took this past semester has really affected the way I perceive my experience with Fortune so far. As a seminar-styled course, we explored the ideas of justice and punishment in various fashions, including through historical context, literature, and even from a philosophical point-of-view. I find that I’m able to apply the concepts I’ve learned from this course to further delve into the intricate issues regarding the criminal justice system.

This is from an initiative Fortune held to inform their clients of their voting rights.
This is from an initiative Fortune held to inform their clients of their voting rights.

I’ve gained many things from my internship so far, but one of the most applicable to my future, whatever it may hold, is learning how to advocate for those who can’t do so for themselves.  In attending numerous events that included a call for action, the speakers have often taken personal experiences and applied them to others’ issues and subsequently systemic issues.  I find this to be a particularly effective because it takes an issue and makes it real, and one you can’t ignore.  I’ve also learned how to organize events to conduct studies.  Currently, along with others in the policy department, I’m coordinating a focus group to explore the unique needs of veterans with criminal justice involvement.  You can find out more about this project here.

My experience with The Fortune Society, even though I still have a bit to go, is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience that I will be able to apply to my life in the years to come.  I’m excited to see what’s in store for me for the rest of the summer!

Midpoint at Rosie’s Place

I can’t believe how quickly time has passed that I’ve now reached past the midpoint of my internship! I think a true mark of my time at Rosie’s Place so far is that it has felt like I’ve been working there for much longer than just five weeks. By now I am familiar with many of the names and faces of the guests and a number of them know my name too. I can walk through the doors at 9 AM already expecting what tasks I will need to do but never fully knowing what the day will bring.

Daily calendar of events

One impression about my new environment in the workplace is that no two days are ever the same. It is always busy, but some days the sign up list for the computers may be very long and other days the computers may not be as high in demand. There are also days when I get to step away from the front desk. For example, I have attended two trainings for the Social Justice Institute, a summer volunteer program for high school students. Generally it can be stressful and tiring working in such a fast-paced environment because I am trying my best to help as many people as possible. It can also be emotionally taxing when I encounter situations I can not help, and so I need to take care and not bring such feelings home with me.

The World of Work has shown me how much time I have in my university life in comparison to working 35 hours a week. While I still juggle classes, work-study, and clubs, I often have small breaks between everything to help me recharge. I have also noticed what it is like working in just one building rather than walking up and down campus to get to class, and how really important it is that I get the chance to outside for lunch and fresh air. The World of Work has made me aware of my age as well. I am so used to interacting with others around my age that I forget I am a still budding young professional who may not be as taken as seriously.

Home at the front desk

I am, however, building many skills as a result of my internship. I am learning how to better communicate with all people from different backgrounds, especially when answering the phone. I no longer hesitate as I used to when I had to answer the phone because I understand that it is okay to put someone on hold if I do not have all the answers right away. In anything I encounter whether is be academics or on/off campus involvement, I will know there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Certainly in my future career plans, I need not to put pressure on myself and stress myself out about getting everything right, no matter how good of a first impression I want to make when I start, It is only with time that I will learn and become more comfortable in my position.

Tina Nguyen ’17

Saying Goodbye to Lawyers For Children (For Now)

I can’t believe my summer at Lawyers For Children has come to an end! Working with foster care youth in New York City has been an eye-opening experience. Before I started the internship, I aspired to learn more about the interaction between law and social work and what sort of balance between the two produces the best results when working with underprivileged populations. Working at LFC taught me how important it is for Foster Care attorneys and social workers to work collaboratively with one another.

After attending several meetings for clients with several different agencies and organizations present, I noticed that LFC provides a comforting presence in every child’s life that other governmental agencies and nonprofits do not. This is because the fundamental element of LFC’s philosophy is that each child has an attorney and a social worker that work together as their advocates.

Although other organizations and agencies work hard to provide youth with the services they need, they often do not develop as in-depth relationships with the youth because they only see the child’s situation from one perspective. Other nonprofits serving foster care youth assign a social worker to as little as 15% of their cases. LFC recognizes that every child, regardless of the ‘severity’ of their situation, needs a social worker because social workers have different skills than attorneys and can provide a unique perspective on their case and how to best serve the child.
IMG_5031My career goal was to gain experience in a legal/social work setting that advocates for human rights and social policy. I gained more ‘social work’ than ‘legal’ experience at LFC after working alongside a social worker all summer, but I did get to observe clients’ cases in court which gave me insight and a diverse perspective on how the legal side works.

This internship has definitely solidified my desire to work as an advocate in the public interest field, but I am unsure as whether I’d like to fulfill that role as an attorney or social worker. I did learn that I enjoy being out in the field more than I do sitting at a desk which directs me toward the field of social work.

A personal goal for this summer was to gain a better understanding of the social issues the foster-care population in large cities like New York City faces. Sadly, these issues were much more prevalent than I could have imagined. The greatest issue that caused me the most frustration is the stigmas foster care youth face, whether in school, the community or among agency workers whose job it is to help them.

I highly recommend Lawyers For Children as an internship destination, whether it be the legal or social work side. The internship gives interns the opportunity to see the various tasks each side is responsible for which can help solidify a future career path. I would also advise anyone interested in social work and human rights to consider an internship at Lawyers For Children because it exposes interns to the dire human rights issues that often go unnoticed in their own communities.

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intern workroom

This summer I am most proud of helping clients realize their potential when it comes to applying for jobs or brainstorming future academic goals. Unfortunately many foster care youth are not viewed as capable of achieving the kind of goals the rest of us may have and they themselves start to believe that stigma. I learned that consistent support and affirmation goes a long way.

Lawyers For Children’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LawyersForChildren

About interning at Lawyers For Children: http://www.lawyersforchildren.org/internships

Internship at Lawyers For Children in NYC: Midpoint post

I just finished up my sixth week interning at Lawyers For Children in NYC! Where has the time gone? I knew this internship would be incredibly eye opening and enriching, but I never expected it to be this much so this quickly. I have learned so much in so little time that I am left eager to acquire even more knowledge in the time I have left in New York City.

Here is a recent article from the Wall Street Journal touching on few of the many issues with New York’s Foster Care system today:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-citys-foster-care-system-is-mismanaged-lawsuit-alleges-1436373462

First off, living in New York City is an adventure in itself. There’s always so much going on and so much to see. Traveling by subway is an adventure in itself; I never get bored of the slam poetry performances, magic tricks and soul singers! My workplace is situated in the heart of Chinatown and I am also just a short walk from Broadway (which is full of shops and restaurants) and Little Italy! I am living in midtown Manhattan right near Penn Station, which is also a very bustling area. My apartment is very close to the Hudson River Parkway, which is where I complete most of my morning runs! I’ve been able to explore Central Park and West Manhattan while on longer runs over the weekend, which has been a nice break after the long workweek!central park photo

(a picture I took in central park during an evening run)

   I’ve been incredibly busy at Lawyers For Children. Working everyday from 9:30-5 is quite an adjustment from the college where there are often long breaks throughout the day in between classes. Everyday is different as a forensic social work intern at LFC, which keeps things exciting. I have traveled to all five boroughs in New York City (Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island) visiting clients and participating in meetings. I’m so fortunate to have an internship that allows me to get to know the city I’m living in while at work!

As I mentioned, I’ve learned so much at Lawyers For Children already despite only having been there six weeks. Before beginning this internship, I knew that the foster care system does not always provide children with the love, support, and resources that they need and that as a result many children in foster care endure many more hardships than those living in loving families, but I never imagined the extent of those hardships could be as profound as what I’ve seen thus far. Through my work at Lawyers For Children, I’ve learned to view every situation with a fresh set of eyes because the context of these children’s histories can impact their lives in so many ways. It’s important not to make assumptions about a child based on their behavior or by who they are ‘on paper,’ (as they say) because there is always a reason they act and feel the way they do. Before assuming anything at all, it is important to listen.

This is also true in the classroom. When engaging in social, political, economic or any sort of debate, it is important to understand why the person feels a certain way instead of judging them for feeling differently on an issue than you. Sometimes understanding why can even change your point of view!

LFC logoAbove is LFC’s logo/slogan. Taken from lawyersforchildren.org

Here is a link to a few videos of LFC clients describing some of their experiences in foster care and how LFC has helped them.

http://www.lawyersforchildren.org/lfc-difference

This is also a very important skill to possess as a social worker or attorney. To develop a relationship with your client, you must understand where they are coming from and why they have certain goals instead of trying to impose your own ideas on them; otherwise it is nearly impossible to develop a constructive, successful relationship from which both parties can benefit! I’m hopeful that I will obtain many more skills as this internship progresses and I am eager to share those with you all at the end of the summer!

-Lydia

 

 

 

 

First Week at Lawyers For Children

Monday morning was almost as frantic (if not more) than my first day at Brandeis. I am not an experienced subway-rider, so figuring out which direction the train I was told to take actually goes in was a challenge; let’s just say it’s a good thing I left 45 minutes early! Luckily I arrived early to Lawyers For Children, where I will be spending the majority of my time throughout the next nine weeks. I’d always dreamed of living in New York City, but to be able to live in New York City and do work that I’m passionate about, I couldn’t have asked for more! Before coming to college I knew I was interested in psychology and wanted to pursue a career in which I am able to help people, but I had no idea which direction that goal would take me. A mixture of psychology, sociology, and legal studies courses I’ve taken at Brandeis lead me to aspire to go into law, but with a desire to advocate for those whose voices may not be as strongly heard.

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This is the corner of where my office is located. Photo belonging to kurokatta.org

 

Since I was little, I’ve loved solving mysteries; putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Law allows me to continue that passion. I have to gather my evidence, establish the rule, and present my case. Social work adds a both meaningful and challenging component to that hobby. I never envisioned myself in social work, until interning last summer at a nonprofit that helps low-income and impoverished adults obtain housing, jobs, resources for their family, whatever it may be based on a particular individual’s needs. Before that experience, I never realized how difficult of a challenge it was to navigate (internally) the various governmental institutions that are supposed to help those in need. Who knew it was actually extremely difficult to acquire the benefits that the government rightfully owes you? With this work came immense challenges, however the reward, when achieved, is immeasurable. That’s when I knew, law with an emphasis on public service was my true calling.

That discovery lead me to Lawyers For Children: a legal firm that provides free legal and social work services to children in foster care. Lawyers For Children is unique from other organizations in that an attorney as well as a social worker is assigned to every child, ensuring that each child get the best, most effective and integrative representation and advocacy possible. Attorneys and social workers are trained differently, and therefore have different insights and perspectives to offer on each case, and you know what they say, two heads are always better than one. LFC mostly handles cases of voluntary placement: instances where parents voluntarily place their children into the system, not where the child was removed from the home against their will. To get a better understanding of what that looks like, read this New York times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/01/nyregion/despondent-parents-see-foster-care-as-only-option.html

I am a social work intern at LFC and will shadow a social worker (as well as various LFC attorneys) to get a better understanding of how the two professions come together in the field of child advocacy. I will attend meetings between various agencies working with a specific child, make field visits to their respective placements, attend those children’s cases in court, assist in writing up the result of those meetings, field visits, and court cases, and assist with generating plans-of-action and connecting children with further resources to best help them achieve their goals. Lawyers For Children prides itself on its focus on really listening to the child, thereby providing them with a space where they feel safe and respected. LFC also aims to advocate and educate the public about the many difficulties several groups, such as LGBTQ youth in foster care face. This article by the Wall Street Journal highlights the added difficulties experienced by LGBTQ youth, specially in foster care: http://www.wsj.com/articles/counting-new-yorks-gay-and-transgender-youths-in-foster-care-1433550187

 

 

ny family court

New York County Family Court. Photo by Mark Fader

 

This summer, I hope to learn more about the interaction between law and social work and what sort of balance between the two produces the best results when working with underprivileged populations and to gain experience in a legal/social work setting that advocates for human rights and social justice. Finally, I hope to gain a better understanding of how the social issues that several minority groups face, like the foster-care population, effect youth in large cities like New York City.

Final Words with ABC

This summer has certainly been an experimental test of my strength in the humanitarian aid world of work. Thanks to the WOW I have successfully been able to have an internship opportunity that expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to the bureaucracy and intensity of social work and humanitarian aid in NYC. My goals were thoroughly accomplished through the wide range of tasks I was set to do at ABC. 

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Everything from my tasks of referring children for early intervention education programs to doing child therapy with the kids helped me reach my learning goals for this internship. I would say that every task I had, even if it sounded as simple as getting a medical record for a child, taught me the hardships of working in and with public assistance groups. I learned what those dependent on public assistant programs have to go through in order to receive the services “our government provides to those in need.” It is no simple task to get a child in school, receive services for children with learning disorders, or get one’s monthly food stamp to buy food for their family. Learning how policies created on a city wide level effect those they are supposed to be helping was the most interesting aspect of my internship for me. I want to build off this experience at Brandeis by taking classes that teach me more about policy creation, implementing policies on a ground level, and discussing with professors the corruption that exists in US government. Beyond Brandeis I will hopefully continue to have my eyes opened to the world of policy making and humanitarian aid projects that help people in my community. It is amazing how much attention is often focused on international humanitarian aid efforts when there are thousands of people within 5 miles of my home in New York who need just as much aid and care, who are suffering from starvation and whose children have witnessed trauma and violence before the age of five and need counseling. 

For anyone interested in social work I would say ABC is the best place to intern. Social work is a balance, you must maintain self care and be effective in the office. As one of my co-workers said: if you don’t feel well yourself, you can’t help anyone else. 

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My ideas around social justice have most definitely been challenged. I have seen how difficult social justice is to accomplish in a world where organizations are run by money and public assistant groups make it difficult for anyone to accomplish anything quickly with the piles of paperwork required for even the most simplest of requests. I have learned that having connections in the world of social justice workers is vital because it helps get paperwork through the system faster and speed along the process of helping those receive aid who need it. I have also learned that although there are many people out there working for social justice, it is an exhaustive and draining task to bring about justice in today’s world. Although I already knew this, seeing how it effects people is quite depressing. Accomplishing social justice is still what I am going to work for in my future and this internship definitely helped brace me for the reality of working towards this goal. Dedication and passion are the two most vital attributes needed to accomplish social work. 

– Alex Hall ’15

Midpoint reflections at ABC

As the mid point of my internship is here I cannot believe how fast the time has gone. Looking back on my goals outlined in my application for the WOW Grant it is amazing to see how this internship has allowed me to reach my goals and inspired new ones for the next half of the summer. I hoped to expand my knowledge on housing and education inequality in New York City and I most certainly have done that. I have, and continue to, reach my goal to understand how policies created by the mayor and New York Government effect people on a day to day basis. I have also been able to accomplish learning about social work degrees and grad school options through conversations I have had with my co-workers. I can tell I have learned a lot on the issues at hand because in the first couple of weeks at work I would have to research a lot of the resources discussed daily between social workers and now I can participate and even suggest using certain tools in my discussions with the social workers based on research I have already done.  I have learned exactly how much the NYC system creates a sometimes tedious process for many families to receive the needs they request due to the piles of paperwork I have helped them fill out simply to receive benefits and home services. I have also become much quicker at navigating the New York City government resources website and compiled resources for the social workers to use in a Resource Guide on our shared hard drive in the office.

 

Example of a resource tool for our clients on staying safe from the Family Justice Center flyers
Example of a resource tool for our clients on staying safe from the Family Justice Center flyers

I am most proud of my idea for ABC to become partners with corporations to receive donations of goods our families need. One of the things many New Yorkers take for granted in the hot summer is the fact that when they go home they get to be in the AC. Many of our clients live without AC in small apartments, over crowded with many family members. Another large donation request we have is for baby items, leading me to do research on baby stores the generate donations from overstock or returned goods. We will hopefully become partners with corporations before my time at ABC is over so that I can personally handle the paperwork and applications needed to go forward with this proposal. I am most proud of this research project because I feel it is something that will last after I have to leave, and could be a long term solution to many of our clients requests. For example, the organization Good360 creates year long contracts between NGOs and the providers.

I am building skills to conduct quick research and find contact information that is normally hidden on websites in order to contact people personally when trying to access information for a client. This is a good tool to have in future jobs as finding personal contacts when dealing with large organizations is often a tricky task. I have also become extremely self aware of my limits on how much trauma I can listen to in one day, and also of practicing self care – a very useful tool in social work and humanitarian aid jobs. Balancing aiding others while taking care of one’s own mental and physical state is a vital skill.  I now know how I affected I can be by secondhand trauma stories and how not to get overly emotionally attached to clients, while caring for them at the same time. Through the research I am doing on corporate partnerships, I am also learning how to write grant applications – a skill I know I will need in future jobs and on my own grad school applications. Overall I feel like everything I have done from research to self-learning will aid me in the future as I have learned a lot about myself through this internship and the kind of work I am / am not interested in pursuing.

 

The colorful school hallways on the lower floors of the building are lovely to walk through when stressed at work!
The colorful school hallways on the lower floors of the building are lovely to walk through when stressed at work!

– Alex Hall

At the midpoint with LFC

Wow, I cannot believe that half of my time at Lawyers for Children has flown by already! It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was so nervous to begin a new journey at my internship. I am proud to say that I am now in a place where I have gained more knowledge than I ever could have imagined, and feel as if I have been working with LFC for ages! It feels wonderful to be doing work where I feel like I can make a difference for others.

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This is the intern conference room, where we sit each day. Look at some of my fellow interns, working so hard!

Before the summer began, I originally stated that my major goal for this process was to use this opportunity to gain insight into my future and really grow as an individual. I believe that this internship is so valuable to me in both academic and career aspects because I am able to learn about what it takes to be a social worker, as well as the more specific topic of how to work within the foster care system. At Brandeis, I am a psychology major hoping to continue on to graduate school after my senior year. However, this can seem daunting because there are so many different options and careers that can come from studying psychology. Do I want to work in human resources? Get a Masters’ degree in social work? Further my education even more for an advanced degree in psychology? Oftentimes it is difficult for those of us studying psychology to get a hands-on experience in the field. I am so fortunate that I am able to get an inside look at the life of a social worker this summer, and I can honestly say it is something I am really considering for my future. Before this summer, I did not have a great understanding of what a social worker actually did. But through working with my supervisor at LFC, I am learning the daily routines of a social worker and am able to picture myself in this position. I am even able to “pick her brain” and find out where she went to school or what courses she recommends in order to further pursue this career.

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One of the many playrooms at LFC, where interviews with clients are held. This particular room also includes a Baby Boutique where our young parenting clients can pick out clothes, books, and other necessities to bring home to their own children.

On an individual level, I am so grateful for and humbled by this experience because I truly feel that every day brings about new challenges for me. The New York City Foster Care System is extremely tough to learn about and work with…and working with these youths each day is something that I have never experienced before. It is so difficult to see kids, who are about my age, struggling to make ends meet or keep their spirits high. But each day I know that I am learning something new and gaining exposure to situations that I could only dream of seeing first hand. More than that, I know I am forming relationships with my clients and can be there for them as a much needed support system. It feels absolutely amazing when I find out that one client has finally passed her GED exam and we are the first call that she makes to celebrate; or when another client has been granted access to her own apartment and wants us to stop by so she can “show it off”. Each time that I speak with a client, not only does it feel great to actually know the specifics of what they are talking about (housing applications, insurance policies, etc.) and see that I am learning factually, but also to know I am making a difference in their lives and helping to improve their situations. I will forever use these skills, especially as I hope to progress into a social work career. I have learned what it takes to create interpersonal relationships and be a professional in this field, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.

 

My First 2 Weeks at Riverside Early Intervention!

I started my internship at Riverside Early Intervention in Needham Massachusetts on June the 2nd and on June 13 I completed my first 50hrs!!!

Riverside Early Intervention provides young children ages 0 to 3 with a wide variety of therapeutic services. These children may be having difficulties walking, speaking, interacting with others or may be cognitively delayed. Riverside focuses in helping these children develop their physical and mental skills at an early and crucial stage in their lives, so that in the future, they can live a better life. The program involves a wide variety of professionals including social workers, a physical therapist and a speech pathologist focusing on programs that offer home based therapy, group therapy and evaluations. In my opinion the work that the professionals do at Riverside is priceless because changing a child’s life for the better involves more than the financial aspect. They show caring, love, interest and a genuine feeling of seeing these kids overcome their challenges.

I have been interested in working with children with disabilities since I was young. This is because I have had personal experiences with family members who grew up with me who have physical and mental disabilities. I always thought that I could make a change. In the spring semester of 2014 I spent time volunteering at the Lemberg Children’s Center at Brandeis University. I talked to two early intervention workers that frequented the daycare. We discussed internships relating to social work, and the two women referred me to the head supervisor and internship coordinator at Riverside Community Care Center in Needham, Massachusetts. I reached out to the head coordinator over email and she told me more about the type of work that she does at Riverside. After two months of communication, she interviewed me and gave me an internship at the Intervention Center.

My major responsibilities at this internship involve working alongside a multidisciplinary team within the Riverside Community Care Center, treating children from birth to age 3 and servicing their families living in neighboring communities. I work closely with these children as well as their parents by participating in child-focused and parent-focused groups, which provide parents with training on how to respond to their child’s needs. I develop curricula and therapeutic activities to further increase their development. This position also requires me to record and monitor children’s progress while communicating these results to clinicians. Additionally, I prepare classroom space to accommodate every child’s special circumstances.

This summer I’m expecting to educate myself on a broad variety of childhood disorders. My career goal is to become a clinical psychologist with a focus on child development. The training that I am receiving at the Riverside Community Care Center is helping me to gain insight and skills that will ultimately help me to treat and diagnose children and adolescents with psychological disorders. Also, personally, I want to increase my understanding of family dynamics and intervention methods that are used to assist children with different disabilities. After the summer ends and this experience is over, I am hoping to have gained experience and understanding of the psychology of children, especially those with different kinds of disabilities. I am also hoping that this internship will be one of the biggest stepping-stone of my college career that will ultimately grant me a spot in the professional world.

Jean Perez, ’15

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My week at Lawyers for Children

This summer, I am so fortunate to be working as a social work intern with the non-profit advocacy organization Lawyers for Children. Lawyers for Children, or LFC as everyone likes to call it, consists of attorneys and social workers that provide free representation and services to children of New York City who have been either voluntarily placed in foster care, or are involved in cases of abuse, neglect, adoption, or high conflict custody cases.

LawyersForChildren

As an intern, I work under the supervision of my assigned social worker, and I am able to be involved in her cases first hand. This includes reading the cases and writing up case notes, visiting the youth’s foster home or group placement, sitting in on client interviews, and attending court for our youths when necessary. Along with about 20 other legal and social work interns, I also am able to participate in training throughout the summer. This allows the interns to not only learn more about what LFC as an organization seeks to accomplish for the youths, but also take a deeper look into the New York City child welfare system itself and the exact situations that we are fighting for for our clients.

Though I’m sure most people feel this way on their first day, I was incredibly nervous as I was making my way to the offices. However, I was calmed as I walked through the doors and saw crafts and paintings all over the walls created by the LFC clients. Not only that, but the working environment itself was so friendly and all of the employees were beyond welcoming. All of the interns sit together in our own conference room/office space, so we have really been able to get to know each other. There are even a few Brandeis alums in the office which helped to make for an easy transition. It was incredible to me how comfortable I felt at this internship so quickly. Within the first week I, along with the other interns, were really able to hit the ground running and be completely immersed in the organization. I sat in on and observed 4 court cases in Manhattan’s Family Court for a few of our clients. During this time, I sat with my assigned social worker as she interviewed our clients to find out more about their wishes and goals moving forward in their foster care placement cases, and we then relayed this information to the lawyers representing each case. I also was able to visit a mother-child foster care placement home, where all of the residents are aged 16-21 women in the system who have children of their own.

New York Family Court

This summer, I’m hoping to learn more about the inner-workings of the New York City foster care system. I am so looking forward to assisting this organization and advocating for our clients to the best of my abilities. Because this is such a hands-on experience, I am excited to learn what it really takes to be a social worker and hopefully determine what path I may follow in the future.

 

Fina House: Week 1

This summer I am interning at the YWCA Fina House in Lawrence, MA. The Fina House was opened in 2005 and houses low-income individuals, teen mothers, and homeless domestic violence survivors. The mission of the YWCA is to eliminate racism and empower women.  Being an Hispanic woman myself I share this goal. Initially I heard about Fina House from a friend who had wanted to volunteer there. I contacted different members until I was finally able to discuss the idea of a potential internship with the co-director of Women’s Services. The process went smoothly, they had had other interns before, and I was more than willing to partake in this experience.

My employment officially began on June 10th. I will be working on two separate projects; one with the Family Counselor on the Child Advocacy Project (CAP) and the other with TPP (Teen Parenting Program). Part of the mission of the Child Advocacy Project is “to assist victims and their families to stabilize, initiate healing from trauma, and take steps to seek justice”. The children in the CAP are victims of sexual abuse or rape; there are 12 kids currently in the program. We are reaching out to collaborate with local programs to establish a recreational activity for the kids to get involved with. The Teen Parenting Program focuses on empowering young women through self-esteem/financial workshops to help them become economically/emotionally independent. I have been assigned to host workshops with the 8 young women twice a week. One day will be geared towards Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood (PAYA) and the other will be an active workshop in which we will focus on their health by doing physical activities.

All of this seemed quite overwhelming at first, but the staff at Fina have been extremely helpful and welcoming. On my first day on the job I went with a staff member to the YWCA in the nearby town of Haverhill. The staff member and another colleague were hosting a presentation on domestic violence. It was an eye opening experience witnessing the impact that their words had on the audience. One young female sitting in the crowd sobbed quietly. After the presentation, both YWCA employees went to the young girl and offered their services to help in whatever situation she might be going through.

My experience with Fina so far has been warm and positive; this week I will begin to instruct the TPP girls with the PAYA material. I chose to begin with Personal Care, Health, Social Skills, and Safety (the basics, and we can dive into the more difficult topics later on).

I feel very honored to be working with a group of determined, strong women helping other women become self sufficient and empowered. My career plans are to involve myself with non-profits and gain experience and knowledge on how to effectively provide the most help to individuals. Working at Fina House will be an important step in helping me accomplish my goals and I am sure that I will develop more goals throughout the summer.

Side View of Fina House
Side View of Fina House
The Mission of the YWCA & also Mine
The Mission of the YWCA & also mine

– Daniela Ayala ’15

First week at FVLC!

Walking through the door on my first day at Family Violence Law Center, I felt a rush of excitement. After months of searching, emailing and seemingly endless games of phone tag, I had finally arrived!
This board tells everyone when people are available in the office. I got my very own magnet! 🙂

Family Violence Law Center strives to end domestic violence and provides a great deal of services to survivors, such as a crisis hotline, legal assistance and emergency aid.   My internship here will consist of a little bit of all three; in addition to working on the crisis hotline answering calls, I will be doing client intakes (essentially vetting clients to determine if they are eligible for our legal assistance). Through the combination of these two tasks, I end up serving as a temporary case manager, helping clients navigate the murky waters of trauma’s aftermath. We have a large comprehensive list of other agencies in the area that provide services that an individual might need- from shelters to the district attorney’s office to self-help family law facilitating centers- so that if we cannot help someone, we can find them someone who can. Pictured below is what we affectionately call our “Bible”:

This packet contains all of the resources we use on a daily basis. It's the best.
And this is a table for all the pamphlets we hand out to clients
Since I had already complete 40 hours of official domestic violence training in Massachusetts, FVLC is allowing me to skip certain aspects of training that new staff members generally have to go through. However, I didn’t realize the extent to which they were going to extend this liberty until the first day. I had just been given my first tour of the office by one of the crisis line advocates when she was told she and my supervisor had a webinar (a seminar via webcam), which would leave the hotlines unattended. She turned to me, an hour into my first day, and said, “Alright, are you ready to answer some calls?”
The wall next to my desk has LOTS of information for quick access.
That beautiful (albeit terrifying) and immediate acknowledgement of trust has proved to be fairly standard procedure. On my second day I was already working on legal intakes with new clients- a task normally preceded by at least 16 hours of training. The office atmosphere is similarly exciting and fast-paced; each client has a different story, a new challenge, a completely unique puzzle that needs to be solved instantly. We are lucky enough to be located in a building that houses the District Attorney’s office, a childcare center, and other organizations whose interests often overlap with ours in a complementary manner (i.e. MISSEY is located downstairs, a non-profit for youth who have been sexually exploited). Everyone seems genuinely pleased to be working together, which adds to the lovely work environment here!
I’m definitely looking forward to what this summer will bring!
– Ashley Lynette ’13