I cannot believe that my time at Lawyers for Children has flown by so quickly. As each week passed, I truly believe that I became more and more integrated in this incredible organization and felt so comfortable there. While I feel like I accomplished many things throughout my summer, my proudest accomplishment is the new children’s “give-and-go” library that I started for the office. At the beginning of my internship, my supervisor told me that one of her dreams was to create a literacy project within the organization, and more specifically, to help young mothers bring literacy home to their own children. While sometimes it may be hard to get teenagers to begin reading, it is always important to stress literacy with children from an early age. Oftentimes our clients did not have the specialized knowledge or tools to support fully their children’s burgeoning literacy skills, so it was incredibly important to my supervisor and myself that we help our clients help their families. Reading has always been a passion of mine, and I was more than happy to take on this task. Over the course of the summer, I was able to gain support for this project from my family, friends, and community members–and ultimately we collected over 2000 books. It was wonderful to me to not only have so much support from everyone, but also for me to get involved in a project that I felt so strongly about. Additionally, I was able to create a partnership for LFC with an amazing organization on Long Island called The Book Fairies. The “fairies” collect gently used and new books, organize them into age group/genre, and donate them back to those in need across the greater New York area. Now the clients at LFC will have access to wonderful books for a long time!
I feel that I can use my experience this summer to not only further foster relationships with my coworkers and peers, but also use the incredible amount of knowledge that I have gained in my endeavors both as I enter my senior year at Brandeis and in my future. I am so fortunate to had been placed with an amazing supervisor who was always more than willing to teach me new skills or answer any question I may have had. As I move forward on the social work path, I want to learn more about one-on-one personal interactions, and possibly have the opportunity to interview clients on my own one day. I have greatly valued all of the interviews I sat in on, but I would love to get involved too! Additionally, this summer has taught me so much about social justice and the foster care system of New York City. I have learned how important it is for every individual, including children, to have a voice and have their wishes heard. Being a part of an advocacy group such as Lawyers for Children has shown me how vital these organizations are to the betterment and happiness of so many children.
For students interested in a social work internship or working at LFC (yay!) I would suggest finding a passion and sticking to it. I believe it is really important in social work to get involved in a specific task; whether that be a specific client base, a project you want to work on, or both! I loved being involved in the foster care system but also homing in on literacy. I think it is very important in this field of work so that you keep busy but also keep interested in the work you are doing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.