Dedicated to Detroit’s Most Vulnerable Children: Social Work grad leads clinical services at The Children’s Center

For more than 25 years, Carlynn Nichols has put her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree to good use. She graduated from Wayne State University’s School of Social Work in 1994, with a focus on children, youth, and families.

Carolynn Nicols“At that time, we were in the field three days and in the classroom for two days. The time in the field allowed me to understand who I would be as a social worker,” Nichols said.

While at WSU, Nichols was inspired by Internal Medicine Specialist Harold Rodner and Social Work Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jerrold Brandell, who taught her the clinical aspects of social work; Social Work Dean Emerita Phyllis Vroom, who shared the value of community practice and research; former Social Work faculty Eddie Davis, who helped her understand the value of the black perspective in their field; and Edna Walker, her first field instructor.

“Ms. Walker set the bar for me and guided me with her leadership and example of community-based practice, innovation and leadership.”

Since the beginning of the profession, supporting children and families has been a primary focus of social workers. The WSU School of Social Work is at the forefront of training the next generation of social workers across the micro-macro continuum offering specialized trainings for both policy and interpersonal practice. Students can obtain hands-on training with an MSW Program children and families focal area designation, a Dual-title MSW or PhD in Infant Mental Health and Social Work Degree, a Child Welfare Graduate Certificate or Temporary Approval for School Social Work positions.

Nichols began her career as a home-based therapist at Southwest Counseling Solutions, and later became the Director of Children, Youth and Families. She subsequently worked as Director of Children’s Initiatives for Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, and in 2014 she joined the executive leadership team at The Children’s Center (TCC). TCC’s mission is to “help Detroit’s most vulnerable children by providing clinical, behavioral and academic support as well as emergency crisis care.” 

“I get to work with a team dedicated professionals (social workers, counselors, psychologists, peers and paraprofessionals) who are committed to serving the children, youth and families of the Detroit Wayne County community,” said Nichols, who oversees all services and programs at TCC.

Carlynn Nichols and Theresa Port
From left: Carlynn Nichols and WSU Social Work Individual Giving Officer Theresa Port at the Family Success Center craft station

TCC has been a community partner of WSU’s School of Social Work for many years.

“We have been supported by the skilled, dedicated and talented faculty of the university. They have supported our efforts to expand and enhance our programs as well as our administrative operations. Together, we can make a difference.”

Recently, Nichols and her team hosted WSU SSW staff, who toured their Family Success Center, which recently reopened following a shutdown from COVID-19 and a devastating flood in 2021. The Center offers age-specific activities and programs in a safe space where resources and services are readily available for TCC children and their families.

This past June, Nichols was appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the Mental Health Diversion Council for a three-year term. The Council is an advisory body to the Governor within the Department of Health and Human Services charged with creating and implementing a diversion action plan and providing recommendations for statutory, contractual, or procedural changes to improve diversion. 

Nichols has dedicated her entire career to children and their families with mental illness.

“These children tend to be served by various systems due to complex needs and societal challenges. As a social worker, I have been able to work in partnership with these systems by engaging other professionals in policy and practice transformation,” she said. 

Her contributions to TCC are as appreciated by her colleagues as much as her community.

“Carlynn is a passionate leader that is transparent and accessible not only to her executive colleagues, management, and staff, but to interns and aspiring professionals alike. She personifies our core values and is dedicated to the work. Her qualities add tremendous value to the culture at TCC,” said Debora Matthews, president and CEO of The Children’s Center.  

To volunteer, donate, or learn more about The Children’s Center, visit their website.

Author: Laura Hipshire

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