From the Classroom to the Community: Wayne State Social Work interns gain hands on experience at The Children’s Center
One of the benefits of interning is gaining real-world experience, something Wayne State University School of Social Work students Georgia Kaiafas and Hailey Briscoe know all about. Both are interns for The Children’s Center (TCC) in Detroit.
“TCC has a history of partnership with the WSU School of Social Work (SSW), including both intern training and organizational projects. In coordination with Elizabeth Aguis, a strong supporter of TCC, we have engaged in many projects together. Liz provided consultation on what we initially called "the million-dollar idea.” She also introduced us to new technology (World Cafe) and encouraged us to use data to develop our client profile. From this grew our Crisis to Connection: An Imperative for our Black boys. Liz remains a big supporter of this work to date,” said Carlynn Nichols, Chief Clinical Officer at The Children’s Center and Wayne State Master of Social Work (MSW) alum.
SSW faculty, along with the faculty of Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute (MPSI) helped TCC establish a guideline for quality infant and early childhood services. Along with TCC’s infant and early childhood staff, they worked with the best and the brightest in the field (SSW Associate Professor Emerita Joanne Sobeck, MPSI Infant Mental Health Program Director Ann Stacks and SSW Associate Professor and MPSI Infant Mental Health Program Associate Director Carolyn Dayton) to assist them in aligning their work with best practices.
Hands-on learning advantage
Kaiafas, a second-year MSW Interpersonal (IP) student, has been an intern at TCC since August 2022.
“So far, it’s been a great experience! I’ve received an abundance of training including TCC policies and procedures, clinical interventions, therapy techniques, and child assessments, to name a few,” Kaiafas said.
Kaiafas has been working at the center’s Early Childhood Behavioral Health outpatient department, which serves children 4 to 7 years old, as well as with Infant Mental Health home-based clinicians.
“I’ve been shadowing clinicians and engaging with clients during family sessions. I participate in team meetings and also co-facilitated a virtual Early Childhood Behavioral Health Social Skills Group, a group for parents to help them strengthen parenting skills, as well as prevent and treat behavior problems in young children,” she said.
Briscoe, an MSW macro-level Innovation in Community, Policy, and Leadership (I-CPL) student, has been interning at TCC since September 2022.
“My work at The Children’s Center includes building out a structure and tools to improve their federal grant writing process, through collaboration with multiple staff and biweekly discussions. Additional projects include the development of a presentation to dispel myths regarding infant mental health services and other macro-level projects with both internal and external partners with the aim of expanding TCC’s partner network and resources,” Briscoe said.
Kaiafas, who hopes to be a school social worker someday, said her experience so far has really opened her eyes to community mental health and the needs and struggles of young children and families. “Providing families and children with the resources needed to succeed physically and emotionally is very rewarding,” she said.
Briscoe’s ultimate career goal is to secure a director-level position at a nonprofit organization in Detroit, enacting high-level change in the city.
“Working on projects with TCC staff has given me insight into the optimism and energy of the organization. The rewarding piece is hearing about how these projects connect to the stories of TCC clients and families,” Briscoe said.
Both feel like they’re making their mark at the organization.
“Anytime you are working with children and their families in a positive way, you are making an impact,” Kaiafas said.
“The goals of these projects are to provide a more streamlined process so that TCC staff can more efficiently apply for federal grants without jeopardizing their capacity for other essential job functions, such as program management or direct client service. Any funds received will benefit their clients and contribute to their overall operations and organizational longevity,” Briscoe said.
Kaiafas said WSU classes she’s applied the most at her internship are Methods of Social Work Practice for interview and intervention skills, Social Policy and Advocacy for knowledge of systems, and Lifespan Development in Social Context for knowledge of child development and theories.
“Professor Karen Weiner (Methods of Social Work Practice) was excellent at bringing our coursework, internship requirements, and expectations together in order to make it a valuable learning experience,” she said.
“What’s cool about Social Work professors is that most are working in the field with a lot of local organizations. Learning about macro social work from those that held (or still hold) directorial positions and can share beyond the textbook, apply the theory to the city, and have topical examples helps to ground the lessons into practical application,” Briscoe noted.
Both are thriving at TCC and enjoying the company culture and atmosphere.
“Everyone I have worked with at TCC has been great! The supervisors and staff have been very welcoming, willing to teach, and make my experience a very useful step in my social work education and journey,” Kaiafas said.
Briscoe agreed: “The staff love working there and love what they do.”
“Interns bring a fresh new perspective to the workplace by being engaged in the most recent research and theory of practice. They expand the capacity of organizations because students can take on tasks and assignments that are an extension of their practicum instructors. Interns allow those practitioners who are interested in advancing their skills as supervisors or instructors to gain much needed experience by hosting a student,” Nichols said.
Students interested in learning more about internships or “practicum education placements” should visit the SSW’s Office of Practicum Education.
Author: Laura Hipshire email@example.com