Academic journal article Field Educator

Field Placements: Are Our Students with Disabilities the Pearls of the School of Social Work?

Academic journal article Field Educator

Field Placements: Are Our Students with Disabilities the Pearls of the School of Social Work?

Article excerpt

Starting in 2011, the University of Akron School of Social Work has developed internships for social work students within various departments of the University. Ensuring that these internships meet the expectations set forth by the Council on Social Work is challenging in itself. This year, additional complications arose when a student with physical disabilities was placed at the School of Social Work. This paper will describe how the field department and the student collaborated to overcome obstacles and make the internship a success. Narratives are included from the student and from a fellow social work student, who helped him and was helped by him in turn.

Schools of social work identify specific expectations of field agencies and field instructors, according to guidelines from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE, 2010). For example, field agencies are expected to provide:

* A qualified field instructor, approved by the program, with sufficient time and resources to carry out field instruction responsibilities.

* Resources necessary to carry out learning assignments, such as a telephone, place to interview clients, adequate records and documents, and travel reimbursement.

* Interaction with members of diverse client populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities, gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, transgendered individuals, the aged, the poor, the disabled, and other vulnerable or oppressed groups.

* Opportunities to carry out the social work process with clients from engagement through termination.

* Exposure to group process with clients and/or staff and with opportunities to relate to community groups on behalf of the agency.

* Opportunities to participate in staff meetings, agency studies or research, agency conferences, and policy group meetings, as appropriate.

* Opportunities to employ practice knowledge, skills toward the ethical amelioration of adverse environmental conditions affecting those served by the agency.

* Staff support to maintain service delivery of the agency without reliance on students.

* Timely information to the Field Coordinator such as written descriptions of the agency's services and learning opportunities for students, acceptance of field students, and staff/policy/program changes affecting field education.

From time to time, schools of social work have found it necessary and even helpful to develop internships for social work students within the school or its affiliated university departments. In 2011-12, campus-based field placements were introduced at the University of Akron School of Social Work. For example, social work students may collaborate with law school students in the Legal Clinic around housing issues, or provide psychosocial assessments for patients at the walk-in clinic staffed by students from the School of Nursing. By 2014, social work internships were also created at the Office of Accessibility, Off-Campus Student Services, and the Office of Multi-Cultural Development. In these internships, students had a task supervisor, who was often the director of the program, and a field instructor, who was often someone from the field department.

This year, the School of Social Work developed an internship within the field department for a student who had difficulty finding an agency that could accommodate his physical disabilities. Daniel entered social work school with great hope and great commitment:

From a young age, despite my disability and the many challenges that come along with it, my family and I knew that one day I would go to college and get a degree. When I was young, even though this was a dream of mine, it seemed not only a long ways off but near impossible. I was very fortunate to grow up in a city with one of the best public school systems in the state of Ohio. I was one of the first disabled children to go through the district, starting in the early 1990s. When I began my elementary education, laws like the ADA had just come into existence, and their interpretation was unclear to many, especially those who had to provide services to disabled children like myself. …

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