College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Social Work > About > Internship Stories
Overviews of students' field experiences in advanced, Community Practice internships.
The stories below are from interviews done by Bernadette Muloski (class of 2015) except for the DFCS profile, which was adapted from a Communities article by Lizbetth Gomez.
Look for new stories Spring 2018.
"Catholic Charities fulfills the Church's role in the mission of charity to anyone in need by providing complassionate, competent and professional services that strengthen and support individuals, families and communities based on the value and dignity of human life. In order to remain faithful to our mission, Catholic Charities is guided by these core values: Respect, Compassion, Competence and Stewardship."
Catholic Charities provides services internationally to individuals and families in need including adoption services, child development, child abuse or neglect, child welfare residential programs, counseling, developmental disabilities/ residential care, domestic violence, emergency assistance, employment and job training, family strengthening, health care, HIV/AIDS services, homelessness, housing for physical disabilities, immigration and naturalization, legal services, maternity and pregnancy, nutrition, refugee-resettlement, school-based services, senior affordable housing, senior case management, and senior community based services, skilled nursing facility, substance abuse, veterans services, and youth mentoring services.
Elma Kulovic and Nancy Gavilanes (class of 2015) were both fourth year part time students who worked at Catholic Charities and continue to do so. Elma works with refugees, helping them find employment and settle in the United States. Nancy currently is the director of Catholic Charities’ immigration program, supervising 30 people at five different sites. The immigration department at Catholic Charities works on issues such as family reunification and domestic violence. When choosing an internship this year, Elma and Nancy both decided to choose an employment-based internship in a different department at Catholic Charities. In order for a student to have an employment-based internship, they need to meet certain criteria, such as working at the agency for at least a year, finding a different department with responsibilities that are separate from what they are doing in their job, and finding a field instructor that meets the qualifications set by the DePaul MSW Department. The advanced year internship that Elma and Nancy chose for their 2014-15 academic year worked with Catholic Charities’ new social enterprising initiatives within the program development department.
The first social enterprise was Visions, a program that works with homeless individuals in Chicago. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimated that in August 2014, there were 138,575 homeless individuals living in Chicago. Catholic Charities has several programs to address the issue of homelessness. Visions is a program that provides photography materials to these individuals. Some are given digital cameras to borrow, while others are provided disposable cameras (in the most recent distribution, 104 people got cameras for three months). Then the staff and volunteers go through pictures and choose a few to make cards. They run the project mostly on a volunteer basis.
This program allows the participants to gain self-esteem by being a part of the process of how to market themselves and pick the pictures that would be the best for cards. About 8 people each have 4 pictures that they get to exhibit at an event. Volunteers decide how many pictures they want to display. The homeless individuals involved in the program get to choose which ones. One of the homeless women who has participated in this project was able to find employment taking pictures of food at a local restaurant. Some others are able to earn money from Catholic Charities, earning approximately $100 for each picture used. The money earned depends on the size of the picture. Those pictures are then used for Christmas cards or framed pictures. Elma and Nancy both talked about how they were excited about being involved in this project.
The second social enterprise project taking place at Catholic Charities is Looms, which works with refugee women who are talented in craft making. The women in this program make items such as scarves, headbands, earrings, and other accessories. The women in the program have recently moved to the United States and many have never worked before. This program helps them learn how they can use their skills to create a job for themselves. Although the women in this program are not currently making a lot of money selling products, they are building resumes. One woman in the program was able to get a job doing specialty stitching from her work in this project.
The women in the program also participate as members of the board, deciding when they will have meetings and who will participate in each art show. This empowers them as they may not have been asked to make decisions before. They are also able to build social support networks with the other women, who have experienced similar suffering in their own countries of origin. They support one another emotionally and help each other in this new venture.
Currently the Looms project only serves 12-15 women. This number is due to the space available for the women to work, as well as only having one part time staff member to work with the project.
In the future, the programs would like to obtain a facility in order to sell the photos, scarves, and other art pieces from both Looms and Visions. Currently, some products are distributed to local boutiques to sell, but this is limited to a small number of pieces. In order for the store to happen, more artists will need to be recruited and a business plan put in place. The programs are also seeking to expand through finding grants and getting donations from corporate businesses. Donations may be in the form of money, but also in art supplies such as disposable cameras, film development, paper, and yarn.
Preferred qualifications for future interns include having knowledge of business and budget plans. The interns may work on finding a space and how to run a business, as well as working on a plan for sustainability. Eventually, the hope of staff is that profits made from selling the products will pay for the expenses of the program. Additionally, when discussing ideas for fundraising staff and interns emphasize that the money obtained would not just be given to participants, but would be used to build skill sets and help them become self-sufficient.
Supervision at this site was much different from many others, as this was a type of social work that people generally don’t think of as social work. Everyone was learning in the process, so interns and their supervisor were talking through the projects as they went along. Nancy said that the macro piece that she saw in their internship was looking at the bigger issues that were affecting the populations. There are two different populations that Catholic Charities has introduced social enterprising to help- homeless men and women, and refugee women.
Education and advocacy were needed to go along with each of the projects to show how these populations could be empowered and included in society. Elma and Nancy thought that telling stories of the artist made the pieces that much more interesting and made people want to buy them and contribute to the participants'success.
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" The mission of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) is to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS and improve the lives of people affected by the epidemic. Founded in 1985 by community activists and physicians, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is a local and national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We collaborate with community organizations to develop and improve HIV/AIDS services; fund and coordinate prevention, care, and advocacy projects; and champion effective, compassionate HIV/AIDS policy.”
The housing page of the AFC website states, “The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) is taking a leadership role in promoting strategies to improve the availability of safe and affordable housing for low-income people with HIV” (2015).
Gregory O’Brien (class of 2015) was a fourth year part-time student when he completed his advanced year internship in the housing department at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. This internship was different from his work in social services, as the location and type of work was separate from direct service to clients. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago is located in a corporate office building blocks away from the DePaul Loop Campus.
While Greg chose to work with issues related to housing, there are several other departments within the agency, including case management, Research and Evaluation Data Systems (REDS), and administrative teams. The housing department within AFC works with thirteen partner agencies that provide direct service around Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. These agencies have subsidized housing available for clients who are in need of shelter. Five hundred and fifty housing slots are divided among those agencies depending on their funding sources and performance the previous year. Individuals who receive services at the agencies get a subsidy to rent their own apartment, with the responsibility of paying a third of the rent themselves. AFC monitors those agencies and helps with supervising, developing programs, and evaluations to ensure the agencies are performing where they should be.
There were two big projects that Greg worked on at his internship, with smaller projects coming up as well. Since Greg is interested specifically in housing for homeless youth, one project was to try and incorporate youth into previously existing programs. This project included meeting with agencies that provide housing services for youth to learn best practices. Greg also identified what needed to be changed in programs, how case managers needed to be trained, and what additional supports they need. In order to gather this information, Greg conducted a Needs Assessment.
Another larger project that Greg had been involved with was a Tenant Satisfaction Survey. Greg identified a need for this project since it had been a while since the last time the agency had gained feedback from the participants of the housing program. This project involved reaching out to participants and presenting findings to the Supportive Advisory Board, made up of the supervisors from each department of AFC.
These projects connected directly with the assignments in the Community Practice series. It allowed Greg to create tools that had been talked about in class. He was able to see what worked in gathering the information, learn what the agency has already done, and where they could improve.
Supervision was different for Greg than what was anticipated at the beginning of the year. Throughout his time at AFC, Greg worked with three supervisors. The first supervisor left for another position. The supervisor who was slated to take over was on maternity leave, so there was also an interim supervisor. Each of these were positive supervisory relationships and taught Greg something different. They each involved different roles and experiences in social work, so each added to the knowledge about how projects can be done. The supervisors also varied in structure of supervision, with some being more structured and scheduling an agenda for supervision, while others were more relaxed and enjoyed having a conversation. Additionally, since this was a more macro-level placement, the Field Instructors shared insight about macro approaches to social work.
Greg would recommend this placement to other students who are interested in a completely macro level placement. Someone who already has direct service experience and is looking to discover what macro practice is like would be a good fit. The agency is very open to letting interns pick what part they are interested in working on and creating a valuable experience for them.
o This was a very good experience learning about participatory review and assessments. Greg got a chance to create tools and implement them, and also reach out to participants, community members, and agencies to see how to improve the programs.
o Greg discovered that a macro practice setting is what he wants to pursue at this point in his career.
o Greg has worked in direct service agencies that are like the partner agencies. He has experienced larger funding agencies like AFC making changes to direct service programs without giving an explanation. This usually leaves the staff at partner agencies with a lot of questions. Through this placement, Greg has learned what it is like to be on the other end of that and learning where decisions are coming from. Also, he learned how the larger agencies can be better at explaining the decisions.
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The DePaul Family and Community Services strengthens and empowers families and communities through innovative, evidenced-based, community-oriented services and the training of culturally-competent, socially responsible professionals.
Lizbetth Gomez (class of 2015) was a full-time second year student when she completed her advanced year internship at DePaul Family and Community Services (DFCS). DFCS is a behavioral mental health clinic located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The staff at the clinic consists of different professionals such clinical psychologists, community psychologists, a licensed clinical social worker, a psychiatrist, PhD students, nursing students, and master of social work interns.
The clinic works directly with children and families who endure mental health problems. Lizbetth started her internship in July 2014 and since then she was very busy. A typical week for her at DFCS consisted of preparing for therapy sessions, meeting with clients, attending supervision and weekly trainings, providing case management, and co‐facilitating a video‐guided group program that targets depression for low‐income Latino and African American youth.
In addition, she formed part of the Diversity Committee that aims to raise awareness about different issues that not only affect clients but all individuals. During her internship year, the committee decided to focus on immigration and through three different in‐services, the committee discussed the importance of immigration, psychological implications of immigration, and more. Lizbetth stated “Forming part of the Diversity Committee has sparked new interests in me. I have realized that apart from providing direct services I really enjoy forming part of a group that provides education and promotes advocacy for vulnerable populations”.
DFCS is a placement that provides various learning opportunities and support from all staff. She would recommend DFCS to students in search of a second year placement interested in obtaining clinical experience.
o Lizbetth was able to develop clinical skills required to provide treatment for children and families.
o This placement taught Lizbetth the importance of time management.
o Lizbetth learned the value and importance of working as a part of a team with other professionals.
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“At EECS, children, parents and educators work together to educate students who are challenged by and engaged in their learning, independent and self-confident, proficient in Spanish, knowledgeable about their own culture, compassionate and ethical, and understanding of the collaborative requirements for citizenship in a democracy. They are prepared to undertake a rigorous secondary school program and are firmly placed on a path to a higher education”
Sara Frohman (class of 2015) was a full-time second year student when she completed her advanced year internship at Erie Elementary Charter School. Sara chose the placement after a recommendation from Dr. Ostrander, the director of the social work department. DePaul interns have enjoyed this placement in the past, and Sara wanted to work with kids and have the experiences that were offered in this setting.
True to the mission statement, Erie’s commitment to encouraging students to pursue higher education is evident in the way the school is decorated. Each classroom is assigned a college or university, with the name outside the doors. Students in these classrooms cheer on their classroom’s schools at assemblies and are given information about what schools teachers at the school have attended. Also, quotes are painted in large letters on the walls encouraging students to follow their dreams. The school holds around 400 students in grades k-8. Each classroom has between 20 and 30 students.
The wide range of grades allowed Sara to get many different experiences, as her work with eight graders is much different than with younger kids. As an intern, Sara saw students for individual counseling, small groups, in class interventions, behaviors plans, and occasionally a functional behavioral analysis. She also assisted the school social worker with developing programming. The social worker has an office that is shared with the intern. Students may be seen in this office, or in empty classrooms, depending on the child, the issues that they are discussing, and priority of need.
There are several small groups at Erie. Two that Sara worked with this year is an anger coping group and support group for implementing the socio-emotional Second Step curriculum. One support group that Sara believed would be beneficial for students at the school, but was not originally provided this year is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy group for students who have experienced trauma. Some of the groups have a set curriculum, while others are flexible and Sara was able to introduce her own ideas.
For some students, Sara was required to spend significant time observing and helping to implement behavior plans in the classroom. One behavior plan that was effective was giving a student paper strips to make a chain for good behavior. When the chain grew as tall as his teacher, he got a bigger reward. In this case and many others, it was important for Sara to also have contact with the teachers and parents to support the student.
The full time Erie social worker and intern are not required to meet with students with social work IEP minutes. Those students are seen by a CPS social worker and psychologist that come in once a week. However, if they are having a bad day, students can still come to the social work office anytime.
Supervision at Erie is regular, but unstructured. Sara described it as being “very much like a conversation,” with flexibility in what is talked about. Topics included what she was working on with her clients, rapport building, dynamics within the school, and different assessments and plans for group therapy. With the support of her supervisor as well as the school administration, Sara felt that it was not difficult to find ways to connect her internship to assignments. Overall, the school is supportive of the social work staff and interns. When Sara arranged to go to a board meeting, the principal encouraged her to give feedback.
Sara recommends this internship to future students. Students who would do well in this placement are those who are independent and like to make up their own daily schedule. Although this is a good placement for individuals who want to work with kids, interns need to be comfortable talking to adults, as they spend nearly as much time working with teachers and parents. Also, Sara advises that students in this placement “can’t be super serious all the time.” Interns would benefit from keeping in touch with what is popular with students this age.
o Importance of communicating. Interns need to talk to teachers and parents. The social workers and interns only see the kids for an hour a week, but teachers and parents see them so much longer and they need to be on board for the students to be successful.
o Sara learned how to use different types of interventions. Now she has knowledge of many activities that have worked well with students. She also got to go to trainings and got manuals for free on how to run groups.
o How to engage the community. The issues that come up do not just have to do with the individual child or their family, but there may be more systemic problems.
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“The mission of Friedman Place is to provide housing and supportive services to adults who are blind or visually impaired. Friedman Place emphasizes resident self-determination, independence, and interaction within the community. Friedman Place strives to be a primary force among professional organizations serving adults with visual disabilities.”
Caitlyn Graves (class of 2015) was a full-time second year student when she completed her advanced year internship at Friedman Place. The internship was a new placement for DePaul students. It came to the attention of the field coordinator when the social worker called to begin a partnership between DePaul and Friedman Place. The facility provides a wide range of services to the residents, including three meals a day and snacks in between in a cafeteria, doctors and nurses, a hair salon, a weaving studio, technology room, social gathering rooms, a library, case management, and therapy.
This placement is a good opportunity for students to get health related experience outside of a hospital setting. Interns at this placement are responsible for case management of about 12 to 13 residents, as well as providing individual and group therapy.
For Caitlyn, each of her cases was different and required various levels of attention. Some individuals on her case load only needed to be called once a month to check in, while others met with her for half hour or hour weekly therapy sessions. She also facilitated two groups: a women’s support group, and a grief group called “Healthy Healing.” The groups were different in structure.
The women’s group discussed topics such as reproductive health, coping skills for stress management, communication skills, and self- care. Each session generally included an activity, such as listening to music or drawing, and connecting those to the topic for the day. This group was not structured and did not have a particular curriculum. The grief group was more structured in that it had designated topics and lasted 8 weeks. Since Caitlyn came to the placement with an interest in group work, she spoke to her supervisor and was able to begin the grief group as one of her projects that year, researching topics and creating curriculum. She incorporated different grief theories, discussed how the process of grieving is different for everyone, and included activities such as making a coping skills box.
Residents are connected to support groups by the social workers or nurses on staff. There are currently 4 social workers and 83 residents. They may also find out through word of mouth, or through an announcement line on their phone or television. The groups are open to anyone that chooses to attend.
Another task of social work interns at Friedman Place is researching resources for residents. One of the resources frequently utilized by residents is transportation. There are a couple of options for paratransit available to individuals who need public transportation. Residents are provided with a TAP (Taxi Access Program) card to use for emergency discount taxi service if they are unable to get to other public transit. They are also able to use Pace, which can be set up the day before and comes to pick up residents at Friedman Place and then brings them home afterwards. Not all residents choose to go out, but several use these services for doctor’s appointments, visiting family members, going to the grocery store, or attending work or school. Some projects are worked on individually, while for other projects, Caitlyn was able to work as a team with other interns.
The Macro experience incorporated into the Friedman Place internship is participating in the advocacy group that has recently been developed. This group connects residents to the outside community and making changes for the greater disabled community. Topics discussed and advocated for are issues such as increasing accessibility of public transit and making sidewalks smoother and safer for the disabled community. The group asked the alderman to come in and he has been working with the concerns of the residents. The advocacy group also participates in letter writing and other education and legislating advocacy efforts.
Supervision at Friedman Place takes place once a week from a half an hour to an hour. However, the supervisor is generally available when there is an issue that needs to be discussed. Topics of supervision include what happened in the current week, plans for next week, and issues that need to be talked about. Caitlyn felt that it is good supervision and that the support that she received from her supervisor helped in all aspects of the work.
In working to connect class assignments to internship experience, Caitlyn had to look deeper and be creative. She explained that this is not a “normal” social service agency and that makes it a little more challenging, but she has enjoyed the process and the internship as a while. She would recommend this internship to other DePaul students. Compared to last year, she feels that the experience is a lot more relevant to what she will be doing in the future. Interns can also come in and explore what they are interested in. Interns interested in this placement must be able to work independently and advocate for the experiences that they want.
o This placement has taught Caitlyn about case management in general, as this was something that was not available in her previous placement where group therapy was the main activity.
o Structured group work has been a valuable experience as groups at Caitlyn’s previous placement were more open in topic and schedule.
o Caitlyn explained that this internship taught her to be more “go with the flow”. There were days when he supervisor would throw tasks at her. Also, because it is residential, people can call at any time asking for something. Caitlyn feels that she learned that it is okay if day does not go as planned.
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The Chicago Park District Website states that:
The mission of the Chicago Park District is to:
• Enhance the quality of life in Chicago by becoming the leading provider of recreation and leisure opportunities
• Provide safe, inviting and beautifully maintained parks and facilities
• Create a customer-focused and responsive park system that prioritizes the needs of children and families
In 2015 Syreeta Carter completed her Advanced Year internship at the Chicago Park district. Syreeta wanted to explore options for increasing her program evaluation and development skills. The Chicago Park District offers several opportunities for social work interns, based on the interest of the student and the current needs of the various sites.
As an intern at the Chicago Park District, Syreeta worked on two major projects. The first project involved working on the Teen Leadership Club at the park district Women’s Park and Gardens site. The site was located at 18th and Indiana in the South Loop. The staff at this site have established a strong relationship with the community and brought people together. The Teen Leadership Club focuses on teen entrepreneurship and uses the Youth Quality Program Curriculum. Each session runs for 10 weeks. As the intern on this project Syreeta helped run the logistics of the club, but did not facilitate. She was involved in making decisions about what subjects would be covered, recruiting at schools and at the recreation department, and advertising. At the time, there were nine teens in the program, which was significant since this was the first teen program offered at this park district site.
The second project that Syreeta worked on was a city-wide coach training for male coaches working with female athletes. The three topics covered by this training were reframing conflict, sportsmanship, and interpersonal relationships. Syreeta began working on this program by researching curriculum for coaches and deciding what would be included in the training. She finished her internship year by designing a manual for the training and a plan for evaluation.
The internship involved very little direct service and working with others. While there were team meetings, most of the work was done independently and then brought to the team later. Supervision was very flexible, as that was the style that Syreeta preferred. Her supervisor worked with each intern to determine what style of supervision would work best for them. While some interns had a set time to meet weekly, Syreeta checked in with her supervisor at the beginning and end of her day. During this time, she and her supervisor talked about what she was working on and presented any questions that came up. Her work primarily took place in the park district corporate office downtown. She had her own desk and computer, and access to any supplies needed for her work.
Syreeta said that this internship involved macro practice elements because the work affected the entire city of Chicago. Each park district has their own programming, but they all work together on common goals. There are 570 parks included in the Chicago Park District and representatives from each park meet regularly for the Park Advisory Council. One project that Syreeta worked on for her coursework was a recommendation to install an individual advisory council at each park in addition to the one that includes all the parks. This would allow for structured input to be made at multiple levels of the park district system.
Syreeta felt that this placement integrated well with her classwork. She often used logic models and other tools learned in program evaluation. The community practice class helped Syreeta plan for programs because she understood the need to know the population that was being served. Recruitment for each program needs to be different depending on the individuals being targeted. One difference was the expectations for a program proposal. While in class she was writing a thorough analysis of needs and how a program would address them, the Chicago Park District first asked her to write up a one page initial proposal before it would be explored by the intended park office.
Syreeta would recommend this placement to other students. She felt that students who would be a good fit would be those able to work independently and be good at communicating. They need to be able to work with a team and be vocal with their ideas because the staff are looking for new things to try. This internship involves a lot of writing and editing, so students should also be comfortable with this.
1. Syreeta learned how to apply different topics leaned in class. She was able to create a logic model that was used for her programs and see how it helps evaluation of a program.
2. She learned about the Youth Quality Program Model curriculum. The teen program will prepare youth to become recreation leaders. This provides job opportunities for young people. Syreeta also learned that when teens apply to be recreation leaders the park districts want individuals with previous volunteer experience.
3. Syreeta learned to be confident in her ideas and decisions. When she began this internship, she was more reserved in stating her opinion because she did not know if it was right or wrong. She realizes that even if something is wrong, it is still a valuable learning experience.