Deep in the Heart of Field Education
February 15, 2011 by MSW@USC Staff 6
Filed Under: Agencies, Agency, Aging, Belton, Education, Field Placements, field work, Los Angeles, placement, Social Work, Texas, University of Southern California, USC, USC Social work
As part of the process to evaluate field placement sites for the MSW@USC and the Virtual Academic Center, coordinators travel all over the country to find the best placements. One trip brought the School of Social Work to the small towns of Belton and Tyler, Texas about an hour and half north of Austin and just east of the Fort Hood Army base. This is a community surviving the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting rampage by a suspected terrorist.
Small Town, Big Social Work Challenges
We visited the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas in downtown Belton just off of Main Street with offices in a converted Walmart store. On a drive through this community it was the typical image of any small town you would see across the country— Victorian styled homes and residential neighborhoods decorated for the holidays, small mom and pop stores and at least three churches within a couple of blocks. This community was in contrast to fast paced metropolis of Los Angeles but now these types of communities are making up the rich tapestry of the agencies that are a part of the national social work field placement network at USC and where MSW@USC students will reside.
The staff at AAA of Central Texas was so engaging and everyone we met had some version of a Texas drawl. Although this agency serves a small town, they still experience the same challenges as other big urban communities across the country. Veterans are committing suicide in record numbers with not enough social workers to stem the tide, an aging population that struggles to navigate the complex web of social services and challenges taking care of mental health needs of its children and families.
We met Margaret, the Field Liaison and regional ombudsman, who is a spunky go-getter that is passionate and driven when it comes to advocating for her clients. She introduced us to a myriad of services co-located with the AAA of Central Texas that are skilled in weaving together a variety of programs that creates the safety net for this community. They are so proud to become a part of the University of Southern California. It was evident in their excitement when they told us about their programs and the expressed eagerness to welcome a student in to the fold of their everyday work.
Placements Across America
The seasoned field placement team has visited hundreds of agencies in person and traveled to nine states to accomplish the goal of finding the best placements. There have been site visits not only in California but states like Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Indiana, New Mexico, Minnesota, New York, Washington and Utah. The diversity of these geographic locations makes this a truly nationwide program.
Not only is the MSW@USC bringing educational opportunities to small communities like Belton, citizens are molded into professionals that will have a real impact on the lives of everyday people— the people who are considered the last and least in our society. Social workers are making the world a better place and improving the conditions of our communities. We see it every day when we visit field placement sites all over the country.
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