Every year, CUCS hosts a number of interns who are earning their field placement credits while studying for their Social Work Masters Degrees. We sat down with Linda Ricciardi, the Director of Staff Development, to learn about this year’s group and why it is so important for social work students to gain field experience.
Tell us about the group of students placed with CUCS this year.
This year, CUCS is hosting 18 interns from various universities in New York including Columbia, NYU, Touro, Fordham, and Hunter. Additionally, CUCS is hosting an intern from Smith College which is located in Massachusetts.
Students seeking a Masters in Social Work are required to do two years of field placements, so CUCS hosts students in their first year, students in their second year, and also a number of advanced standing students.
Advanced standing students are those that might have already received a Bachelors degree in Social Work and have hands-on social work experience but want to continue their education and obtain a Masters. Those students are typically required to take part in one year of field placement.
How does a social work student become an intern with CUCS?
Typically, first-year field placement students don’t have a choice where they are placed, whereas students in their second field placement can request a particular placement. For example, a student might have had their first year field placement working with child welfare but want to expand their knowledge base and might request a placement with CUCS for their second year to learn more about housing and working with the homeless population.
The number of interns fluctuates each year and as CUCS expands and launches new programs, we are seeing an expansion in the number of interns we are able to accommodate. CUCS expects that every program site provides at least one placement for a social work intern.
What kinds of projects are the interns working on? What does the typical experience look like?
For interns, there is no one typical experience. Each program site has different needs and priorities but the first part of the process of hosting an intern is ensuring that a licensed social worker at the designated program site has taken a course certifying them to be a field instructor. This course is called a Seminar in Field Instruction, or SIFI for short. A potential field instructor would participate in a SIFI class at the school where his or her intern is studying. These SIFI classes provide a foundation for how to supervise someone who is often brand new to the hands-on aspects of social work.
As far as what interns are working on, it varies greatly from program to program but each student will have a specific caseload of clients to work with. It’s also common for the interns to organize and run groups, including evidence-based practice models. The interns also participate in a number of clinical trainings to ensure they are prepared to provide care to our clients. These trainings include trauma education, psychiatric diagnosis instruction, and how to run a successful group for clients.
Each student receives a lot of one-on-one guidance from their field instructor. Students have an hour and a half of supervision each week that includes sessions to identify strengths and areas for improvement, as well as to develop their identity as a professional social worker.
What do you hope interns get out of their placement with CUCS?
Our goal for the interns at CUCS is that they will come out of their placements as genuinely well-informed and well-trained social workers. We emphasize the idea that we want to provide the same services to our clients that we would hope our own loved ones would receive. In that spirit, we remember that whatever we put into these students will come back to us in the long run, even if they don’t choose to work at CUCS. We invest in them because these future social workers will be interacting with our clients somewhere, whether it be in a clinic, a government office or on the street and we want to ensure our clients are always receiving the absolute best care.