Social Work Interns: Incorporating our Mission

Katy DanielsMission Weekly

By Katy Daniels, MSW, LGSW

Missions Inc. programs has benefited from the time and talent of countless volunteers and academic interns over the years, many working in our detox/withdrawal management facility as part of an LADC program or our domestic violence shelter for women and children.  This year we were fortunate enough to have interns from several different academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Social Work intern, Jacki Hanson, with CD Tech Al O. & Program Director Jessica Sprenger

For the first time, we had three graduate students in Social Work programs interning at Missions Inc. Two of them, Jacki Hanson and Christina Kurtz, interned at our Mission Detox Center, working side-by-side with our Chemical Dependency Technicians, and the third, Rose Considine, worked as a Women’s Advocate at our Home Free Shelter for battered women and their children.

As a former student of social work myself (I received my MSW in 2000 from Howard University in Washington D.C.), I take great satisfaction in assisting current students with their matriculation. It might be cliché, but it is also true that social work is among the noblest of professions. There aren’t many vocations whose primary purpose is to create equity, promote social justice and work towards an end to poverty and human suffering.

Because the need for social workers exists everywhere, there is great flexibility in choosing social work as a career. As students, social workers have the choice of studying a micro, mezzo, or macro track. At the micro level, students will experience working with individuals or families in a direct service setting. The macro social worker is focused on systems change by centering on larger scale social problems and the development and implementation of interventions that aim to address those problems. And, the mezzo social worker falls right in-between the micro and macro by working towards social change with smaller groups and institutions.

During their field study with Missions Inc., we tried to give our interns a taste of all three tracks, with the greater emphasis being on the micro social work experience. Because so much of the work that we do is affected by decisions made at the mezzo and macro level, our interns were able to interface with other partner agencies, and gain experience understanding those systems, including the Minnesota state legislature and the United States congress as it considered re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA – which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is still working its way through the U.S. Senate, for more information go here and to track and see the bill, go here). Our shelter has received VAWA funds to support the work we do with victims of domestic violence, and the passage of this bill is critical in supporting Home Free and other domestic violence programs in Minnesota and throughout the United States.

Our aim is to provide all of our interns with a comprehensive taste of what it means to work in this field. Based upon the feedback we have received thus far, we are succeeding with this goal. As social work student, Rose Considine, reflects:

Being an intern at Home Free has been an experience unlike any other I’ve had. There were ups and downs throughout my time there. I watched women come into the shelter at their lowest point and get employment, new places to live, and their well-being back. I also saw women leave the shelter and return to their abusers (click here for information on why victims sometimes stay with an abuser).

The duties of being an intern at Home Free were vast. I answered the 24/7 crisis line, assisting families who were needing immediate safety or information and would often conduct safety planning with victims. I screened calls for women who were seeking shelter. Sometimes we were able to accept them into the shelter and sometimes we had to turn them away because we were full. This was the hardest part of the internship for me, knowing that we couldn’t serve all families who needed us because we simply did not have the room (women turned away are referred to Day One to find an open bed at another shelter. If a woman contacts us for shelter, but she is not a victim of domestic violence, we refer to an appropriate program such as St. Stephen’s Human Services, or Simpson Housing). I had the opportunity to shadow the support group run in the shelter and watch how a group is facilitated. I saw a glimpse of how women could lift each other up in these difficult times. I had the opportunity to help with social media and write blogs and articles. I also helped Home Free get their message across at the Day of Action at the Minnesota State Capitol. I was at the shelter on many fun days to celebrate birthdays, make gingerbread houses, and play with children.

Rose Considine (lower left) at Action Day with Home Free Shelter & Community Program staff

Home Free was very flexible around my work schedule. My supervisors were kind and did their best to make sure I had adequate experiences. It was a great introductory internship in the social work field. I will bring the lessons I learned here with me throughout my career.

Missions Inc. is accepting interns for fall, 2019. If you are interested in an unpaid academic internship experience and are a student of social work, human services, or in an LADC program, please contact Katy Daniels, Associate Director at 763.334.7903 for more information.

Thank you to Jacki, Rose, and Christina for making our inaugural social work internship program a success!

Katy Daniels is the Associate Director for Missions Inc. Programs