“I remember how much she loved being a ‘Baby Folder,’” said Social Work Professor Kathryn Wehrmann, fondly recalling School of Social Work alumna Dakota Maughn’s internship. It’s no surprise that Maughn ’15 has taken The Baby Fold’s motto to heart and followed it during her professional practice. “We never give up on a child” is the culmination of her life so far.
Anyone who saw Maughn in her childhood probably thought she was a happy young girl. While she excelled at school and extracurriculars, she and her younger siblings were trapped in an unsafe and damaging homelife. At 16 Maughn and her siblings were finally removed from that situation when the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) placed them in the custody of her older sister who has always been a constant source of love and support. “If anyone gets anything out of my story, I hope it is to never give up on a child,” Maughn said. “Just because some children don’t get the best start, doesn’t mean they can’t make something great out of their life.”
Maughn chose Illinois State for its beautiful campus, the small town feel of Bloomington-Normal, and the social work program. Admitted on a full scholarship through DCFS’s Youth in College program, she set her sights on paying forward the help she received when DCFS entered her life and living up to her first caseworker’s example.
Maughn especially liked the intense internship in the School of Social Work and partly credits the internship with her landing a position as an investigator with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She also credits her Illinois State Social Work professors: “The professors in the social work department are so helpful and knowledgeable. I learned something from each and every one of them and I will always be grateful for that”.
Texas was Dakota’s home until she was 4, and after graduation she decided she wanted to be back among her extended family in the Lone Star state. Possible Illinois state budget cuts in family services and those cold long winters also factored in to her decision to relocate.
Maughn has settled into her new job as an investigator. She considers herself the first responder when Child Protective Services is contacted and takes that responsibility very seriously. There are careful steps that need to be followed before any serious state action is taken, and she knows those steps completely. Her goal is to help families stay together. “Every family has the potential to be great; some families just need some help to get themselves there,” she said. “My ultimate hope is that I am able to make a difference in children’s lives.
“I’ve always said that if I can make a positive difference in just one child’s life, all of the hard work I have put into my education and career will be worth it.”