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Social work policy experts bring real life to master’s course

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Guest speakers for Social Work 456

Social Work 456: Child and Family Policy is a master’s course designed to explore existing and proposed policies on both a local and federal level that address social issues relating to children and families.

The spring 2016 course, led by Professor Doris M. Houston, included an assignment that required students to invite policy experts, public officials, and local professionals to the class to share their expertise on a number of social welfare policies as part of the first Social Welfare Policy Expert Speaker Series that took place over three weeks in April.  During the Speaker Series, students each facilitated a class discussion and asked questions of policy experts related to the impact and goals of a range of social welfare laws, policies, consent decrees, and legislative proposals.

This course assignment was a unique experience that provided a wealth of knowledge to the current Master of Social Work students, and will follow them as they continue their journey as social workers.

Speakers included Tom Barr, executive director for McLean County Center for Human Services, addressing mental health coverage gaps; Ken Bays, assistant chief of police with the Bloomington Police Department, addressing synthetic drug enforcement policies; and Lori Brown, child welfare training specialist at The Center for Youth and Family Solutions, addressing the Illinois state budget impasse.

Other speakers included Jonathan Lackland, Illinois State University director of State Governmental Relations; Morgan Snyder, of ISU Pro-Life Redbirds; Nyein Chan, of Resettlement Services; Michael Gaines, of the Illinois Department of Public Health HIV programs; Robert Blackwell, of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ Office of Racial Equity; Jane Russell, of Healthy Start; Michele Jenkins, of Juvenile Justice; and Heather Johnson, of YWCA Stepping Stones.

The speakers were well-versed in their topic and its impact on the social issue being addressed. Students were able to network with these professionals, as well as their classmates, many of them currently working in social service positions within the community. This course assignment was a unique experience that provided a wealth of knowledge to the current Master of Social Work students, and will follow them as they continue their journey as social workers.

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