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Creative field placement for social work student

(L-R) Waypoints Executive Director Rick Kelly, student Sheila Monk and field instructor Dr. Mike Devine.


By Laura Woodford

"I have a right to see my family. I have a right to feel safe in my home. I have a responsibility to follow the rules. I have a responsibility to not bully others."

These are just a few of the rights and responsibilities of children and youth that social work student Sheila Monk compiled for a new poster and brochure for Waypoints, an organization that facilitates residential living arrangements for children and youth in care in St. John's and the surrounding area.

Ms. Monk is a student in the bachelor of social work as a second degree program. Completion of two field internships is a component of that program and the School of Social Work arranged with Waypoints to host a student for the first time this past fall.

For her first placement from September-December last year, Ms. Monk visited nine of the residential units facilitated by Waypoints and spoke with many of the children and youth in care. By building individual relationships with them, she was able to eventually ask them to participate in focus groups and one-on-one interviews about what they felt their individual rights and responsibilities were. Ms. Monk compiled a list from their responses to questions such as: "What do you think your rights are with regard to your workers or with regard to the other young people living in your home?"

Ms. Monk says she really liked working with the children and youth.

"The end result of my work on this internship – the brochure and poster – came from them. It is their document. What I really liked about Waypoints is the organization itself and the kids are really open about the whole thing. Being in care is normalized and if that's your life then you should be open about it."

Rick Kelly, executive director of Waypoints, said the collaboration with Memorial's School of Social Work was a great partnership opportunity for both educational organizations.

"As Sheila's supervisor, I was pleased to see the amount of insight and energy she brought to her role here at Waypoints," he said. "In turn, I think Sheila was exposed to a great example of what it is like working as a social worker with children and youth. We are certainly open to continuing our partnership and building the link between the School of Social Work and child and youth care workers."

The posters are to be displayed in all the residential units and the brochures will be given to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and to the young people and their families.

"This is a working document for us," said Mr. Kelly. "This will help us to ensure we acknowledge and respect the rights and responsibilities of the children and youth that we serve."

Dr. Mike Devine, field instructor at the School of Social Work, said this placement was a little different than what the school has done traditionally. Students have been involved with things such as policy development previously, but in this instance, the mandate was to create a brochure and a poster.

"This placement is a great demonstration of how we can be innovative and creative in our field placements and how we can give back to the community," he said.