by: Calista Wickert
This spring, the Center for Family and Community Engagement employed two NC State MSW students, Stephanie Batchelor and Olivia Reeser, and one Campbell law student, Magen Kite, to research methods for increasing the educational stability of youth in foster care. Their work was funded through a CHASS research grant. These graduate research assistants performed literature reviews on racial disparities, geographic area, and educational stability. They also observed family court proceedings in two North Carolina counties in order to learn about how judges approach issues concerning youth’s schooling. They used a court observation instrument to explore how a judge makes decisions about educational stability and the factors considered by each judge, including but not limited to end-of-grade test results, disabilities, and type of living arrangements.
Each student appreciated the interdisciplinary perspective that came with working alongside judges, courts, faculty Dr. Joan Pennell (Social Work) and Dr. Scott Stage (Psychology), and each other. While each student comes from a different background – Stephanie in treatment foster care, Magen as a former social worker, and Olivia who was involved in school social work – each appreciated being able to look at foster care issues from the legal perspective. They explained that the experience has taught them to be mindful in their future work, since each sector (legal, social workers, etc.) has different goals, issues, and ideals. The research also influenced the students’ professional aspirations.
Olivia Reeser, who plans to pursue her PhD, gained research experience that will support her future studies. She will also be able to use her understanding of disparities in educational disruptions in her practice interventions with adolescents. Similarly, Stephanie Batchelor explained that this project has helped her to see the big picture of how children in foster care are affected by many factors, including the level of available resources and opportunities in each county. Stephanie hopes to use this information in working with children and families affected by trauma. Campbell Law student and former social worker Magen Kite found that the project has informed the way she looks at law and has helped her to frame future goals. She hopes to “keep one foot in the courtroom and one in academia” to bridge the gap between court proceeding and research results. Since being drawn back to children’s rights issues through this research, Magen hopes to obtain her MSW after completing her Law degree.
The Center for Family and Community Engagement greatly benefits from the involvement of students in our work. In this instance, the three students brought insights that will support our ongoing training, technical assistance, and evaluation to advance the well-being of youth in care.