Theory 'brought to life' for Erikson social work students

Erikson students—and future social workers—joined nearly a thousand advocates in Springfield on April 5 to ask lawmakers to fund social services programs for Illinois children and their families.

As part of an Advocacy Day hosted by the Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Master’s in Social Work students began their day listening to panel discussions and attending break-out sessions on current issues and legislation in Illinois. MSW Advoc Day2

First year student Olivia Perez said it was inspiring to hear examples of how reform to the criminal justice system can help support people and empower them to succeed in their communities, such as providing access to educational opportunities and mental health services. Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart spoke about the prevalence of mental health issues affecting the jail population.

“We need [social workers] involved in all aspects,” he said in his remarks. “It’s truly the way we’re going to fix things instead of arresting our way out of it.”

Perez said that Sheriff Dart’s “work focusing on support and empowerment, rather than criminalization, is a model of how mental health should be addressed.”

For second year student Fernando Gonzalez III, “theory was brought to life today. We were able to dive a bit deeper into how the lack of budget was affecting systems directly…and we were able to apply what we have been learning in class to what we did today.” A state budget impasse is now in its 10th month and threatens services provided to Illinois’ neediest residents.

Fernando, who is currently conducting field work at the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (CCAC), says the budget stalemate is forcing partners at CCAC—a first responder of child sexual abuse— to scale back on or cut programs entirely.MSW Advoc Day3

The students said the afternoon was spent visiting legislators’ offices in the bustling Capitol where they left behind materials on important legislation facing Illinois children and families and asked lawmakers to work together to pass a state budget.

Erikson’s Master’s in Social Work program, the nation’s only program rooted in child development, was awarded accreditation in March.