Casey Smith, MSW intern, Reflects on Fall Semester in UNC Clinical Programs

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Casey Smith, this year's MSW fieldwork intern from NC State School of Social Work, is completing her first semester in the UNC Clinical Programs. Casey is a second year graduate student who has provided invaluable assistance to UNC Law students as well as our clinic clients She shares her thoughts about her work thus far:

Working at the UNC Law Clinics this past semester has greatly expanded my knowledge in rather diverse social justice areas. I have a better understanding of what I can contribute to a juvenile who is court-involved as well as how criminal records can prevent an individual from accessing a basic human right such as housing. Though we are taught as social workers that these are systemic concerns in our communities, seeing the way these limitations actually manifest in real life has been consistently informative and motivating.

The vast majority of the cases that I have been able to assist with this past semester have been within the Youth Justice Clinic. I have assisted law students with finding alternative schooling options such as GED programs, tutors or various in-school programs that the client had not yet considered. I have also assisted in finding various therapy options, mentoring options, and recreational options that best fit the client’s emotional, educational and mental health needs.

Within the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic I have focused on how to find affordable housing options for marginalized individuals here in the Triangle. I have learned that immigration status and criminal history backgrounds lead to patterns of exclusion when it comes to housing needs in our community. Navigating the extremity of these roadblocks to housing, in particular, has elevated my interest in housing and the role these limitations play in the lives of clients in social service agencies across the board.

Outside of assisting clients in accessing resources, I have also had the opportunity to work with clients individually. Sometimes having that extra ‘ear’ can help the law student assist the client in mapping out their needs and goals. When I meet with clients or discuss clients with their law student advocates, we work towards finding what the barriers are for success and how we can find community resources that will lessen these burdens as much as possible. When we are able to achieve this, it is extremely rewarding, no matter how small the "success" may be.

Working within UNC Clinical Programs has certainly been a positive experience. Having the opportunity to work side by side with law students and faculty who all share the amazing ambition to support youth and those marginalized in our community has been very encouraging.

We are grateful to Casey Smith for her help this semester and look forward to continued collaboration in the Spring.

Posted by Tamar R. Birckhead on Tue. December 8, 2015 2:46 PM
Categories: Civil Legal Assistance Clinic, Clinic Administration, Youth Justice Clinic
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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