2007 PFIG Recipient Ann Emery
College of Arts & Sciences
Psycology and Spanish
2008 Graduation Year
Internship: The Commission on Children and Families in Charlottesville, VA
I am a rising fourth-year majoring in Political Philosophy, Policy and Law. This summer I am interning in the Office of the President at the Children’s Defense Fund. I first became interested in the CDF after a relative told me about his experience at law school with the President and Founder, Marian Wright Edelman. Mrs. Edelman was the first black woman to pass the bar in Mississippi and directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Jackson, Mississippi. In its 34th year, the CDF provides a voice for needy children who are unable to participate in the political process. After applying to their internship program, I interviewed with the Special Assistant to the President and was subsequently placed in their office.
From this internship, I hope to gain exposure to a successful non-profit and learn how it succeeds and thrives. Additionally, I would like to learn more about the child advocacy work in general. I’d like to understand what the most pressing needs for children are, who are the neediest, and what concrete actions can be taken to address and potentially solve these issues. The CDF is currently focusing on child health care legislation so I would like to learn more about current proposals and how a group goes about promoting their agenda. Lastly, I would like to gain experience working in a professional environment with a diverse group of co-workers.
Notes on the first week
My first week at the Commission on Children and Families has been impressive because I’ve never worked in such a professional environment. In high school, I worked at a bakery, pizza restaurant, summer camp, car dealership, and a car repair shop, but none of these jobs can compare to my internship. Most of my coworkers are my parents’ age, yet my coworkers treat me as one of their peers. It’s a very flattering experience.
I’m still getting oriented and trying to understand everything that goes on here. There are dozens of acronyms — CSA, CAC, FAPT, CHINS — and it’s a long process to decipher what each of these really means. I’m also trying to figure out what the Commission on Children and Families (or CCF, yet another acronym!) is all about. CCF was formed to "plan, coordinate, monitor, and evaluate a community-wide system for all children and family agencies and programs." But what does this really mean? The process by which CCF plans, coordinates and monitors all the community programs is quite complicated. I’ve learned that the staff is composed of specialists in several areas, and each staff member is in charge of their own domain. For example, the Juvenile Justice Coordinator has a background in law and juvenile justice, and he writes grants and plans programs for gang prevention. Another woman works as the Comprehensive Services Act Coordinator, but what this really means is that she reviews foster care cases in Charlottesville and Albemarle.
Aside from figuring all this out, I’ve been busy working on several tasks. I’m editing a 160+ page document called the Human Services Strategic Plan, which is full of research about the Charlottesville community. Using all this research, CCF has come up with 3 priorities that will be implemented in the community (such as the needs for early educational child care and youth development for teens). I’ve already learned so much about the public policy side of Charlottesville, which I could never learn in a textbook.
I can’t believe that I’m already halfway through my internship at CCF — as they say, time flies when you’re having fun! Or perhaps a better explanation is that time flies when you’re busy. Each day when I leave, I look forward to coming back the next day because I know there are important tasks for me to complete. There’s never a dull moment!
Earlier this summer, I edited a huge document called the Human Services Strategic Plan. That’s finished, so I’m working on (literally) dozens of other tasks. I’m collecting data for a booklet called Stepping Stones and updating the "What’s There To Do After School" guides of free and low-cost activities for students. I’ve also volunteered to translate these packets into Spanish, which is very exciting for me. I’m calling child care providers to create a database of the costs and hours of various programs to help mothers find affordable care. On Friday mornings, I attend FAPT meetings (Family Assessment and Planning Team), in which a team reviews the most expensive foster care cases and makes sure that children and living in the best arrangements possible. On Wednesdays, I attend CHINS meetings (Child in Need of Supervision), and this team reviews truancy cases and comes up with a plan to get a child back in school. Next week I’ll start interviewing the truant students and their families to get their feedback about the CHINS process. Since a lot of my tasks involve computer programs and phone calls, I look forward to talking to these families in person.
I’ve also gotten to know my coworkers better. Of the 7-8 staff members, 3 are clinical psychologists, the field that I plan to enter after I complete graduate school. Our lunch hour is filled with psychology, from discussions about research to therapy. Even these casual discussions have helped me determine exactly which career path I’ll take after graduation from UVA.
I’ve had the most amazing summer at the Commission on Children and Families! I can’t believe I’ve been interning here since May. I’m very sad to leave all my wonderful coworkers, but I’ll surely visit them for lunch many times this semester.
I’ve worked on several interesting projects. Recently, I’ve been able to interview students and their families face-to-face about the CHINS process at CCF. Students are sometimes sent to court for being truant from school, and the students and their families must meet with our CHINS Team (Child In Need of Services/Supervision) to develop a plan to improve the student’s attendance. I’ve had the opportunity to join these meetings and have learned a great deal about the range of struggles that families may encounter. I’ve also joined FAPT Team meetings (Family Assessment and Planning) almost every week over the summer. These meetings review foster care cases and approve funding for the children and their families. It’s a perfect mix of psychology and public policy, two fields that fascinate me.
Last week I was invited to attend a Site Visit, in which my coworker visits residential treatment centers around Virginia to check on Charlottesville teens that are temporarily living in those centers. Teens often live in residential settings due to mental illness or extreme family problems, so living in a residential setting is a healthier environment for these teens. We drove to Richmond to visit several Charlottesville teens and toured the center. During our visit we also participated in a Treatment Team meeting with therapists, doctors, and teachers at the center to determine if this particular site was the best placement for the teens.
Aside from the opportunity to participate in confidential meetings, I’ve learned a great deal about Charlottesville’s local government and service agencies. I’ve called dozens of these agencies to conduct phone interviews, update information online guides and databases, and for other research.
The most valuable aspect of my internship has been, as I call it, "101 lunch dates." Every few days, I’ve scheduled informal "lunch dates" with one of my coworkers, and I spend our lunch hour listening to "Crystal 101" or "Gretchen 101," a summary of their past jobs, professional goals, and career advice. Each of my coworkers has taken a different career path, and each has different passions connected to the human services field. I believe that this diversity is valuable to Charlottesville, since each of these individuals can specialize in a position that truly interests him or her. I can’t wait until I can return to CCF!