By Alyssa Delenardo, MSW
(former NSCSW placement student)
Outside of my comfort zone
Finding a placement as a Master’s of Social Work student is not an easy feat but I was intrigued when I received a call about a placement with the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers. After meeting with Alec, the Executive Director/Registrar, I was excited about the placement and to conduct a community-based research project on child protection service gaps in Nova Scotia. I originally planned to complete a clinical placement specializing in play therapy so this was very different for me!
From my first day, I knew this placement would challenge me and help me grow. I’m from Ontario so I knew absolutely nothing about child protection within Nova Scotia. I had a lot to learn but I had no idea how much I would grow through this placement.
During my initial literature review, it became evident that the child protection service gaps were not unique to NS and they are identifiable throughout Canada. Within the literature review, I came across the Motherisk Scandal. In 2015, Motherisk Labs at the Hospital for Sick Kids was discredited for faulty hair analysis drug test used as evidence in child protection cases. In 2016, many provinces who previously utilized the testing in child protection cases ceased using hair-based drug and alcohol testing.
Unlike Ontario, Nova Scotia’s Department of Community Service’s (DCS) Minister Kelly Regan stated that they would not be conducting an inquiry and will only review individual cases if people came forward. Nova Scotia’s choice not to pursue an inquiry solidified how deeply intertwined it is with other service delivery gaps ranging from managerialism, cultural diversity and structural issues.
After the literature review, I completed many community-based research tasks. I had little research experience outside of class requirements so I was surprised at how much work goes into the initial stages of a project. From a scoping statement, backgrounder, town hall meetings, and narrowing the focus of a broad research topic. Before long my placement time was ending just as the project was starting to take off. Although I did not see the project completed from start to finish, I look forward to seeing how the research evolves.
Through my work with the College, I realized that I am drawn to the non-clinical side of social work. During my master’s degree, I asked acquaintances and friends what their perception is of social workers. Generally, their response was the stereotypical social workers depicted within the media- a clinical social worker or negative stereotypes. Yet social work is a broad profession in which each discipline intertwines and depends on the another.
Where a social worker lands is typically based on interests and personality types. I am drawn to child protection and addictions and I originally I wanted to specialize in play therapy. However, after this placement I realized that I am drawn to policy and research.
Inside the College
This realization came gradually happened as I talked with the team members at the College. I found that I looked forward to going into the placement and getting to know the different members of the team. The best way I could describe the team is a family. Each member challenged me to grow and critically reflect on the child protection project but also on many social work issues.
Each conversation held a different meaning yet I never left the office without food for thought. My placement at the College provided me with an opportunity to learn about the different areas that make the College.
Through Alexandra Nelson, the College’s Regulatory and Applications Administrator, I gained insight into the application process and what happens once the application is received. Through Sherry Battiste, the Regulatory and Candidacy Consultant, I learned about the amount of in-depth of work that goes into the complaints process.
I learned about Nancy Viner’s role as the Executive Assistant where she receives phone calls from members and does the administrative work to support the other team members. I saw how Annemieke Vink, the Professional Practice Consultant, puts a lot of work and dedication into developing professional development events for members. Through the Promotions Coordinator, Collette Deschenes, I learned two things; one communications work is a lot harder than it seems and two there is a lot of work involved. Lastly, I learned how Alec Stratford’s position as the Executive Director/Registrar is one where you need to be personable, knowledgeable and passionate about the profession.
Although the team was extremely busy, especially during March Social Work Month they were never too busy to answer a question, teach me something, or include me in meetings or projects that I could learn from.
Growth gained & passions discovered
During my first meeting with Alec, I never would have guessed that would grow so much in just a few short months. It was such a pleasure meeting and get to know the team at the College, to attend community functions during Social Work month, to observe the AGM and spring conference, conduct research and to cross paths with many wonderful social workers working on different College committees.
Are you starting your masters in the fall or looking for a practicum placement? I would highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and applying for a placement at the College. You just might be in for a surprise and find that your passion lays within the community side of social work- at least I did.