Alumna Questionnaire: Rachel
- What was your major and minor at UW-Green Bay, and in what year did you graduate? Do you have a graduate degree (MS/PhD), and, if so, in what field?
I was a Psychology and Human Development double major at UW-Green Bay and I graduated in May 2010. I currently do not have a graduate degree, however I plan on returning to school next fall to obtain my MSW.
- What is your current job and how would you briefly describe what you do?
My current job is with Family Services. I work at the Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center as an Advocate/Prevention Specialist. My role is split, however I primarily serve as the prevention specialist. To best explain my role, I need to explain the Child Advocacy Center (CAC). A CAC is made up of multi-disciplinary team (MDT) typically including representatives from Law Enforcement, Child Protection Services, the District Attorney's office, a Forensic Interviewer, an Advocate, Nurse Practitioner, Therapist and any other professional who could be beneficial in serving the child. Children are referred to the CAC from Law Enforcement and CPS when there have been allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, or when the child has been a witness to a crime or removed from a drug endangered home. When a child has experience one of these prior things, we consider that child to be a victim of child maltreatment. While child maltreatment is a similar term to child abuse, it is a broader and more encompassing term. A forensic interviewer who is trained to interview children speaks with the child in a research based, non-leading, non-biased, developmentally appropriate manner while the MDT watches the interview in another room. The advocates provide emotional support to non-offending caregivers during the interview and follows-up with the family to provide additional resources, referrals, emotional and legal support throughout the process. Before the family leaves the CAC they have the opportunity to sit down with the MDT and ask any questions they have about the interview and the process following the interview. Our CAC has a medical suite and therapy on-site. We recommend a medical evaluation to all children who make disclosure and other children in the same abuse environment. This is sometimes done for evidentiary purposes, but most often as a healing process for the child so they can be reassured their body is healthy. Therapy is also offered to families who would like to utilize therapy options. Following the interview, Law Enforcement and CPS proceed with their investigations and make investigative decisions based on the information disclosed during the interview. Our goal at the CAC is to provide the children with a comfortable, home-like environment. By recording the interview we are hopefully decreasing the amount of times a child has to speak about their abuse experience, therefore reducing the revictimization. Ultimately, our goal is to have abusers take plea agreements and the child avoiding having to testify against their maltreater.
In my role as an advocate, I provide emotional support, referrals, and follow-up with the family throughout the court process or they feel their needs have been met. In my role as a prevention specialist, I provide education in schools and other venues about child maltreatment. In schools, I education children about what child abuse is-physical abuse and sexual abuse, what to do if they are being abused, how to identify safe adults, and what to do if they need help. For older students I also speak about bullying, sexual harassment, victim dynamics, primary prevention, and community resources. I also present to adults in a variety of roles such as; treatment foster home parents, students going into the human services field, and teachers. This education allows people who are frequently in contact with children to identify children at risk for child maltreatment and provides them with the tools to properly support a child who may be experiencing child maltreatment.
- How do you use your human development and/or psychology education in your current job? If you do not, please explain.
I use my human development and psychology degree frequently in my field. To understand the complexity of child maltreatment, it is important that I understand the child's developmental stage, the child's emotional stage, how people experience trauma and abuse, the interaction of mental health problems and child maltreatment. These are things I learned in trainings and have built on my educational foundation. To have the foundation of human developmental stages in crucial for me to best serve clients. Also, a comprehensive and basic understanding of psychology and the impact it plays on our day-to-day life helps me understand my client's needs.
- Was this your first job upon graduation? If not, what was your first job?
This was not my first job following graduation. I worked two part time jobs after graduation. One job was with Encompass as a day care worker, the other with Innovative Services as a personal care worker. I had previously done child care type work and expected to easily find a job within that specific field. However, I had never done anything similar to a personal care worker. When I took these positions I knew the CAC would be opening in late 2010, however I did not know the exact date, when they would start hiring, or if I would be hired. I was hoping those jobs would just be temporary.
- What kinds of things did you do as a student (e.g., specific classes taken, independent studies, working with your advisor or career services, volunteer work, part-time jobs) that you believe made you successful in your job search and/or competitive as a job candidate? Is there anything you didn’t do, that you wish you had done?
I think the most important thing that helped me be successful in my job search was getting an internship my senior year. I found the internship listed on PRO and contacted Dr. Bartell to see if she would be willing to supervise my internship with the Sexual Assault Center. She agreed, and I set up an interview with the Sexual Assault Center. My internship there gave me an incredible opportunity to apply my classroom knowledge in a professional, community agency. It truly gave me invaluable work experience. While there are classes and part-time jobs that I believe assisted me with what I do now, I thoroughly credit my internship alone for helping me get the job I currently have. If I had not received the support from faculty members and staff members at my internship I do not believe I would have this job.
There were some classes I particularly enjoyed and some that have truly benefited me in my job. I feel that Drugs and Behavior was an important class. It has helped me better understand how the brain works under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This is useful because many of the children we work with may have been in homes where they were exposed to drugs or alcohol. Abnormal psychology and clinical child psychology were also both important classes for me to take. They have allowed me to get familiar with diagnosis and treatment plans. This allows me to communicate and understand what information a therapist has and how I can present information most effectively to them. They also gave me an understanding of the impact of mental health problems. Family Development allowed me the opportunity to better understand family dynamics and the impact that family development can have on clients. Death, dying, and loss has significantly benefited the cases I have where there has been a death due to child maltreatment or homicide, usually domestic violence. My understanding of children's developmental stages and their ability to deal with and describe grief, death, and the trauma they are experiencing is crucial to assist surviving family members in supporting the children throughout the grief process. Culture, development, and health allowed me the opportunity to become more culturally competent. I valued learning more about a variety of cultures. I feel this knowledge has allowed me the opportunity to understand and better respect different cultural background my clients have. The cultural background can also play a significant role in the process of how the child discloses, how the family reacts, and the support, or lack of support, provided to the victim. As I look at my transcripts, I am finding more and more classes that shape and provide a foundation for my work experience. It is important to remember gaining knowledge to take a test is quite different that practical application of the knowledge. Volunteer work and part-time jobs are also excellent opportunities to establish community connections. They allow you the opportunity to learn more about the variety of work in the field and find what interest you most. In my experience, many work places and volunteer sites have recommended strong part-time employees or volunteers for career type positions after the student has completed their education.
- What advice would you give to current UW-Green Bay human development and/or psychology students with regard to making the most of their education and making themselves maximally competitive for employment post-graduation?
The BEST advice I would give to a current human development/psychology student is get an internship. Had I not pursued my internship I doubt I would have been successful in finding a job to truly engage and push my interest and passions. Involvement in on-campus activities and psychology/human development groups is important to establish a connection with professors. If there was one thing I would have done more of this would have been it. I was involved on-campus, had good attendance and participation in class, however I would have made more of a point to establish a connection with professors outside of the classroom.