By Krista Day
I chose to do an internship with the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) because I have always felt that it is our responsibility as human beings to help one another. In particular, it is our responsibility to help the youth, who will become society’s next leaders. My internship at DSS has developed my knowledge of social work and its many components far more than any classroom lecture could have. With the generous donation from Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Haddad, I was able to make the most out of my internship.
Going into this internship, I had no idea there were so many aspects of social work. There are multiple departments within the agency, and each play a vital role in the greater scheme of things. During my time with DSS, I was able to experience a few different departments within the agency. I worked with Intensive Foster Care, Assessment, and Licensing. This internship allowed me the opportunity to grow my professional knowledge about what each department I worked with was responsible for, which then led me to decide which department was the best fit for me. While all proved to have their strengths and weakness, I found myself drawn to the Assessment department.
The workers in Assessment are responsible for investigating reports of alleged child abuse or neglect, and either finding that there is enough evidence to get DSS involved or leaving the case unfounded. Through the Assessment department, I have gotten to witness a multitude of scenarios that I never thought I would. I have accompanied caseworkers on school visits with the children who are allegedly in danger as well as home visits with their alleged perpetrators of abuse and neglect. Due to the diversity of those I have visited with, I have learned how to communicate with people of different tempers, mindsets, and backgrounds.
With this in mind, I have learned how to keep composure when clients raise their voices or become visibly irritated with a caseworker. In many cases, the adult who was accused of abuse or neglect began to lash out at a caseworker. Even though it would be easy to get frustrated with this, I have learned that it is best to remain composed in order to finish the interview. I have learned that when a caseworker comes off as equable rather than accusatory, information is easier to attain. Over the course of the semester I spent with DSS, I went to both low-income areas and high-income areas to conduct interviews with families with reported abuse or neglect. I have witnessed first-hand that abuse and neglect is blind. It does not cling to one income-level like is so commonly believed within society. DSS taught me the importance of due diligence, and how crucial it is to look into every case with the same caution.
This was my first real office environment experience as well. I observed how all of the departments worked together to get a case founded or unfounded and then transferred to the next department. While going out into the field was the exciting part of my time at DSS, I also learned the importance of office time. There are multiple documents that needed to be gathered and organized, and with one document missing, the entire investigation could have been thrown off.
My internship with DSS allowed me to step out of my comfort zone in order to learn the valuable lessons with social work. Had I not done this internship, I would have never known how much I truly enjoyed working with the clients that DSS assists. In addition, I am ever grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Haddad for their generosity in helping me attain the first step of my dream career. Since this internship, I have applied to complete a Masters of Social Work at the University of South Carolina so that I can further help the youth of this great state.
Krista Day is the 2019 recipient of the Richard A. and Shannon W. Haddad Sociology Internship Award.