Lili Glauber an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work whose innovative curriculum on the child welfare system allows New York City social work university students to learn about the child welfare system by directly engaging with the narratives of young people who have transitioned out of foster care.
Two years ago, I piloted a teaching project wherein I co taught a course on the child welfare system with young adults who recently transitioned out of foster care. The rationale for my project stems from the belief that foster care alumni are experts on the system—they know it from the inside out—and their voices, stories, insights, and lived experiences ought to be prioritized in social work school classrooms toward improving the child welfare system overall, as well as student learning on the topic.
In previous semesters, foster care alumni lecturers reported feeling affirmed and valued after sharing their knowledge with students. They also reported feeling hopeful about making a positive difference for other youth in the system as a result of speaking about their experiences with social work students. Likewise, students reported that conversations with foster care alumni in our class were deeply impactful, and enriched their overall learning.
There’s so much tragedy and pain and suffering in the foster-care system, from the moment a case is open through a young person’s trajectory through the system, for so many different reasons. And this project is Awesome because it’s a counter to that. It gives people a chance to get compensated for sharing their knowledge and make the system a better place for students who are making the world a better place through their service. That’s not that much in the world of foster care that is a light on the horizon like this. It’s very rare to find that.
If you are an educator in a social work school program, or a related educational program, and you would like to host foster care alumni as guest lecturers in your classrooms, or if you just want get involved or learn more about this initiative, please get in touch: FCalumnieducators@gmail.com
Some testimonials from foster care alumni and students:
"Being in conversation with foster care alumni in our class was an incredible learning opportunity, which deepened my understanding and critical thinking about topics covered in class by centering the voices of those impacted in a really powerful way." -- DF, MS candidate at Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) and student in the Child Welfare System course, Spring 2020.
"Whenever I have left class after guest lecturing, I have felt peaceful, and like a human. I appreciate this experience and I love talking to the students about possible changes to the foster care system that would improve the lives in kids in care." -- JR, NYC foster care alumni and returning guest lecturer at CSSW.
"I was so grateful for the voices from foster care alumni in our class, because each story helped me realize the subjectivity of the system and how complicated it is to make policies that will bring about overarching good when each person's needs and desires are so different. It was also really interesting and helpful to learn about how foster care alumni adapted to being inside the system-- whether that meant helping others or figuring out loopholes in the system, and how these choices impacted their lives going forward. Maybe most helpful though, was learning about what specific changes foster care alumni would like to see for other system-involved youth in the future." -- AS, MS candidate at CSSW and student in the Child Welfare System course, Spring, 2020.
"Guest lecturing at Columbia School of Social Work has given me a better way to deal with my own foster care experience. Talking about my experience in care and telling students about how I think the system can do better for children and youth in care now is very empowering." -- JK, NYC foster care alumni and returning guest lecturer at CSSW
Funded by New York City, NY (January 2021)