Meredith Lane and Laura Bauer had different reasons for choosing the Management & Community Practice Track. Meredith knew before applying to UA Little Rock School of Social Work that she wanted to start an advocacy program for people with disabilities. Laura realized during her first year that she was interested in education, awareness, and prevention. Despite the difference in goals, both are excited about their MSW Management & Community Practice internship with Partners for Inclusive Communities in North Little Rock.
Partners is part of a nationwide network created and funded through the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. Their mission is to support individuals with disabilities and families of children with disabilities to fully and meaningfully participate in community life, effect systems change, prevent disabilities, and promote healthy lifestyles. David Deere, LCSW, and Vanessa Smith, LCSW, serve as the students’ field instructors at Partners. Both have been working at Partners since they graduated from UA Little Rock’s MSW program and both were interns there. David said that intern work varies at Partners, but that he tries to encourage interns to identify areas of interests and develop skills accordingly. Vanessa said that beyond the basic skills and values needed to be a social worker, she hopes that interns at Partners learn to empower others and respect self-determination for all people.
According to Laura and Meredith, one of the biggest surprises about Partners is the level of autonomy granted to interns. One of Laura’s projects involves teaching healthy lifestyles to individuals with developmental delays. Laura and her field instructor quickly realized that material would need to be modified for those who could not read. “It required a lot of on-the-spot thinking, one to one training, and creative thinking,” Laura said- and she was allowed the freedom to develop those skills in finding a solution.
Meredith is currently working with the Housing Trust Fund of Arkansas (a program that provides money for lower income families) as part of a series of listening tours and outreach meetings to recruit advocates, gather input, and provide education about the program. Meredith said that working from home through text messages, phone calls, and email has allowed her—and Laura—the flexibility needed while challenging them to manage time and workload efficiently.