I was introduced to Indiana Family to Family (INF2F) through my Master of Social Work program at Indiana State University. Because of the large amount of internship hours required for Social Work students, the Indiana State University School of Social Work has developed partnerships with many local and statewide agencies that provide students with internship experiences based on their focus and interests. I have a personal background and interest in working with the disability community, and so it made perfect sense for me to have an internship placement with INF2F.
I was first introduced to the disability community by my neighbors, a couple who worked at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and coached a blind sport called Goalball. They introduced me to this sport and convinced me to join their team my freshman year of high school. I played Goalball for all four years of high school, and through the sport also met my first serious boyfriend, who happened to be blind. We dated for two years and through that time, I was able to hear and witness the struggles he experienced due to his disability. At one point he shared with me how his teachers and other school faculty told him that he would get his certificate of completion (not a diploma or a GED) and that was all he would accomplish in life because he and his brothers and friends would act out. I can pin-point the start of my Social Work journey to the injustice of that story.
In fact, I decided then to pursue a Social Work degree and career with a focus on School Social Work because I felt so strongly that no teacher, principle, school faculty, or even parent should be telling a student of any age, any ability, any background, any temperament, or any anything that they will amount to less than the bare minimum or even amount to nothing at all. I decided then that I was going to insert myself into the school setting, where most child and adolescent development occurs, and become a pillar of support for kids and teens who may not be getting that support from anywhere else.
In addition to my education, I also have experience working as a Participant Assistive Care (PAC) Provider through the Indiana Medicaid Waiver program. My time as a PAC Provider was, without a doubt, my favorite and the most rewarding job I have ever had. I would happily go back if I could (either with my previous clients or even with new clients). It was eye-opening for me to see how each client differed from the next from their needs to their presenting symptoms and diagnoses. This experience gave me a glimpse of what it looks like on the family side of things and how additional healthcare and education needs impact the family dynamics.
My educational and personal experiences came full circle working as an intern for INF2F. Working alongside parents of children with disabilities in creating resources for parents of children with disabilities allowed me to get a behind-the-scenes look at what my clients and client families go through. It opened my eyes to the non-traditional side of Social Work and disability advocacy. While I didn’t get to experience client interaction as an intern, I did get to experience a completely different- but equally important- side of the work that is getting done at INF2F. I loved working with the INF2F team to develop creative ideas for a potential plan to build our volunteer base and encourage continued family engagement. It has been so informative to learn about and understand the analytics behind our website and social media to improve outreach, as well as having the opportunity to explore and familiarize myself with our extensively researched fact sheets and trainings. I was also given the opportunity to represent INF2F at trainings and a conference and encourage our work with the Trailblazer’s Project alongside Purdue University College of Pharmacy.
I am so honored to have had this opportunity to work with INF2F, and I am so grateful for the ways the staff have supported and encouraged me. Working with INF2F has been one of the best experiences of my education. I feel that I have not only grown as a professional, but also as an individual moving forward in the world.