Field Spotlight: Lois, Victor, and Jacqueline, Clackamas Co Social Services
Jacquelyn Najera and Victor Garcia both recently completed their 1st year of the Master of Social Work program field placements with Lois Orner at Clackamas County Social Services, in varying roles. What they found in Lois’ supervision style deepened and enhanced their individual and collective experiences in field in ways they could not have anticipated.
Jacquelyn’s internship was in The Senior Companion Program as a case manager. The program was originally created as a workforce development program for people starting careers later in life but has evolved to meet the changing needs of the community. The Senior Companion Program trains participants to travel and give services to their elderly peers, like running errands, taking them to their appointments, helping with small house tasks, and overall companionship. Reflecting on her work in field over the year, Jacquelyn highlights spending time shadowing the Companions on visits with their peer clients as well as utilizing her role to ensure service delivery and solicit meaningful feedback.
Jacquelyn contextualizes that much of the growth she experienced in her field placement can be attributed to Lois’s strong supervision. Jacquelyn says of Lois, “She prioritizes supervision, she is an open and transparent person, and models excellent boundaries and also models how a strong supervisor/supervisee relationship should look.” Jacquelyn experienced a sense of personal safety within the supervisory relationship, and trusted that she could discuss her experiences in field as a woman of color. Jacquelyn attributes this to Lois initially bringing up identity differences between them, as well as how whiteness and racism might show up at the placement. As a student of color interning in a predominantly white organization, Lois leading this conversation and acknowledging the dynamics that Jacquelyn might experience made a significant impact on Jacquelyn and increased her trust in Lois.
Victor was an intern in the Clackamas County Social Service Homeless Outreach/Veterans program. In his role at the County, Victor interfaced with vets of all ages (from Korean War to Operation Iraqi Freedom) and assessed the duration of an individual’s experience of homelessness and their poverty level. Victor focused on working with dishonorable discharges who do not have access to VA benefits. Victor assisted in placing people on housing registries, helped participants obtain driver’s license and identifications cards and register for SNAP benefits, and walk through the process of applying for and obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. To interact with more vulnerable and hard-to-reach members of the veteran community, Victor conducted a significant amount of outreach under bridges, abandoned parking lots and other areas this initial outreach took him to. Using his rapport-building skills, insider knowledge as a veteran himself, and contacts he gained through community outreach, he was able to locate hard-to-find vets and connect them to resources.
As a first year MSW student, Victor struggled to find belonging in the School of Social Work until he started his internship. He was then able to see the importance of his role in removing barriers for participants, advocating for their needs, and enacting social change.
As a first year MSW student, Victor struggled to find belonging in the School of Social Work until he started his internship with Lois. He then experienced everything “clicking into place” and was able to see the importance of his role in removing barriers for participants, advocating for their needs, and enacting social change. As a veteran himself, Victor was able to confront his previous biases around dishonorable discharges, which is an experience he calls “invaluable.”
Victor utilized supervision as a safe space to bring experiences of racism while in the community and discuss the impact on him and the larger implications for the community. Lois did not minimize his experience and talked to him upfront about racism, both perpetuated by participants as well as by fellow service providers.
Lois experienced Victor and Jacquelyn as wonderful to supervise. As interns, they both came in curious, with a deep desire to learn, and with so much energy. Lois says they were amazing interns because she learned so much from them and they both have left such a deep impact on their respective programs through their efforts and meaningful work. Lois identifies her approach to supervision as: “I can’t fix it, but I can be honest about it.” She understands the deep importance of witnessing experiences of marginalization and oppression and both naming that experience and creating space to talk about it. Lois identifies that the strength she brings to supervision is acknowledging how much she does not yet know, and her willingness to learn constantly from her interns. She is deeply grateful for her year with Victor and Jacquelyn and for future interns – students keep her honest and grounded, and continuously learning.
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