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Stories from the Field: Social Work Student Supporting Youth Agency

Much like social workers around the country, students from the Tulane University School of Social Work are finding innovative ways to support the needs of individuals, families, and communities.

Ashley E. Barrett is pursuing a Master of Social Work degree online and was engaging in that environment before Tulane temporarily transitioned on-campus learning to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As a resident of Indiana, she performs her required field education with the Youth Services Bureau of Monroe County (YSB), whose mission is to support youth and families through advocacy, education, collaboration, and fostering community connections.

Established in 1972 and now part of Monroe County Government, YSB offers emergency shelter services for youth ages 8 to 17, operates as a national safe place site, provides community-based counseling, and has a prevention team that addresses root causes in the community.

Ashley’s role at YSB consists of both clinical and prevention responsibilities. “With the clinical team, I co-facilitate an adolescent substance use and trauma group as well as provide case management to a small cohort of youth involved in a supportive work program in partnership with a local food pantry and community garden,” Ashley says. 

In her prevention work, she is an Implicit Bias and Trauma 101 trainer in a network supported by YSB that is aimed at addressing root causes of issues.  “Each training offers an introduction to the content alongside opportunities for participants to explore policy and practice changes at the organizational level,” she says. 
Both Implicit Bias and Trauma training are offered through YSB’s communities of practice, which are cross-sector teams that build and improve curriculum, create learning cohorts, and offer training through the community.

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, YSB has taken several steps to continue providing services to youth and families as well as to its community while following CDC guidelines for operating an essential service during a time of crisis. “Like most individuals not working directly in our youth shelter, I have been working from home for the last couple of weeks,” Ashley says. “We have been preparing to provide our trainings in an online format and are in the process of moving our adolescent substance use and trauma group to Zoom.” 

Ashley has also been assisting the Prevention Coordinator with applying for a federal grant that would allow YSB to expand its prevention efforts. “Working from home presents its own challenges, but my animals are loving the extra attention, and we are all doing the best we can,” she says.

Ashley appreciates being able to support YSB as part of her social work education. “YSB is fully committed to empowering and promoting resilience among the youth and families we serve while also making our community a more equitable one for all of its members,” she says. “From the direct care staff to the admin team, they are some of the most dedicated and compassionate humans I have had the pleasure to work alongside.”