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Social work program hosts forum on families, children

Abeel, Kimberly | Monday, April 11, 2005

The students of Saint Mary’s social work program hosted a community forum Friday addressing current issues pertaining to families and children. The forum, planned primarily by the 20 students of Social Work and Anthropology professor Frances Kominkiewicz’s Human Behavior and Social Environment II class, addressed healthcare, education and child protection in the South Bend, Michiana and Indiana communities.”We hope to give people the power of knowledge of the issues and of how we can come together to resolve the issues. My hope is that this event will serve as a springboard for future efforts that will eventually bring resolution,” Kominkiewicz said. “The forum is a way we can work with the community to solve these issues.”The HBSE II class plans the forum annually, but this year’s event is especially unique given its topic. In past years the department has won awards for its extensive efforts in the area of gerontology. This year, however, the students decided to address issues affecting children and families.A significant amount of work in the course is directed toward organizing this forum. Students in the class conducted extensive research to select and prepare constructive topics, seeking input from local social service agencies, including South Bend area high schools and the Center for the Homeless.To choose speakers for the event, students gave presentations and voted on what perspectives they thought would be most beneficial. Speakers for the forum included John Broden, Indiana state senator; Carolyn Hahn, Executive Director of the South Bend Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education (CASIE); Charles Smith, Director of the Division of Families and Children of St. Joseph County; Patricia Hancock, a Saint Mary’s visiting professor; and Lilia Periquet, former part-time faculty member and field instructor for the Saint Mary’s social work program. Kominkiewicz said students benefited greatly from their work on the forum.”The students really developed leadership and did an outstanding job in putting this event together,” Kominkiewicz said.Junior Megan Kennedy said she enjoyed organizing the event.”It went really well and we had an amazing turnout,” Kennedy said. “There was a lot of support from both in and outside of the social work program and it was great to form connections so many influential community members outside of the College as well.”For junior Jessica Jarvis, the most enjoyable part of the class was “the community atmosphere and how everyone took an active role in putting things together.”Jarvis said she hoped the forum would have a positive impact.”I hope that this helped promote networking between agencies in the community, the College, and residents of the area,” Jarvis said.As for future efforts, the department will continue working in this area and communicate progress made by the forum with the use of an e-mail list and various community update procedures.