Gradi Moore is the youngest student currently in field placement with NAU’s Child Welfare Training Project – a federally-funded scholarship program, committed to recruiting and training bachelor’s-level social workers to be competent Child Protective Services professionals. We interviewed her on the day of her first unsupported case call on behalf of a minor client.
Gradi, what brought you to the Child Welfare Training Project?
I am interested in the CWTP because I’m interested in working with children. Especially younger children being adopted, because this is the age range that most affects who you’re going to become. I want to be that person the child remembers when they’re forty years old… “I went through some hard times, but I had this one person that cared about me, advocated for my needs and what needed to happen.”
I was always told to have a voice, and that my voice matters. These kids in foster care and treatment centers need to know that their voices matter too.
One person can change the world – it might not be the whole world, but it’s someone’s world. Working with DCS, you have the opportunity to make these children’s worlds better. I was always told to have a voice, and that my voice matters. These kids in foster care and treatment centers need to know that their voices matter too.
Who was your advocate? Who encouraged your voice?
My legal guardians growing up, from the time I was two years old and said, “no I don’t want to stay with my biological mom”. They trusted me and what I said. Their response encouraged me to speak honestly, and allowed me to know that I was being heard, that my voice mattered.
What age range do you work with?
Personally, I work with young teenagers. Other interns work with children from a couple months old to seventeen. It’s funny – I’m only nineteen, and I was selected to work with the oldest kids. Great… we listen to the same music…!
How do you want to make a difference?
If you’re put into foster care at five or older, it may impact you more. You’ve built a relationship with your biological parents, while a younger child might find it easier to separate. Ultimately, I want to be a school social worker. Being a school social worker with them, you’re going to be the person they see every day.
How did you wind up in NAU’s Social Work program?
The summer before my senior year of high school, I went to South America on a mission retreat – built houses, helped get clean water, etc for impoverished areas. After I got back from that trip, I got really depressed being back home. We’d spent over a month helping other people, and then you come back to a small town where nobody cares about anyone else (at my age, at least). That was the epiphany moment when I realized I needed to help people.
Initially, I applied to NAU as a business major, hoping to work with nonprofits. Two weeks in, I changed to social work. I told my high school about my decision…. All of my high school teachers said, “Duh.” Haha!
Julie Fritzler. She’s the field director, and was also the first teacher I had in the SW program. She worked with children in Illinois. She brought a lot of her personal experiences into the classroom. I learned about the Project freshman year, applied my first semester of sophomore year… even now, I call my mom and say, “Julie’s not just a faculty member – she’s my best friend. Everything she’s done in her life, she’s really inspirational.”
Social work is very…. You can’t learn about it from a book. You have to learn by doing, and talking about it. This program is actually preparing us for what we’ll be doing as professionals. We’re actually able to be in these kids’ lives. We’re now a part of their story.
What did you think you would get out of the Child Welfare Training Project?
Of course I expected the tuition reimbursement, and the safety of knowing I’d have a job on graduation was a big relief. I knew this project was going to prepare me to do what I will be doing when I actually work with DCS. I did not expect I would actually be working with DCS now. I expected a study/learning environment, but we’re actually responsible for these people. That’s kinda scary…
You talk about the level of responsibility you’ve taken on as somewhat scary. What is it like to encounter that fear in this setting?
We have a lot of support from our case managers, as well as our teachers. We are able to talk about what we experience in our field seminars. It’s really beneficial to do your field placement as you’re taking classes, because you do talk about it. It’s good to look back on… to reflect.
Social work… this department as a whole is so supportive, and so empathetic. [The professors] are really there for you. They have experience. They have stories they can tell you. They can support you, because they’ve been through this. Social work is very…. You can’t learn about it from a book. You have to learn by doing, and talking about it. This program is actually preparing us for what we’ll be doing as professionals. We’re actually able to be in these kids’ lives. We’re now a part of their story.
What’s next, and are you prepared?
Well… I like to plan things out, and we’re not going to know where we’re placed until 3-4 weeks before we graduate. That’s the worst thing I can think of. Having to wait, and to worry about where you’re going to land… you might not get to go where you want, and that’s the worst. You’re going to help people wherever you go, but you definitely need to be ready to put away your expectations. I’m really nervous about that, but, I think we’re prepared as a whole.
Today you had a big moment. Tell me about it.
We are just starting to do casework on our own, without as much supervision as before, so we are actually becoming the ones that are responsible to advocate for our clients’ needs, and to be there for the children. That really came to light today, while my supervisor was offsite. There was no one else present to speak about the events in my child’s life. My voice mattered, because I was the only one that could express the situation effectively.
It’s a cool feeling, advocating for someone. Being trusted is huge – I went on my first unsupervised home visits with special-needs kids two weeks ago. I may have self-doubts, but my supervisors have trust in me to do this work.
What are you most excited about right now?
Two of my kids [clients] are in Prescott, and Prescott has an in-n-out burger. Next Friday, I get to go to in-n-out! The travel’s not bad, and the experience is important – there’s always something new wherever you’re going.