For over a century, the School of Social Work has built our identity around the strong community ties that shaped our earliest years.
Our centralized field education office helps to keep those bonds strong by reaching out to new organizations, training field instructors and facilitating educational opportunities at home and abroad, making it a model for social work field education in the 21st century.
With the help of our numerous community partners throughout Richmond, the state and beyond, we expose our B.S.W. and M.S.W. students to a wide range of social work perspectives, environments and communities that can sharpen their skills as practitioners and help them find the right fit for those skills. Mutually beneficial, these experiences positively impact both our communities and students.
500+ community organizations partner with us
964 field placements in 2019-20
Students: What to expect from field
Each student is assigned to an agency in the field and will have a field instructor at the agency who is responsible for assigning tasks that provide appropriate learning opportunities. The field instructor also provides ongoing feedback about student performance.
Students also are assigned a faculty field liaison from the VCU School of Social Work. This person is primarily responsible for facilitating student learning that takes place in the field. The field liaison will monitor progress, advocate for appropriate educational opportunities and evaluate student achievements. Learn more about what to expect from field experiences.
We are thankful for our community partners, which include:
FRIENDS Association for Children began in 1871 as an orphanage in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. Currently, FRIENDS serves children ages 6 weeks to 17 years of age with a broad array of services. Through these services, children gain critical literacy and developmental skills needed to succeed in school and in life. Additionally, children achieve a greater understanding and appreciation of their community and the world around them.
Social work student interns work with all age ranges at this placement site: preschool, school-age children, teens and adults. Interns conduct assessments, develop service plans, facilitate groups and provide one-on-one case management and other social work services.
Safe Harbor, a nonprofit in Henrico County, works to serve survivors of sexual and domestic violence. It provides trauma-informed, client-centered community (outpatient) counseling to child and adult trauma survivors, emergency shelter to families in imminent danger due to sexual or domestic violence and court advocacy for those seeking protective orders in Henrico Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. A 24-hour crisis hotline provides resources and help regarding violence.
A B.S.W. senior-year intern would have exposure to counseling referrals, shelter, hotline and RHART shifts (hospital accompaniment to local hospitals for survivors), as well as co-facilitation of support groups.
An M.S.W. clinical intern at Safe Harbor would likely have exposure to an individual counseling caseload of six to eight individuals, children and adults; co-facilitation of a closed sexual violence therapy group or domestic violence group; co-facilitation of a children's domestic violence group; four RHART shifts; engagement in clinical training provided by staff involving trauma-focused play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, sand tray therapy and other expressive art therapies; and significant exposure to trauma-based theories and service delivery.
An M.S.W. macro-track intern would likely have exposure to grant writing and submission, community education and presentation, fund development in nonprofits, community organizing around issues of sexual and domestic violence, policy advocacy and two to four RHART shifts to provide advocacy to survivors in local emergency rooms.
Atlantic Outreach Group exists to empower lives by connecting people to the resources necessary for their success. It strives to bridge the gap between underserviced communities in need of basic resources and those that exist to support them in meeting those needs. Programs include:
- Temporary Emergency Housing: This program provides temporary housing for people experiencing a crisis, partnering with community mental health agencies to provide wraparound support services to assist the client and work toward stabilization.
- Caritas: AOG has partnered with Caritas to provide referrals for new and gently used furniture to families experiencing hardships.
- Food Pantry: The on-site pantry is undergoing expansion to meet the needs of clients. It is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Panera Bread Donations: AOG partners with Panera Bread to provide freshly baked goods to local communities at no cost.
Social work student interns have the opportunity to understand the operations of a nonprofit organization in the human services field, network with business professionals in Richmond and surrounding communities to create sustainable partnerships, gain an in-depth exposure to barriers experienced by the target population due to socioeconomic issues, assist in the preparation and facilitation of programs and services, develop administrative skills and play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of an organization and gain exposure and experience in a professional team and conflict management. The student will also have the opportunity to attend and participate in professional and personal development events and workshops.
The Legal Aid Justice Center provides legal representation for low-income individuals in Virginia. Its mission is to serve those in communities who have the least access to legal resources. The Legal Aid Justice Center is committed to providing a full range of services to clients, including building community involvement. Through local and statewide organizing, education and advocacy, it works to address the root causes of the injustice and exploitation that keep clients in poverty.
Social work student interns work with either of two community organizing groups, one focused on education and the other on housing, on the following activities:
- Community outreach at events, schools, door to door and in other venues
- Issues including public and other assisted housing, public education, special education and juvenile justice
- Collaboration with other community agencies and groups
- Campaign strategy (strategic planning)
- Community meeting preparation and facilitation
- Preparing community leaders for public comment
- Advocacy at the General Assembly and in other venues
Field's impact on our students
Whether they serve with state agencies, assisted-living facilities, community housing organizations or social advocacy groups, our students don’t simply observe social workers in action. They put their passion to use, try the techniques they learn in the classroom in a real-life setting and experience the everyday demands and rewards of social work.
Through this blend of classroom and hands-on experience, our students develop a deep commitment to the profession’s ethical underpinning, which recognizes each individual’s implicit worth and dignity. They also develop the skills needed to understand and evaluate their professional experiences.
No two days in this profession are the same, and yet each experience informs how social workers approach the next. By taking the time to reflect upon these encounters and by developing the tools for meaningful self-reflection, our students commit not only to best practices, but also to the ongoing development of themselves as professionals.
[Students] bring fresh eyes, new perspectives and curiosity [to field experiences]. While this relationship clearly benefits the school, the student and the organization, it most certainly benefits the community – the improved provision of services today and the better prepared professionals of tomorrow.”