March is Social Work Month, and we want to celebrate the current and future social workers who support our students. Social workers play a critical role in the child welfare system and are often an important part of our scholars’ lives.  

In 2010, Pivotal created an internship program to help new social workers-in-training learn about the nuances of working with foster youth. We train undergraduate and graduate students in social work programs to be Pivotal coaches, working with universities like San José State, California State East Bay, San Francisco State, and UC Berkeley. 

Cynthia Jackson, a first-year MSW student at California State East Bay and social work intern coach, highlights the program's profound impact. "I came in knowing the removal process can be brutal," she says. “Pivotal’s training allowed me to see the true context of what young people in foster care are going through. We learned what the foster care system is, what happens when a young person enters it, the professionals involved in a foster youth’s life, and the role they each play.”  

Social work intern coach Lena Strickling hopes to eventually become a pediatric hospital social worker. She was excited to work with Pivotal as part of her MSW program at San José State University because it gave her the opportunity to work with scholars at different stages in their education. “I’ve worked with foster youth for the last three years, but primarily with younger children,” says Lena. “This has been a really great opportunity to work with people with a wide range of ages and experience in the foster care system. The training and group supervision we receive at Pivotal really helped me feel confident in doing the work.” 

Like all Pivotal coaches, intern coaches offer trauma-informed support and guidance to help their students identify goals and build a path to educational and career success.  

Our scholars consistently highlight the positive impact of having a university student as their coach as they can provide near-peer experience and be role models for what our scholars may want to do in the future.  

Intern coaches have been a vital part of Pivotal’s programs for 14 years. This year, seven intern coaches from San José State University and CSU-East Bay are serving 90 scholars. Collaboration with these and other Bay Area schools of social work remains integral to the success of the internship program. Intern coaches receive intensive training at the beginning of the academic year and weekly training and supervision. This high-quality training is fundamental to supporting our scholars effectively and understanding the impact of trauma and the barriers they may be dealing with outside school.   

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This is evident in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the interns themselves. “I feel really lucky to have Chelsea as my Field Instructor,” says Lena. “We have such great conversations and she’s always there to answer any questions I have or work with me when I’m struggling.” 

The theme of Social Work Month 2024 is Empowering Social Workers, and we hope that Pivotal’s supportive environment and comprehensive training allows our social work intern coaches to gain valuable skills and experiences while bringing their own diverse skillsets to the work. Many former interns have gone on to have fulfilling careers in public child welfare, schools, and mental health agencies. And some choose to stay at Pivotal where they can continue to advocate for educational equity for foster youth and to empower them to become self-reliant and independent young adults.