Last year, a group of graduate students in the Counseling Program at Arcadia University came together to assist a recent graduate in need of help with a local organization she was leading. This June, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA) will recognize those students for their acts of service.
For their project, “Development and Evaluation of a Parenting Workshop for Foster Families,” Brooke Garwood ’15M, Christina Schneider ’15M, and Lisa Brutko ’15M will receive the PPA Graduate Students Community Service Project Award for 2014 during the Student and Early Career Psychologist Awards Ceremony at the June 18-21 PPA annual convention in Harrisburg.
Guided by Dr. Michael Morrow, assistant professor of psychology, Garwood, Schneider, and Brutko have been collaborating since spring 2013 with the Montgomery County Foster Parent Association (MCFPA), an organization that serves 121 foster families. Morrow and the students met with counseling program graduate Jan Lineberger ’13M, then-president of MCFPA, to discuss ways to improve the training foster parents were receiving.
“We maintain very strong connections with our graduates, and faculty frequently collaborate with alumni on various projects in the community,” Morrow said. “Jan had specifically contacted me to see if students would be interested in working with the MCFPA and learning about this unique population of families, as well as the services and systems that support them.” Morrow added that he had selected the three students based on their expressed interest in gaining experience leading workshops and trainings.
After meeting with Lineberger to determine the organization’s needs, the students conducted a survey to assess the foster parents’ interest in multiple behavioral health topics. They then created three workshops based on behavioral health issues parents indicated as most important.
“We developed each workshop by reviewing the theoretical and research literature, as well as evidence-based interventions like parent management training and attachment-based therapies,” said Morrow.
As president, Lineberger, who was an MCFPA member for four years prior to relocating with her family to N.C. this May, incorporated the students’ workshops into a monthly training series.
“The high quality workshops aided foster parents not only in learning about mental health issues but also in providing an environment where foster parents felt comfortable to talk about the issues they face,” said Lineberger. “All of the students were professional and incredibly cognizant of and sensitive to the unique issues faced by foster parents and the children they care for.”
According to its website, PPA annually awards one group of graduate students in Pennsylvania for a community service project “utilizing psychological principles for the betterment of those who live in the community.” While both appreciative and proud of the recognition his group is receiving, Morrow believes the most substantial reward comes from the chance students have to work in the field.
“This type of collaboration provides students with important experience developing and evaluating programs for specific populations in need,” said Morrow. “It is also a wonderful opportunity for students to practice their counseling skills.”