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Holistic Support in Action: Our Social Work Interns’ Journey

In honor of Social Work Month, we’re shining a spotlight on our social work interns, Abigail Epstein and Rhianna Solida, here at South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS). These two have been doing incredible work, helping our clients in ways that go beyond just legal assistance. Their efforts highlight how social work and legal work can come together to make a real difference in people’s lives. By collaborating with our attorneys and staff, Abigail and Rhianna show us the power of teamwork and how different perspectives can lead to better solutions for our clients. As we celebrate Social Work Month, we’re grateful for their dedication and the important role they play in helping us serve our community better.

Abigail Epstein, Social Work Intern

During my time at South Carolina Legal Services, I have been given the opportunity to connect with clients and assist them in accessing resources that would otherwise be unknown to them. The skills I have learned from other staff at SCLS have enabled me to tailor to the unique and individualized needs our clients face. Our Fall project consisted of a Thanksgiving Food drive, in which we communicated with community organizations and businesses to collect the necessary supplies to provide full Thanksgiving dinners for more than fifteen families. Our Spring project consists of us reorganizing and confirming the services of resources available in our community, to comprise a resource list that may be utilized by attorneys and future social work interns at SCLS. Throughout our time at SCLS, we have attended various outreach events in surrounding counties in South Carolina, developed meaningful relationships with agencies and organizations in our community, assisted in housing court, conducted client intakes, written client referral forms, assisted clients with applying for housing and public benefits, and much more.

I will utilize the experiences and skillsets I have gained during my time at SCLS in my future career in various ways. Through working with the clients we serve at SCLS, I have mastered empathetic language and developed an understanding of how to address the unspoken challenges our clients face. Speaking with clients who are experiencing a crisis has afforded me with the ability to intervene in these situations carefully and effectively. Connecting with community partners, organizations, and agencies has allowed me to build constructive relationships with empowering and meaningful insights, preparing me for how to provide clients with resources best fit for them.

Working in synchrony with attorneys has exposed me to the many legal injustices South Carolinians face. Being granted with the opportunity to work with the attorneys at our office has provided me with a unique experience that has revealed the impactful collaboration between social workers and those within the public justice system. The studies that social work students engage in provide us with knowledge aligning with social change, empowerment, human behavior, and crisis intervention. All of which offer a unique perspective to engaging with the vulnerable clients our attorneys serve.

Rhianna Solida, Social Work Intern

Being a social work intern at South Carolina Legal Services has been an experience that is quite different from the settings that most of our peers are interning in. While many of them are in schools, government organizations like DSS, or working with different kinds of social workers at local agencies, Abigail and I get to work in tandem with the attorneys and support staff in the Columbia office, which has shown me how important it is within this field to be involved in interprofessional collaboration. Throughout our time here, we have gotten to work with over forty of the clients that the attorneys are serving and provide them with support in areas of their lives that do not fall under the legal umbrella. I am thankful to be in this unconventional social work setting because we get to bounce our ideas off the attorneys, work on brokering resources in respect to their current legal problems and provide a holistic approach to helping the clients that receive services at SCLS.

We have gotten to participate in so many meaningful opportunities while at SCLS that will shape our future practice and have long lasting impacts in our careers, while making so many great memories. During the months of September, October, and November, we worked diligently to gather donations to feed the families of SCLS clients for Thanksgiving dinner. This was a long process, but in the end, we were able to put together complete dinners (including turkeys!) for over 15 families ranging anywhere from one to ten people. One thing that I found to stick with me through this process is the power choice can hold for clients who are experiencing hardships. Even though we had limited resources, we did our best to personalize these boxes to meet their preferences and requests, which made them so much more meaningful when they don’t always get to make these choices and sometimes only take what they can get.

Since January, we have been working to compile a list of resources in the Midlands area to make a user-friendly guide for the attorneys, staff, and future social work interns to use when we are gone. We have spent hours upon hours on this project, reaching out to countless organizations and agencies, building relationships with service providers, and learning how other professionals in the area work tirelessly to serve South Carolinians. During this process, I have been pleasantly surprised to see that there are so many more resources to assist clients than I could have ever imagined. We have also been able to identify some areas of need in the community and work with some of our peers in other internship settings to see what kinds of service gaps they might fill. We have already been utilizing this list to provide referrals to clients and help them to become involved with other services that can help them with their legal problems, financial problems, and other areas of need.

Ultimately, this internship at SCLS has taught me that social work and other helping professions are not so limited in the settings and approaches that they might be able to serve. Working in a legal setting has not only been extremely interesting but has shown me in real life how environmental factors impact client systems and how serving these clients requires looking in from many different angles. With the help of the attorneys and the staff at the Columbia office, we have become

creative future social workers, which will allow us to go out into the field and provide so many different perspectives on the practice.