Preparing Students for Family Service - Y Magazine
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Preparing Students for Family Service

By Lisa Ann Jackson

Going to court, visiting homes, and chatting with therapists are business as usual for BYU student interns with the Fourth District Office of the Guardian ad Litem in Provo. Through these and other internships, students experience their future professions firsthand, and they usually come away with a firmer conviction that strong families are vital to society.

In the Guardian ad Litem office, court-appointed lawyers represent children in circumstances such as custody battles, abuse, and parental drug addiction. Working alongside the lawyers, BYU family science and law students gather information for use in court.

“The first day I was in the office, my supervising lawyer invited me and another intern to attend court with him,” wrote Courtney Miriam Glenn in her final report. “He let us read the court report, briefed us on the circumstances, and asked our opinions and thoughts during recesses in the hearing.”

“This level of responsibility and trust was typical of Glenn’s experience. Because of her family science background, she was soon doing home visits and discussing her findings with lawyers, case workers, and therapists. In the end, she gained valuable insight about her future career and family.”

“I feel so much more enlightened about my field and more prepared to seek out other jobs, internships, and involvement,” wrote Glenn, who is currently serving an LDS mission in Guatemala. “And seeing the situations I saw, I felt thankful for my family and all the wonderful opportunities I had.”

“In the newly created School of Family Life, such experiences are exactly what faculty and administrators hope for their students. At BYU some 1,000 students are studying family life, and more students take family science classes as electives. About 40 undergraduate family science classes are designed to prepare students for service in family-related careers, in academia, and in their own families.”

“Our students are providing a positive influence in the family professions,” said Alan J. Hawkins, associate professor of family science, at a recent devotional. “We place hundreds of students each year in clinical programs in marriage and family therapy, social work, and psychology, as well as in programs focused more on education and research. Our own graduate programs related to family studies are well thought of. Our influence is being felt.”

“The new school will help to increase the professional impact of family science majors, and it has an equally important responsibility to train BYU students for service in their own families.

“Internships, like those with Guardian ad Litem, help students in both ways, says Roberta Magarrell, assistant professor of family science and coordinator of the Family Science Internship and Field Studies Office. Magarrell’s office helps students find internships, whether they be assisting family lawyers, volunteering at women’s shelters, or working with community youth programs. She has found that, whatever the internship, for most students the fundamental result is the same.”

“They can never be the same in terms of the family they will have,” she says. “In one report, the student writes, ‘Besides everything else I am doing, I am getting a view of the importance of strong families.’ So you can tell, when they get married, they are going to have the vision of what to do and what not to do with their children and families.”