When asked what drew me to the ICAS placement I find it difficult to answer, as there are a multitude of things that initially caught my attention. The uniqueness of the organisation, and the work that it does offered me a new and exciting experience, both personally and professionally. During my 5 month placement in Jamaica I had exposure to working in a variety of settings. I was continuously encouraged and supported, to challenge myself and learn as much as possible. As a first year MA student in Social Work, at Goldsmiths, University of London, I was lucky to be able to train internationally and across the Jamaican statutory and voluntary sector. Through my time at the Child Development Agency, I undertook intake - initial assessments and referrals, and additionally court exposure. My case load included many complex and highly charged situations. I understood the application of academic theory, and had the freedom to use my creativity to research and apply specific approaches. The level of direct work meant I dealt specifically with child protection issues, and the complex cross-cultural tensions that this afforded. I was the case worker for a number of young people, including adolescent males with behaviour problems, young female victims of sexual assault and was responsible for supporting parents, running workshops and undertaking pre-care interventions. .
I was placed at a residential unit for adolescent females, due before the court. This was an intense and valuable experience. I had a true insight into the situations faced by children and young people under the care of the state. Being in the unit was often challenging, and at times intimidating. I came to learn a lot about myself whilst working there, as well as witness the effects of violence and the potential effects a lack of stability can have. I worked on a one to one basis, dealing with grief, and severe distress, as well as a number of mental health/behaviour issues. I also gained experience in group facilitation. I learnt a great deal about trauma response, and how to manage my emotional reactions to things that I witnessed and worked with.
By working directly for ICAS, I was able to engage with a variety of communities, through resource distribution. I enjoyed this piece of work very much, and was able to liaise with local businesses, schools and individuals, to provide support and resources, post Hurricane Sandy. I also used a variety of assessment frameworks, to carry out viability and parenting assessments for Wandsworth, Westminster, Southwark and Canadian local authorities. I was able to advocate for and liaise with families in need across Jamaica, and begin to understand the scope, and complexities of international social work.
The level of supervision and support offered by Karleen Jackson and Julie Morris, allowed me to learn and grow in a safe environment and develop effective practice. From the practical side of the placement; housing, budget, food and transport, to our ongoing safety and emotional wellbeing, the practice educators were a constant source of support. For this I would like to thank them, and my colleague Rebecca Fawssett, wholeheartedly.
Working with ICAS truly has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and it has given me the tools to continue my learning with confidence, reflection, responsibility and compassion. It gave me the invaluable opportunity to get to know, and love a country, in a way I never would have otherwise come to understand with such depth. The numerous effects of this will continuously inform my practice, in a way that I believe is second to none.