My Experience As An Intern at Jewish Family Service

By Julia Chlaifer

I'm Julia Chlaifer and I'm currently a student at Penn State Harrisburg working towards a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Psychology. I've been working in childcare for the past six years, but I wanted to see what other fields I could go into that allow me to use my passion for helping others. I'm a first-generation American with parents from Belarus and Ukraine. I was born in New Jersey and have lived in Harrisburg for about 15 years. In my free time I enjoy baking, organizing, and spending time with my pets. 

As a Human Development and Family Studies major, there are so many different career paths that I can take, however making choices has never been my strong suit. I have always known that I wanted to help people and that I am good with kids, but I did not know what career I could have besides being a teacher.

So, after working in childcare for six years, including being a counselor for the JCC Summer Camp, I finally decided to explore other opportunities in the world of human services. With a JFS internship in Adoption and Foster Care, I was able to shadow the six different members of the Adoption and Foster Care team and see what a job in this field truly entails.

Starting day one, the Adoption and Foster Care team at JFS invited me along to observe client meetings both in-person and virtually. During our long car rides to in-person meetings, the staff and I discussed their personal roles within the agency and what their positions entailed. We also talked about the client we were about to see, their stage in the foster care and/or adoption process, and what I could expect to see upon our arrival. Once we reached our destination, I was able to see what a typical client visit looked like and was able to interact with the children and families as well.

Each one of the families I had the opportunity to visit had a unique story to tell and their own ways of expressing and dealing with the struggles in their lives. So far in my internship, I have met families who are in the Post-Permanency Program, who are having a child profile written, a few children who are working on their Lifebooks, and some who are waiting to hear what is next for them in the permanency process. After our visits, we processed what occurred during our conversations, discussed how every case differs, and that you never really know what to expect when meeting with a family.

Along with joining client meetings, I was also given the opportunity to assist in paperwork and profile reviewing. I spent an entire day in the first week of my internship reading files ranging from child profiles to approved foster family files.

I had the opportunity to read about the experiences of many different children and families and got to see the paperwork that was required throughout each step of the adoption and foster care process. It was interesting to see how the standardizations of paperwork and processes have changed throughout the years making everything more cohesive and easier to read.

I have noticed that it takes many years of practice to be able to look at a giant stack of paperwork that includes information such as birth information, health records, hospital intake records, school records, and family history and use that all to form a cohesive, well-organized, and informative child profile.

Being an intern at Jewish Family Service has been a wonderful learning experience so far and I look forward to furthering my education and experiences in adoption and foster care. The Adoption and Foster Care team has provided me with a strong introduction into the field of social work and I am looking forward to using the knowledge I have gained this summer in the future both academically and professionally.