Interview with Amy Beaulieu, LCSW on Child and Family Social Work
About Amy Beaulieu, LCSW: Ms. Beaulieu is a licensed clinical social worker and program development specialist with over ten years of experience working with children and families in numerous settings, including foster care and adoption, pediatric inpatient and intensive care, hospice care, and medical/health care. She is licensed as an LCSW in Indiana, Maine, and Vermont, and has also completed additional graduate-level coursework in clinical social work practice and public service management through the University of Southern Maine.
Ms. Beaulieu recently began focusing her practice on working closely with children and adolescents suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma, and disruptive behavior problems. Within the last year, she has also begun working with adult caregivers who are involved in the child welfare system and who are recovering from substance abuse challenges. She has her own private practice working with children and families, and also recently started a consulting business focused on providing technical assistance to organizations regarding children’s mental health issues.
Ms. Beaulieu earned her BA in Clinical Psychology from Tufts University in 1999 and her Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University in 2003. During her MSW program, she completed a field internship as a Program Assistant for the Department of Pediatrics at Harlem Hospital Center, where she provided counseling, psychosocial assessments, and discharge planning to children and adolescents. After receiving her MSW, Ms. Beaulieu worked as an Employment Specialist at Maine Medical Center, as a Foster Care and Adoption Social Worker at Casey Family Services, and as a Clinician in private practice at Matrix Health Systems. She also supported patients and their families as a Case Manager at Fletcher Allen Health Care and as a Hospice and Home Health Social Worker for Parkview Health. Amy Beaulieu was compensated to participate in this interview.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] What types of clients have you worked with at Centerstone, Matrix Health Systems, and Fletcher Allen Health Care, and what kinds of challenges do they face? How do you support them through these challenges?
[Amy Beaulieu, LCSW] I have worked with a wide variety of clients, from children with mental and behavioral health issues, substance abusing adults in recovery, and people with serious healthcare needs in the hospital setting. At Centerstone, I worked as a clinician in the outpatient clinic, providing assessments and therapy to adults and children with a myriad of presenting problems, from general stress to serious substance abuse. I then transitioned over to working with the Child Specialty Services team in order to better use my expertise in treating children and families. The clients in this program were mainly mandated from child welfare or juvenile justice systems, and had more intensive needs. This was a home-based program, in which I often met with children and families at school, at their home or elsewhere in the community. This enabled me to provide services to families who may have barriers to accessing treatment such as lack of transportation. In this role, I provided treatment for depression, anxiety, trauma and disruptive behavior issues mainly using cognitive-behavioral therapy and parent behavioral training techniques. I specialize in working with parents directly on skills and techniques to manage conduct and behavior problems in their children, which can stem from issues such as ADHD or acute stress in the family situation.
At Matrix Health Systems, I worked as an outpatient clinician and focused my practice on treating children with depression and anxiety, again mainly using cognitive-behavioral therapy. At that time, I was also working as a social work case manager at the University of Vermont Medical Center (formerly Fletcher Allen Healthcare), providing discharge planning, case management, and brief counseling to patients across the hospital. However, due to my interest in working with children, I was mainly assigned to cover the Pediatrics, NICU, and mother/baby units as well as the Emergency Department. I was responsible for everything from getting rehabilitation services set up for a patient about to discharge, to helping families face end-of-life issues and referring patients and families for concrete resources that would help them maintain their health such as heating assistance and funding for medical equipment.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] At Casey Family Services, you worked extensively with foster care and adoption. Can you give an overview of the types of responsibilities you had including working with foster children and families looking to adopt?
Another unique aspect of my role at Casey was facilitating permanency teams for the adolescents on my caseload who were preparing to age-out of the foster care system. Permanency teams, also known in some jurisdictions as Family Team Meetings, are teams of people who are tasked with helping a child reach their permanency goals, whether it is reunification, adoption, placement with extended family, or another arrangement. The teams consist of family members, professionals, and other supportive people that the child/family identifies such as neighbors or teachers. I received specialized training from Casey Family Services staff, who helped pioneer the development and implementation of the model in child welfare systems across the country.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Why did you decide to become a child and family social worker, and what have been some of the most rewarding experiences you have had during your career?
[Amy Beaulieu, LCSW] It was not a role that I deliberately decided to take on, actually. I have always enjoyed children but when I started my graduate program I was determined that I would not be working with families or adolescents. However, my first year field placement was in the Pediatrics unit at Harlem Hospital Center in New York and that really set me up for getting solid experience working with children and I learned that I actually enjoyed it. My first job after graduate school was working in supported employment with adolescents with emerging serious mental illness and from there I moved onto working in foster care and just developed a niche working with children and families. I find working with children and families so rewarding because children have infinite potential to do wonderful things in their lives. They are incredibly resilient and so open to making their lives better. I really relish every little baby step of growth that I witness in children.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] What are the most challenging aspects of your job as a child and family social worker?
[Amy Beaulieu, LCSW] Working within multiple systems in a single case is very challenging to navigate, for example a child who is in foster care and on probation with juvenile justice. In these situations, there are so many people involved in a case and the scrutiny placed on my work can be great. For instance, I am often called upon to testify in Court in child welfare cases regarding the clinical needs and treatment of a client. Offering testimony is something that I have gotten accustomed to, but it still makes me nervous at times, especially when I have to justify the work I have done and my clinical impressions of the client. Additionally, educating myself on the resources available to clients in each of the settings I have worked (medical, child welfare, mental health) has been a necessary challenge and required a lot of organization on my part. The basic needs of children and families do not differ as much as you might expect, whether you are working with them in the hospital or in a mental health clinic. However, the funding streams and programs offered can be vastly different from state to state and social workers really have to be current on their awareness of resources in order to be optimally effective.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For MSW students who are interested in a career in child and family social work, what advice can you give them about optimally preparing for this field while pursuing their degree?
[Amy Beaulieu, LCSW] I would recommend taking a clinical class focused solely on working with children as this is such a different population from adults and the methods used are vastly different. I would also suggest seeking a field placement in a child-centered setting so students can receive hands-on experience and exposure to this population. I’ve worked with a number of students who assume they want to be a child and family services social worker because they think, “I’m good with kids,” but then find themselves overwhelmed or disinterested when they actually work with the population. Following graduation, I think it is wise to try out different settings and roles within working with children to see which ones feel like they are the best “fit.” This is what makes social work unique; you can work in any number of settings or with very different populations — you are not tied to just one narrow option.
Once you are mid-career following several years of experience, I think it is wise to specialize and focus on your “niche” population. This will give focus to your work and help establish you as a true subject matter expert. Within social work, it is impossible to truly have expertise in working with all populations and with all methods; there are just too many to make this possible. Working with a broad lens in the initial part of your career will help you find the area where you can be most effective as you gain experience.
Thank you Ms. Beaulieu for your time and insights into child and family social work.