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Instructor Highlight: Damaris Acevedo, LCSW, Urban Social Work Program

Damaris Acevedo duringher seminar with the spring 2024 social work students.

Introducing Damaris Acevedo, our new Social Work Instructor at the Chicago Center! Damaris brings over 20 years of experience in child welfare services and a deep commitment to supporting families. With 12 years of supporting Chicago Center students through supervision at Association House, Damaris has already established a deep connection to and passion for the learning and development of our students.


Chicago Center: Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to join the Chicago Center?


Damaris Acevedo: I am currently employed full time at Association House of Chicago as the director of Child Welfare Services. I have been there since Oct 31, 2005.  There I oversee the Child Welfare Division, which provides quality services for more than 200 active family cases, including foster care, intact family services, and adoptions. I am a Licensed  Child Welfare Specialist with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.  I am licensed as a licensing representative in 402 & CCA certified. I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams School of Social Work, where I received my Bachelors of Social Work; and received her Masters of Social Work from Dominican University. I obtained my LSW in 2014 and my LCSW in 2018.I am passionate about helping families, and my commitment is to ensure we treat every participant with dignity and respect regardless of what brought them to our program. This work is rather difficult but very rewarding.


I have also taught social work courses with St.Augustine/Lewis University.  I enjoy working with non-traditional students.

 

For the past 12 years I have taken on at least one intern per semester, many of my interns have come from the Chicago Center.  I enjoy being part of the students' learning journey and in many ways that's how I give back to my profession.  


CC: What is your teaching philosophy, and how do you approach creating an engaging and inclusive learning environment?


DA: Teaching is a partnership where you must gain a student's respect and trust in order to effectively engage in the learning process.


Social work classes cannot be taught without having an understanding of historical events. I tend to use social constructionism in my approach as knowledge is social. People are living in society and carrying their experiences and social class.


CC: How does your expertise contribute to the unique learning experience that the Chicago Center offers?


DA: I have over 20 years of experience to bring to the class. This allows me to engage students and provide real examples of course we always do this while respecting the confidentiality of the people we have worked with.


CC: Can you share a memorable experience from your career that has had a significant impact on you?


DA: Working child welfare contributing agency contracted by DCFS I am used to working within the confines of a bureaucratic system. We had a DCFS youth in care who lost her placement and was staying at our agency.  This 12-year-old child with an extensive history of trauma had a severe emotional outburst that caused her to destroy two floors at our agency.  As a result, our agency had to go on a soft lockdown.  This child attempted to elope she ran out of the agency and proceeded to vandalize several vehicles in the community and in our parking lot.  My direct supervisor and VP of the agency ran beside this youth recognizing that this child was not simply having a tantrum, but she needed help. Julie deescalated the situation and got this minor to agree to going to the hospital for further assessment.  My supervisor accompanied this youth to the hospital.  When this youth was discharged and was sent back to the agency despite the reflags that she child was in severe emotional distress my supervisor decided she would stay at the agency overnight to ensure she was there to support the staff who had witnessed what occurred earlier that day.  Again, this youth had another episode and destroyed another area of our agency that night at 10:49pm and my supervisor was there to support the minor and the staff who were staying overnight.  My supervisor helped the police take this minor to the hospital and she stayed all night long with this youth.  Despite having her own child teenage child at home she understood that our youth in care needed someone by her side.  My supervisor didn’t want to burden the staff with this responsibility.   When mental health providers insisted minor was fine or simply throwing tantrums, she spent the entire night advocating and bringing compassion to a system that is often jaded and simply describes our youth in care and problem kids.   Her work didn’t stop there Julie is very passionate about several issues and one of those issues include ensuring our youth in care receive the support they need and deserve. 

  

CC: What are you most excited about in joining the Chicago Center, and what expectations do you have for your students?


DA: I truly value the work the Chicago Center does to engage and challenge social work students. It's exciting to see them immerse themselves in their field placements. The journey from being completely lost to taking ownership of the work is something that truly excites me. I expect students to take our work seriously. Regardless of their field placements students must carry themselves as professionals, honoring the core values of social work.


CC: If you could give one piece of advice to students embarking on their learning journey at the Chicago Center, what would it be?


DA: You must have an open mind and a humble heart. Be willing to learn not only from instructors and field supervisors but from each other.

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