Screening of the Film "Building Bridges" Spurs Discussion on Foster Care and Social Justice

On February 24 the premiere screening of the film "Building Bridges: The First Meeting of a (roleplayed) Group for Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care" brought students, faculty, Silver School friends, and foster care experts to the Hopper Studio at the NYU Silver School of Social Work.

Produced by Juliana Marks, MSW '11; Lisa Karlin, MSW '11; and Clinical Associate Professor Diane Grodney, who also supervised the project, the video is intended as an educational tool for the teaching and learning of clinical practice with groups in the School's classes. In March, it was shown in several Silver School group classes and many students have written about it for their midterm assignments.

Over recent years, Grodney observed that an increasing number of students were being asked to lead groups in their field placements. The students were feeling -- and actually were -- unprepared for this experience. Further, as the pressure on field instructors has been steadily increasing, there is less time for student supervision in general, and, in particular, for the supervision of students running groups.

"Effective group work practice requires considerable planning, knowledge, skill, and supervision," said Grodney. "There are very few recent films portraying social workers leading groups and it seems that until now none were led by relatively new social work professionals." This video was produced to address this gap and to provide a stimulus for thoughtful reflection on group work practice and leadership.

The (roleplay) group leaders, played by Marks and Karlin, use a strengths-based and empowerment-oriented model for the group which was comprised of (roleplayed) young adult women aging out of foster care. The movie consists of a 30-minute segment of group roleplaying; 30-minute segment of supervision; and reflection by the undergraduate students who played the group members speaking about their experience in creating the film.

Important professional issues such as the needs and strengths of young adults who are leaving the foster care system and questions regarding social justice and social work education were raised following the film screening. "Trying to portray somebody else has tremendous learning potential but there are also real limitations, and roleplaying can become fertile ground for the projection of our stereotypes and biases," said Grodney. The discussion was a lively one and all agreed that these issues need further exploration in all our educational and professional work.

The film has the potential for wide interest and appeal well beyond the Silver School. Grodney, Marks, and Karlin are scheduled to present the film at a conference in May co-sponsored by the board of directors of Affilia, Journal of Women and Social Work and the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago.