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Jessica Gardner – Title IV-E Scholars Program Student

Jessica Gardner poses on dock while kayaking
Jessica Gardner poses on dock while kayaking

Jessica Gardner received her associate’s degree from the College of Southern Idaho and is now working on her Boise State bachelor’s in social work in Twin Falls; she attends Boise State classes on the CSI campus, and many of her classmates are friends from that earlier college experience. She expects to graduate in May.

Within the Title IV-E program, she is working with the state in voluntary prevention program, partnering with families and caregivers before circumstances might become unsafe, taking part in home visits and case management and connecting families with resources.

And while the financial features of the program were attractive, it was the work itself — and the possibility of permanent employment — that sold her on Title IV-E.

“I thought it would be a good stepping stone, not as much a free-for-all,” she said.

She’d had previous experience working with children — “I’ve grown quite attached to the demographic. It’s a sector that probably everybody should work in. It kind of spoke to me.” — and was drawn to both the variety and the evidence-based orientation that the combination of the state work and the Boise State program provided.

“I wanted more of an understanding of, ‘Where does it start? All of that trauma starts somewhere,” she said.

Colleagues have been good about providing new experiences and insights with respect to how to apply practice, she said, noting that she’s had exposure to priority one calls, assessment, respite care and family supervision visits, among other areas of the field.

“It’s been so good,” she said. “I definitely feel I was placed with the right team. A lot of people know about the cases. I thought that was really important as well.”

Gardner likes Twin Falls, the access to kayaking that it confers and the size of the community. Child welfare? That’s worked out every bit as well as the rest of it.

“I thought Twin would be the perfect spot,” she said. “I had been going to school with these people for a year and a half. Having that connection to the cohort was really important to me.

“I really want to stick with the child welfare. I think I’ve found a good fit.”

She has every intention of sticking with the state; that, in the end, is just what the Title IV-E program is meant to ensure.

“You’re always learning new interventions, new pilot programs,” she said. “I just think it’s a great opportunity that they’re even offering this to students. Not very practicums can you go and work afterwards.

“They’ve allotted you a spot and they’re ready for you. I don’t think you can beat that.”