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Student’s heart for military families leads her to advocate for social work licensure change in Virginia

Using her background as a military child, junior Claire Anderson is finding ways to better serve and advocate for military families while studying in Liberty University’s Department of Social Work.

Last month, Anderson and around 40 other social work students traveled to Richmond, Va., to show support for a bill that would implement the Social Work Licensure Compact in Virginia, a new interstate compact allowing social workers to carry a multistate license.

“Currently, if a social worker has their license in Virginia and they move to some other state and want to practice social work there, they have to reapply for licensure in that state,” Anderson explained. “It could take them up to a year or two to get that license in their new state. This compact would allow social workers to have this multistate license where their licensure is valid in any state that is a part of the compact.”

The compact would also benefit the clients who want to remain connected to a certain social work professional or are in need of a specialized expert who lives out of their given state. The Department of Defense is a partner in the compact. Anderson noted the measure would particularly benefit military families due to their frequent uprooting.

“The main reason this is so impactful for military families is because a lot of them do have to move around, like my dad and my mom did before I was born,” said Anderson, whose father served in the Army from 1997 to 2013 (partially in the Reserves). (Her brother Coleman, a 2021 Liberty graduate of the ROTC program, is currently an Apache helicopter pilot for the Army, stationed at Fort Drum in New York.) “That is an issue that a lot of military spouses run into because they’re stationed and then suddenly they can’t work because they don’t have licensure in their new location.”

Claire Anderson (top second from left), Professor Elke Cox (bottom left), and other Liberty social work students met with Virginia Del. Wendell Walker (top left) to advocate for the Social Work Licensure Compact on Feb. 16.

The students met with Del. Wendell Walker and other delegates on Feb. 16. The bill was passed by the Virginia House and Senate at the end of the month and has been sent to Gov. Glenn Youngkin to be signed by April 8.

Some students in the group spent time lobbying for the Virginia Home Visiting Program, which helps pregnant women, families, and at-risk parents of children (birth to age 5) access resources and develop the skills needed to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready to learn.

Last fall, Anderson took a Policy and Social Work course, where she learned how to advocate and lobby for changes in the field. She wrote a paper on mental health and military children and was able to use the trip to Richmond as part of her honors student petition (a project that allows her to classify the course as an honors course).

For Anderson, community outreach and serving families has been a passion of hers for many years. Since she was a freshman in high school, Anderson has volunteered at the White Sulphur Springs summer camp near Bedford, Penn., a ministry of Officers’ Christian Fellowship for children in military families.

“It’s just been so cool to work with those kids, learn about their experiences, and be able to minister to them and share my own personal experiences with them,” she said. “This past summer, there were some kids in my cabins who were going through some really difficult times with their parents, either just being so busy all the time or not being home or maybe deployed. One of my girls mentioned that she had thought about taking her own life. When she shared that with me, that sparked this desire and passion to do something about that. I would really love to be able to work with that population.”

Social work students are required to fulfill two internships — one in their junior year and one in their senior year — and Anderson spent her first internship at Lynchburg’s Park View Community Mission in their Food for Families program, where guests can shop for supplemental groceries at no cost in a food pantry that resembles a grocery store.

“I love interning there,” Anderson said. “(Food for Families) allows the neighbors to shop with dignity when they come in, since it’s not like they’re just browsing from a messy shelf. I stock the shelves sometimes, or I’ll sort through things after we get big shipments of food. Other days I’m doing documentation, just putting intake forms into our online processing program. It’s a really beneficial opportunity to get to know the Lynchburg locals in the population that you don’t really get to interact with otherwise as a Liberty student.”

The decision to pursue her social work degree was an easy one.

“I want to study social work because I’ve always had a passion for serving other people,” Anderson said. “I’ve always known that I’m good at serving other people and helping them by being a good listener and meeting people where they’re at. I do have a lot of passions, and there are so many areas of social work that I want to work in, which is the beauty of it.”

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