UGA graduate students study to help children in foster care.
Two University of Georgia students have been awarded the Helen Elizabeth Huey Scholarship, a new scholarship at the School of Social Work that annually supports students who demonstrate a strong desire to protect the interests of children, particularly children growing up in foster care.
Second-year graduate students Kacey Ardoin and Tonia Dalton will each receive $2,000 while they complete social work degrees with a focus on children and families. The scholarship was endowed by UGA alumnus John W. Huey Jr. and his wife, Kate Ellis Huey, in memory of Huey’s sister, Helen Elizabeth Huey.
“The School of Social Work is grateful to the family of Helen Huey for endowing this scholarship in support of social work education and practice in the area of child services,” said Dean Maurice Daniels. “The scholarship will help the school meet a demand for social workers who are professionally trained to work with disenfranchised children with a special focus on the prevention of child abuse and neglect, and placement and support of children with foster and adoptive families.”
According to the National Data Archive, each year in Georgia approximately 6,200 children enter foster care. Georgia’s Office of the Child Advocate has found shortages of trained social workers qualified to handle such cases. This past year, Gov. Nathan Deal, a former juvenile court judge, began a hiring initiative at the Division of Family and Children Services with the goal of better meeting service needs.
Ardoin and Dalton, who anticipate graduating in 2015, were chosen based on their interest in working with children, academic and employment history, letters of recommendation and personal essays.
Ardoin has been taking coursework related to the care of abused and neglected children and youth. She is currently interning in the children and adolescents unit of Advantage Behavioral Health Systems in Athens, where she conducts intake screenings and therapy sessions, and coordinates physical and mental health services for clients under the age of 18 and their families.
“My passion for working with children began at an early age,” Ardoin said. “I vividly remember pretending to teach a room full of bright-eyed, eager-to-learn children while I was just a child myself. However, as I continued my education, I began to realize that many children are so disadvantaged that they cannot even fathom the importance of school.
“My true passion is to help these children see their worth as humans and to help them understand the vitality their experiences hold.”
“I am experiencing and learning how both behaviors and academics are affected by these children living with their loss, with grief, broken hearts and many other abuses and mental health issues.
Dalton is a former police dispatcher and foster parent. After adopting the child that she and her husband fostered, she worked for an agency that provided services for children in crisis, many of whom were in foster care. She is now serving a graduate internship at Oakland Meadow School in Lawrenceville, where she works with elementary age special education students who have emotional and behavioral disorders.
“Working as a 911 operator afforded me the opportunity to speak with and find resources for many children who were found homeless, without adult supervision, in gangs and committing crimes,” Dalton said. “Many of these children were foster children who were running away or hanging out in the streets.”
“I am experiencing and learning how both behaviors and academics are affected by these children living with their loss, with grief, broken hearts and many other abuses and mental health issues. Foster children do not always have a committed advocate to make certain they are getting the appropriate education as well as psychosocial services needed to thrive in school or in life.”
Helen Elizabeth Huey, the scholarship’s namesake, served as a caseworker and supervisor of foster child care for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services for more than 25 years before passing away in 1997 at the age of 54. A graduate of Emory University with a master’s degree in social work from Tulane University, Huey devoted her professional life to helping the disadvantaged. During her career she helped families adopt children and mediated difficult child custody cases.
“My sister was passionate about assuring that disenfranchised children were safe from abuse and neglect,” said her brother John W. Huey Jr., a 1970 UGA graduate and former editor-in-chief of Time Inc. “We chose the UGA School of Social Work because of its strong focus on both social work education and social justice. Helen would be pleased.”