Social worker Freny Dessai was selected from among a competitive group of applicants for the newly created Social Work Child Welfare Congressional Fellowship, administered through the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute, or SWPI.
The fellowship offers the opportunity for a professional social worker with experience in child welfare to spend a year on Capitol Hill. It also offers insight into the federal policies that guide service delivery at the local level.
Dessai’s fellowship is with the Senate Finance Committee and she will be working with Diedra Henry-Spires, professional staff member on Senate Finance, whose portfolio includes child welfare programs funded through the Social Security Act — those services funded through Title IV-B and Title IV-E of the Social Security Act —along with issues such as unemployment insurance and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
Dessai will have the opportunity to see how members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee work together and how advocates are engaged in the creation of legislation.
“Having someone with Freny’s experience to focus on child welfare issues and to bring her experience and social work expertise to Capitol Hill is very exciting,” said Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of SWPI. She added that many other disciplines have similar fellowship programs for experienced members to work either on Capitol Hill or within the Executive Branch.
The previous Social Work Congressional Fellowship program ran for a number of years, but ended in 1999.
“We hope that through the Social Work Policy Institute we will be able to build on this one fellowship as the years move forward,” Zlotnik said.
Dessai has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, San Diego. She earned her MSW at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked for Alameda County Social Services as a child welfare worker in the Permanent Youth Connections Unit.
During her graduate studies she received support from Title IV-E training funds through the California Social Work Education Center, requiring that she work in child welfare following the acquisition of her MSW.
From the July 2012 NASW News.