by Public Relations Office
Cedarville, Ohio—Melissa Wagner, a Cedarville University sophomore social work major, presented a paper at the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) "Policy Practice Forum on Capitol Hill" October 2, 2001. Wagner’s paper was one of 20 student papers the forum chose nationally for presentation and distribution to congressional representatives. Wagner first learned about the forum from Cedarville University Social Work Director Cynthia E. Sutter-Tkel. "(She) informed me of the Social Work Public Policy Forum last spring," Wagner explained. "She knows that I am interested in pursuing social work on a legislative level and encouraged me to submit a paper for the forum." During the summer, Wagner worked on a statement paper in reference to the merits of The Child Protection Services Improvement Act, HR 1371. The bill seeks to improve working conditions and salaries for child protection service social workers. Wagner’s paper noted: "The Child Protection Services Improvement Act has the potential to greatly improve the services offered to children and families. The Act lays out practical guidelines for child protection service workers to apply for college school loan forgiveness. It also offers grants to improve the services of State and nonprofit private child protection service agencies. The Act should be supported because it seeks to improve child protection services in a responsible manner." Wagner was notified in late August that her paper was to be included in a compilation of papers posted on the Council on Social Work Education Web site (www.cswe.org) for congressional representatives to review. "When I found out, I was excited to not only have my paper accepted as one of the top 20 papers submitted, but also to have been invited to lobby my congressman," she said. Sutter-Tkel said this is the first time a Cedarville student has participated and received this honor. "Melissa has a deep commitment to the broader environmental and social contexts that come to bear on individuals," she explained. "She is looking not only to assist individuals and families in making changes in their lives but also addressing things within society that need to be changed in order for people to succeed." Wagner, a native of Fox River Grove, Ill., said the forum was an excellent experience as it provided her with a chance to pursue social work on a legislative level while still in college. She shared, "I was honored to be among so many practicing social workers and graduate students. Many of the people I met provided me with some ideas of what I may be able to pursue in my future." After graduating from Cedarville, Wagner hopes to work as a welfare or public assistance social worker in Chicago. She added, "Then, I plan to attend law school and obtain a joint degree in law and a master’s in social work. From there I would like to improve the welfare system, public assistance system, and child protection service system on a broader, legislative level, possibly by drafting bills that would improve the efficiency of the social welfare system."