International Child Welfare Exchange Program
Every year, a group of social work faculty and students travel to Israel for a week-long exchange course in International Child Welfare. The home base for this course is Hebrew University and the Haruv Institute, where faculty and student hosts create a transformative learning experience for their Oklahoma visitors.
Students and faculty visit several different types of social service agencies geared toward the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. This includes the Children’s Campus in Jerusalem, an emergency shelter, and Beit Lynn, where students meet with child abuse assessment teams and learn about the role of social work on these teams. The Beit Lynn teams work in a complex cultural context. Visits to an ultra-orthodox Jewish community provide students with an opportunity to consider interventions in a closed community and tailoring child abuse interventions to culture. The students learn about the benefits of residential care of severely abused children during a visit to a residential treatment facility in Abu Gosh.
A tour of the Israel Museum provides exposure to important cultural artifacts and preservation of Jewish history as well as culture across the world. One of the most important and moving experiences is Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. This visit allows students and faculty to reflect on the sadness and brutality of the Holocaust and will focus on what happened to the children during that time.
The historic sites of the Old City and Mount of Olives, the Machanei Yehuda market, the Dead Sea, and the student-to-student exchanges are all part of the cultural and learning experience, which allows both OU and Israeli students to learn from one another and consider changes that can improve services to all aspects of child wellbeing.
The other half of the exchange is when Israeli faculty and students are hosted in Tulsa by students and faculty from the University of Oklahoma and Haruv USA. During their week long, international course, they are immersed in the rich and diverse cultural experiences native to Oklahoma, as well as learning about the United States as a whole.
Together with their American counterparts, Israeli faculty and students explore Child Welfare agencies in Tulsa, visit public and private educational institutions which provide services for vulnerable children and youth.
The Indian Child Welfare Agency (ICWA) in Tahlequah is visited to learn about the unique services it exclusively provides with Native American Children in Oklahoma which focuses on keeping children connected with their native families.
Students and faculty alike hear from women who have experienced incarceration and are now working through a program known as Women in Recovery housed at Family and Children Services (F&CS). F&CS provides services for both mothers and their children throughout the process of societal reentry. They also have the privilege of speaking with and learning from the multidisciplinary team of Child Abuse Network professionals and experience firsthand knowledge of what it means to forensically interview an abused child.
A tour of the state-of-the-art Tandy Education/Simulation Center, where graduate students from interdisciplinary disciplines (medicine, social work and education) learn and undergo intense simulation of real-life situations and review/discuss the positives and negatives of their interactions with Simulated Clients, is an important part of the program. The Tandy Education/Simulation Center also provides an interactive simulation experience related to Domestic Violence. This simulation was created by victims of abuse from all age groups, cultures, and sexual orientations and will offer participants an opportunity to share perspectives surrounding issues of interpersonal violence, while coming to a greater understanding of how to view, relate, and deal with abuse.
Side tours may include Gilcrease Museum, one of the finest in Tulsa and filled with Native American culture, history, and art, John Hope Franklin Memorial which focuses on reconciliation from the Tulsa Race Riots through community involvement and a walk through historical downtown Tulsa, eating at a variety of diverse, ethnic restaurants, and standing in the Center of the Universe, an “acoustic phenomenon” on a walking bridge over a highway will offer real Oklahoma experiences.
Of course, all these experiences would not be possible without the generosity of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation for which the faculty and students are deeply grateful.