WA Social Worker of the Year
After working at a summer camp in North Carolina, Stephan Lund found his calling. Following his sister Sabena’s advice, the UWA student enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) after completing a Bachelor of Arts. Now, Stephan is in his 15th year of study at the University, in the final stages of his PhD on permanence and stability in foster care.
“At the same time that I was accepted into the social work course, I started with St Vinnies where I worked with volunteers to assist children from disadvantaged backgrounds. My inspiration to work in the foster care field came from my wife, who was adopted, and also from my first social work practicum supervisor, Francis Lynch, who showed me the possibilities of making a difference in this field.”
Studying a Bachelor of Arts was a great starting point for Stephan and staff support throughout his social work degree was second to none. He knew he’d found his niche at UWA when he was surrounded by like-minded people who also valued social justice and empowerment.
UWA afforded him the opportunity to interact with and learn from highly-regarded teachers and mentors in their field. Stephan’s mentors from the social work course at UWA are still important people for him today – he still sees staff from his undergraduate days and is involved with current staff in the discipline.
Stephan knew it was always going to be an uphill battle completing a PhD part-time while working in a demanding full-time job. The situation that foster carers find themselves in often seems impossible as they are working in a system that is highly contested and fraught with emotion.
“Foster carers take care of the most vulnerable children in our community and do it without much recognition, status or value from society. My interest in the research was looking at their rich, lived experiences and finding out how they help children settle into their homes and feel a sense of permanence and stability.”
Stephan was recently recognised for his passion and commitment to the field, being awarded WA Social Worker of the Year – a great honour for the dedicated practitioner. He currently works at Wanslea Family Services as Executive Manager of Out of Home Care and Specialist Services. Stephan is pursuing his impossible by leaving no stone unturned, encouraging others to not die wondering whether they could have tried something new or helped someone.
“Assisting individual children, carers and staff to achieve to the best of their ability is very satisfying. I am still in touch with young people who I have assisted as a social worker. To receive the positive feedback that I have helped make a difference in their lives is amazing. My goal is to ultimately make a difference with the outcome of my research and to make a better foster care system in some way.”
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