Associate Professor, Chaney, gives students real-world experience while serving the community

05/08/14 02:00 PM

cfs1On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, more than 30 parents and 45 LSU School of Social Work Child and Family Studies undergraduate students gathered at Polk Elementary to engage in roundtable discussions. CFS students provide research in the forms of brochures and handouts, and the parents and grandparents provide parenting experiences during this symbiotic interaction.

One of the strengths of the Child and Family undergraduate degree at LSU is the extensive community-based practicum experience built into the curriculum. CFS students gain hands-on experience with field experience engaging with the local community.

According CFS student Heather Lynch, this class was one of her best college experiences. 

Dr. Cassandra Chaney, associate professor in the School of Social Work, has facilitated focus groups at Polk Elementary for more than three years, aligned with the university’s mission of increased community engagement. Because CFS students do not come in as “university experts,” the parents are put at ease. 

Focus groups are a culmination of the students’ support of teachers and students throughout the semester. CFS students complete at least 12 hours, one per week, allowing them to build relationships. The focus group is the “icing on top of the cake,” according to Chaney. CFS students also tutor younger students to add to this relationship-building experience.

Four stations had specific discussion topics of: the value of quality of family life, children growing up too fast, stop bullying, and parenting. The four topic areas on which the focus groups are designed are based on the greatest needs identified by parents.

cfs2“A large component of creating valuable university and community collaborations is to give communities what they need,” said Chaney. Parents rotated every fifteen minutes to visit each station and discuss topics with all the CFS students. 

CFS students learn how to translate research information about children, youth, and families into teaching activities. Information learned in the classroom is brought to the community as CFS students inform parents of current research. More importantly, CFS students tap into the knowledge parents and grandparents already have. 

 “This experience is a wonderful opportunity for Child and Family Studies student who will one day work in social-service agencies with families that are economically disadvantaged. The beauty of this experience is that it really stresses to the students that although many of the families that they will most likely work with are poor, they love their children, want what is best for them, and demonstrate remarkable resilience in the face of many challenges,” said Chaney.

Consistently parents and grandparents have personally thanked Chaney and her students for coming.

“I always make extra copies of handouts and brochures so that parents and grandparents present can give copies to their family members whose work schedules would not allow them to attend,” said Chaney. 


Discussion outline by table:

  • Parenting Styles
    • What is effective parenting and what is its importance?
    • The Four Parenting Styles
    • Effective Communication, its importance, and ways to keep open lines of communication
  • The Issue of Bullying Within the School
    • Bullying statistics 
    • Why children bully
    • Bullying Scenarios
    • Cyberbullying
    • Negative consequences of bullying
    • Signs that your child is being bullied
    • What your child should do if experiencing bullying
    • What you should do if you think or know your child is being bullied or is a bully
  • Children Growing Up Too Fast
    • Definition of childhood
    • What is a “healthy childhood?”
    • The Importance of childhood based on research
    • Over-sexualization of children in society & what you can do as a parent
    • How to protect children from predators
    • Children are not physically, emotionally, or psychologically ready to take on adult responsibilities
    • What happens when children take on adult responsibilities
    • How to prevent your child from growing up too fast
    • The idea of childhood being over-protected
  • Quality Family Time
    • Benefits for Children & Parents of Quality Family Time
    • Ideas for Quality Time opportunities including local, inexpensive locations
    • Impacts of a Lack of Quality Time

The CFS undergraduate degree at LSU integrates research, theory, and practice from multiple disciplines with a unique blend of liberal arts and professional education. The major focuses broadly on child development and family dynamics, with special emphases on parenting throughout childhood, couples in dating, marital, and cohabiting relationships, social and psychological development, interactions between family members, influences on child and family well-being, cultural variation among families, and practical application of knowledge about individuals and families.


About SSW
The LSU School of Social Work (SSW) aspires to be a leading graduate school of social work, a vibrant center of intellectual development, a leader in promoting and supporting diverse communities, and an advocate for an integrated and inclusive model of social work, all within a learning environment that supports best educational practices. The Child and Family Studies (CFS) undergraduate degree integrates theory, research, and practice to focus on child development and family dynamics.

Visit the School of Social Work at


About CHSE
The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. Formed in 2012, CHSE brings together programs and capitalizes on individual strengths to create a dynamic new college that addresses the socially significant issues we face as a state and nation. The College is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Library and Information Science, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs and 18 graduate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 977 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is continually working to improve its programs.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education at