The Child Maltreatment Solutions Network recently awarded two liberal arts students with its newly introduced Reducing Disparities in Child Welfare Scholarship for the 2021-22 academic year.
This year’s winners are Lani Rosenbaum, a junior majoring in psychology with a minor in child maltreatment and advocacy studies; and Janiyah Davis, a sophomore criminology and psychology double major with an enhanced minor in child maltreatment and advocacy studies and additional minors in sociology, and anthropology. Both students will receive $3,000 at the start of the fall 2021 semester and will be required to write a 10-page academic paper tied either to their capstone course and internship experience, or to their future educational and career goals in the field.
The scholarship is designed to support undergraduate students in the child maltreatment and advocacy studies minor (CMAS) who demonstrate a clear understanding of and commitment to addressing ethnic and racial disparities in child welfare-serving systems.
“We wanted to create this scholarship for underrepresented minority students who want to study in the fields of child maltreatment, child welfare, and child advocacy,” said Jennie Noll, director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network. “We hope to help prepare and equip these scholars with the knowledge and the skills they need to be competitive leaders in their field.”
Rosenbaum and Davis were chosen for their commitment to studying issues of racial and ethnic disparities in the child welfare system. “Lani and Janiyah were strong students in our CMAS minor program who showed a real appreciation for the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the child welfare field, and a commitment to exploring these issues more deeply in their educational careers,” said Erika Lunkenheimer, associate director of the Penn State Child Maltreatment Solutions Network.
Rosenbaum was overwhelmed to learn she was awarded the Reducing Disparities in Child Welfare Scholarship. “I was really excited to have been awarded this scholarship,” she said. “I was also a little nervous, but I know that I have a lot of great advisers to help me with the CMAS minor requirements and continue to guide me through the process moving forward.”
Rosenbaum, from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, had always worked with children growing up, which ultimately led her to pursue the CMAS minor. Eventually hoping to become a school psychologist, her degree in psychology makes for the “perfect pairing.”
“I’m confident I can use my knowledge of how children’s brains work in order to determine the proper treatment for them,” she said.
Rosenbaum hopes to complete her internship experience this coming fall by working on the Child Health Study (CHS), an ongoing research project within the Center for Healthy Children at Penn State. Until then, she will continue working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Development, Risk, and Resilience Lab.
Rosenbaum said she already has a few ideas on what topics and experiences she plans to focus on in her paper. “I was thinking about relating my paper to the Black Lives Matter movement and going on to discuss the racial disparities in the child welfare system and how it can disproportionately affect one race more than the other,” she said.
“I want every child to be treated equally regardless of their race, background, or where they came from,” she added. “Having a platform as a school psychologist will hopefully allow me to do that.”
Davis, from Red Oak, Texas, applied for the scholarship because it aligned well with her academic and career goals. “The opportunity to participate in research and write about something that I want to do for the rest of my life was really great,” she said.
“I also think my liberal arts majors and minors have really complimented my CMAS minor,” she said. “I can apply the various fields I study specifically to children, making it possible for me to recognize the ways in which they are individually impacted. My studies will allow me to recognize the complexity of the interactions between each of those fields—criminology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology—and their related effects on child maltreatment.”
Davis will complete her capstone internship experience in the spring of 2022 while working with the Kids First Therapy Center in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
Outside of the classroom, Davis serves as vice president for the Student Restorative Justice Initiative, a tour guide for the Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team, treasurer of the Justice Association, director of special events for Schreyer Scholar Ambassadors, and is a member of Penn State Black Caucus. She is also a Liberal Arts Ambassador, a student peer adviser in the College of the Liberal Arts, and currently works as a research assistant in the Behavioral and Endocrinology Cognition Lab, the Rock Ethics Institute, and the Criminal Justice Research Center.
Davis is also a first-year graduate student in Penn State’s School of Public Policy, pursuing a master of public policy degree with a concentration in criminal justice. Whether she works for a nonprofit, thinktank, or even as a psychologist in the juvenile justice field, Davis is certain that she wants her career to have a strong impact on child welfare policy.
“I want to incorporate more restorative practices within the child welfare system,” she said. “I don't think there is enough that is happening to protect the mental well-being of children who are disproportionately involved in the system. I am looking forward to hopefully progressing this type of policy in urban areas, implementing restorative practices in schools for children to be acknowledged, treated, and helped, so that they can progress and hopefully have better life outcomes.”
Students interested in applying for the Reducing Disparities in Child Welfare Scholarship for the 2022-23 academic year should visit the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network’s website for more information.