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Field Education Office Professional Development Workshop

BSW Cording & MSW Hooding

Patrice Penney, MSW, LCSW

Making Change Happen

Over more than three decades, Patrice Penney has worked “in the trenches,” counseling children at risk and their families, including those in urban poverty, refugees and immigrants, and more recently, African orphans and their caregivers. Raised by parents who were educators, Ms. Penney remembers that her mother, who taught in low-income communities, would sometimes visit the homes of the children to try to address barriers to their being in school—poverty, lack of understanding of education, sometimes abuse. Ms. Penney reflects, “Hearing her stories has sparked my passion to help put children back on the path of normal development, one that is often derailed by poverty, social injustice, and violence.”

In 2003, Ms. Penney moved to Kenya, where in addition to university teaching, she began working with orphaned and vulnerable children and their caregivers. Overwhelmed by the orphan crisis—orphans account for almost 10% of the Kenyan population—the developmental trauma the children had suffered, and the lack of trained counselors, she began informal caregiver training so they could better understand the psychosocial needs of the children and help them heal from trauma. Her training efforts have led her to develop a non-profit organization, the Initiative for Children at Risk Africa (ICARA), which has trained both caregivers and trainers in Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Lesotho, and soon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, impacting tens of thousands of children.

Ms. Penney brings her love of being “in the trenches” into the classroom. She says, “I am vitally interested in engaging students at the intersection of theory, research, and clinical practice. I want students to think about clinical social work as engaging people in their contexts with genuine curiosity and empathy, bringing training and knowledge, but also bringing humility and a desire to learn from them.” She also wants to pass on her passion for work with children and families so that COSW students are transformed into professionals who are compassionate and prepared to work in challenging contexts.

Research Background

With specializations in child and family therapy and developmental (child) trauma, Patrice has practiced clinically for over thirty years with diverse at-risk children and families both in Chicago and East Africa. Her clinical and research interests include global issues for at-risk children, particularly orphans; trauma-focused child, marital, and family interventions; caregiver training and interventions; emotionally-focused couples work family; and developing interventions in schools and community settings.

Patrice is also passionate about clinical training and supervision. She developed a strong internship program in the Chicago area, with a reputation for excellent clinical training of students working with underserved populations. She is committed to non-formal training as well, including creating curricula and programs for caregivers of African orphaned and vulnerable children.

Patrice Penney
Contact Information
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Office: Hamilton 303
  • Curriculum Vita
Major Classes Taught
  • SOWK 716 – Human Behavior and the Social Environment II (Individual and Family Development)
  • SOWK 779 – Advanced Social Work Interventions: Children, Youth and Families
  • SOWK 779 – Advanced Social Work Interventions: Mental Health
  • SOWK Elective – Advanced Practice with Families
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