When Clarence Jasper, MSS ’13, received Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare Education for Leadership (CWEL) grant, he knew a graduate degree at Bryn Mawr was within his grasp. Jasper worked for Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services for 15 years before he applied for the CWEL grant. The grant, which is available to full-time employees of the state’s child welfare agencies, covers tuition and books, and in return, recipients commit to working for the Department of Human Services after they receive their degrees. For Jasper, the commitment wasn’t a hardship—he has spent almost his entire career working for the agency.
“I was always interested in working with children, and helping children who were abused and neglected just felt like something I should do,” said Jasper.
His first job at the agency was with the emergency placement unit, securing homes for unwanted, abandoned, and runaway children. In another unit, he worked specifically with delinquent and truant children. In both units so many of the children, Jasper noticed, came from single-mother homes that lacked a present father.
As the years wore on, Jasper became drawn to issues of fatherhood and how the presence of a father (or lack thereof) influences child development. He began to wonder if he might be able to do more to build positive relationships between fathers and their children. “Unfortunately, these populations are disposable populations from an outsider’s perspective,” said Jasper. “As case workers, we try to reinforce and promote, through a partnership with our clients, a philosophy of greater responsibility to themselves and their families.”
“I chose to attend graduate school because my curiosity to learn more—and do more— for this particular community, this demographic, got the better of me,” said Jasper. “I chose to attend Bryn Mawr because their professors all bring something different to the table, which helps me step back and see the whole mosaic that is social work.” At the College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Jasper chose to pursue the Master of Social Service’s clinical concentration and found a community of professors and peers that supported and nurtured his developing passion.
Clarence Jasper MSS ’13
Major(s): Clinical Social Work
Note: Clarence Jasper’s most recent field placement has been at the Achieving Reunification Center (ARC), a program that gives parents whose children are in out-of-home placements the tools they need to ultimately reunite their families. Funded by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, ARC is the only program of its kind in the nation, bringing together multiple social welfare agencies to offer parents a one-stop-shop where they can get help meeting child welfare requirements, apply for public benefits, and learn about workforce development opportunities. At ARC, Jasper works with a fatherhood initiative called Sankofa. The word is Ghanaian and, translated, it means there is nothing wrong with reaching back into the past to grab the future. Social workers reach out to absent fathers who have not been involved in their children’s lives and provide the encouragement and support they need to re-establish relationships with their children.