JaeRan Kim

Social workers routinely interact with people with disabilities, but they receive relatively little disability-related coursework as they train for their careers. And while demand for social workers is growing, students with disabilities in those programs often encounter a disappointing level of commitment to inclusive academic training.

Passionate about making disability more visible in social work education, JaeRan Kim (MNLEND, 2010-11) is writing and blogging about her field, and creating and teaching university elective courses on disability and social work policy and practice.

 Kim is now an assistant professor in the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice at the University of Washington, Tacoma. In addition to her MNLEND fellowship at the Institute on Community Integration, she completed master’s and doctoral degrees in social work at the University of Minnesota. Last fall, she published an article in the Journal of Social Work Education that called for prioritizing inclusion in social work programs. In her own classroom, she uses alternative grading styles to help students of all abilities manage workloads and deadlines. She and Matthew Bogenschutz (MNLEND, 2010-11) of Virginia Commonwealth University worked with other collaborators around the United States to create a guide for integrating disability content into social work education.

“My time as a LEND fellow greatly informed my research and teaching,” Kim said. The initial inspiration, however, came even earlier. She was born in South Korea and adopted at age 3 by a Minnesota couple. Her adoptive parents were told she might have developmental delays, sparking Kim’s academic curiosity about the outcomes of adoption when disability is involved.

“It made me question, ‘If my [original] family back in Korea could have gotten more resources, would they have used those instead of pursuing adoption?’ We know children with disabilities are more likely to be placed in foster care or the adoption system, and more likely to be abused or neglected,” she said.