Social Workers and Homeless Children Benefit from CEP Lecturer's Work


From the Civic Education Project Newsletter, Volume 3, Number 1, Winter 1996/97

According to Civic Education Project Lecturer Dan St. Louis, "Youth all over the world want to be heard." And heard them he has. The effects of ground breaking work in Nizhni Novgorod, Russia, will be felt long after his role as a lecturer there has ended -- and by some who needed it the most.

Combining his thirty years of social work experience (which has primarily focused on children and family problems) with his academic experience, St. Louis is currently spearheading a number of projects, in addition to teaching courses in social work and political sociology and directing student research. Of these initiatives, a planned research project has particular potential to affect social policy in Russia over the next several years.

There are currently about three million homeless children living in Russia, and relatively little is known about them. St. Louis' personal interest in children, and his awareness of this growing problem, has led him to initiate a research project that will help to create an accurate picture of the homeless children in Nizhni Novgorod, a city about 250 miles east of Moscow.

Although the study will examine the issues of homelessness among the children of only one city, its findings will inform and benefit policymakers and social service providers throughout Russia, as they work to provide assistance in the short and long-term, and develop policy that will support the needs of children and families across the country. St. Louis hopes that "as the realities, the incredible hardships these children face become public knowledge, the public will become a driving force in creating more programs."

The Sociological Research Institute of the Nizhni Novgorod University will provide the bulk of the research assistance needed to conduct the study, and St. Louis will enlist the involvement of his sociology students as it progresses. Funding is now being sought to allow the study to commence.

St. Louis' other projects include a number of skill-building seminars that he has conducted for social workers, with the assistance of Nizhni Novgorod University's International Affairs Office. Future seminars, to be conducted with the assistance of local Peace Corps representatives, will focus on staff development at a local orphanage.

Social work is a new discipline in Russian universities, so St. Louis' expertise has been in demand as Nizhni Novgorod University works to develop its programs to fit within accepted international standards, while remaining sensitive to the context of Russia's transition society. His goal in curriculum development efforts has been to keep academic training relevant to contemporary social work practice and today's acute social problems.

"Youth have again inspired me," says St. Louis, speaking of his experiences with his students and other Russian young people, "again propelled me along my incredible journey."

St. Louis and his wife of 32 years, Kaila, have two grown sons: Sean and Shad, living in New Mexico and Colorado, respectively. When not teaching or conducting outreach activities, the St. Louises indulge their love of winter sports and the outdoors, exploring the opportunities afforded them by the long Russian winter.