Changing Lives and Working Toward a Dream
Amanda (Wilson ‘11) Leoni Major: Sociology Minor: Music
Amanda Leoni is investing a lot of time and energy to eventually fulfill her ultimate calling.
Even before college, Leoni had her sights set upon working in the field of adoption. She chose to major in sociology, with a minor in music. After graduation in 2011, she decided to further her education at the University of Missouri- Kansas City (UMKC), with a master’s degree in social work.
“I think that MNU helped me gain a better sense of direction in my life,” Leoni said. “I wanted to take my education to the next level. Social work is a lot like sociology but it is also much different; it is much more holistic in learning how to help people.”
While she was MNU, Leoni went with a missions’ team to Africa, which confirmed her interest in adoption. Her future plans include starting a career in child welfare, then moving on to international adoption and community development.
Leoni already has a jumpstart when it comes to experience in child welfare. On top of her studies, she completed an internship with Jackson County (Mo.) Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), serving as an advocate for children in the foster care system.
The Jackson County CASA website describes an advocate as “a trained community volunteer, sworn in by a judge or commissioner, who is appointed…to advocate for an abused and neglected child.”
Leoni’s roles as an advocate are extensive. She visits each child monthly in order to monitor progress, attends court hearings to stay involved with each child’s case, and is present at family support team meetings during which parents discuss the progress of the case. She must also develop a course of action with the attorney who serves as guardian ad litem for each child.
Leoni says the work she is doing through her internship is opening her eyes to a new world. She knew little of what actually goes on behind closed doors, and has become aware of many harsh realities. She feels the full effects of working in such an intense environment.
“Sometimes I come home and am completely emotionally exhausted from reading reports about what has been done to kids or how they are struggling,” she said. “Now that I know about it, I have a responsibility to make people aware that child abuse is prevalent...we can’t just act like it’s not there.”
Although her responsibilities take a toll on her, Leoni also says it is encouraging to see the positives that result from child welfare services. Witnessing children who are adopted or families who turn their lives around to get their children back are among the highlights of her work.
Leoni believes that MNU provided a good foundation for her future. She learned many theories that have been reemphasized in grad school, giving her a head start and resulting in a solid basis of knowledge. Despite this, Leoni does feel that she has grown tremendously since she graduated.
“Because of how much exposure I am getting, my world has been turned upside down,” she said. “In a lot of ways I feel like I am a different person.”
Leoni says the Jackson County CASA served about 900 children this year alone and is looking to expand to 1200 in the upcoming year. They are in great need of volunteers to help support this vision. If you are interested, call Karrie Krumm at (816) 984-8204 or visit http://www.jacksoncountycasa-mo.org.