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Diamond McMillian Has a Special Place in Her Heart for Foster Youth

June 5, 2017

“I have always had a passion for children and enjoyed working with them,” says Diamond McMillian.  

But it is foster youth who hold a special place in her heart. While in college, she was employed at two group homes with foster and probation youth. “I love working with foster youth!” she says. “They are a very vulnerable population and benefit from the support and resources provided by child welfare workers.”

Introduction to Foster Youth and Social Work

Diamond entered the field of child welfare as a family care worker in 2007. In that role, her responsibilities included supervising foster youths’ visits with their families, along with providing mentorship and in-home supportive services. “My love and passion for social work continued to grow,” she recalls, “and I decided to return to school and obtain my M.S.W.”

Diamond had already earned a B.A. in Criminology, with a concentration in Corrections from Fresno State University. She believes what she learned there provided her with a unique perspective. “Having a background in criminology has helped me to understand the criminal aspect of certain cases and referrals that I have dealt with while working in child welfare,” she says. “My criminology experience helps me to understand the legal side and connection to child welfare, and what the parents or extended family may also be dealing with alongside their child welfare interaction.”

On the Road to the MSW at San Jose State

Diamond was accepted at San José State University, enrolling as a CalSWEC Title IV-E Stipend Program recipient. “Being in the Title IV-E program, I had the opportunity to receive several small group trainings that centered around the child welfare process,” she says. “Through our monthly meetings, I felt that I gained a lot of knowledge and was able to ask questions in a small-group setting, which was beneficial to my learning process.”

RELATED: 5 things you may not know about the IV-E Stipend Program

Says Diamond, “I enjoyed my experience in the program and all of the knowledge I gained throughout my time at San José State,” adding “I also enjoyed my classroom experience.”

Even as she worked on her M.S.W., Diamond continued to hold her job as a family care worker. “Working full time and going to graduate social was a bit challenging in the beginning,” she says, “but I found a perfect balance of time. I managed to focus on school and homework assignments as well as my regular job duties and internship hours.”

RELATED: Read more about the Title IV-E Stipend Program

RELATED: Read stories about other CalSWEC alumni

Reflecting on that experience today, Diamond says, “What helped me most was being able to talk to my work supervisor, my county’s internship coordinator, and my field instructor. Having the support of my family and cohort friends helped me get through my graduate school process. I also made sure to practice self-care to help me not stress out from all of my responsibilities.” She graduated with her M.S.W., with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Families in 2015.

Giving Back to Her Community

Despite the demands of work and studies, Diamond still found time to give back to her community. She mentored several youth, while also feeding the homeless, teaching vacation Bible school at local churches in the Bay Area, and  donating clothes to people in need. For her volunteer work in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties, she received San José State’s Outstanding Community Service Award.

Diamond’s community involvement continues today. She is a member of the San Mateo Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Committee, which works with different community organizations to help with prevention and early intervention of child sexual exploitation. For the past four years, Diamond has volunteered at its annual Girls Empowerment Conference, known as “Rise Above.”

RELATED: See CalSWEC's Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Toolkit

“At that event, foster youth have the opportunity to meet survivors of sexual exploitation, hear their stories, and take in advice to prevent themselves from falling victim to the crime,” she explains. “The youth also participate in self-esteem-building workshops, dance and exercise activities, and other workshops to help build them up as an individual.” Says Diamond, “Over the past five years, my passion has grown in this area due to the rise of sexual exploitation of youth in the Bay Area and my desire to prevent youth from becoming trafficking victims.” 

Back to Her First Love

For the past two years, Diamond was an Emergency Response social worker at San Mateo County. “What I liked most is that I had the first interaction with children and their family when they come into contact with the agency,” she says. “I loved being able to help give families support and knowledge and connect them to community resources. In the event that I had to remove a child, I liked to make that process as positive and calm as possible.”

Despite her fondness for that position, Diamond recently transitioned to an AB 12 social worker and is back with the population she is most passionate about, “working with our transitional-age youth and providing them support services as a case manager as they transition into adulthood.”

RELATED: See CalSWEC's toolkit on AB 12, Fostering Connections After 18

Says Diamond, “I love this population due to how much I can help impact and guide their growth while transitioning into adulthood. Youth ages 18 to 21 are looking for guidance and need positive influences and support, and it is awesome I will be able to be there for them and follow them until they age out of child welfare services.”