Both therapists at Sheppard Pratt, the mother-daughter duo of Kate and Karen Campion share their inspirations, talk about their personal connection to social work, and more.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Kate: I come from California, originally, from a large family. In college, I learned about themes of social justice, which inspired me to join Jesuit Volunteer Corps for a year, working with migrant laborer children in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. What I observed and the connections I made with the children led me to study social work.
Karen: I came to social work by way of international peace studies. As a teenager growing up in the Washington, D.C., area after the Sept. 11 attacks, in a home where politics were constantly discussed, I became convinced that we needed foreign policy that didn’t rely on making war. In college,
I studied Arabic and began to learn about the U.S. role in conflicts throughout the Middle East. For a year, I worked in Nablus, supporting after-school programs for children living in what have become permanent refugee camps around the city. The families there taught me how political violence isn’t just political—it’s personal—leaving lasting scars on mental health, family relationships, and communities’ abilities to thrive. I got interested in what it would take to heal those personal and interpersonal wounds, even while the politics are still being contested.
Tell us about the family connection with social work.
Kate: My mother lived the effects of addiction—watching as a child while her parents succumbed. She developed a strong faith, which led her to seek practical training first in theology and then in social work to be able to release people from the clutches of addiction. She stared down the beast, and with courage and training, helped many people take on the difficult journey of healing.
Karen: What my mom didn’t say is that she and her mother completed their MSW degrees together at Catholic University in the 1980s! My parents created a strong culture of social justice within our family. I think it speaks volumes that my siblings are tackling affordable housing, health care, and climate change in their work.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Kate: On a typical day, I spend the morning emailing with teachers, helping follow up on requests from parents, and texting them. I meet with one or two children [over Zoom] during their lunch break, and then after school and into the evening I meet with several more. On some days, I help with therapeutic groups as well.
Karen: In pre-COVID times, my work footwear was a big priority because my day was very physically active! In addition to our core work (therapy with children and their families), we consult with staff about strategies to support our students in the classroom, often doing classroom (or lunchroom or recess) observations and providing in-classroom support as we help the children and adults understand and respond to triggers or behaviors.
What is your favorite part about working for Sheppard Pratt?
Kate: There are two favorite parts: the team I work with is amazing (full of kind and generous people) and the children are such fun.
Karen: I am so grateful to be able to do this work. From our national, state, and county funders, down to the Sheppard Pratt and school staff, it takes a lot of work to make sure there are therapists sitting in offices inside of schools (or on Zoom meetings), available to meet the needs of the children and families who come through our doors. It’s a privilege to be the person at the end of that chain, face-to-face with the clients.
What do you like to do outside of work? Together and separately.
Kate: I love to walk in nature, read, but most of all, gather with my family for holidays and celebrations. Karen is a part of those celebrations. Usually there is a lot of food (my husband had an Italian mother). Now we feast outside around the campfire due to COVID-19 precautions.
Karen: Oh yes, we have become BIG fire pit people. Usually I fill a lot of my free time with travel and social time, so I’ve had to develop some more solitary interests this year. I indulged in quite a bit of furniture painting after moving in August. The remaining wood in my house quakes in fear, wondering when its day will come.
Linkages to Learning offers on-site mental health case management and, in some cases, even a medical clinic at schools in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.