Social work is a labor of love. It’s an often time-consuming, thankless position that puts workers right in the middle of grueling, real-life family crises. It can’t be done without strong senses of selflessness and compassion. Christopher Lighty ’07 ’12 MA faces challenging family situations regularly as a Family Services Specialist with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency of New Jersey. His philosophy regarding this type of work is “if you love God, you’ll be able to love his people.”
Lighty enrolled at Montclair State University as part of the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program. Through the years, he was involved with a wide variety of activities on campus: everything the EOF put together to fashion shows, gospel choir and the Organization of Students for African Unity (OSAU). He also worked as a Resident Assistant.
The classroom was where he was introduced to the challenges he’d face later in his career. “Most classes show real-life situations. Pay attention to every detail,” he advises current Family and Child Studies students. Inner City Families and Poverty and Families were two of his favorite courses because they mentally prepared him for the difficult situations that come with working with families in need of help. The situations presented in class came in the form of readings and lectures.
Christopher had good relationships with a number of faculty members in the Family and Child Studies department. “Dr. Cottle was a great professor and advisor,” he said, with whom he took Inner City Families. Husband and wife team Robert Reid and Pauline Garcia-Reid had an impact on him as well, along with Professors Katia Goldfarb and Tiffany Brown. Dr. Brown taught Interpersonal Relations, another course that Chris remembers with fondness. In the class, he learned how to communicate easily with people from diverse cultures and develop an unbiased perspective when working with groups of people.
Internships are a required component in the Family and Child Services program. Lighty interned at the George Washington Carver Elementary School in Newark, NJ with the guidance counseling office.
Today, Christopher Lighty works with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency of New Jersey, formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFUS). He is a Family Service Specialist. In this position, he works to ensure the safety, well being and permanency of children in Newark. He makes referrals for drug abuse, psychiatric evaluation and structured decision-making. One of the most difficult parts of the job is having to investigate families where child abuse is suspected and sometimes remove children from bad situations. He works with the court system to allow parents to get the help they need to get their children back. The goal is to reunite families and keep them together. For Chris, this is the most rewarding part of the job. That reward is why he chose to major in Family and Child Studies.