Alumni psychologist works to protect children from abuse

Madison Weaver, Staff Writer

Returning to the University for the first time since graduation, Dr. Sweety Agrawal ’99 spoke to psychology students on Oct. 4 about her job with the Child Protective Court.

As part of her accomplished career in psychology, Agrawal is now a clinical/forensic psychologist for Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic in Chicago where she conducts evaluations on children and parents for child protective court and looks for signs of abuse, neglect, mental illness, substance abuse, and other threats to children.

The talk was part of the “Improving Children’s Lives: Psychology Alumnae Describe Their Work” lecture series. The purpose of this series is to inspire psychology majors about the numerous possibilities they have to affect the world.

“As a psychology major at Bucknell, it’s really inspiring to see an alumna using her degree to affect social change. It just [goes] to show you that any major can be used to make the world a better place,” Nick Tatarian ’17 said. 

“This is a social justice issue. Children are abused because parents are so stressed because they don’t have money, because they don’t have a job, because they aren’t paid enough … What is the role of our government to change many aspects so that 1500 [children] aren’t murdered?” Professor of Psychology Chris Boyatzis said of child abuse at a national level.

Agrawal shared with students her day to day work and responsibilities, the types of people she evaluates, her colleagues, and how she balances her professional and personal life.  

She has been committed to child abuse protection throughout her entire career.

“I’ve always worked with child abuse and neglect in some way, either with the abused or the perpetrator, so I’ve seen both sides of it,” Agrawal said.

According to Agrawal, the risk factors indicating families that need help or evaluations from the court include children younger than four, children with special needs, parents with a history of abuse, drug abuse, a lack of education, young or single parents, families with a large number of dependent children, and families with a low income.

Agrawal’s work also involves areas of study different from her own. In working with the medical field she deals with hospitals, doctors, and medical examinations, and in the legal field she works on the death review committee. Agrawal attributes a large number of child deaths to the legal system because many cases are left either unreported or undetermined.

Despite being on the child death review team, Agawal is able to maintain a relatively positive outlook on heartbreaking stories of abuse and neglect. 

“I think that being on the death review committee can give you a way to help change that … and make sure these deaths don’t occur again. I’ve been in the field for nine years now … it’s very desensitizing … we all do this for a living; we laugh, we talk about it, we kind of joke about it in a way that other people would find morbid. When you see death a lot and live with it, it just becomes the vocabulary,” Agrawal said.

Having kids herself, it would be understandable for Agawal to struggle with balancing her professional and personal life. However, she affirms this is not the case. 

“I don’t think I take it home with me … the benefit of doing this work and having kids is that you go home and you are really thankful that you have normally developing children who don’t know this [abusive] world,” Agawal said.

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