Growing up in poverty, David Kuroda MSW ’72 never thought he could afford to go to college — never mind a top-notch university like USC.
That’s a large part of the reason why he wanted to make sure he provided for future generations of social workers by including the USC School of Social Work in his will.
“If it weren’t for the generosity of previous donors, I wouldn’t have been able to attend USC,” said Kuroda, who went on to become a leader in the field of collaborative divorce and family mediation. “Their gifts enabled me to go to the university and develop connections with the community that I could use later in my career.”
When Kuroda started college at the University of California, Los Angeles, he thought he would eventually become a doctor. But he soon discovered that he enjoyed talking and listening to people more than studying science and medicine. After a friend at USC suggested he might be a good fit for social work, he applied to USC’s program.
As a Master of Social Work student, Kuroda performed his field placements at local schools and what is now the LA County Department of Children and Family Services. After graduation, he started work as a medical social worker with the LAC+USC Medical Center and later went into psychiatric social work at the county’s Department of Mental Health.
Kuroda reconnected with the School of Social Work as a field instructor while working first as assistant director, then as acting director, of training in social work at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). During this time, he was offered a family mediator position at the LA County Superior Court working with divorcing couples who had children. While he was interested in this new position, having personal experience with his sister, who was going through a separation at the time, Kuroda refused to leave the USC students he had been working with until they graduated. Impressed with his dedication to his students, the court allowed him to work part-time until the students finished their internships at CHLA.
While working at the court, Kuroda helped consult on what eventually became Family Code Section 3190, which permits judges to order counseling for parents going through divorce. Kuroda was a prominent proponent of this kind of interdisciplinary work, which he later focused on in private practice.
After 18 years with the county’s Superior Court, where he worked his way up to division chief of Family Court Services to direct its mediation and conciliation service, Kuroda started his own practice specializing in child custody mediation, co-parenting and reunification counseling, and collaborative divorce, which allows social workers to have a hand in family law by working with lawyers, judges and financial professionals in providing a more efficient and comprehensive process.
“Courts now see that social workers and mental health professionals can provide for children and families involved in divorce,” Kuroda said. “Collaborative divorce reduces stress for all people involved.”
He appreciated the well-rounded education and real-world experience he received while at the School of Social Work, as it has helped him relate to several kinds of clients and colleagues, something he encounters daily as a collaborative divorce professional.
Kuroda sees this kind of collaborative work as an emerging field for social workers and hopes that the field of social work can be broadened by encouraging young social workers to go into newer, more innovative fields of practice, such as the corporate sector.
“People think that social workers only work with the poor, the mentally ill or with children. But we also work with billionaires, CEOs and other professionals,” Kuroda said. “We have skills that we can offer at many different levels, and to have that recognized is better for the community and our profession. Social workers can really do important things.”
To help elevate the reputation of social workers, Kuroda has designated that his gift go to the school’s California Social Welfare Archives, where he serves as a board member. Established in 1979, the archives maintains one of the most extensive and complete collections of California social welfare history by making available historically significant information that documents the emergence of social problems and the development of social welfare in the state.
“It’s important to recognize the contributions of people who have gone before us,” he said. “And in terms of gifts, it’s not so much about ‘giving back’ as it is about the value we have in caring for others. If we only gave back what we received, it would be limiting. Charitable giving should be about so much more.”