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    Innovating Social Work Practice for the Future

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    Dr. Richard Barth

    Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Richard Barth at the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) conference in Washington DC. Dr. Barth is President of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) in addition to being the School of Social Work Dean at the University of Maryland. Dr. Barth has previously served as a chaired professor at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley.  He is also a past recipient of the SSWR Lifetime Achievement Award.

    We got together to discuss the Grand Challenge initiative launched by the Academy during the conference, and its potential impact on the future of social work practice. The Grand Challenges for Social Work is a groundbreaking initiative to champion social progress powered by science, but it is also a call to action for all of us to work together to tackle our nation’s toughest social problems.

    SWH: Why was it important to launch the Grand Challenge initiative, and what do you hope it will accomplish?

    Richard: The goal is for the profession to improve its capacity to assist society to be safer, more supportive, and healthier. Our aspiration is to identify areas where we already have a history of accomplishment and those which we can be expected to have significant future accomplishment if we strengthen our focus and our scientific work.

    In some cases, this may require readiness to take the interventions we are already engaged in to scale and testing them in different ways. This also means expanding partnerships with professionals, organizations and businesses who are interested in the same outcomes as we are. For other Grand Challenges we will need a longer period of development although we have identified measurable improvements that can be achieved in the next decade for all the Grand Challenges.

    An additional benefit is to help the entire nation understand what social work does, what w are good at, what we care about, and why social work is such a vital partner in addressing each of these issues.

    SWH: How do you envision turning the Grand Challenges into actionable policy changes?

    Richard: As we develop interventions or take existing interventions to scale there will be policy implications all the way along. Sometimes those policies are just to identify newly needed research.

    As an example, we have a grand challenge on ending homelessness and we are looking at youth homelessness. This is a significant problem and so to start attacking that problem one of the things we would need to do is to get very good estimates about youth homelessness, and the array of causes, that would the help us to see what are the opportunities to devise additional interventions that have compelling results. This may include changes in policies for child welfare, mental health, education, and juvenile services that help support youth in a broader range of ways.  There will, undoubtedly be some homeless youth who we can’t help right away and who may require a different policy approach, which could include finding ways to help them stay out of jail or otherwise not become part of the incarceration of America during their period of homelessness.

    This leads to another one of our grand challenges, which is “Smart Decarceration”. We expect that these grand challenges will integrate with each other and what we learn about ways of achieving decarceration–such as modified family courts–may be helpful for runaway homeless youth and people with behavioral health problems.

    We’re interested in policy changes that affect as many people in a positive way as soon as possible. But that said, there are certainly policies that are primarily governed at the local level. Education policies for example are often determined at the school district level because most of the money to support education comes from local taxes. There are school and school district policies and procedures related to suspension and expulsion, which we talked about today in our discussion about success for African American children under the grand challenge of “Achieving Equal Opportunity and Justice”.

    There are other areas where federal policy would need to be changed. For example, Medicaid supports groups for smoking prevention but they don’t support groups for parenting and yet if you’re really going to change family violence then you need to improve parenting.  This is also true if we are going to achieve the Grand Challenge of “Ensuring Healthy Development for All Youth”. We are looking at ways to work at the national level to address that issue. Policy implications that arise out of the Grand Challenges will in many ways depend on the question that is being asked and the way that it’s currently being supported.

    SWH: The Grand Challenges are being launched at a macro level, how do you plan to reach frontline social workers?

    Richard: We’re hoping that each of the grand challenges will end up with a cadre of interested members putting their ideas on the website at www.aaswsw.org and who go to the grand challenge section clicking over to the areas that they are interested in and signing up to get information. People will be able to post and retrieve information there. We are also encouraging all the grand challenges work groups, which are currently in their formative stages, to do what they can to reach out to practitioners to get their voice and to reach out to consumers to hear their voice.

    In terms of frontline practitioners, one of the things we talked about today was trying to cohost some webinars with National Association of Social Workers. For example, we would like to open conversations with state social work organizations and non-governmental organizations about the goals of the grand challenges and ways we can collaborate for collective impact. For instance, when talking about our goals for education or goals related to decarceration, it’s important for us to connect with groups already specializing in those areas. We’re going utilize as social media as much as possible to expand our efforts and reach.

    SWH: If the Grand Challenges has any hope of being successful, how will the Academy support Child Welfare social workers?

    Richard: The Grand Challenges do not have a specific grand challenge about child welfare services. Yet, I expect that a grand challenge touches the lives of every child welfare involved client related to homelessness, decarceration, education, education pipeline, family violence, equal opportunity for all, and improved health for all.  By making progress on these Grand Challenges we will create greater opportunity for families to succeed and will greatly strengthen child welfare’s capacity to help families to live together safely.

    There’s a group that’s forming that’s dedicated to ending gender based violence, which of course intersects with family violence. There’s a very interesting grand challenge about “Build Financial Capability For All”, which has to do with helping low income families to manage the challenges they have around their resources, debt collection and management, eviction, and the many financial challenges that plague families. Further many of the approaches that will be further developed and disseminated under this grand challenge will be preventive in nature. Child welfare workers have to often try to address these issues after they’ve already impacted families. The Grand Challenge will look at preventive tools and also research how to help families maintain benefits they have received from their interaction with a child welfare worker.

    SWH: How is this research going to be translatable to frontline workers and people in the field?

    Richard: It is our goal to put really good science together and create intervention models that are more powerful than what we have now. As an example, the work on ending or reducing severe and fatal maltreatment is one of the working papers we are working on under “End Family Violence”. There has been a discussion about using birth records and prior child welfare records and other data to predict what cases should be screened in and looked at rather than screened out even though they’re high risk. So we’re trying to look at the groups that are working on testable questions that actually have a benefit in reducing the rates of untoward outcomes.

    We’ll have to talk to child welfare workers to figure out how they would use that information. Let’s imagine we could create some excellent predictive analytics. Even so, we will still find it  important for us to work with child welfare workers to see for example, how do you want to see that information? What don’t you want to see included in those predictions that might institutionalize bias? What do you think would actually lead to unfair uses of this information and how can you help us to take our science and use it to make a difference? We don’t want to overwhelm frontline workers with either too many ways or vague suggestions about what they would like to see.

    SWH: If you could tweet one message about the Grand Challenges, what would it be?

    Tweet: The Grand Challenges will be transformative if people buy in, join a challenge, & commit to partnering with others to make it happen. #Up4theChallenge

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    Melissa Bird, MSW is a passionate feminist whose education in social work has led to a career advocating for children, women, and their families.  She is a fierce believer in social justice advocacy and preparing women for leadership roles in politics. She has a wealth of experience working with policy makers, community leaders, and other stakeholders to improve access to reproductive health care for women, men and teens. Melissa is currently obtaining her PhD at the University of Southern California and is the owner of Bird Girl Industries, an innovative public speaking and coaching company.

    Justice

    Understanding DACA & the Role Social Workers Play in Advancing Immigration Justice

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    Written by Christeen Badie & Karina Velasco

    There are approximately 10.5 million undocumented individuals in the United States according to Pew Research. Immigrants often leave their home countries seeking better opportunities and a brighter future. Refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants are escaping poverty, political conflict, natural disasters, and violence. To provide limited relief to some undocumented immigrants, on June 15, 2012, former President Barack Obama used his executive power to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA provides approved individuals with work authorization and a social security
    number, allowing recipients to apply for driver licenses and identification cards. DACA is a deferred action, meaning that it is discretionary and available only for certain undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. To qualify for DACA, individuals must meet strict eligibility criteria, which include: arriving in the U.S. before the age of 16, meeting certain educational requirements, being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, never being convicted of a felony, and never posing a threat to national
    security or public safety. In the following, we’ll explore this program further and the role social workers can play in regards to immigration justice.

    DACA in Action

    When DACA was first introduced, it brought a sense of relief to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who could benefit from this executive action. One DACA recipient, who was interviewed for this article, discussed in-depth what DACA meant to her and her family. Nataly*, a 32-year-old Mexican woman, was brought to the United States by a coyote at the young age of six. Before DACA, Nataly expressed living in constant fear of deportation and arrest. She stated, “As a kid without documentation, I was embarrassed to talk about my status. When other students talked about going to college, I felt like there was no future for me and I couldn’t move forward.” DACA provided hope to hundreds of thousands of young people like Nataly. After gaining DACA, Nataly described feeling relieved and excited. “I felt hope, happiness, and security about my future. I felt like I could become whoever I wanted; although I faced racism as a DACA recipient trying to enroll in college, I didn’t give up.” DACA recipients must pay out-of-state tuition at most universities, regardless of how long they have been in that State, and in most States they do not qualify for financial student aid.

    A Deeper Look at DACA

    To fully understand DACA, it is critical to know that DACA does not lead to a path to citizenship or permanent residency and it can be revoked at any time. Although approximately 643,560 people have benefitted from this action, DACA has received wide criticism and opposition from citizens and political figures according to the Center for American Progress. Despite being upheld by the Supreme Court, DACA’s critics cast it as an unlawful solution to deal with undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. As we continue to witness the legal battles unfold in the courts in attempts to rescind the program, Nataly cries and expresses being scared because the U.S. government has access to all of her information and can easily locate her now. Just like Nataly, many DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, are experiencing fears, anxiety, and sometimes depression. They constantly worry about what the court will decide and whether the decision will affect their ability to continue attending school, working, staying in the country, and pursuing their dreams. In addition, they face the persistent fear of deportation and the inability to support their families emotionally and financially. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers continue to be in turmoil due to the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

    Today, the DACA program is 9 years old and as we look into the future, we need to recognize that Dreamers have demonstrated that they belong in the United States. They are our colleagues, neighbors, friends, and essential workers. They pay $613.8 million in mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in rental payments annually. They also pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes every year. They are part of the fabric of this country. They make tremendous economic contributions to our society, and many of them are on the frontlines treating patients suffering from physical illness and mental health issues caused by the global Coronavirus pandemic.

    The Responsibility of Social Workers

    As social workers, we are tasked with fighting for social justice for all people. Whether we are allies or are directly affected by this issue, it is imminent that we support and raise our voice on behalf of all the Dreamers. Undocumented immigrants are a vulnerable population and social workers should challenge how Congress, organizations, universities, and all other institutions see and treat Dreamers. Nataly is now a dental hygienist, a small business owner, and a mother of two. This is the only home she knows and remembers. You can help Nataly and hundreds of thousands of Dreamers like her by calling your representatives in Congress, signing petitions, attending calls to action, and educating the public. For more information about how you can get involved, check out immigrant rights organizations such as United We Dream, the UndocuBlack Network, and join the Social Workers United for Immigration network (SWUFI).

    *A pseudonym was used to protect the identity of the interviewee.

     

    SWUFI is a network committed to the well-being and advancement of immigrants,
    asylum seekers, refugees, and fighting for their rights. Together, we envision access to
    resources for immigrants, an immigration movement where social workers stand strong
    alongside immigrants and allies at the local, state, and federal levels, and collaboration
    among social workers that includes peer support, and educational opportunities. To join,
    send an email to socialworkersforimmigration@gmail.com.

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    News

    Digital.com Survey: Most Consumers Unlikely to Buy from Companies with Opposing Political Views

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    Digital.com, a leading independent review website for small business online tools, products, and services, has published a new study to assess consumer behavior towards companies that express political views or affiliation. The survey report examines responses from 1,250 Americans ages 18 and older and highlights key points on how politics and social issues influence their buying decisions.

    The study shows that 47 percent of consumers are unlikely to buy products or services from companies not aligned with their political views. Women are also more likely to make purchasing decisions based on political leanings. Fifty-three percent of women say they are unlikely to buy from companies with different political views, compared to 38 percent of men. The top reasons women consider politics when patronizing businesses are that they do not want their money to support causes they oppose, and they want it to have an impact beyond the purchase.

    Similarly, women and Hispanic/Latino respondents are least likely to buy from companies that do not have stated DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies. The survey indicates that Forty-four percent of women and 50 percent of Hispanic/Latino shoppers will consider these policies when making a purchase. DEI policies are also important among Democrats, with 46 percent who say they are unlikely to patronize businesses that do not have them. Thirty-nine percent of independents and 29 percent of Republicans are against buying products or services from companies without DEI policies.

    “Brand alignment and company values are crucial when it comes to attracting loyal customers, and this insightful data can help businesses effectively shape their policies and messaging,” says digital marketing executive Huy Nguyen. “Our study proves that American consumers prefer to spend their money with companies that share their political views and support the same causes.”

    Research findings also show that sustainability issues are more significant among specific age groups. Fifty-five percent of Gen Zers, individuals ages 18-24, say they are unlikely to buy from a company that does not have a published sustainability policy. Forty-one percent of respondents aged 25 to 34 years old and 47 percent of 45 to 54-year-olds also have similar views when it comes to sustainability issues and topics.

    Digital.com commissioned this study to gain insight into how political and social issues can influence consumer spending habits. Respondents were surveyed regarding their political views and the importance of a company’s political alignment and policies when making purchasing decisions. The survey was distributed on July 21, 2021 via Pollfish, the online survey platform. To access the complete report, please visit here.

     

    About Digital.com

    Digital.com reviews and compares the best products, services, and software for running or growing a small business website or online shop. The platform collects twitter comments and uses sentiment analysis to score companies and their products. Digital.com was founded in 2015 and formerly known as Review Squirrel. To learn more, visit their website.

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    Employment

    Cultivating an Equitable and Anti-Racist Workplace

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    2020 was filled with unprecedented events in all facets of life, and, as many have noted across the globe, the year became a landmark for the call to action against racism.

    From the incident in Central Park, where a white woman called the police on a black bird watcher, to the murder of George Floyd by police officers, and when the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her home were not indicted for their involvement in her murder, it is clear that racism is still very prevalent and pervasive. It reaches far and wide, including at home and in the workplace, where power dynamics and structural racism can be multiplied. 

    Through his talk, “Social Work’s Role in Black Lives Matter,” Wayne Reid discussed racism’s reach into social workers’ professional lives. In the workplace, there are certain barriers that people of color face that white people do not. To address these barriers and inequities, equality, diversity, and inclusion advisory groups are often created. Too often, the burden of creating these groups and addressing racism in the workplace falls solely on people of color, when it is a fight that requires everyone’s involvement, especially those in positions of power. This is part of the push for people to go beyond being non-racist and to become anti-racist– actively fighting against racism and advocating for changes against racist policies and practices. It is an active, ongoing process, not only in one’s personal life but in professional environments as well.

    Creating an Anti-Racist Workplace

    Wayne works for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which currently has a goal to create a universal anti-racist framework that is applicable to all aspects of the social work field. This includes creating an anti-racist workplace, and Wayne and the BASW have an idea for how that would look. As Wayne described, an anti-racist workplace would have a very specific anti-racist mission statement, making sure to interview people of color, to integrate an anti-racism mentality into policies and procedures, to provide adequate anti-racism training to all staff, and to conduct annual pay reviews for employees of color to ensure they are being paid fairly relative to their white colleagues. With these steps, workplaces would have to take active steps to ensure they were discussing race within the workplace and enforcing anti-racist policies.

    On top of these ideas for an anti-racist workplace, including mandatory professional development courses aimed at educating people on how to be anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-oppressive would be beneficial. There are already experts in the world of anti-racism who have done the groundwork, and their expertise can be utilized to help implement anti-racist practices within workplaces. For example, Stanford University has created an “Anti-Racism Toolkit” for managers to better equip themselves to address racism in the workplace and move towards a more inclusive environment, and the W.K Kellogg Foundation has created a Racial Equity Resource Guide full of training methods and workshops to provide structure for anti-racist professional development.

    Leadership Inequality

    Wayne also discussed the importance of leadership programs for people of color within their workplaces. In the US, black people only make up 3.2% of senior leadership roles, and only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. Employers need to sufficiently invest in leadership training programs and provide the resources to ensure the success of people of color within them. Leadership programs for people of color would help address the lack of people of color in leadership positions within the social work field and beyond. For social work specifically, in conjunction with these leadership programs, employers should create programs allowing social workers of color to mentor senior staff members as well, providing insight for them regarding the challenges people of color face in the workplace. That said, while the benefits of this type of program are important, boundary setting and confidentiality are just as vital and would need to be well thought out prior to implementation.

    Addressing Education

    In order to assist in diversifying leadership, higher education must also be addressed. Despite the increase in people of color attending college, there is still a large imbalance in representation compared to the general US population.

    For the social work field, it is important to address the accessibility of social work education programs. Because they are often expensive and have numerous requirements for entry, entry into the field is inaccessible for many. They also need to include a more deliberately anti-racist curriculum, which can be guided by people of color through their lived experiences, as well as experts in the field. The field of social work has long been dominated by white women, and that imbalance has impacted the curriculum that we use today.

    Moving Forward

    As long as people continue to ignore racism and the effects it continues to have, nothing will change. Wayne and the BASW’s work to integrate anti-racist education and policies into the workplace and social work schools is crucial to the future of social work and the progress of anti-racist work. Social work needs to play a large role in the changing of policies and practices to ensure that the future is more equitable for all.

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