Addressing White Supremacy in Social Work Institutions and Curriculum

“We must summon the courage to have productive conversations about racism in our field. White workers especially need to reflect on the defensiveness we feel when we are confronted with white supremacy culture, and how we benefit from the existence of it in our institutions and our interpersonal conversations. We must create a discipline around self-reflection, increase our stamina for holding discomfort, and continually ask ourselves where we are centering our engagement – is it on the needs of the oppressed or the comfort of those who fear change?” – SWCAREs

In an effort to help facilitate anti-racist, solution focused, and strength based conversation, SWCAREs will be hosting a twitter to chat to discuss white supremacy in social work curriculum. As our guest, we have invited Dr. Elizabeth Beck share her work on the topic. In order to get to know Dr. Beck before our March 5th twitter chat, we asked her to talk a little bit about her article publication and offer a few thoughts related to white supremacy in social work academia in our recent Q&A.

Dr. Elizabeth Beck is a Professor at Georgia State University in the School of Social Work at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. She is a prolific writer, having authored 26 peer-reviewed articles, one law review article, a number of book chapters, and three books. From 2006-2010, she was principal investigator to the Georgia Council to Restorative Justice, and is currently involved in community-based initiatives exploring restorative justice. In addition to her work at Georgia State University, Dr. Beck teaches at Phillips State Prison as a participant in the Common Good Atlanta program.

In her 2019 article in the Journal of Women and Social Work, “Naming White Supremacy in Social Work Curriculum,” Dr. Beck explores postcolonial theory, race, and ethnicity in the context of social work education and practice. She calls on our field to hold ourselves accountable to challenging the destructive qualities of whiteness, and how they show up historically and currently in the field.

Here is our Q&A as follows:

SWCARES: In your article, you call on yourself to challenge the direction of your white gaze and look hard at the hegemonic and destructive qualities of whiteness. Can you say more about that?

Elizabeth Beck: I have remained haunted and deeply motivated by something I read by Philosopher George Yancy in a piece that he wrote that was addressed to white people.

“As you reap comfort from being white, we suffer for being black and people of color. But your comfort is linked to our pain and suffering.” As a human being and a social worker, I have never wanted to cause pain and suffering, and yet Yancy reminds me that I do so daily.

Therefore, it is not enough to own my privilege or to identify as an antiracist who speaks truth to power, I also need to figure out daily how to mitigate my own role in causing pain and suffering. Of course, I don’t come close to having all the answers and indeed I think there needs to be conversations about how we can do this.

But the two things that I try to do are to engage in truthtelling, which means being clear about racial terrorism, the new Jim Crow, the harm of colorblind remedies, and the fact that our nation is based on and in white supremacy.

Secondly, I try to get out of the way. For example, I must work as an antiracist and work hard, but know that the answers and strategies cannot come from me. They must come from those people most affected. I need to support people of color who are doing the work– and that support can take many forms from working alongside individuals and within coalitions or providing a hot meal when a rest is needed. I also work to share or pass on opportunities that are offered to me in part because of the privilege that I have receive as a white person, and I must hold myself accountable.

SWCARES: Can you speak about the need for whiteness and white logic to exist in social work curriculum, and the impact of their absence currently?

Elizabeth Beck: The academy and the professionalized nature of social work are sites of whiteness and privilege. The knowledge that comes out of the academy is largely going to reflect that, while a paucity of literature will critique and confront it. In social work we have to look hard to find those critiques, and there are a number of treasured pieces out there. Social Work is also in an unique position within the white academy, as we want to be seen as a discipline that has scientific rigor, that oversees credentialing, and that is not marginalized within the academy or scientific community. Rather than finding our own unique positionality in which affected people are expert, we emulate positivism and gatekeeping, both of which align us with whiteness and white logics.

But, we also need to look more critically at the foundational aspects of social work and social work education. For example, we tend to acknowledge the whiteness of the Settlement House Movement, and yet we often hold it up as milestone in the profession’s move toward social justice. This of course then holds implications for the impact of whiteness in the way in which social works constructs and understands social justice. I believe that we need to evolve our understanding of social justice and we must highlight Black and Brown women, men, transgender and non-binary people who changed the world, such as Ida B. Wells, A. Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and many more.

In addition to Kimberle Crenshaw, we need to know the other women who helped to theorize intersectionality, such as Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and members of the Combahee River Collective. With these voices not prominent in the curriculum it is not surprising that scholar Gita Mehrotra notes that in social work, intersectionality is associated with multiculturalism, when indeed intersectionality, which is largely theorized by queer women of color, is also political movement driven from an intersectional analysis of power. An analysis in which those individuals whose lives are “on the margins”/most affected hold the necessary analytical information for transformative solutions.

An additional marker of whiteness for me has been in the language of things like “cultural competency,” (a dreadful idea, that states that I am the norm and you are other thus I need to be competent in you, thereby further enshrining whiteness) or the reliance on acceptable and non-political words like diversity. While we know that diversity is an important goal, journalist Pamela Newkirk, in her book Diversity Inc.: The failed promise of a billion dollar industry, makes clear that without truth telling about systemic racism, ideas that sound accommodating like diversity do not accomplish the goals that they seek.

SWCARE: How do you see this work translating into the classroom? Where does an analysis of theprocesses of domination belong in our instruction and what would it look like?

Elizabeth Beck: As a white social work educator, the first thing I need to do is model antiracism, truth telling, the ability to defer to people of color, and not engage in any sort of fragility. It’s difficult to say where an analysis of processes of domination belongs in instruction, as the ideal would be infusion throughout the curriculum, but then infusion can lead to it being overlooked.

Toward infusing ideas associated with processes of domination and systemic racism, our faculty has tried to do things a bit differently, as we work together to find the space for things like critical theory in our program. With some discussion of critical theory we hope to provide students with the ability to deconstruct knowledge rather than just accept the knowledge derived from white methods and logics. We also hope to offer opportunities for critical consciousness. All of our MSW students read Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I fully agree with Paulo Freire that once you see the truth you are compelled to change things. Certainly, that is what George Yancy did for me.

SWCARES: What does this work look like in the institutions of academia? How does this translate to admissions offices, field placements, and faculty meetings?

Elizabeth Beck: I am not an administrator nor do I coordinate or even oversee field placements, in that way I am not the expert. I am additionally different because our MSW program is a macro based program which means that we tend to attract students who want to be on the cutting edge of social justice work, and that this desire often comes from their understanding of inequality. With that said I do have some thoughts. I think one important aspect of social work admissions is that it places emphasis on people’s histories, stories and experiences. My university is a leading institution in the graduation of minority and first generation college students.

We have a wonderful program that provides emergency grants for students in a financial crisis. This program can be emulated. We must also work hard to ensure supports for first generation college students and those on the academic margins. Mostly we must advocate for policies that make higher education far more accessible to include much more public financing. We must ensure that faculty meetings and committee assignments are equitable and that we have fairness in salaries. I have always been proud that our faculty protects the time of assistant professors. I also believe that faculty meetings can be places where we explore the use of language like white supremacy and challenge ideas of white fragility.

Join @SWHELPERorg and @SWCARES on March 5th at 1:00 PM EST using the hashtag #SWCARESchat to discuss white supremacy in social work curriculum. 

Simmons University Professor Gary Bailey Elevated to Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Social Justice

Simmons University School of Social Work Professor of Practice Gary Bailey, DHL, MSW, ACSW, has been promoted to Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Social Justice in the College of Social Science, Public Policy, and Practice. He started his new role on July 1, 2019.

Bailey has taught in the Simmons School of Social Work since 1999 and has immersed himself in the on- and off-campus community ever since. Among his many on-campus activities, Bailey directs the Urban Leadership Certificate in Clinical Social Work and coordinated the Dynamics of Racism and Oppression sequence.

Professor Gary Bailey

He chaired the Simmons University Black Administrators, Faculty, and Staff Council and the School of Social Work Awards Committee; was a member of the Simmons Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council; co-chaired the Simmons College Initiative on Human Rights and Social Justice; and was a member of the Simmons Faculty Senate.

In 2018, Bailey was named to the GK100 list of Greater Boston’s Most Influential People of Color. In 2017, he was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to the Massachusetts LGBT-Q Youth Commission, and in 2009 he was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to the board of the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA). He was reappointed in 2013 for a term ending in 2019. At MEFA, he chairs the Audit Committee and is a member of the Executive Committee.

In 2010, Bailey was elected President of the International Federation of Social Workers, representing more than 90 countries and 746,000 social workers globally, becoming the first person of color to hold this post.

Bailey was named Social Worker of the Year by both the national and Massachusetts National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in 1998. He was named an NASW Social Work Pioneer in 2005, the youngest person to have received the distinction, and served as NASW’s national president from 2003-2005.

“Gary’s extensive experience in the community reflects his unquestioned leadership in the area of race and justice,” said Dean of the College of Social Science, Public Policy, and Practice Stephanie Berzin. “Through his work and his intellect, he consistently engages students, faculty, and community members towards collaboration to solve today’s most challenging problems. He is uniquely qualified for this key role in furthering the mission of Simmons.”

About Simmons University

Located in Boston, one of America’s most dynamic cities, Simmons University (www.simmons.edu) is a nationally recognized private university that draws on many of the region’s cultural, historical, economic, scientific, and educational resources to offer an unparalleled student experience. Founded in 1899, Simmons has a cherished history of visionary thinking and social responsibility, and a strong mission for over a century: to provide transformative learning that links passion with lifelong purpose. Simmons offers undergraduate programs for women in education in the arts, sciences, and several professional fields; and graduate programs online and campus-based open to all at the master’s and doctoral levels.

The Difference Between Micro, Macro and Mezzo Social Work

Sponsored by Aurora University

The social work profession is multifaceted, and the good news is these skilled practitioners are in high demand across all areas of practice. For instance, medical social workers have a projected growth rate of 20 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is about three times the average rate of all occupations and the highest for any social work specialty.

Another way to look at the profession is to consider it from the three divisions or types of social work: micro, macro, and mezzo social work. These terms help categorize virtually any type of social work that these human services workers perform.

Types of Social Work

The following sections explore micro, macro, and mezzo social work. Information on the work these types of social work cover and what education is needed to enter these areas is considered.

Micro Social Work

Micro social work is one-on-one counseling with clients. These social workers help individuals with social, emotional, or health-related struggles. This work could include helping a person who is homeless find a place to live or helping a veteran transition to civilian life.

Jobs that are considered micro social work include:

  • City social services caseworker
  • Crime victim advocate
  • Family therapist
  • School counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor

Most jobs that involve micro social work require education at the master’s level because those jobs are considered clinical work.

Macro Social Work

Macro social work involves working with whole communities. These communities can be defined by geopolitical boundaries, but often, they are not. They can be neighborhoods, religious communities, or political- or cause-driven groups. The macro social worker may make or shape policy, lobby for social change, or train others to do so.

Jobs that are considered macro social work include:

  • Community organizer
  • Lobbyist
  • Professor of social policy
  • Program developer
  • Researcher

There are jobs in macro social work that can be acquired with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, but others, like a professor or most lobbyist positions, require education beyond the bachelor’s level.

Mezzo Social Work

Mezzo social work involves working with a group of people. Sometimes this group is as small and intimate as employees who need conflict resolution and mediation services. Sometimes it is a group of strangers in a support group who share a life experience, like a recent death, problem, or addiction.

Jobs that are considered mezzo social work include:

  • Business social worker
  • Community service manager
  • Group therapist
  • Parenthood educator
  • Support group counselor

As with macro social work, whether you can obtain a job with a BSW depends on the employer and the population with which you work. Some therapist positions, for example, are clinical positions and require a license, which necessitates a master’s degree and experience in the field. Other positions, such as a community service manager, typically require a BSW.

Interconnectedness in the Types of Social Work

It’s important to understand how social workers can provide assistance across all three types of social work. Here’s a simple example to demonstrate this idea.

A medical social worker who works specifically with babies receiving neonatal care begins meeting with a new mother. After her baby experiences some complications, the mother is stressed and begins receiving therapeutic sessions with the social worker. Because this takes place in a one-on-one environment, that type of assistance would refer to micro social work. The social worker is providing individualized help, as well as therapy.

The scope of practice would extend to mezzo social work if the professional begins assisting the family. For instance, perhaps the father could be struggling with parenthood and supporting his wife. Another scenario may be that another child in the family is having difficulties adjusting to a lot of time in the hospital. In either of these cases, the social worker may meet with the entire family and provide help, such as short therapy sessions or information on services that will help the family adjust. The family is often the smallest unit for mezzo social work.

Although it may not be as common in a situation like this, macro social work could be relevant. An example would be if the social worker helps advocate in the community or the state in some way. Perhaps the baby’s medical issues are quite rare, and support is lacking for families. Or, perhaps the family is struggling to help the other child at school, and the social worker can work with the district on supporting children in these types of situations. There are several ways in which the social worker may reach out to the community or beyond for helping clients. If change needs to happen on a greater scale, then the professional will engage in macro social work.

The example shows the interconnectedness of the different forms of social work. In this process, the medical social worker performs micro (the mother), mezzo (the family), and macro (the community/state) social work.

The Future of the Social Work Profession

There is an expected job growth of 16 percent by 2026 for the social work field, according to the BLS. An aging U.S. population and the booming health care industry are two of the factors that are likely to contribute to the growth. Like most job fields, this percentage varies by specialty. Employment of child, family, and school social workers, for example, is projected to increase 14 percent by 2026, and employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is projected to grow 19 percent. Both are growing faster than the average for all occupations, which is only 7 percent.

People with a BSW are especially qualified for positions in mezzo or macro social work. With courses like Social Work with Groups and Social Work with Communities and Organizations, the online BSW program from Aurora University Online can provide you with concrete skills that will help you support the community with which you want to work. Graduates with a BSW degree are eligible to take the examination for the State Social Work license.

Clinical social workers must have an MSW and two years of post-master’s experience in the field. AU Online offers Chicagoland’s only CSWE-accredited online MSW graduate program, which includes four optional specializations: Faith-Based Social Work, Forensics, Health Care, and Leadership Administration. You may also pursue the dual MSW/MBA or MSW/MPA degree program.

A Student Perspective: Social Work and First Responders

It may be rare for a social work student to reflect on an assignment as something inspirational rather than a stressful experience with a deadline, but at the end of  3rd year of my social work degree, one assignment was a challenge filled with hope. The assignment allowed me to contribute to a program that will give insight to other helping professionals about the mental health of first responders: police, firefighters, paramedics and others who respond to emergencies on the frontline.

The University of Newcastle has a particularly effective way of integrating workplace experience based learning with academic learning throughout the degree. The program options offered in third year which allow students to develop a program for a real agency was the most useful for me. To know your work might form a foundation for a real program in the community was a great honour and challenge to work on.

In the beginning, I was unsure of what to expect from the program development project. I was apprehensive about working with a professional capacity with a real agency, but I was excited also to learn more and try something new. There were diverse programs offered- from gardening programs to developing group projects designed for children and developing a program for professionals working with first responders.

The university gave us a chance to preference our interests and I was fortunate enough, with some other amazing women to be selected for the first responders team. The aim of our project was to put together a draft training package for helping professionals to enhance understanding of first responder mental health.

This topic drew my interest as it was beyond my scope of knowledge and I have a keen interest in mental health, so it was intriguing to me on both a personal and professional level. On starting, I very quickly became aware that I had actually put very little thought into the work first responders do in our communities to keep us all safer.

I learned just how complex the actual work of first responders can be, I learned the challenges that first responders face as a consequence of their work, the most traumatic of which is often invisible to the communities that they protect. I learned how repetitive exposure to trauma can complicate all aspects of first responder’s lives if they don’t or can’t seek or obtain support. I learned how much awareness is lacking within the multiple levels of the community, which is needed to enact change for first responders and their families.

Also, I learned the difficulties that can be faced by first responders and their families when attempting to access help. Whilst organisational supports are in place for some of the services, the stigma, shame and potential for the loss of their profession is very real. I heard stories about those medically discharged dealing with the grief and loss of their profession and identity.

My part in the group was to examine the supports already in place for first responders. I was concerned at the limited avenues for assistance and the extent of the difficulties for first responders to seek help. Besides limited services, stigma and organisational culture are barriers to effective help seeking. I found attempting to identify potential services to be frustrating, especially when looking for options within communities rather than those which are employer organisation based. My mind quickly went to how this frustration might feel for someone who was attempting the same whilst being unwell.

Gaining insight and recognition into the role first responders play, the impacts on their mental health, their relationships and all aspects of their lives and the flow on effect to their wider social ecology,  I  realised just how large the scale of first responder post-traumatic stress and other mental health consequences have on our community overall.

The hardest part of this learning experience was seeing the end of the project. The topic is so significant, it is hard to not to explore the topic further.  To me, this feels like a core social work and social justice issue, yet one which is invisible much of the time. My learning from this project has given me a totally new perspective. I have a renewed respect and a much deeper understanding of the issues faced by police, firefighters, paramedics and all others who work on the frontline in emergencies.

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the knowledge it takes to work with first responders and enact positive change in their lives. I hope more research is completed and potentially more opportunities for training and professional development come up for social workers, whether it be integrated into core teaching within university programs or externally in workplaces.

Engaging Individuals Entrenched With Power and Privilege

University of Southern California Professor Melissa Singh with COBI Fellows in Washington, DC

Like many Macro students trying to obtain their MSW, I have gone through many trials and tribulations trying to pave my own path of what I can do with my degree. From the countless lectures spent being forced fed how to conduct Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (I do not want to be a counselor) to being placed as an elementary school counselor (once again, I do not want to be a counselor). I honestly began to question if I would ever break free from the stereotypes of what position I could fill and achieve as a social worker.

Oftentimes, when a macro social worker states they do not like clinical work they are often met with the counter argument: “Clinical work is the foundation of our profession and every social worker must know how to engage their clients.” However, the clients we work with as macro social workers are not the same clients as a micro social worker. Macro social workers are working with clients entrenched with power and privilege.

Macro social workers are working with clients entrenched with power and privilege

In my opinion, we are working with the most difficult populations and we must  develop a different type of skillset. Skills that allow us  to navigate through the bureaucracies and change the public’s perception on what they deem underserving or the bottom of their priority list.

I have been in two different social work programs and each time as a macro social worker, I feel my education is not tailored to fit me. It wasn’t until I had to opportunity to apply for University Southern California’s Community Organizing Business Innovation (COBI) Fellowship, a program with a mission to create professionals trained to tackle organizational problems and social worker’s grand challenges by introducing, developing, and facilitating social innovation in local, national, and global settings. This mission resonated with me, and it fits my definition of what social work can be.

Over the summer, USC’s COBI Fellowship gave me the opportunity to learn and practice my macro skills. I was able to engage with individuals from 16 different agencies who are bringing innovation into the public sector and learn the tricks of the trade on how they bring positive change in resistant spaces.

There were many takeaways from the trip but here are a few:

  • The OPM Innovation Lab emphasized the importance of navigating through bureaucracy and to inspire public sectors to take risk. We also learned the concept of human-centered design.
  • We discovered the concept of developmental evaluation with Tanya Beer at the Center for Evaluation Innovation.
  • Congresswoman Karen Bass discussed how to engage individuals with privilege in the workplace. She further discussed her Shadow Day, where a foster youth is paired with a U.S. Representative and how it is not only a transformational experience for the foster youth but also, the U.S. Rep. Once a U.S. Rep spends a day with a foster youth teaching them, it becomes personal, and they think twice before saying no against a bill in the favor of foster youth. THIS IS INNOVATION!!!
  • SAMHSA discussed how to engage agencies on the importance of evaluations and message tailoring.
  • Ashoka with Changemaker Executive Partner Sachin Malhan identified the difference between addressing a need and changing the system.
  • Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) discussed looking for ways to weigh in as professionals in policies.
  • NASW consultant, Joan Levy Zlotnik discussed being at the table and articulating both facts and story.

It was inspiring to be among leaders who are experimenting with different models and methods to tackle societal problem. I gained a sense of empowerment and agency being able to sit among them and exchange ideas.  Most importantly, I not only first handedly experienced the importance of having a seat at the table, but I saw my place as a social worker. After this experience, I wished more macro social work students could have an experience like this.

Like many social workers, I chose social work because I want to bring positive change in the world. Although we need social worker helping the immediate needs of individuals and their families, we also need social workers looking at the bigger picture and changing the system.

Until we invest in more macro initiatives where social work students can engage with leaders and learn the skills to navigate and collaborate with individuals who possess power and privilege, our profession will not be in the frontier of innovative change in the public sector.

Indiana State Social Work Students to Help Young Mothers

INDIANA — The Indiana State University social work department has received a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to launch a mentoring program for young mothers re-entering society after incarceration called Next Step 2 Healthy Families.

Robyn Lugar, associate professor of social work, is the project director for this first-of-its-kind grant that creates a university-community partnership to address the needs of young mothers through the Second Chance Act of 2007, which was enacted to break the cycle of criminal recidivism. The $341,000 grant is the first issued through the act and is focused on helping young mothers.

Without proper guidance, the women could return to the criminal justice system for any number of reasons especially with the inability to find resources to adapt to life post-incarceration, Lugar said. “These situations usually happen because of something silly, like they didn’t make an appointment with a probation officer or because they didn’t have childcare or transportation. They couldn’t get there, and they end up getting sent back because they missed that appointment,” Lugar said. “The mentoring and strengthening of young fathers has proven to be a successful model, so we are adopting a similar model for this project.”

The sub-awardee on the grant is the Next Step Foundation Inc, which is a local faith-based non-profit that provides services and programs for those in recovery from addiction. Dana Simons, an Indiana State graduate student who directs Next Step, helped design the programs necessary to fulfill the grant requirements and help to train those that want to volunteer as mentors.

The incarcerated women will require a special kind of mentor. People who are interested in becoming a mentor for Next Step will have to attend training to ensure that they are approaching mentorship from a place of respect and understanding — not judgment. “A mentor is anybody who has a heart for this work and says, ‘Hey, I can give an hour of my time weekly to meet with and walk with a woman who is trying to re-enter society and become a better parent.’ It does require a 12-month commitment, so it is not a small task,” Lugar said. “There are so many barriers that these women have to overcome that it takes a village to help them. It takes the university and the community to come together and do this.”

The Next Step organization was started five years ago and has local support from churches, individual donors and volunteers. Next Step will use its network to reach out to people who might be interested in becoming mentors for this grant program. Mentors will then be matched through special software to assure mentors and mentees have shared interests.

“The university has been so supportive of this. I really appreciate ISU stepping up and contributing the resources to be able to make this thing happen,” Lugar said. The social work department and Next Step will work with Rockville Correctional Facility in west-central Indiana, providing mentorship for women nearing release.

“It’s the social work department reaching out to the community and asking, ‘How can we do social work here, in the Wabash valley?’” Lugar said. The cycle of drug use, incarceration and poverty is generational and difficult to escape, said Simons. “So they go to prison and they get some (basic skills) there, but they coming out — where do they go? How do they live? How do they parent? How do they get a job? How do they manage on the top of that they have a felony? It’s hard,” Simons said.

Next Step will work with re-entry coordinators at the prison to begin mentoring women up to three months before they are released. This year, the program wants to help as many as 50 women with the goal to help 75 in following years, as the program hopefully expands to Vigo and surrounding counties.

Simons says many people’s hearts are in the right place when they become a mentor, but to effectively coach these recently incarcerated women, mentors must understand the world through the eyes of someone who did not think graduating high school was a choice because they have never witnessed it, or someone whose parents never held a job. “We’ll have to train them to understand where some of these women are coming from, how to guide them, and hopefully these women then see that they have choices,” Simons said.

Innovating Democracy for an Equitable America

panel
Panelists (left to right): E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and frequent commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered;” DeRay Mckesson, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement; Tom Hall, of WYPR-FM’s “Maryland Morning (moderator);” and Kimberly R. Moffitt, PhD., Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. The lecture took place November 15 at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Photo Credit: University of Maryland, Baltimore.

In America, democracy is a government of, by, and for the people— or is it?

In just a week since Trump’s election, racially charged incidents were reported at schools and universities ignited by President-elect Donald Trump’s win.  Youth and young adults across the nation took to the streets in protest, including Baltimore, San Diego, Oakland, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Washington DC.

Many of those protesters were not voting-age adults— they were teenagers.  They are Generation Z, that tenacious group of young people born from the mid-1990s to now, comprising 60 million Americans, outpacing even millennials.  Generation Z grew up in an era of high-speed Internet, healthy eating, physical fitness and the first Black president. They are Obama’s legacy and his call to action.  And if America thought they were going to contain their outrage at the dawn of a new era, we were wrong— and so was the electorate.

By the 2018 midterm elections, older Generation Z members will join millennial voters to cast another vote.  More than ever, it is now up to us to step up and educate the young electorate about the legislative process.  Between now and 2018, young social workers across the social work education and practice continuum have an opportunity to seize this moment and act.  Congress decides which laws will be passed and which will not, thereby placing ourselves and our clients at risk.

A few days ago, Dean Richard Barth and president of the American Academy for Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), welcomed E.J. Dionne Jr., DeRay McKesson, and Dr. Kimberly R. Moffitt to the University of Maryland School of Social Work as part of the Daniel Thursz Lecture Series on Social Justice. For over an hour, students and alumni were offered some basic lessons in how to organize new critical masses on a scale America has never seen before.

According to DeRay McKesson, “[this nation] needs to learn how to calibrate to the moment correctly and to organize youth to know what power looks like.” He adds that, “power can shift by midterm,” —a critical time when Generation Z members can cast a ballot for the first time.

In response to DeRay’s call to action,  I could not help but think of the last two Social Work Student Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill where BSW, MSW, and doctoral students  came together to make both events a success.  Over 200 students in 2015 and close to 400 students from throughout the country travelled far and wide to participate in the legislative process and meet their local representatives, engaging in direct lobbying efforts to influence specific legislation supported by the profession. However, one of the lessons I learned from those experiences was that legislative change does not happen once a year— it requires continual action, even if it takes one victory at a time.

Because legislative change is an ongoing process, YSocialWork has made a new commitment to train the next generation in policy entrepreneurship and innovation.  Its new initiative,  Innovate Democracy for an Equitable America (IDEA), which is inspired by the Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative, seeks to innovate the current state of democracy by supporting new ideas, working closely with local, state, and federal leaders, and supporting next-generation legislative proposals.

Call to Action:  IDEA

IDEA is a policy scrimmage and bootcamp. As ambitious and groundbreaking as it sounds, IDEA offers a unique blend of innovation, design thinking, and agile project management using the Scrum methodology as a vehicle for effective policy practice in the twenty-first century. These core features are interwoven with the policymaking process, business plan competition frameworks, and social issues to usher in a critical turning point in U.S. history.  The next generation needs to translate innovative policy ideas into action.

A conference aimed at changing democracy through the policymaking process would  be the first of its kind to train future generations as policy entrepreneurs.  These individuals work outside the formal governmental system to introduce, translate, and implement innovative ideas into public sector practice, often in the midst of social and economic downturn.

This concept which was used by John W. Kingdon (1984) is not new.  However, creating a platform for millennials and the rising electorate, from Democrats to Republicans, progressives to conservatives, to answer the challenges facing American citizens wanting to innovate local and state policies, is.

In a democracy, all citizens have the right and opportunity to participate in this new age of policy innovation focused on human dignity and the value of each individual.   If we want Generation Z to take part in that process, they too deserve a seat at the table.

Unfortunately, it appears America will continue to see unrest in our nation’s most volatile areas surrounding police brutality, homelessness, economic inequality, educational disparities, mental health crisis, gun violence, or a series of other social issues one can choose from. As DeRay McKesson concluded at UMSSW,  “These are the challenges that lie ahead of us,” so perhaps IDEA can bring the Grand Challenges for Social Work to life not just in our community, but for those who we seek to protect.

If you are waiting for the perfect time to seize the opportunity to make a difference and join YSocialWork efforts, the time is NOW. YSocialWork is currently looking for young leaders and organizations to help us execute IDEA on Capitol Hill and across the United States. For more information, contact us here.

OSU School of Social Work Dean Is Not Silent on the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

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Over the past year, we have witnessed massive protests around the world spawned by human rights violations, declining labor rights, and austerity cuts to public services. The plight for many Americans struggling with poverty and located in low-income neighborhoods are not being spared the same fate in our “land of plenty”.

These protests have brought to light the use of police forces and government resources being used to further suppress the voices of the poor and what appears to be an acceptable disdain for policing communities of color. Many have predicted this period in our history will be remembered as the third reconstruction, but how will social work be remembered regarding the most important issues in our life time?

Since Ferguson and the development of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement, it is my opinion that social work leadership is failing to engage and participate in discussions on behalf of vulnerable populations with very little political power. Largely, I have been disappointed in the social work profession as whole for the lack of any organized national efforts to advocate on a range of social issues affecting the clients we serve.

However, I was able to get a glimpse of what a top down effort could look like when social work leadership leads an effort instead individuals being forced to act autonomously without social work leadership support. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Ohio State University College of Social Work Dean Tom Gregoire who lead a #BlackLivesMatter March for their community. Here is what Dean Gregoire had to say about why it was important for him to get involved.

SWH: Why was it important for you and the School of Social Work to lead a march on the #BlackLivesMatter Movement?

We have all be moved by the events of the past year and wanted a tangible demonstration of support for our students, faculty, and staff colleagues. It is important to hold conversation about emergent social topics.  But as social workers, it is also important at times to transcend talk. By marching we “walked our talk” and provided a demonstration of our concern and support that transcended conversation.

SWH: How are student’s processing in the classroom the racial tension and angst manifesting in a variety ways across the country?

I believe that a lot of our community is in pain regarding the level of racial tension and violence. We feel the need to communicate our concern and support. Although we hosted a public forum on these issues, we did not think we were doing an effective enough job of providing the vehicles for classroom attention to the issues that are manifesting nationwide.  I believe that left our entire community wanting more, and looking to us for a strong statement. So we took a walk together.

SWH: How did the use of social media help to increase awareness of your school’s on the ground efforts with the #BlackLivesMatter March?

Social Media played a critical role.  We made a decision to participate in the walk on Wednesday, and then marched together on Saturday, only three days later.  All of our communication was via social media. Social media was important in allowing those who wanted to support the walk but were unable to attend.  Via social media our impact and reach was much broader, and allowed far great involvement.  To further carry the message we created a Storify to tell the social media story of our day, https://storify.com/osucsw/blacklivesmatter-march

SWH: How do you think social work institutions and members of our profession can engage in the large discussion on poverty and institutional racism within the systems we work?

Social media is an important vehicle for carrying the message. It is not constrained by traditional media, and its much more real time. We are not dependent on the mainstream for getting our message out.  I also think it’s important to be open to conversation that moves us toward solution. It is important to be a witness and a voice in the face of social injustice and a voice.  As social workers we need to transcend complaint alone and lean into difficult issues with an expectation of leading change.  Finally,

SWH: What do you feel are the biggest barriers and challenges for social workers to engage and/or have an impact on the social issues of our day?

Courage and curiosity are two important precursors to having an impact on important social issues. Courage allows us to believe that we can make a difference, and helps us be patient for the enduring effort.  Curiosity is the path to new solutions   Rather than thinking we have all the answers, a willingness to see a problem in a completely different way is the only path to new strategies. We need more sentences starting with “what if?” and fewer with “yes but”.

We are often dragged into zero-sum arguments, ones that pit vulnerable groups against each other.  Should limited resources go to support needy children, or older adults?  Is the oppression of people of color more urgent than attacks on the rights of the LGBTQ community?  When we are arguing among ourselves we are not advancing.  Nothing preserves the status-quo better than when the people who need it changed are fighting among themselves.

New Field Placement Model With Crittenton Earns Award from CSU Fullerton for its “Teaching and Mentorship” Culture

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Fullerton, Calif. – Crittenton Services for Children and Families (CSCF) is proud to announce the agency’s nomination and selection as this year’s recipient of the Most Committed Partner award by both the CSUF Social Work Department and the CSUF Center for Internship & Community Engagement (CICE).

Each year CICE hosts its annual Community Engagement Awards as a way to highlight students, faculty and community partners in their efforts to strengthen the bonds of engagement that connect the University and the community. CICE’s main mission is to bring faculty, students, and community partners together to create high impact practices for student success.

“Our collaborative partnership with CSUF extends learning from the classroom to the community, giving students experiential learning opportunities that will build their skills, their resumes, and their ability to positively impact the world around them. It is truly a win-win,” said Joyce Capelle, Chief Executive Officer, CSCF, “We are honored to have worked alongside outstanding faculty and staff of CSUF for more than a decade, in order to provide students practical work experience while at the same time making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable youth.”

Under the “Stellar Support of Students” category the CSUF Department of Social Work nominated Crittenton as an organization that has made a difference in the career trajectory of students via mentorship.  As part of the non-profit’s mission, Crittenton, has made it a part of its strategic plan to make the idea of a “teaching institution” a reality and part of the overall agency culture. For its efforts in guiding and mentoring students, Crittenton has been recognized for going above and beyond its duties as an experiential learning host site.

In addition, as of 2015 both Crittenton and CSUF celebrate a 10-year anniversary of working together to serve vulnerable children and their families curtail the effects of child abuse, neglect, and trauma.

Since the inception of this evidenced-based field placement opportunity for social services, human services, and social work students have been able to take ample opportunity to earn academic units, licensing requirements and gain valuable work experience at a nationally accredited agency.

In fact, throughout this 10-year partnership period, roughly 121 undergraduates and 35 graduate students from CSUF have been given the opportunity to take part of a non-profit’s mission with a connection to a proud national child welfare legacy that goes back to 1883. Nearly 30 CSUF students have been hired as Crittenton employees via this partnership.

At the helm of this internship program collaboration with CSUF is executive team member and CSUF Alumna, Denise Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Crittenton Services.

Cunningham has been a strong advocate of community partnerships between Crittenton and higher education institutions, and has also served in the capacity of a mentor. Her commitment to student success is such that as of this year the CSUF Social Work Department has appointed her Chairperson of the department’s advisory council.

To build tomorrow’s workforce in the human services fields it takes the acquisition of knowledge in the classroom in tandem with developing skill-sets in the community. Crittenton’s partnership with CSUF is an excellent example of this collaborative approach to developing effective practitioners and future change agents.

No Child Left Behind and the Role of School Social Work

It’s no secret a high-quality public education can develop a knowledge base and nurture skill sets within children further maximizing their potential while stabilizing communities and strengthening economies. On January 8, 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was signed in to law by President George W. Bush in an effort to reform public school education.

Although NCLB acknowledges and seeks to close the achievement gap, it unfortunately does not address the systemic barriers that children often face when they live in poverty or oppression. From a social work perspective, high student expectations are essential for academic success, but failure to account for segregation and structural inequalities sets up already disadvantaged schools to fail. Moreover, NCLB does not take community differences or issues of multiculturalism and diversity into account. Even though the research literature available in education has long identified personal and family characteristics as risk factors regarding academic achievement, NCLB does not adequately take these factors into account.

ssw2015School social workers are often assigned to work with students in the at-risk subgroups defined by NCLB, and research demonstrates that by alleviating the social and emotional barriers at-risk students face, it increases their likelihood of being successful in school. NCLB does not mandate interventions to address the many additional barriers to learning that students in at-risk subgroups are likely to face and that contribute to the educational achievement gap.

A new study was published that found if we eliminate the achievement gap in the United States, we can grow our gross domestic product by 10 percent and raise the lifetime earnings of low-wage workers by 22 percent.This study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth outlines strategies that have worked in other countries to bar achievement gap.  NCLB affects every public school in the United States–with the unified goal of leveling the playing field for students who are disadvantaged including:

• Students in poverty
• Minorities
• Students with learning disabilities
• Students receiving other special education services
• Those who speak and understand limited or no English

NCLB is the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with efforts focused on providing equal educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. Therefore, even if a school as a whole seemed to be doing well, it wouldn’t be making enough progress to satisfy the state if a large enough group of minority, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged students missed their targets.

NCLB changed the relationship between the federal government, states, and K-12 schools. The ultimate goal was to make every student proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or disability. States did not reach this goal but Congress has yet to overhaul this law so it is still currently in effect. There’s much more to No Child Left Behind than testing but the testing and accountability provisions have always been the most controversial parts of the law.

There’s a debate centered around the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,a law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his War on Poverty, at its root, was about leveling the playing field for kids. No Child Left Behind, which is the law’s most recent iteration in emphasizing testing, pulled us away from the focus on kids especially those who are poor–as are half of public school students in the United States.

I have found stories from teachers and administrators even more compelling as they reveal the inequities that continue to persist in America’s classrooms. A teacher from Florida wrote, “I work every day to support learning and high expectations for students who are hungry, are homeless, have experienced trauma, and struggle in many ways. … Please, authorize ESEA in a way that provides for the needs of all students, whether they live in an affluent neighborhood, or in my school’s neighborhood.”debate centered around the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,

While the current house bill would make some needed improvements to accountability, it would also lock in recession-driven cuts to education., allowing state and local governments to walk away from their responsibility to maintain funding from year to year. It would also divert money meant to go to urban public schools and give it to wealthier schools.

A recent report released from the White House found that this bill would cap “spending for the next six years at $800 million lower than it was in 2012.” This is happening at a time when child poverty rates are alarmingly high and when Title I — the biggest federal education program — has failed to see any increase since 2012. The report also found that high-poverty districts could lose $700 million, while more-affluent districts could gain $470 million.

The House bill would further harm our most disadvantaged youth. We need a law that gives kids the resources they need, including computers, lower class sizes, nurses, social workers, and counselors, even when their communities can’t afford them. If the American public define success as getting every child able to read and do math by the 2013-14 school year, No Child Left Behind has failed. By 2011, nearly half of all schools nationally weren’t making adequate progress toward proficiency.

Although the data produced in response to NCLB does show some state-by-state decreases in the achievement gap, national indicators reveal that poorer, urban schools and children in at-risk subgroups continue to under perform in comparison both with national averages and with their white and affluent counterparts. Additional studies have found that the new accountability demands imposed by NCLB may unintentionally be widening the achievement gap for at-risk students.

Accountability mechanisms based on test scores can have a disparate impact on schools with larger populations of minority and low-income students. Small schools and those with highly concentrated at-risk and homeless populations, such as schools in urban and rural areas, are also more likely to fail to meet the requirements. In addition, many schools do not start with a level playing field because of scarcity of resources, lack of qualified teachers, and lack of technical ability to fulfill accountability requirements urban schools and children in at-risk subgroups continue to under perform.

For instance, policy stipulations do not address the impact of nutrition, adequate housing, safe communities, or adequate health care on a child’s ability to attend and excel in school beyond implying that even students in difficult situations should be expected to perform academically. When families do not have access to such services and conditions, children are more likely to struggle academically. Personal and family problems such as abuse and a lack of parental supervision are also risk factors for underachievement. In addition, a lack of steady housing or employment is negatively correlated with school success.

The presence of a mental health problem also makes students more likely to underachieve. It is estimated that 20 percent of children have mental health problems severe enough to impede their learning, but only one-fifth of these children receive the services that they need. NCLB does little to address student mental health and its influence on academic success, with the exception of stating that states can apply for federal funds to address student mental health concerns, which aren’t always acknowledged.

Consequently, some scholars have argued that NCLB overlooks the overall well-being of children in schools. Research has identified protective characteristics such as belief in self, determination, independence, and cultural appreciation all help students from disadvantaged settings to excel. However, when schools are focused solely on test scores and a narrow curriculum, it is difficult to utilize the creativity and effort needed to assist students in developing these traits.

As a result, students are not able to tap into resiliency-promoting traits that make them less likely to fall behind academically or to drop out of school. The quality of the school environment is recognized as a major contributor to student learning, yet it is not addressed in NCLB. Positive school environments are those in which students feel supported by adults, have positive peer networks, and feel secure. Conversely, a lack of positive peer networks is a major risk factor for academic underachievement.

When schools foster feelings of self-connectedness, students experience less emotional distress, exhibit fewer violent behaviors, are less likely to use alcohol and other substances, and be less sexually promiscuous. Feelings of alienation and disengagement in middle and high school students leave them at risk for increased truancy and dropout levels. The socio-emotional risk factors outlined in this article pose a large enough threat to student achievement that policies such as NCLB cannot be expected to succeed unless these conditions are adequately addressed. Focusing federal education policies on both academic interventions and those that address these risk factors could be a more effective means for bridging the achievement gap.

However, the good news is that school social workers can take a lead role in helping students to overcome these obstacles and in bringing these policy issues to the forefront. School social workers are in a unique position to intervene on behalf of students at risk and, thus, help ensure their academic success. School social workers are equipped with knowledge of the structural, social, and emotional barriers to learning, especially for vulnerable students.

They can help reduce the achievement gap by working within the current system of educational reform by educating school staff members about the impact of poverty and racism on students’ ability to perform in the classroom and helping school systems to become more culturally competent in their interactions with students by assisting them in broadening the range of multicultural education.

Examples of ways that these issues can be addressed directly in schools include holding regular in-service sessions for staff, establishing a committee to address the needs of students, making connections with community resources and agencies to help families in need of employment, health care, housing, clothing, and other basic needs.

Social workers can assess students for mental health problems, substance abuse problems, and problems in the home environment. They can also offer school-based interventions to begin to overcome these obstacles. For example, research has described successful school-based interventions such as Positive Behavior Support (PBS) and Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) that improve behavior and social functioning for at-risk students and facilitate meaningful mentoring relationships to increase attendance and classroom engagement.

The creation of school-based health and mental health centers can help students and their families receive comprehensive health care, individual or family counseling, and other vital services that may improve academic performance. More importantly, school social workers must monitor the impact of their services on academic achievement which will support how school social work services improve academic functioning and decrease the risk of dropout for at-risk students. It will also demonstrate to teachers, administrators, and policymakers how social and emotional problems contribute to the achievement gap and how social interventions can help to eliminate this problem.

The development and implementation of programs addressing bullying, peer mediation, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and other fundamental school issues are also relevant to promoting academic success. In addition, it is important for school social workers to understand the amount of stress that policies such as NCLB place on teachers. School social workers should offer support to teachers and help them to more successfully tackle their classroom concerns especially for at-risk students. Addressing barriers to learning enhances students’ ability to focus more on academics and positive interaction.

School Social Workers are best situated to advocate for education policy change that looks beyond test scores to the multidisciplinary best practices that help at-risk students succeed in school. Additionally, school social workers can address resource inequalities, school segregation, and the impact of NCLB at the macro and mezzo level.

Its current state, NCLB is not working. Social Workers must advocate for policy improvements by addressing the impact ethnicity, poverty, and inadequate school resources have on academic achievement. As members of a profession that focuses on social and emotional barriers to change, we have a unique perspective to lend to policymakers regarding both the strengths and the flaws of NCLB.

Creating Gender Inclusive Classrooms: Boys, Girls, or Purple Penguins?

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A school district in Lincoln, Nebraska recently decided to avoid using the gender terms boys or girls in order to become more gender inclusive. Specifically at Irving Middle School, teachers and staff were provided with materials educating them on how to use more generic expressions for children, such as “campers, readers, athletes, or even purple penguins to be more gender inclusive” writes Deena Winter of the Nebraska Watchdog.

Winter reports on  a handout called “12 Easy Steps on the Way to Gender Inclusiveness” which advises teachers on how to avoid separating students by gender, but instead make divisions using birth dates or other preferences. Working with children ages 5 to 14 in a mix-gendered environment, I found myself asking this question about my work environment. The phrase “alright boys and girl” is commonly used to get the participants’ attention along with “you guys” or “yes sir or yes ma’am”.

“Always ask yourself, ‘Will this configuration create a gendered space?’” said Step 1 of the handout.

Or they could “Create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple
Penguins’ to meet at the rug,” the handout said.

Step 5: “When you find it necessary to reference gender, say ‘boy, girl, both or neither,” the handout said. “When asked why, use this as a teachable moment. Emphasize to students that your classroom recognizes and celebrates the gender diversity of all students.”

Step 7: “Look for examples in the media that reinforce gender stereotypes or binary models of gender (it won’t be hard; they’re everywhere). When with others, call it out and interrogate it.”

Step 8: “Be intolerant of openly hostile attitudes or references towards others… on their statements about gender. Being punitive may stop the behavior, at least in your presence. Being instructive may stop it entirely.”

Step 10: “Avoid using ‘normal’ to define any behaviors.”  Read Full Article

Middle school children face numerous obstacles and difficulties during those three years. There is an increasing need to fit in, yet one is also beginning to figure out who they are or who they want to be. Understanding one’s gender identity only adds to the stresses an individual encounters during those early teen years.

Lincoln Superintendent Steve Joel provided a statement referencing what children who struggle with gender identity may be facing and how this initiative can help. “Kids who are “living an alternative lifestyle” or have a “gender difference” are going through an “emotionally traumatic time,” Joel said, and other students “don’t understand what that child represents” so the school needs to help students understand “differences are OK” and “we’re all there to learn”.

The handouts have so far only been provided to teachers and staff at Irving Middle School. However, Joel believes it is up to each individual school to decide what the needs of the student body are. Members of the Nebraska Family Alliance and other sister organizations have commented on how the information is “some of the most radical material we’ve ever seen”.

Although extreme, the decision to implement gender inclusive material into the school system is progressive. As a future social worker, the gender inclusive initiative that Lincoln Nebraska has started takes them one step closer to equality for all individuals, regardless of gender identity. Social workers actively work to advocate for equal rights in schools for members of the LGBTQ community. I believe, after time has passed, Irving Middle School may be used as an example for other schools on how to better address gender differences at this age. To understand gender as a social issue, one must first acknowledge that gender is not binary. Although, some people may view gender inclusion as only a means to  appease the LGBTQ community. This intervention could also help to minimize effects of gender assigned roles that thwart the growth of our young people in early education.

Girls are less likely to interrupt others to speak, but those who do are interpreted as rude or unwilling to follow class rules. Boys interrupt their peers and the teacher more frequently and this can be interpreted as either an assertion of leadership or inability to follow class rules. Girls’ school work is often described in terms of their perceived effort but boys’ school work is interpreted according to their smartness and capability. Often, girls are rewarded for being nice, helpful and compliant while boys are rewarded for demonstrating skill and assertiveness. Educators reflect the cultural assumption that it is “natural” for boys to be boisterous, aggressive, competitive and unruly, but girls’ behavior becomes a “problem” when it challenges the boundaries of femininity. Read Full Article

Middle to late childhood, ages 9-14, is a time of increased need for social acceptance. Not only are there physical changes that impact children in this group, there are also changes within an individual’s social circle. I am sure we can all attest to the claim that middle school was one of the most stressful and terrifying time periods of our lives. If worrying about how we chose to identify ourselves or what actions are appropriate for our gender was eliminated in school, imagine what character qualities may have been nurtured.

Intro to Social Work: Understanding Macro, Mezzo, and Micro Levels of Analysis

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Barriers to a Healthy Lifestyle: From Individuals to Public Policy via JOE

The debate about micro versus macro concentrations within the social work profession continues to rage on. For me, it was not that much of a debate until I began engaging with social workers around the world via social media. Since then, it has changed my lens of how I view the world into more of a macro thinker.

Up until the last year, I was happily living in my own microbubble.  The trend or message from others on social media is that Macro Social work has lost its appeal or the profession is being skewed into a clinical/micro focus. There also continues to be a lot of discourse about social workers’ roles on a larger stage. When students take Intro to Social Work, are we fully explaining the interconnectivity between micro, mezzo, and macro levels of analysis in social work?

Has our role been stymied by this Micro and Macro separation? In my opinion, the strength of social work is its versatility, but the profession can’t seem to get out of its own way. Rather than widen the debate, we need to strengthen the two concepts, and Social work programs need to focus on “the space between”. Mezzo social work also referred to as “meso” in other disciplines, is often left out of the conversation. Micro, Mezzo/Meso, and Macro are levels of analysis that are the cornerstones of ecological systems theory and practice. The application and understanding of these levels are not only germane to social work, but they are integral in the analysis of business, finance, politics, science, and more.

According to Social Work Degree Guide website,  it has this to say about mezzo-level social work:

Instead of working with an individual or a familial group to promote individual change, you will work with groups to focus on promoting cultural or institutional change. Because social workers practicing mezzo work face unique challenges, they generally will have experience in both micro and macro work and use this experience in tandem. You will need to be experienced with both interpersonal relations and community involvement when you choose this level of work. Read More

In a recent Twitter chat about Sustaining innovation in macro social work, the importance of macro social work came up. Most importantly, Carly Levy responded to the chat stating that “Our desire to be recognized as licensed clinicians dominates social work culture and distorts macro social work purpose”. As a direct clinical provider with a growing appreciation for Macro work, this perfectly illustrates the impasse social work is facing. Rather than clinical social work distorting macro social work, we need to examine ways clinical social workers can enhance the macro process as well as ways macro theory can enhance clinical practice.

To illustrate my point, the first therapy group I ran was about 4 years into my career. I had already been practicing family and individual work for quite some time. During this time of clinical growth in groups, the individual skills I learned dovetailed well with group work. Also, I was learning more about group work theory which enhanced my family work. Although working in groups enhanced my thinking about organizational change and the tone an organization sets, facilitating organizational change is where social work can excel. Taking clinical skills and growing them into macro skills can make for a powerful combination.

Individuals with Macro social work skills for systems analysis, community organizing, grant writing, and coalition building in policy-making positions will affect how we practice. Community Organizer, Mozart Guerrier, stressed in his TedxSyracuse talk the need for listening and consensus making. He says without listening to what people need, it will limit trust and change will not happen.

As social workers, we are often referred to as “change agents”. Change can happen through direct practice but also can be achieved through change at the organizational and community level. There is a huge space between what happens in an individual therapy session and what happens on Capitol Hill. We should attempt to get away from where change happens but how it happens.

No matter what our concentration is in graduate school, social workers all have a notion of how change happens. By making the micro distinction this distorts how change happens, and we have the tools and the talent to make change happen at many levels. It is where micro and macro meet that can cause a significant amount of change. Utilizing the macro, mezzo, and micro levels of analysis in all of our practice areas is the best holistic approach to helping our profession and our clients improve outcomes.

Using Games in Therapy

Games are an engaging way to build the therapeutic relationship while assessing a child’s strengths and areas where there is room for growth.  Playing games as they were intended to be played can teach you a lot about a child’s functioning in multiple areas, and adding a therapeutic twist can make games highly adaptable to many clinical issues (ex. feelings, CBT, social skills, etc.).  Below are some suggestions for how you can use games in your own practice.

Purpose of Playing Games in Therapy:

  • Rapport Building: Games are a fun way to begin building rapport with clients.  How the child plays can tell you a lot about their functioning and engaging in an activity can take some of the perceived pressure off and help increase comfort and disclosure.  You can also see how they are at multi-tasking/holding a conversation while playing.
  • Frustration Tolerance: How often does the client become frustrated and how do they react and regulate their emotions when they do?  How do they respond to falling behind or losing?  Do they give up or push through?  Are they able to verbalize their emotions?  Do they become aggressive?
  • Decision-Making: Are they able to quickly make decisions and adapt their strategy as needed? Did they demonstrate impulsivity? Are they confident in their choices or appear insecure?  How much reassurance from you do they seek?  Are they able to look at the whole picture or do they think of moves one at a time?
  • Problem-Solving: Can they identify what their options are?  Are they quick to ask for help or able to use their problem-solving skills without much direction?  Do they show flexibility when things don’t go their way and easily move onto other strategies?  How effective was their problem-solving?
  • Response to Rules: At the start of therapy, I usually let the client dictate the rules and do not interfere if they change them.  Do they follow the set game rules or make up their own?  How often do they change them?  Do they ever permit you to win?  Later on in therapy I may state that we will play by the game’s rules, which I enforce, to see how they react or teach appropriate social skills/sportsmanship.
  • Provides Opportunities For Positive Reinforcement, Redirection and Limit-Setting:  How do they respond?  Does behavior improve?  How much redirection do they need?
  • Social Skills: Games are perfect for teaching social skills, conflict resolution, and good sports-personship.  They are highly effective when played in group therapy and give the therapist tons of opportunities to model, reinforce good behavior, facilitate positive interactions, etc.

Creating a Therapeutic Twist:

  • Create a Color Code: This is a simple way to modify games to fit specific therapeutic issues.  Many games already have colorful pieces, and if they don’t you can easily add multi colored stickers.  Then write out a code in list form (ex. every time you land on red describe a time you were angry).
  • Write up Cards: You could also use a color code with multi-colored stacks of cards.  Having more questions allows you to address more specific issues.  You could forget the color code and just play the game normally and have a client answer a question before each turn.
  • Alter the Board/Pieces:  You could also write questions or tasks directly onto the game board or pieces.

Create Your Own Games:

  • Bare Books has inexpensive blank game boards, books, puzzles, etc. that you can use to create your own therapeutic games.  A professional looking blank board game is just $3.95.  They have flat rate shipping so I suggest getting together with a couple people to place your orders.

Buying Therapeutic Games:

  • Games made specifically for therapy can be great, though are often expensive.

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Suffering in Silence: Identifying the Oppressed

When I first created Social Work Helper, I was surprise at the number of emails that I started receiving. Maybe, the name gives the impression that I have the power to help the oppressed and the distressed from a social work perspective. However, what troubles me most are the emails/messages I receive from students and practitioners who feel distressed and oppressed in their own social work environments.

speak-upWhen I first started receiving them, I was fresh out of graduate school as a non-traditional, single parent student. At the time, I was experiencing my own bitterness towards graduate school and the profession. I reached out to another well established social work print publication asking for advice on what to do with these letters and messages I was receiving from students and new practitioners. Unfortunately, I received the response that I have experienced many times while working in the profession which was “none”.

I tried to be empathetic and provide a sounding board as best as I could during this period of time, but at the same time I was also looking for an escape plan from my chosen profession. Having both my bachelors and masters degree in social work, it did not provide me with many options. My options after graduate school was equating to licensure and doing therapy. However, after my first internship in grad school, I needed therapy and wanted nothing to do with social work. Having to quit a full-time job as a social worker to work for free full-time as a social worker/student intern hurt me emotionally, physically, and financially. I went back to school because I wanted a promotion, and I didn’t think it was possible with a BSW.

Through Social Work Helper, I try to tell people stories and create awareness on issues because sometime we tend to evaluate and analyze policies/issues using only the lens of our own experience or people we know. The oppressed are suffering in silence and fearing retaliation for speaking out against their oppressors. Some might say why didn’t you complain, and my answer is complain to who? I worked over a 1000 free hours within a year while earning my advance standing macro degree. A failing grade for field practicum means you don’t graduate or may have to leave the program, so I suffered in silence until I earned my freedom. Essentially, I feel like I went in debt in order to pay someone to abuse me, and I was told by my field placement instructor that students couldn’t learn unless it was painful.

A couple of days ago in response to the petition I created requesting internship reform, a student sent me an email asking that I share their story, but asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. It’s important for me to note that I would have never shared this story without being asked to do so. Here it is as follows:

I saw your petition online and wanted to take the time to thank you most sincerely for your efforts. I wrote a comment to attach with my signature, but it was too long for the section to submit in full. I’m sending it now from my old high school email address as I do not wish to be singled out by my current university.

I will be the first person in my entire family to attend and graduate from a four year college. While my parents were scrimping and saving to afford tuition, I have worked tirelessly to attain and retain admission to my state’s most prestigious public liberal arts college. When I learned earlier this year that I would be paying several thousand dollars of my parent’s hard earned money to work an internship not of my choosing, comfort level, or skill set, I was devastated; I feel as though I’m being forced to pay to change fields. My internship is at a privately owned nursing home conglomerate where I have the barest minimum of face time with residents and have absolutely no role in contributing to the helping process; I’m an un-glorified pencil pusher. I feel stuck, and have regularly asked to complete my internship somewhere else, anywhere else; unfortunately, my requests have always been denied due to a scarcity of qualifying internship sites.

Thus, I’m left feeling out of touch and disenfranchised; my experiences are never relevant to my classes’ discussions, and I’m frustrated that I’m lining the pockets of a corporation instead of meeting the needs of clients through a non-profit agency setting. I feel angry with the School of Social Work, and have come to resent my decision to purse a life in the field of social work at all. I always knew that such a degree would entitle me to the potential for poor pay and emotional hardship, but I expected to be rewarded with a sense of self and purpose that I’ve yet to find in my senior year in the field. Instead, I feel taken advantage of, cheated, manipulated, ignored, and lied to. I’ve been told not to complain and that my feelings will only help me to better empathize with future marginalized clients. I disagree; any potential for empathy has turned to resentment and my passion to repulsion in the face of their subterfuge.

At the beginning of the year, 2/3 of my classmates (about 40 people) were preparing to take the GRE and begin scouting for graduate schools. Now, though? We have maybe 8 people still intending to pursue going straight through to get their MSWs. Most people too aren’t even looking at jobs in the helping professions for after graduation; almost everyone I’ve talked to about career plans has spoken of taking a year or two off and working minimum wage jobs at restaurants and retail stores just to get away from the stress that our internships have taught is all that we have to look forward to as professional social workers.

I hope my story can be helpful in substantiating the need for reforming social work internship requirements.

Join us tonight at 9PM EST for the #Macrosw chat which is a collaboration made up of community practice organizations and individual macro social workers. We will be discussing internship reform and the public commenting period for the Council for Social Work Education. The collaboration consists of ACOSA @acosaorg by(Rachel West @polisw), Network for Social Work Management, Deona Hooper (Founder of Social Work Helper @deonahooper), Karen Zgoda (PhD Candidate at Boston College), The University at Buffalo School of Social Work and the University of Southern California School of Social Work. Each member of the collaboration will take turns moderating the #MacroSW chats. The #MacroSW twitter chats occur on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month. The full archive of this chat can be viewed at https://storify.com/SWUnited/internship-reform-and-macro-practice.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mary Kay Victims

CSWE: 2015 EPAS Now Available for Public Comment and Feedback

cswenews

Draft 2: 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS)
Opens on March 14, 2014 
Feedback Closes on May 16, 2014

On behalf of CSWE’s Commission on Educational Policy (COEP) and Commission on Accreditation (COA), the second draft of the 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) is now available for public review, comment, and feedback. We would like to thank the programs, individuals and organizations that provided feedback on the first draft. For Draft 1, we received 24 surveys on the CSWE feedback website and letters/emails from 12 programs and 4 organizations. Three feedback sessions were conducted at the October 2013 APM with approximately 350 participants in attendance. Feedback on Draft 1 closed on December 31, 2013. The COA and COEP worked in January and February 2014 to review the feedback and make changes for Draft 2 of the 2015 EPAS.

The revision of educational policy and accreditation standards is set-up to be a thoughtful, lengthy, 2 year inclusive and collaborative process leading to a vote on the educational policy by the CSWE Board of Directors in October 2014 and a vote on the accreditation standards by the Commission on Accreditation in June 2015. The full timeline is available on the EPAS Revision page. Feedback on Draft 2 is very important as this will be the last public comment period for the educational policy before it is approved in October 2014. Additional comment periods on the accreditation standards will continue in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015.

The intent of both commissions is to solicit feedback from as many constituents as possible in as many ways as possible. CSWE invites and encourages all individual and program members and interested organizations to provide feedback on the second draft of the 2015 EPAS. Feedback can be submitted as a group or individually in one or more of the following ways:

1.    Submit feedback online as an individual and/or program member of CSWE at:  http://research.zarca.com/survey.aspx?k=SsTXWXsSXSsPsPsP&lang=0&data=

2.    Submit feedback online representing an interested organization at: http://research.zarca.com/survey.aspx?k=SsTXWXsSXSsPsPsP&lang=0&data=

3.    Submit a feedback letter directly to CSWE at Office of Social Work Accreditation, 1701 Duke Street, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314 or by e-mail at EPASrevision@cswe.org.

4.    Attend 2015 EPAS information and feedback sessions at the 2014 BPD and NADD conferences and share feedback in person.

The 2014 BPD information and feedback session is scheduled for:

  • Saturday, March 22, 2014 from 9:30 am–10:45 am in Kentucky E

The 2014 NADD feedback session is scheduled for:

  • Friday, April 11, 2014 from 8:30 am–10:00am in Grand Ballroom C, Vanderbilt Wing, 8th Floor

CSWE suggests reading two documents in their entirety prior to beginning any feedback. The first document is a Summary of Feedback on Draft 1 and Proposed Changes for Draft 2 which offers an overview of the feedback and proposed changes for Draft 2 of the 2015 EPAS. The second document is a copy of Draft 2 of the 2015 EPAS.

CSWE through the COEP and COA is committed to a comprehensive and thorough review process that develops a 2015 EPAS that reflect the excellence of social work education programs. Updates on the process will be shared in CSWE’s Full Circle and on the CSWE website.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding Draft 2 of the 2015 EPAS. Please note that the second feedback period will close May 16, 2014. CSWE’s COEP and COA welcome collegial feedback and expertise as well as help in disseminating this information widely among all interested parties. If you have any questions about the feedback process or experience any technical problems with the online feedback system, please contact the CSWE Office of Social Work Accreditation at EPASrevision@cswe.org.

Jo Ann R. Regan, PhD, MSW
Director, Office of Social Work Accreditation

Press Release: Social Work Helper Magazine was not involved in the creation of this content.

Find Your State’s Licensing Laws with Social Work License Map

swmap

Are you unsure about your State’s licensing laws or possibly considering a move to another state? Finding this information out on your own can be a frustrating process, and you may not know where to begin your search process. Well, Social Work License Map has created an interactive website to help kick-start your licensing journey for your State or a state you are maybe contemplating a move to.

Recently, Social Work Helper was listed on the Inspired Advocates list of top advocacy blogs, and I decided to reach out to Inspired Advocates which is a project of Social Work License Map to find out more about their efforts in providing up to date information relevant to the social work community.  I had the opportunity to interview  Brian Childs who is a content developer for Social Work License Map, and here is our interview.

SWH: Tell us about Inspired Advocates, and what led to the creation of Social Work License Map?

Brian Childs
Brian Childs

I studied History and Spanish at the University of Georgia and went on to earn a Masters in Journalism from NYU. Currently, I oversee content and technology projects for SocialWorkLicenseMap.com and Inspired Advocates is one of those projects.

Inspired Advocates is a dynamic ranking of websites in the social justice blogosphere designed to raise awareness, build community and educate bloggers on how to promote their sites using search engine optimization, social media and outreach. Any site with a blog that is relevant to the social work space can submit themselves to Inspired Advocates. Once approved, they are ranked by our algorithm which looks at domain authority, frequency of posting, user interactions and the quality of the content.

Social Work License Map was created to be a free resource aspiring and current social workers to help guide them through the licensure process while also providing practical information such as salary, scholarships and career tracks.

SWH: How is the site useful to students, aspiring social workers, and practitioners?

For students considering a career in social work, or any career really, it can be difficult to assess the pros and cons and the best path to move forward. What are the opportunities available in the field? What level of education to do you need to pursue your goals? How will you pay for that education? When you graduate, are there going to be jobs available?

While we can’t advice individual students on their specific circumstances, we have tried to create a helpful resource for the aspiring social worker by researching  information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, state social work licensing boards, and scholarships for social workers and placing them in one convenient location. Social Work License Map is meant to be an overview of the available information, with links pointing back to more in-depth sources.

For current social workers, we have provided guides to help with questions relating to resumes, interviews, cover letters and conferences. Our newest project, Inspired Advocates, is intended to raise awareness of online projects by social workers or online social advocacy efforts that overlap with the social work field. After our campaign to raise awareness of this new tool, we will be publishing a series of guides to social media, search engine optimization and creating content for the web to help educate advocates on how to increase their online presence.

SWH: How did you collect and verify data to ensure the accuracy of licensure laws in all 50 states, and how often is it updated?

We collected the data from the relevant state social work licensing board then contacted those licensing boards to make sure we had represented the process accurately. This research and fact checking process was last completed approximately 18 months ago and will be updated again after we’ve completed our outreach and awareness campaign for our new Inspired Advocates tool.

SWH: Does your site also provide information about becoming a social worker and social worker salaries, and how reliable is the information?

The information on becoming a social worker largely comes from sources such as the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers and the Association of Social Work Boards as well as a variety of schools of social work. The information on social work salaries comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Throughout our research we attempted to use the most reliable sources for this information.

Utah Students Learn About Diversity Through Hands On Research

At Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, students in the Social Work department have the opportunity to complete a research project as part of a hybrid research/statistics course.  Each semester, the research project is driven by student interest.  In the Spring of 2012, the research was focused on the diversity of student experiences and openness to diversity.

Weber State University
Weber State University

The research entitled “Wildcat nation:  Open to diversity?” used questions from the College Student Experience Questionnaire (CSEQ) along with demographic questions to analyze a student’s openness to and experience with diversity.  Through the use of social media and email, students were directed to a link to a survey to answer questions about diversity.

A sample of n=286 respondents were included in the research.  The research found that students at WSU were open to diversity and had experience with diverse interactions.   We further compared respondents on the variable of religion and whether the respondent grew up in Utah.  Because the predominant religion in Utah is LDS (Mormon), the student researchers felt this was an important variable to examine.  The variable of religion was collapsed into three categories, LDS, other, and none.  The research showed that the respondents that identified LDS as their primary religion had a lower openness score compared to those with no religion or other religion.

The same results held true for experience with diversity:  those identifying LDS as their religion had less experience with diversity than those with no or other religion.  With regards to growing up in Utah, there was no difference with regards to openness to diversity.  However, there was a statistically significant difference between those growing up in Utah on the experience with diversity scale.  People growing up in Utah were less likely to have experience with diversity than those that did not grow up in Utah.

The research found that students are open to diversity but do not have a great deal of experience with diversity.  There is a need to expand opportunities for diverse interactions on the collegiate level.  Because Utah is a state unique in its religious demographic, students prior coming to college may have more limited experiences, putting the onus of responsibility on the academic environment to expand these experiences especially since students appear to be open to these experiences.

Rothman Report Inspires a Student Led Movement

In 2012, Dr. Jack Rothman, a prominent author and academic, issued a report on the current state of social work macro practice. The study identified barriers in schools of social work which have shown a steady decline in social work engagement with community organizing, policy making, and political activism.

Macro Social Work Student Network (MSWSN) received the Student Recognition award from the Association for Social Administration and Community Organization (ACOSA), and I was chosen to lead the expedition to see how we can reinvigorate and shift social workers back into policy makers. I left New York City to go on a fact finding mission in the mid-west in order to collect data and identify concerns from students and academics on the state of macro practice curricula within their universities. I visited four schools of social work which was the University of Texas at Austin, University of Utah, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University.

MSWSN
Macro Social Work Student Network

This humbling honor reflects not just the potential of students to affect macro education, but the need for us to be advocates. Anxious to hit the road and meet my colleagues at other schools, I took another look at the Rothman Report which is essential reading for any social worker and especially the macro social worker.  The following findings of the Report manifested themselves during my trip:

  • There is limited integration of macro with micro in the curriculum
  • Macro courses are neglected or marginalized
  • Students are not encouraged to choose a macro program or are deflected to clinical practice
  • There is lack of student interest in or knowledge of macro 
  • Field placements are lacking or problematic
  • Licensure requires many micro courses and leads to little macrocontent

The Macro Social Work Student Network (MSWSN) is a student-driven organization that has been forming campus chapters for macro education advocacy. In turn, this leads to better macro practitioners and healthier communities because social worker are trained to influence policy shifts in order to help improve outcomes for children and families.

Micro level social work is primarily dedicated to clinicians who provide treatment to the individual and/or family. In recent years, social work has shifted from its social justice roots, and it has moved towards the perception of a mental health provider or a child welfare worker.

In my opinion, the profession is dangerously incomplete without macro practitioners organizing in communities, leading and administrating vital agencies, drafting policies, constructing programs for healthier society, and more. Galvanized by the barriers facing macro education, student are working together across the country and in their schools to enhance macro education. On my journey, I met with students and professors to learn more about why they think enhanced macro education is imperative to the social welfare.

Perhaps, it was in the 1980s when the decline in macro education begin to shift. By the 1990’s, a paltry “2.9 to 4.5%” of masters-level students focusing on policy and political involvement according to the Rothman Report. In June, the Network held an event on the current state of macro education with Dr. Loretta Pyles and Dr. Scott Harding presenting on the 2012 Rothman Report.

The Rothman Report added validity to what students were already feeling in their schools which equated to macro education students being underserved. Amazingly, campus chapters have been springing from Massachusetts, Texas to California, and it is reminiscent of “an earlier period [when] grassroots activism and political campaigns were a vibrant aspect of the emerging social work field” (Rothman, 2013).

University of Texas-Austin

At the University of Texas-Austin, I encountered two impassioned MSW students, Elise Fleming and Jessa Glick who led me to Professor Duncan’s classroom. Professor Duncan asserted, “As an educator and social work practitioner I believe robust macro education is critical to fulfilling our profession’s commitment to social justice.  We cannot achieve true social justice one client at a time.” He continued, “To be truly effective social work education must include a strong foundation in macro practice for all students and specific skill development for those students that want to focus on macro practice.  One of the true tenets of macro practice is grassroots organizing and empowerment. I am excited to see the potential of MSWSN to help students learn those skills and strengthen macro practice!”

Ms. Glick made the statement, “I think of macro education as siloed. I don’t see clinical and macro as separate, but curricula enforce a false binary that they are. MSWSN is giving students a chance to collaborate and share experiences.” She continued, “MSWSN allows for sharing of information and innovations/trends within macro social work programs with a space for dialogue. Most importantly, the student voice has a professional platform.”

A few days later I received a message that UT-Austin would start a chapter and focus on assessing the school’s macro curriculum using MSWSN’s assessment survey.

Arizona State University and North Arizona University

The next day, I made my way to the Land of Enchantment at Arizona State University, where I met Judy Krysik’s Program Planning in Social Services class in Phoenix and Nick Taras’ at the Tuscon campus. Assistant Professor David Androff regarded this “as a huge opportunity for ASU social work students.”  ASU’s Policy, Administration, and Community Practice (PAC) students expressed many concerns that would be echoed up north in Dr. Anne Medill’s BSW macro course at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

NAU students, limited by an undergraduate generalist curriculum, threw up their hands with questions such as:

  • Other than what was described, what else is macro social work?
  • What sort of job can I get as a macro practitioner?
  • What about the licensing?
  • Can I actually be a social worker who writes policy?
  • How can we get more macro classes in here?

These are real questions that social work students face across the country and not enough are getting the answers they need. Students are feeling disempowered and misguided by an abundance of myths, misinformation, and mere separation from the facts in order to make intelligent decisions about their social work careers. Ultimately, both the student and our communities suffer.

University of Utah

At the University of Utah, I spoke both with MSW students in Dr. Lindsay Gezinski’s class and in a general information session, each organized by BSW students Carlos Rivera and Rick Reimann. Although Utah only offers a clinical track, students still have macro practice concentration option. One student, Katheryn Dennet stated,

“I see great value in understanding and participating in macro level social work. Systematic change requires many minds – including clinicians – to provide information for our clients. Too often we feel powerless and if we communicate this to our clients we will have done them a great disservice. Learning how to work at the macro level as a clinician is empowering and a crucial part of the social work education. MSWSN’s presentation made me, for the first time, feel excited about a clinician’s role in a large macro setting.”

The Rothman Report

Dr. Rothman started the “Action Recommendations” section of the Report with the following statement:

“There was a strong sentiment for increasing the visibility of the macro area and advocating for its greater status and importance in the field. The major institutions identified as key to attaining this objective are CSWE (in particular), schools and departments, and NASW. These emerge as the core target groups of an action program. Additional targets are the general public, related professions and disciplines, and social work scholarly organizations”

With this statement, I interpret its meaning as stating student involvement in schools and departments of social work is an inherent necessity for the growth of macro practice. While I encourage collaboration with CSWE and the NASW, the development of solutions to barriers to growth in macro education must begin with student action.

As I reflect on my journey, I realized there is more work to be done with MSWSN than before I left, and student sentiments are clear. We want enhanced macro education, and we’re determined to work for it. The development and growth of MSWSN provides an opportunity to facilitate and advocate for the advancement of macro practice. Increased advocacy has the ability to influence schools to produce more and better-skilled macro practitioners which will enhance policy initiative to improve communities.

Children from Adversity: Ronald Maloney Debuting Powerhouse Road

There are many lessons to be learned from children of adversity who able to thrive despite the circumstances placed upon them through no fault of their own. Native North Carolinian, Ronald D. Maloney, was the first bi-racial child placed in the State’s colored orphanage in Oxford, North Carolina as a result of his mix-raced status. Ronald Maloney will be returning to North Carolina to begin debuting his memoir Powerhouse Road.

In 1959, Ronald’s circumstances were unique because he was denied acceptance by both the black and white community, and he remained in the colored orphanage from first grade until the day he left for the military in 1972. As a Bachelor’s of Social Work student, he graduated from North Carolina State University in 1977, and he went on to obtain a Masters in Social Work from the University of California at Berkeley.

According to an article written by UC Berkeley Social Welfare, when asked what led him to California, Ronald Maloney stated,

“I had wanted to go to USC or UCLA because of their sports programs,” says Maloney of his initial choices for graduate school. “But then I saw that Berkeley had the number one program in social welfare, so I knew that’s where I had to go.”

Maloney drove across country with whatever belongings he could fit in his army duffle bag to start his new life in the Berkeley and the Bay Area, a place where he remains to this day. He explains that he knew he was definitely no longer in North Carolina when he spotted “a guy with dreads” while coming up University Avenue to the campus. “Oh, I am at UC Berkeley now!” he remembers thinking.

Also among his earliest memories was the very first School of Social Welfare orientation he attended in Berkeley’s famous Rose Garden, complete with wine and cheese.

“I’ll never forget when an older man came up and asked me, ‘How does it feel to be at UC Berkeley?’” recalls Maloney. “I didn’t know who he was, but I figured it had to be somebody important – and it was. It was Dean Specht. He said to call him Harry.

“When Harry asked me that question, I answered, ‘Do you want me to tell you how I really feel or what I think you want to hear?’ He said he wanted to hear my real feelings, and I said, ‘I feel academically inferior because all these people around me are coming from big-name and Ivy League schools.’  Read Full Article

The article is a great read for anyone wanting to preview the upcoming book signings by Robert Maloney. You can also view a segment about his journey on UNC TV using this link.

University Decision to End Partnership over Reproductive Rights May Have Bigger Implications

Dean Will Rainford
Dean Will Rainford

In a recent decision, School of Social Work Dean, William C. Rainford, at Catholic University of America (CUA) issued a statement ending a long-standing partnership with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) because of its support for women’s reproductive rights.

According to the university’s website, Dean Rainford was appointed to lead the School of Social Work in June 2013, and his biographical information states that he is nationally recognized as a social justice advocate. This major change in University policy comes less than three months after Dean Rainford’s appointment.

Many social work students have taken to twitter to express their outrage for the decision. However, an on campus student social work group, NCSSS Action, reached out to the Chronicle of Social Change to go on record about their opposition to the new policy. According to the group’s organizer Andy Bowen,

“The other students and I are still coalescing around strategy and action, but we won’t go quietly into the night here,” said NCSSS Action organizer Andy Bowen, in an e-mail to The Chronicle of Social Change. Will Rainford, who in April of 2013 was named dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS), informed students in a recent letter that he will “no longer allow NCSSS to officially partner or collaborate with NASW.” The reason, he said, is “based solely on NASW’s overt public position that social workers should advocate for access to abortions.” Read More

The timing of this decision is surprising especially when NASW has been on record about its support for reproductive rights as early as 2004. According to the NASW website in its activities, projects, and research section, it states:

  • Healthy Families, Strong Communities is an NASW project funded by the United Nations Foundation to engage the U.S. and the broader international community in the strengthening of maternal health and reproductive health.
  • Human Rights Update on Social Workers Addressing the Rights of Women and Girls Worldwide through MDG5 (10/8/2010 pdf)
  • NASW Policy Statement on Family Planning and Reproductive Health – appears in Social Work Speaks, a compilation of over 60 NASW policy statements on social work-related issues.
  • Female Genital Cutting – an NASW research page focusing on the practice of female genital cutting, otherwise referred to as female genital mutilation or female circumcision.
  • March for Women’s Lives – a 2004 rally co-sponsored by NASW for women’s reproductive rights.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, women’s reproductive rights have been an area of contention for conservative and religious groups. In several Red States, such as Texas and North Carolina, Republican led legislatures have begun passing some of the most restrictive laws limiting women’s reproductive rights and women’s ability to gain access to preventative care.

In 2012, Catholic University of America joined a lawsuit with Wheaton College asserting the Affordable Care Act is a violation of the school’s religious liberty. During the conference call, Wheaton College President Dr. Phillip Graham Ryken and The Catholic University of America’s president John Garvey stressed their schools’ alignment on pro-life beliefs according to the Huffington Post.

This major policy shift by the university’s School of Social Work does not align with the mission and values of a social work education. The role of a social worker is to help a client who is in crisis or help them improve their outcomes through intervention. As a social worker, if you can not set aside your personal beliefs to provide a client all necessary information to make an informed decision, you are ethically obligated to refer them to someone who can.

If the logic of this university is accepted and applicable to make policy decisions based on religious beliefs, what prevents it from teaching future social workers the tenets modeled as it relates to members of the LGBT community or women seeking health care advice? What prevents any religion from making policy decisions based on ideology to be enforced on a minority group? In my opinion, CUA’s shift in policy is in direct conflict with the Council for Social Work Education’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). If institutions are modelling practices and instituting policies in violation of accreditation standards, should the institution retain its accreditation?

In EPAS section 2.1.4, Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice states:

Social workers appreciate that, as a consequence of difference, a person’s life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege, power, and acclaim. Social workers

  •  recognize the extent to which a culture’s structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power;
  • gain sufficient self-awareness to eliminate the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse groups;
  • recognize and communicate their understanding of the importance of difference in shaping life experiences; and
  • view themselves as learners and engage those with whom they work as informants.

The website for the commission and board who oversees the accreditation for schools of social work can be found at http://www.cswe.org/About/governance/CommissionsCouncils/CommissiononAccreditation.aspx. Additionally, if any students at CUA would like to be interviewed, I can be reached at deona@socialworkhelper.com or at @swhelpercom.

You can view all of the Council for Social Work Education’s educational policies and accreditation standards as adopted here.

 

Cover Photo: Courtesy of Catholic News Agency

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