Non-traditional Students Require Non-traditional Policies for Field Placements

I am only six weeks away from completing my BSW degree; a degree that has taken nearly twenty years to complete.  As I am nearing the end of my current educational journey and in the final hours of my field placement, I have found myself becoming quite reflective about my educational experience.

Now, I am not your traditional BSW student, and as such, my experience is dramatically different from many individuals who enter a BSW straight out of high school.  I have never sat in a physical class or classroom; I have never met any of my classmates and my professors or instructors face-to-face.  I am thirty-six years old with two children, and I work full-time in a field where I have spent the last sixteen years in.  No, I am not your traditional BSW student; I am a new breed of student, an older nontraditional online student.

Advances in technology have flung wide the doors of innovation in higher education. Online programs, developed in the last ten years and refined in the last five, have drastically changed the face of higher education for non-traditional students like me, who would have had no other opportunity to complete a degree.

Due to their ability to offer flexibility to students, online programs have become a permeant feature on the higher education landscape, and their popularity and student population are growing at an exponential rate. The academic training of future social workers has not been exempted from the advancements in technology and education. My soon-to-be alma mater and one of the leading online social work programs in the nation have reported a 34% increase in the number of students enrolled in the online BSW program this year alone.

While there have been major leaps forward in distance learning and online education, there has been little to no innovation regarding CSWE accreditation policies concerning this new breed of students, especially as it pertains to their field placement.

As it stands, all CSWE accredited schools, including non-traditional online programs function under the same blanket policy regarding field placement. Students enrolled in BSW programs are required to perform a minimum of four hundred unpaid hours of field placement at a social service agency. The policy also requires that field placement hours be served in conjunction with educational direction.

The CSWE considers field placement the “signature pedagogy” of social work education as it offers future practitioners the opportunity to apply theories learned in the classroom by exposing them to all sorts of problems and situations.  There is no debate concerning the importance of the field placement experience.  Incongruence occurs, however, due to a lack of nuance in policy when it comes to the unique needs and strengths of non-traditional learners.

Many non-traditional students, like me, who find an educational home in online BSW programs, are typically older adults either seeking to complete a bachelors degree they forsook earlier in life, seeking to further their current career, or shift their career entirely into a new filed.  While the reasons non-traditional students have for returning to school through an online program vary, one thing is common for us all.  Each student brings many years of life experience and employment history to the program.

Personally, when I started my online BSW program, I had over sixteen years of social services experience; working for years in a therapeutic boarding school for teenagers on the verge of incarceration, pastoral ministry, and serving as the Executive Director of a large non-profit social services organization.  I am not alone in bringing this level of experience in my current distance learning program.

In an informal survey conducted by current and former students of my school’s online BSW program, sixty percent of students reported that their resumes reflect positions comparable to that of social workers with fifty percent of responders stating they were employed by a social services agency while also performing their field placements. Students reported they have or are serving in capacities such as SUD Therapist, Program Coordinator, Outreach Specialist, Case Manager, Addiction Recovery Specialist, Youth Career Specialist, and Parent Mentor.

It is safe to assume that students from other online programs would report the same data. As such, it is important for the current CSWE and school policies concerning field placement for online programs be reviewed and discussed to create the most effective learning environment for these unique students. If the current policies are followed, older non-traditional students will not have the desired experience as CSWE and accredited schools for BSW students.

If there is no change in how these students are viewed and the policies surrounding their placement, the CSWE and institutions of higher learning run the risk of non-traditional students viewing their service hours as a mere assignment that must be completed to graduate.

To be honest, this has been my thinking on more than one occasion during my field placement. While I have learned a substantial amount about the agency I have worked in and it has been truly informative, I have also found myself questioning whether this experience was truly fulfilling the mission and vision the CSWE and my school had in mind when policy was crafted concerning BSW field placement making it the signature pedagogy.

Often times in my placement, I found that due to my life and employment experience, I was more qualified to perform the duties and tasks than those I was shadowing and being supervised by. I do not relay this out of a sense of arrogance, but sheer professional experience.

Due to the nature and requirements of my field placement setting, I have spent a majority of my time shadowing new social workers or others who do not have a BSW at all. There is much to be gleaned by working with these individuals in an agency setting and hearing about their roles and responsibilities.

There is also great value in navigating through interpersonal issues that arise in a field placement setting. This aspect of placement has been invaluable to me.  What has become cumbersome, however, is trying to relate to my agency, my placement, and my future practice of social work as if my life experience and employment history were non-existent and as if the position I may potentially secure after placement will be my first professional job.

The current framework concerning BSW field placement is to provide students with experience in generalist practice with the hope that after field placement and graduation, students will secure jobs in social services agencies as entry-level generalist social work practitioners. This is a fine and noble objective to have, but the reality is a majority of older non-traditional students will not seek entry-level positions.

As their resumes reflect extensive knowledge and experience, the addition of a BSW degree will only elevate them to higher levels of employment.  To use a professional metaphor, these older non-traditional students will most likely not be starting at the “bottom of the ladder.” With that being the case, it would be prudent and wise for these students to be placed in advanced practice settings with more intensive supervision, settings that will mirror the level they will be entering the profession of social work in.

While this may not be true for everyone enrolled in online programs, it is true for many; and those individuals deserve to have a field placement setting and experience that will rightly prepare them for the work they have before them in the professional field.

I am by no means suggesting for a cessation of field placement for older non-traditional students. Field placement is imperative and a means by which students safely test theories and gain invaluable experience.  I desire to open a dialogue concerning the needs and strengths of the non-traditional students and how to best serve them during this crucial time of learning.

However, a new examination of the CSWE requirements, policies, and procedures of institutions of higher education with a manner of nuance should be given to this growing student population. It will ensure these older non-traditional students who are finishing their degree and entering the practice of social work receive a placement that meets their educational and professional needs rather than being an exercise in futility to complete a requirement.

CSWE Honored for Cultivating Social Workers’ Participation in Public Policy

ALEXANDRIA, VA, — Darla Spence Coffey, MSW, PhD, president and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), has been presented the Political Advocate Leadership Award by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP).

Coffey is recognized for her leadership in increasing social workers’ involvement in public policy through the CSWE Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice and the Coalition for Policy Education and Practice in Social Work.

Edolphus Towns and Darla Spence Coffey

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive the Political Advocate Leadership Award,” said Coffey. “CRISP’s partnership has helped CSWE expand the audience we reach with our public policy efforts. Our work is far from done—I look forward to continuing our collaboration in tackling both the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Coffey was presented the award March 8 at a reception following CRISP’s third annual Social Work Day on the Hill. The event honored the lifelong contributions of former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns, who served 15 terms in the House of Representatives, chaired the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and created the Congressional Social Work Caucus in 2010.

“The Political Advocate Leadership Award honors everyday heroes who address social challenges that affect the society and world,” said CRISP Chief Operating Officer Angela S. Henderson. “Darla is an exemplary leader who has worked tirelessly to bring social workers into the public policy arena. We are so appreciative of her work.”

Patricia White, executive director of the Fund for Social Policy and Education and Practice at The New York Community Trust, also received the Political Advocate Leadership Award, and Senator Debbie Stabenow received the Congressional Advocate Award.

CRISP is an independent, nonpartisan organization that recognizes the importance of the Congressional Social Work Caucus. The organization aims to increase awareness of the benefits of social work in communities, schools, and workplaces to help vulnerable populations achieve self-sufficiency.

“Investing in programs such as CRISP and strengthening the connection between accredited university programs as well as directly with legislative offices is key in moving the profession of social work forward to make a public impact. Over the years, we have certainly increased impact in the academic research arena, but it needs to translate to empowerment of clients and communities. Post election cycle is an opportune time to refocus and commit stakeholders to the overall profession’s goal of client and community self determination,” said Dr. Kristie Holmes, CRISP Board of Directors.

Professional Social Workers are already equipped with many skills to navigate the world of politics, but application training for many is necessary in order to impact politics through advocacy and mobilizing communities.

New York Community Trust Gives One Million Dollars to Help Train Social Workers

Students with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work attended the Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., in November. Social Work HEALS, a program implemented by NASW and the Council on Social Work Education,with funding from New York Community Trust, trains and educates students to strengthen the delivery of health care services in the U.S. Here, students pose at the NASW national office in Washington. /Photo by Paul R. Pace, NASW News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New York Community Trust (NYCT), one of the nation’s largest community foundations, has renewed a grant through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to educate and train more social workers to strengthen the delivery of health care services in the United States.

NYCT will award the two social work organizations $1 million over the next two years to continue the Social Work HEALS initiative. Part of the grant will be used to bring two fellows to Washington, D.C. to directly engage in health care policy work on Capitol Hill.

“This project will strengthen the delivery of health care services by enhancing the preparation of health care social workers” says Natasha Lifton, senior program officer at The New York Community Trust. “This work also will fill a critical gap as the population lives longer and needs more care.”

“Social workers make up an important part of our nation’s health care system, ensuring thousands of consumers each year get the best possible health care both in the hospital and when recovering at home,” said NASW CEO and NASW Foundation President Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “We are excited The New York Community Trust has renewed the grant and CSWE and NASW will continue working together to ensure social workers shape and improve our nation’s health care for generations to come.”

CSWE President and CEO Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW, added, “We are grateful for the NYCT’s continued support of Social Work HEALS and the opportunity to continuing partnering with NASW. Social Work HEALS is particularly impactful because it targets every level of the social work profession, from baccalaureate students to post-doctoral policy fellows. We expect that this will build a pipeline of social work leaders who can transform all aspects of health care—from direct practice to policy—to better meet the needs of underserved populations.”

The New York Community Trust supports an array of effective nonprofits that help make New York City a vital and secure place to live, learn, work, and play, while building permanent resources for the future. Two couples, Robert and Ellen Popper and Lois and Samuel Silberman, created permanent funds in The Trust to make the field of social work more effective by using scholarships and training. The New York Community Trust combines part of their gifts to fund this program.

The New York Community Trust grant allows NASW, CSWE and 10 partner schools to provide field instruction, course work and leadership opportunities so more social workers are ready to become a key part the U.S. health care delivery system and provide better services to clients. Social workers are trained to provide culturally competent, evidence-based practice in health care settings.

NASW and CSWE also use the grant to foster the next generation of social work academic and practice leaders by developing five-year partnerships with the 10 schools. Through funding at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, about 200 students will have the opportunity to take part in education and training, connect with peers, advocate for policy issues, and practice as a member of an interprofessional health care team.

For instance, more than 40 social work students who take part in the program came to Washington, D.C. in October 2015 to meet with social workers engaged in health care policy and learn about health care legislation important to social workers, including the Improving Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2015. These students also arranged visits with Congressional staffers to discuss social work and health care-related legislative issues.

NASW and CSWE will host the next summit of program participants in 2017.

“We are delighted The New York Community Trust is showing leadership and vision by investing in the social work profession,” McClain said. “This grant is already making an impact by giving social workers in the program a chance to truly have an opportunity to influence our nation’s health care policy and improve the health and well-being of millions of people.”

Global Social Work Agenda and Social Development


Recently, I had chance to watch “The Inequality Movie” narrated by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich where it outlines how the United States has one of the poorest distribution of wealth in the world. This was a great movie highlighting the need for change on the legislative and policy levels. Although the film focuses on inequality in the United States, it is no surprise this is an issue faced by many societies around the globe. In response to the inequality around the world, Social work has developed it’s first global response to the issues of inequality and the distribution of wealth.

F1.mediumIn the last four years, three lead organizations facilitated conversations on each developed continent to address the cause and solutions for those most effected by inequality. Through the leadership of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) and International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), social workers from around the wold are attempting to problem solve and develop actionable measures to address inequality.

The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: First Report -promoting social and economic equalities at first appearance seems like a humongous effort, but it demonstrates the ability of the profession to works towards collective impact in coordination of efforts to improve outcomes for those we serve.

The report examines the unique conditions of each continent and how social workers presented their solutions. Policy changes and macro interventions were at the heart of this report.


Social Workers in this forum called upon the UN to develop regulations to curb this process. They also noted that there was a huge disconnect between social policy and those most affected by it.  Solutions need to be more locally driven.

Asia Pacific

Social work is getting more organized in this region focused on disaster relief, more direct engagement with consumer groups, and respect for indigenous peoples.


The primary problem is drastic cuts in programs since the economic crisis in 2011.  The group gathered evidence of how these programs being cut increased suicide, joblessness, and homeless rates. They have placed emphasis on health inequalities to treat these issues are more of a public health problem.

Latin America Caribbean

Politics in this region have often quieted more macro-efforts  however their  voice is getting louder. The focus has been on more community organization and involve clients in more decision making.

North America

The CSWE (Council on Social Work Education, USA), NASW (National association of social workers, USA) and Canadian Association of Social Workers developed several guidance documents to deal with issues of inequality and poverty.


As a result of these conversations the theme became “Asserting Your Voice“.  The Global Social Work agenda about Promoting Social and Economic equality will be based on the following values and actions:

•• The cornerstone of a thriving economy is a stable, well-resourced and educated community.

•• People are happier and wellbeing is better for all in more equitable societies.

•• When people have a collective voice, they are more able to advocate for their rights and participate in decision-making processes resulting in better wellbeing.

Social Work clearly have a lot to offer the world. The theme of inequality is at the heart of our practice. Problem solving inequality seemed like a grandiose project, but the global social work community broke it down into manageable steps.  I hope this inspires you to let your voice and the voice of the individuals you serve be heard.


Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. (2009) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Opportunities for Social Workers Expand Under Obamacare

Millions of Americans breathed sighs of relief upon hearing the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the insured in states where the federal government created the marketplace exchanges. Six of the nine justices believed it was Congress’s intention to provide a healthcare system that would cover as many Americans as possible. Among those waiting to exhale were social workers who are a critical component in the reformation of the healthcare system under the ACA.

President Obama reacts to hearing news of the Supreme Court’s decision (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama celebrated the validation of his signature legislative accomplishment with his closest staff. Conservatives were appalled by the decision that—for all intents and purposes—institutionalizes a system they derisively named and now is commonly known as Obamacare.

Most Americans know the law for providing healthcare insurance for millions more Americans through affordable premiums and expanded Medicaid. On a larger scale, the ACA is transforming the entire way we look at health and healthcare.

While discussing social workers involvement in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare system with Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, President and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), she pointed out that since the enactment of the ACA the focus of health and healthcare has moved from individualized medical care to an integrated model that includes behavioral health as well as primary care while factoring in social determinants of health.

This is social work’s approach to healthy living that takes into account the biopsychosocial and spiritual dimensions of human existence. As a result of the new direction for healthcare, there is a greater appreciation of the value social workers bring to the process.

CSWE and the National Association of Social Work (NASW) are partnering on a number of initiatives that will expand social work in healthcare settings. One that includes the Society for Leadership Social Work Leadership in Health Care (SSWLHC) is an agreement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to train Certified Application Counselors (CACs) to enroll the millions of Americans eligible for healthcare insurance who have not yet signed up. Another initiative funded by the New York Community Trust called Social Work HEALS: Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars Program, provides scholarships for social work students at 10 universities.

Social workers are receiving training through the Health Resources Services Administration’s (HRSA) $26.7 million Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training for Professionals program. Sixty-two schools of social work received $19 million of the funding that will allow about one-fourth of accredited MSW programs to provide scholarships to 4000 students at $10,000 each over the next three years. Additionally, CSWE’s Gero-Ed Center presented a series of five webinars on opportunities for social workers under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Coffey says the shift to more integrated healthcare service delivery has spurred greater interest in inter-professional education. CSWE’s annual survey which will be released soon, found that 40 of the 223 masters programs that offer joint degrees reported having a MSW/MPH dual degree option. She reports the number of students specializing or pursuing a concentration in healthcare is on a steady incline. The health and integrated health field setting is the second most common setting after mental health. The health/integrative health and mental health setting for baccalaureate students is now the fifth most populated setting—moving up from sixth last year with 400 more students reported for that setting.

Social workers are regaining influence in discharge planning in hospitals as the determinants of health are understood to be more than a menu list of medications and activities. “There is a greater appreciation for social workers in hospital settings,” Dr. Coffey explained, “because hospitals will be penalized for excessive readmissions under the Affordable Care Act.” The ACA contains a provision that reduces Medicare payments to hospitals with higher readmission rates. Having social workers involved in case management and discharge planning should help reduce the number of readmissions.

The demand for medical or healthcare social workers has increased dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of social workers is expected to rise by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, greater than the average of all other occupations combined. While BLS puts the average salary for social workers at $44,200 (2012) annually, they report the average annual salary for healthcare social workers as $53,590 (2013) with some states paying significantly higher wages.

Driving this demand is the aging of baby boomers and the expansion of healthcare by the ACA. Now that Obamacare will remain the law of the land, social workers will play a major role in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare.

Be A Voice for Social Work Education: CSWE 2014 Call for Volunteers

cswenewsNow Open: CSWE 2014 Call for Volunteers

Response Deadline: 11:59 pm on Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear Colleagues, The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) invites you to apply to be considered to serve on one of our 17 distinguished CSWE commissions or councils. Annually CSWE publishes a detailed account of the organization’s work, including the contributions of the commissions and councils, during the previous fiscal year. The latest installment, the 2012–2013 CSWE Annual Report (PDF), is now available on our website.

We hope that looking through the report will give you a deeper appreciation for the contributions member volunteers provide to CSWE operations. Members of CSWE commissions and councils are invaluable to advancing the work of the organization and the work of professional social workers. Each year CSWE seeks to identify new leadership for our commissions and councils, and we hope you will be inspired to join us!

Application Submission Application materials must be submitted using the new online CSWE 2014 Call for Volunteers system. After selecting that link, applicants select the name of the commission or council to which they wish to be appointed, enter their contact information, and upload three required documents.

  1. NEW: CSWE Application for Position on Commission and Council Form
  2. Curriculum vitae
  3. Brief Statement of Interest

The receipt deadline for member volunteer applications is Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Appointments are made by the chair of the CSWE Board of Directors and will be effective July 1, 2014. If you know someone who would contribute to the work of CSWE through a commission or council, please encourage them to apply. Criteria for Applications

  • Applicant must maintain current CSWE individual membership
  • Applicants from underrepresented ethnic and cultural groups are sought to embody the diversity of the social work profession. (See CSWE Affirmative Action Plan (PDF) for additional information.)
  • Include a CV and a brief statement identifying the requested appointment area and describing special areas of expertise and/or interest that will benefit that area.
  • Applicant must be able to attend meetings (in person or via conference call). Commissions meet face-to-face twice a year—once during the Annual Program Meeting (APM) and again during the spring in Alexandria, VA. Councils generally meet face-to-face once a year during the APM. Commissions and councils conduct other business throughout the year via e-mail and conference calls.

Summarized below is information about the six commissions and their corresponding councils that can be used to identify possible volunteer service areas. Please note the numbers of anticipated vacancies for the 2014–2017 appointment cycle when making your decision. CSWE is committed to the promotion and affirmation of diversity in its broadest sense. We encourage the nomination of all candidates regardless of race, gender identity and expression, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, and other types of cultural difference.

CSWE Commissions and Their Councils

1.    Commission on Accreditation Potential Vacancies = 4 Skill sets needed: Must have at least 3 years’ experience as a CSWE site visitor; bilingual proficiency (Spanish speaking preferred); experience with online educational programming; and willingness to read documents online and meet deadlines. Especially encouraged to apply are representatives from BSW programs, the West Coast region, and small programs. 2.    Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice Potential Vacancies = 2 Skill sets needed: Knowledge of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity; diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity and expression; women’s issues; disabilities and persons with disabilities; and grant funding. Especially encouraged to apply are CSWE Minority Fellowship Program graduates. Regional representation is sought for this commission.

  • Council on Disabilities and Persons With Disabilities

Potential Vacancies = 6 Skill sets needed: Ability to develop curriculum modules and/or a model for training of direct care support staff. An interest in and willingness to lead a task group of the council is preferred. The council seeks individuals with a deep understanding of the diversity of the community of people with disabilities and its intersectionality with other aspects of diversity; individuals with expertise in psychiatric disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.

  • Council on Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural DiversityPotential Vacancies = 8

The council is seeking members with knowledge and expertise in intersectionality. The council also seeks greater representation of people of American Indian/Alaskan Native and Latino heritage.  Tenured faculty members are preferable.

  • Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education

Potential Vacancies = 11 Members with an interest in the council’s charge are needed

  • to carry major responsibility for the council’s development of curriculum      materials related to women’s issues in social work education;
  • to identify procedures within academe and social work education that impede and  promote full participation of women;
  • to recommend to the Board policy statements, or development or modification of internal policy;
  • to assist in coordinating activities related to women at all levels of social work education; and
  • to stimulate new programs and activities.
  • Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression

Potential Vacancies = 10 Members are needed who have willingness and time to serve on subgroups and contribute to the monthly conference calls. The council seeks members who represent racial and ethnic minorities and LGBTQ persons with disabilities. 3.    Commission on Educational Policy Potential Vacancies = 5 Especially sought are individuals with administrative experience (deans/directors), Commission on Accreditation experience, site visitor experience, and assessment expertise.

  • Council on Field Education

Potential Vacancies = 7 Skill sets needed: Clear understanding of the field director role and experience with field organizations at the national, state, or regional level or with consortiums. Regional representation is especially sought for this council.

  • Council on Practice Methods and Specializations

Potential Vacancies = 6 Especially encouraged to apply are individuals who can respond to context, particularly those who are engaged with the field community and stakeholders in the practice community to develop a sound social work curriculum. Experience as a CSWE site visitor is needed. 4.    Commission on Global Social Work Education Potential Vacancies = 7 The commission is seeking to increase its diversity and seeks members with experience in the Caribbean and Latin America, western and eastern Europe, and those working with indigenous populations.

  • Council on External Relations

Potential Vacancies = 10 Members with international group experience and who attend international meetings are especially encouraged to apply. The ability to lead work groups is needed. Members affiliated with the United Nations and with international and social development organizations are also encouraged to apply.

  • Council on Global Learning, Research, and Practice

Potential Vacancies = 7 A member from the West or Southwest region of the United States who can provide representation for persons who are natives of Latin America or China is especially needed. 5.    Commission on Membership and Professional Development Potential Vacancies = 4 The commission seeks members with interest/experience with membership recruitment.  The commission is also seeking to diversify its makeup by increasing the number of males, faculty members of color, and representatives from BSW programs.

  • Council on Conferences and Faculty Development

Potential Vacancies = 5 Especially needed are active APM presenters, previous APM track chairs, racial/ethnic/cultural diversity, and regional representation from the Northeast and Midwest.

  • Council on Leadership Development

Potential Vacancies = 4 Participants of Harvard Institutes of Higher Education (HIHE) or the Higher Education Resource Services(HERS) program and experienced field faculty are especially encouraged to apply. Willingness to review faculty merits according to the guidelines set by the council is needed.

  • Council on Publications

Potential Vacancies = 3 Especially needed are scholars with strong publication records and the time available to review and discuss manuscripts submitted for publication by CSWE Press. One new member also will serve on the Journal of Social Work Education Editorial Advisory Board. Members of underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply. 6.    Commission on Research Potential Vacancies = 0 (please apply for future consideration) Especially needed are representatives of BSW, MSW, and PhD programs and evidence-based practice scholars. Members from RO1 and non-RO1 institutions are encouraged to apply. Representatives of diverse groups are encouraged to apply. The CSWE Board of Directors Chair looks forward to receiving your application. Sincerely,                                                                                 Barbara W. Shank CSWE Board of Directors Chair

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

Want to Debate the Recommendations Being Made to CSWE?

On March 27th at 9PM EST, Thursday night, I will be moderating a live twitter chat using the hashtag #macrosw to discuss the CSWE public commenting period, and we will also conduct a review of the Social Work Helper petition seeking internship reform. Going into this tweet chat, I am open to supporting any ideas put forward to help innovate as well as prevent hardships for those pursing the social work degree.

TweetchatThe petition I created seeks to remove the mandatory minimum internship requirements for BSW students and Nonclinical MSW students which by no means eliminates the internship as part of your plan of study. However, this appears to be a major sticking point for some folks or its interpreted as an elimination of internships all together. I am guessing the concern is without a minimum mandate of hours students would decide not to do internships.

However, if students can’t be trusted to come to the best conclusion on completing an internship under counsel from their advisor, how can we entrust them as social workers to problem solve someone else’s life with no stake in the outcome?

If the social work degree does not innovate and relax the rigidness of the internship requirement, I am concerned enrollment will decline, and the social work degree will primarily only attract students who want to do therapy. Students wanting a macro/policy degree will seek degrees in other disciplines such as the MPA, MPH, or MBA due to their degree having a higher market value than the MSW, both campus and online options, as well as alternatives for experienced and working practitioners. How many students are social work programs losing already when potential students begin comparing degrees when deciding to pursue higher education?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I am willing to put forth my best ideas in hopes of sparking communication and inspiring others to add to the conversation. I know that many of us already have our degree, and whatever policies being implemented by the CSWE have no effect on us. However, I believe we should give this public commenting period some thought and effort to see what we can change for future generations of social workers.

Currently, CSWE does not prevent institutions from making exceptions to the internship requirement based on the needs of the student. However, this decision is in the hand of the institution, and policies vary from institution to institution which mean students don’t have access to the same options. We advocate to get  autonomy for our clients, so why can’t we advocate to get some autonomy for ourselves in tailoring a plan of study to fit our own needs?

The #Macrosw chat is a collaboration made up of community practice organizations and individual macro social workers.  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.

I will be moderating Thursday night’s chat using @deonahooper. Please tweet any questions or responses directed to the moderator to @deonahooper and include the #macrosw in all of your tweets.

It’s Time for Social Work Internship Reform

On March 14, 2013, the Council for Social Work Education opened the public commenting period for individuals, schools, and organizations to make recommendations to help improve the social work degree. Social Work Helper conducted a focus group via twitter with educators, practitioners, and students to help identify the most important issues to the social work community.

devilwearspradaInternship reform was the primary concern for focus group participants. Participants overwhelming believed that social work students should be able to customize their degree based on need and work experience. In my article, Suffering in Silence: Identifying the Oppressed, I go in more detail about why I believe this policy change is needed.

If students can’t be trusted to come to the best conclusion on the number of internship hours they need under counsel of their advisor, how can we entrust them as social workers to problem solve someone else’s life with no stake in the outcome?

Currently, the Council for Social Work Education has instituted a 400 hour (12 credit hours) minimum internship requirement for BSW and over 900 hours (18 credit hours) for MSW students. Most people believe it’s the NASW or individual institutions that have the power to reform the internship requirement, but the CSWE is the accrediting body who instituted this policy. Macro MSWs and BSWs are often competing in the job market against other generalist degrees in which the social work degree is not even listed as an acceptable degree.

These mandatory minimums prevent schools from innovating generalist and macro programs to be competitive against the degrees generalist students are facing in the job market, and they prevent students/consumers from tailoring a social work degree to fit their needs, projected goals, and desired career paths. Removing a mandatory minimum structure does not prevent students from continuing to take the same internship credit hours if that is their desire, but it does also allow for flexibility for those who want to specialize and/or who are already working in the field.

We understand that eliminating the 960 hour mandatory minimum internship requirement for the Clinical track MSW degree may be problematic since it’s the only master level degree that has the ability to conduct psychological assessments and/or treat mental health disorders. However, the Department of Psychology already uses the desired model for their Generalist and Clinical Psychology degree which can be viewed at

Although my petition does not specifically request changes for clinical practice, there are many fact based reasons for changes. The generalist Master of Psychology degree does not require an internship, but instead uses a thesis  and/or internship based model. Additionally, the clinical masters psychology degree requires only 10 credit hours in paid internships while the MSW requires 18 credit hours in unpaid internships. Social Workers always want to compare ourselves to Psychologist, what about in these instances.

For the generalist track MSW and for all BSW programs, we want the mandatory minimums for internships removed, so students can customized their social work degree based on need and work experience.

* For Students with Work Experience or Working Practitioners, senior seminar or Capstone projects are both acceptable standards to demonstrate knowledge. Currently, the social work degree is the only degree that requires double or quadruple internship credit hours out of all disciplines.

  • BSW Student who plan to take advantage of the Advance Standing Status and seek a Clinical MSW, they should be able to reduced internship credits and add more psychology course work. However, BSW Students with no work experience should be encouraged to continue incorporating internship hours in their plan of study.
  • BSW Students and Nonclinical MSW Students should have the opportunity to customize their degree based on need, work experience, and desired career path whether this means taking more technology, business, clinical or political sciences courses in lieu of more internship credit hours.
  • Traditional BSW Students and Non-Clinical MSW Students with demonstrated work experience should have Capstone projects as an alternative to demonstrate knowledge which is an acceptable standard across disciplines. Students should not have to pay college tuition to work for free when it creates a hardship and does not add value to the social work degree.

The purpose of the internship is to provide work experience and to prepare students for the work force, but these mandatory minimums retard student’s ability to tailor a social work degree to the individual instead of using a cookie cutter approach.

Eliminate the mandatory minimums for all BSW programs and the nonclinical/generalist MSW degree for 2015, and make it retro-active for current students. Let’s also use this as an exercise to show the power of social media. Public commenting ends May 4, 2014.

According to CSWE President Darla Coffey, “CSWE does not require programs to allow students to earn field credit through their employment – accrediting bodies are not that prescriptive. CSWE does require that they programs have policies in place in order to ensure consistency and transparently.” However, there is no enforcement to ensure students have the same opportunities available per institution. Removing the mandatory minimum internship requirements will provide students with more autonomy in choosing the best options available to them while still having counsel from their Advisors.

Before this solution is easily dismissed as a radical departure from the way things have been traditionally done, as social scientist we should be asking our schools of social work to analyze the demographics and trends of incoming students. What are the financial needs of students who enroll, have BSW enrollment declined into graduate schools, what does the make of the student enrolling look like?

If there is a skew towards traditional students versus non-traditional students, this is an indicator of a larger problem especially when recent studies report only 16 percent of students are traditional students. How is social work measuring up and what are the barriers to obtaining a social work degree.


CSWE: 2015 EPAS Now Available for Public Comment and Feedback


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:

2.    Submit feedback online representing an interested organization at:

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

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

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.

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 Additionally, if any students at CUA would like to be interviewed, I can be reached at 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

CSWE Coordinates First White House Briefing for Social Work Education

Dr. Darla Coffey, President of the CSWE
Dr. Darla Coffey, President of the CSWE

Every fiber weaving together today’s social safety net for our most vulnerable populations included social workers in the development of those historic legislative pieces.

On September 25, 2013, the White House Office of Public Engagement coordinated the first-ever White House Briefing for Social Work Education with the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) led by President Dr. Darla Coffey. The purpose of the briefing was to address the social determinants of health in a new era and the role of social work education.

As Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, I had the opportunity to attend this historic event. Presentations were given by federal officials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Before I begin my ongoing series of articles to discuss the resources provided during each presentation, I wanted to adequately document the historic value of the event. Moving Americans closer to universal healthcare with the rolling out of the Affordable Care Act to full implementation, those of us in attendance had a curbside seat to history.

Dr. Coffey and her efforts as President of CSWE will hopefully move social workers closer to reprising their role as leaders in the development of legislation and policies affecting vulnerable populations. According to the CSWE’s website,

CSWE is a nonprofit national association representing more than 2,500 individual members as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. Founded in 1952, this partnership of educational and professional institutions, social welfare agencies, and private citizens is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.

Social Workers have always been instrumental in the development of landmark legislation. Social Workers’ influence in advising Presidents is documented as far back as 1933 when President Roosevelt appointed Social Worker, Frances Perkins, as the first female cabinet member who some say was the architect behind the New Deal. In 1939, Social Worker Abbott Grace has been credited with helping to draft the Social Security Act.

White House Briefing Social Work Education

During the Civil Right’s Movement, Social Worker Whitney M. Young was an advisor to President Lydon B. Johnson alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the creation of legislation that has come to be known as the War on Poverty which includes Medicaid, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act 1964.

In 2010, Social Work Professor and leading Child Welfare Expert, Bryan Samuels, was appointed by the Obama Administration and confirmed by the Senate to serve as commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

My impressions, from the presentations and Q&A sessions that preceded each, give me hope that the current White House Administration and the social work profession will work towards bringing social workers’ influence back to the policymaking table. View below for a list of the attendees who were apart of this moment in history.

The Department of Health and Human Services have put together videos, webinars, toolkits, and state by state fact sheets to help you better understand the changes being implemented.

View all resources using this link:

Sex-Trafficking Documentary Receives CSWE Virtual Ovation Award

Alexandria , VA, September 26, 2013 – The University of Texas at San Antonio senior lecturer Robert Ambrosino, director Joe Raymond Vega, and students from an Advanced Policy class are the recipients of the CSWE 2013 Virtual Ovation Award for their film Behind Closed Doors: Voices From the Inside, featured at the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

behindThe film seeks to document the impact of domestic minor sex-trafficking in the United States, including interviews with youths and adults who have been trafficked and experts on the issue. The trailer from Behind Closed Doors may be viewed on the Web page of the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival, and Ambrosino’s account of the making of the film is posted on CSWE’s Moving Pictures blog.

Behind Closed Doors: Voices From the Inside was one of nine films selected for CSWE’s first virtual film festival to feature student-produced films related to social work. The festival is part of CSWE’s ongoing efforts to highlight classroom resources for social work educators. Audience members rated the films. The recipients will receive a check for $500.

“This award serves as testimony to the hard work and commitment to social justice demonstrated by our students,” said Ambrosino. “Creation of the documentary was a life-changing event for all involved.”

“We’re pleased to present this award to the team from UT–San Antonio,” said Darla Spence Coffey, CSWE president and CEO. “This project not only underscores the serious and long-term effects of domestic minor sex-trafficking but also showcases an innovative method using documentary film to develop and implement a successful social welfare policy campaign.”

CSWE is a nonprofit national association representing more than 2,500 individual members as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. Founded in 1952, this partnership of educational and professional institutions, social welfare agencies, and private citizens is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.

Lydell Thomas
Manager, Marketing and Communications

CSWE Virtual Film Festival Series: The LGBT Community “Insights to Strength”

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Service Woman abused by a Fellow Soldier

This week’s film maker being highlighted is Jen Ackerman who created a documentary on the challenges and barriers that members of the LGBT community face in being open about their sexuality. Her film “Insights to Strength” has been nominated in the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) Virtual Film Festival 2013. Jen was able to capture some heart wrenching stories in her documentary. One interviewee was a service woman in our armed forces, and she recounts how a fellow soldier who suspected that she was a lesbian forced her to commit sex acts in lieu of turning her in for being gay in the military which could result in charges under military law.

Someone’s sexuality should not be a predisposition to abuse and predatory behavior. By ignoring and protecting those who prey on the LGBT community and other vulnerable populations, we involuntarily become complicit actors.  I had an opportunity to interview Jen about this project and why it was important for her to tell these stories from the LGBT community, and here is our discussion.

SWH: Tell us a bit about the background of the film maker(s) who worked on this project. 

Jen: This film was developed and completed as part of a documentary workshop I signed up for at the University of Central Florida. At the time, I was in the University’s Social Work program but still wanted to explore film. During the same period of time that I joined this workshop, I also decided to do an undergraduate research thesis. Originally my plan was to have the documentary and the thesis compliment each other. I wanted to keep the same subjects and themes. However, in the end, my thesis focused more on social work students and their comfort level with gay and lesbian families, while my documentary became a profile of the strengths perspective through the lens of LGBT community members in Orlando and Tampa, Florida.

Through the development/ planning stages all the way to the shooting and editing, I worked on this film a majority of the time alone. I received much guidance from classmates and of course the workshop instructor, Dr. Lisa Mills. But this project was a chance for me to learn everything by doing and that was what I did. On a couple of interviews I had a friend or my brother help with audio, but that was the extent of others working on the film, at least on the production side. The art in the film was done by a high school friend of mine who worked with me to create the vision in my mind. The art piece took about four days to complete and it was filmed in my apartment with black sheets hanging from the walls. And there is of course, the men and women I interviewed for the film. They are the heart of this project!   The background of finding the interviewees for the film is best explained by the snowball effect. I asked a few people and they recommended others and it spread. At the end of filming I completed around twenty interviews and had over twenty hours of footage.

SWH: What attracted you to the CSWE Virtual Film Festival, and what are your thoughts on your film possible influencing the education of future social workers and current practitioners in providing services to vulnerable populations?

Jen: I was attracted to the CSWE Virtual Film Festival because I strongly believe in the promotion of the film medium as a tool for learning and education. The power of film is illustrated time and time again when a person watches a film and that film makes them think about something they otherwise wouldn’t have. I loved the idea of a social work film festival because I feel so many of the core values in social work need to be highlighted and praised. I always knew I wanted to make films but when I found myself in film classes I felt something was missing. I was not learning how to create change. When I finished my first social work class it was very clear to me that the foundation I wanted for my films was based in social work theory and practice. Now that I have finished my BSW, I am not the same person and I no longer see the world the way I did previously.

There is something very special and very strong about the way social workers think and function. I find it to be revolutionary and brave. I respect all social workers and it is an honor to think that my short film could possibly influence a social worker. I am excited by the thought of my film influencing the education of future social workers and current practitioners. It is vital that we never stop learning, especially in our changing society. The LGBT community is a currently on a roller coaster of progress with hills and valleys all over our country and the world. If my film can open a few minds or at the very least start a few conversations I accomplished my goal. I only wanted to show others that the strengths perceptive can always be present, even in a place of unfortunate circumstance.  People can survive and it is beautiful. I also hope that this film shows social workers that there is room for art, even in our field. The beauty surrounding even ugly situations should be acknowledged. The art in my film in subjective. The face can be different for anyone watching, but what is important is that it is there and its’ presence cannot be ignored.

SWH: What would you like to accomplish with your film making, and what advice would you give to aspiring film makers who want to tell other’s stories?

Jen: I hope to continue creating films with social work themes. I want to give others a view of social work that they have not been exposed to before. It is important to me that society understands the remarkable men and women who become social workers. The advice I would give to aspiring filmmakers is to not be afraid. I think it easy to be intimidated in the film field or realm. But the thing is, everyone has a valid story and when it comes to making films it is about being uncomfortable and learning. There is so much about filmmaking that I do not know yet, however I decided not to let that stop me from continuing in this field. When you think you have a story, tell it and get it out there in a way is has not been told before!

Join us for a Live Twitter chat on August 15, 2013 at 8PM EST using the hashtag #SWunited to discuss the barriers and challenges of the LGBT community with Jen Ackerman as our guest.

View “Insights to Strengths”:


CSWE Virtual Film Festival Series: Exploring Interracial Adoptions in “A Season for Dancing”

Welcoming Party for MeseretFamilies such as Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie has really thrusted interracial adoptions into the forefront of public discussion. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, interracial adoptions or another similar term transracial adoptions occurs when placing a child of one race or culture with the adoptive parents of another race or culture.

I had the opportunity to interview Moges Tafesse the film director of “A Season for Dancing” which documents a father’s journey in helping his adopted child connect with his heritage. “A Season for Dancing” has been nominated as one of the finalist in the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) Virtual Film Festival. Moges describes the film as journey “toward personal healing, the restoration of relationships with family and childhood friends, the redemption of his cultural identity, and his first steps toward achieving his dreams for the future.”

The debate over interracial adoptions has been a difficult one within our country’s history and within the social work profession. The major concerns relating to interracial adoptions have always been whether the adoptive parent would have the ability to be culturally sensitive to the perspective adoptee’s racial and cultural identity. In 1972, the National Association for Black Social Workers  raised concerns about African-American children being adopted into Caucasian homes based on circumstances where both Black and Indian children were being acquired as laborers for the home.

When I started working in child welfare, one of the first films I viewed was of Richard Cardinal who was an Indian child removed from his reservation and placed into foster care with 18 different Caucasian families. Unfortunately before his 18 birthday, Richard committed suicide, but he left behind a diary that gave valuable insights into a broken child welfare system. I believe that it is important for us to learn about Richard’s story to prevent making the same mistakes, but it is also important to look at successful models of interracial adoptions in order to learn how to educate and develop programs for perspective interracial adoptive parents.

Now, I want to share with you my Mogese Tafasse’s thoughts on “A Season for Dancing”.

SWH: Can you tell SWH Readers about your background, and your film making role?

I acquired both a MSW and PhD in Social Work and Social Development. As the director/writer of this film, I consider myself to be a socially responsible film maker in Ethiopia while running a small production firm engaged in the production of short films, documentaries, and TV programs.  Previously, I worked in a adoption organization that connects Ethiopian children with families in France, and I observed the plight of adoptees who were disconnected to their  family, culture and language. I observed children coming back to Ethiopia to see their family and culture, but they ended up desperate and aliens. During my MSW and PhD courses-Practice with Children and Families, and Action Research, I sensed the gravity of the issue of inter-country adoption and thinking  of an opportunity to make one short documentary film on adoption with the principles of action research as an approach for my documentary films-to bring a change while filming.

SWH: What attracted you to the CSWE Virtual Film Festival, and what are your thoughts on your film possible influencing the education of future social workers and current practitioners in providing services to vulnerable populations?

MT: A professor of Emeritus, Nathan Linsk, from Jane Addams college of social work at University of Illinois, Chicago, advised me to submit my documentary for CSWE. He knows my interest in media and social work. On the issues I raised on the film, I believe the film can influence social work education and practice by putting the famous social work approach-person in environment in an Ethiopian context and making it more practical and tangible.  Following a person- in- environment approach as opposed to person in problem or pathogenic approach, the film show that the psycho-social, biological and spiritual aspects to be considered during social work intervention.

The lead character before returning to Ethiopia had a negative experience. When he come back to Ethiopia he confronts all those hidden part of his life and make meaning out of it and reconnected his background, then went to his place with a healed personality.  What is interesting to me in this documentary is also after we done the research we highly participate the lead character to the level of assistant director in a way the film story match with the findings of the study.  in a sense it is participatory video that we see a challenges and solution of an adopted child form his own perspective but that is related with a prominent social work model of intervention.

SWH: What would you like to accomplish with your film making, and what advice would you give to aspiring film makers who want to tell other’s stories?

MT: Currently I am running an independent production firm, Synergy Habesha Films and Communications ( As a social worker studied at PhD level I am bringing my social work knowledge with media as a tool.  I have great aspiration to produce more films on diverse issues on vulnerable part of Ethiopian community particularly women and children. I have also an aspiration to make feature documentary film. Currently I am writing a script about an Ethiopian women who was sold as a slave concubine for an Atomoan Arab, who was rescued by her mate after 15 years of search (The Concubine).  My advise for others who would like to make films is to do a research on the subject matter and the approach of the film to be used to frame the subject matter. During production valuing the participants to a level that they are story tellers and the film makers is a learner/listener is also a great way to find great stories from the character. Last but not least is determination and persistence and believing in once’s contribution is very important.

Join us for a Live Twitter Chat on August 8, 2013 at 8PM EST with Film Director Moges Talfese to discuss his film and thoughts on interracial adoptions. @swhelpercom will be moderating the chat using the hashtag #swunited.

View “A Season for Dancing” below:

Interview with the Council on Social Work Education: CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival

by Deona Hooper, MSW

FilmFestLogoFnlThe Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is taking measures to incorporate new technologies with social work education. Has your professor ever showed a relevant video on the material you are studying, but everyone in the video is wearing bell bottoms or looked like that 70’s show? Well, CSWE realizes that the instructional aids for social work education must be updated in order to resonate with students of a modern era.

The Virtual Film Festival was created to allow film makers or fellow Youtube enthusiasts to create and submit videos to help aspiring social workers understand the challenges and barriers vulnerable populations are facing. I was fortunate enough to be one of the judges who helped narrow down the films selected for this year’s festival, and it was a tough job considering all of the great entries. I was amazed at the broad range of social justice issues and populations these films sought to advocate or bring about awareness.

Beginning August 1 to September 15th 2013, Social Work Helper will be doing a weekly series of articles and Live Twitter Chats in conjunction with CSWE on the film makers and the social justice issues addressed in their films. I had the pleasure to interview Elizabeth Foxwell with the Council on Social Work Education in order to get a better understanding of their mission and vision for incorporating new technologies into social work education. Here is our interview:

DH:  What is the Council for Social Work Education, and could you define its purpose and scope?

CSWE: The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a nonprofit national association representing more than 2,500 individual members, as well as more than 700 graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. Founded in 1952, it is a partnership of educational and professional institutions, social welfare agencies, and private citizens, and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States. It works to strengthen the profession of social work through advocacy, research, career advancement, and education.

DH: How did the concept for the CSWE Virtual Film Festival develop? 

CSWE: For several years, the CSWE Gero-Ed Center sponsored a festival of aging-related films at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting (APM). It showed steady growth in interest and attendance. CSWE has a long-standing interest in postsecondary curriculum resources for social work education, and it was thought that a film festival at the APM encompassing the many areas of social work might be beneficial by showcasing films that could be valuable classroom tools for social work educators. Students, too, are keenly interested in multimedia as a medium and as a way of understanding issues in the field and the future clients they will serve. Adding a Virtual Film Festival was envisioned as a way to showcase student work in this area, as well as provide an expanded and flexible venue for participation by filmmakers, educators, students, and other members of the social work community.

DH: What is the vision for the CSWE Film Festivals, and how do you hope they will impact social work education?

CSWE: Many worthy films often do not register with the social work community because of a lack of funding for dissemination or a lack of awareness by filmmakers about the usefulness of their work to social work educators and students. CSWE believes it can play a valuable role in connecting filmmakers’ work to the social work classroom, whether the latter is a bricks-and-mortar version or a virtual one. One such outcome is CSWE’s free study guides for films featured in the CSWE film festivals. As the festivals have progressed, it has become more evident that members are interested in not only the use of films in their classrooms but also the production of multimedia as class projects and as a contribution to social work dialogue and research. CSWE hopes to foster these initiatives and discussion among filmmakers, educators, students, and social service professionals.

DH: What type of issues are this year’s Virtual Film Festival entrants addressing? 

CSWE: We have seen a strong interest in social justice concerns such as the needs of immigrants and refugees, as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Sexual abuse is discussed in two films, including one on domestic sex trafficking. The film selection also shows the continuing importance of disability, mental health, and diversity issues to filmmakers and our audience. We are pleased to have a participant from Ethiopia and his film on cross-cultural adoption.

DH: What is the submission process for the CSWE 2014 Film Festivals, and who can make submissions? 

CSWE: Currently screeners are reviewing the submissions for the CSWE 2013 Film Festival, which will be held October 31–November 3, 2013, at CSWE’s 59th APM in Dallas, Texas. We hope to announce the Official Selection by late July.

It is anticipated that submissions for the next Virtual Film Festival will open in early February 2014, with a 6-week period for submission. Eligible films will be those made by current or newly graduated students that were produced after September 1, 2012. We welcome films pertaining to the entire spectrum of social work education, with particular interest in aging, mental health, and subjects that involve military and diverse populations.

DH: The Virtual Film Festival is a smart way of incorporating current technology such as YouTube into social work education by allowing students to produce content for possible classroom use under CSWE approval. What other ways do you plan to infuse new technologies? 

CSWE: We are looking forward to dialogue during the 2013 Virtual Film Festival via the Google Community CSWE Film Festivals and twitter chats involving the filmmakers, social work educators, social work students, and the wider community of social service professionals. CSWE also has started a blog, Moving Pictures, on multimedia pertaining to social work.

We continue to explore ways to call attention to multimedia useful to social work educators, whether it is highlighting on the CSWE Twitter feed a film clip of FDR’s speech on the enactment of the Social Security Act, providing clips from CSWE’s 1959 recruitment film Summer of Decision starring Kevin McCarthy and Suzanne Pleshette, or mentioning the BackStory radio program’s look at the history of mental health treatment in the United States. Social work educators can use new media in many creative and exciting ways, and CSWE will continue to assist them as they apply innovative teaching methods.

Here is one example of the videos selected for the festival. This video was created by MSW student Bianca Morris:


You can follow and interact with the CSWE on twitter, Google+, and Facebook. You can also subscribe to the CSWE Youtube Channel, and view all of the films.

Social Work and Technology: Fails in Teaching Technology to Students

Social work and technology received a failing grade as a result of a National Institute of Health (NIH) study. The study makes a strong argument in a 2011 journal article which suggests that it’s a violation of the social work code of ethics for social workers who fail to institute evidence based technologies within their practice.

The article also points out how social work professional and educational bodies have not incorporated technology based learning to prepare social workers beyond the use of email communications.

In order for social workers to be competitive in the marketplace, social work and technology must be incorporated into social work education. Nonprofits, public services, and other grassroots organizations are increasingly relying on analytics software, constituent management systems, and social media in order to be more efficient in providing services and information.

The bachelors level or graduate level social work programs do not offer any courses specific to social work and technology. Some academics would argue that social work students are resistant when professors try to include new technologies in existing social work courses. Additionally, academics who want to conduct research on social work and technology are discouraged because published studies tend to be more clinical in nature.

Do you have a passion for social work and technology, and how it can be better used to enhance social work practice? Are you interested in testing theories and experimenting with new technologies to help identify tools for enhancement learning and practice?  Then, let us start an open dialogue. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on whether social work and technology should be a higher priority within the profession.

Here is an excerpt from the NIH study exposing areas for improvement within the profession:

Despite this interest in technology, the attention that the field of social work has given to ICTs (Information and Communications Technology) in research, education, and practice does not match the efforts of other national and international organizations that view ICTs as critical to improving the lives of disadvantaged and disenfranchised persons, and necessary for all forms of civil engagement. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) calls for the integration of computer technology into social work education, but there are no explicit standards for integration or student learning (CSWE, 2008; see also Beaulaurier & Radisch, 2005). Asking other social workers, social work students, and social work educators can easily reveal that many are unaware of the NASW technology standards. A review of syllabi of social work courses will also show that ICTs, beyond e-mail communication, are generally not present in the educational environment. Consequently, social work students are not being adequately prepared in the use of ICTs, which are integral in the workforce today and will become even more important over time (Parrot & Madoc-Jones, 2008).

In this paper, we argue that ICTs are of critical importance to advancing the field of social work. Specifically, they provide efficient and effective ways for organizing people and ideas, offers greater access to knowledge and education, and increases the efficiency and collaboration of our work. This paper takes the position that many aspects of the NASW Code of Ethics (1999) can be advanced through careful and thoughtful application of ICTs. Thus, competencies with ICTs and ICT literacy should be required learning outcomes in social work education and continuing education. This includes having the knowledge and skills to understand and use ICTs to acheive a specific purpose (i.e., competencies), in addition to knowing the major concepts and language associated with ICT (i.e., literacy). Within this framework, this paper identifies specific aspects of the Code of Ethics (1999), showing how ICTs play a critical role in achieving the desired values and principles. Recommendations on how ICTs can be more strategically incorporated in the classroom, along with potential pitfalls, are discussed.

View Full Journal Article below:

Proposal to CSWE on Barriers Public Sector Social Workers Face in Pursuing a Social Work Degree ***Update***

This document was submitted to the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work and NASW-NC for Review prior to submitting to the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE).  I would love to hear your thoughts.  My hopes are to gain enough support, comments, testimonials prior to submission to Council for Social Work Education. So, they can see the need for assessment and change.

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The proposal was sent to the Council for Social Work Education and to the Congressional Social Work Caucus.  Here is the email response sent to me by CSWE President Darla Coffey. NASW-NC and the National Association of Social Workers in Washington D.C has also responded and offered support. NASW National followed up with CSWE on November 30, 2012. However, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did not respond to my request for support.

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