UMSSW’s Financial Social Work Initiative Celebrates 10 Years

The University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Financial Social Work Initiative (FSWI) during the 2017-2018 academic year with a new Financial Social Work (FSW) Certification Program and numerous activities that honor its achievements over the past 10 years and lay the groundwork for ongoing work in this important, emerging area within social work.

In celebration of this milestone, the FSWI received a leadership grant of $100,000 from The Woodside Foundation, whose trustee, Meg Woodside, MBA, MSW, UMSSW alumna, is a co-founder of the FSWI. The Woodside Foundation is a private family foundation focusing on program development, outreach, and advocacy in the areas of family financial security and asset building in Maryland. “Social workers have been on the front lines of stabilizing vulnerable families and communities for decades,” notes Woodside. “Today’s challenges necessitate integrating new tools, skills, and evidence-based practices to strengthen the profession’s ability to address financial stressors and economic disparities. As FSWI’s 10th anniversary unfolds, we will be able to offer several new opportunities to engage even more social workers in financial social work.”

This generous grant will underwrite several planned educational and community events during the anniversary year. In the spring of 2018, a new Financial Social Work (FSW) Certificate Program will be launched, which in addition to financial support from the Woodside Foundation, has received a notable $23,600 grant from the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, Inc.

“For more than 60 years, the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation has provided economics and personal-finance education to various audiences, most particularly to teachers,” says Michael MacDowell, the foundation’s managing director. “We are now also investing in social service providers. We see social workers as having an immediate impact on improving the financial well-being of their clients. The foundation applauds the work at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work and its innovative new certificate program. We are pleased to be part of this important undertaking.” OneMain Financial also contributed $3,000 toward the certificate program, and it has sponsored other programming offered through UMSSW; OneMain Financial provides support and sponsorship of community financial education programs and activities, in addition to offering financial services to individuals nationwide.

FSWI will offer the certificate program through UMSSW’s Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Office. The Certificate Program will run from April to December 2018 and will meet an identified need for greater knowledge and skills in financial capability, stability, and empowerment on the part of social workers who practice in nonprofit and other social service agencies, as well as in schools, medical settings, and justice and court settings. This is especially critical for social workers who work with individuals, families, and communities facing complex financial and psychosocial issues.

In large part due to the efforts of the FSWI and its partners over the last 10 years, social workers and human service organizations are seeking additional FSW education and training, in addition to skill-building strategies to enable them to intervene more effectively with financially distressed individuals, families, and communities. Beyond providing resources, social workers must have sophisticated knowledge about issues in typical daily financial life, such as credit, debt, budgeting, financial struggles, and how these intersect with other stressors, and they must be knowledgeable about and familiar with financial issues and barriers, and feel comfortable in addressing such issues directly and effectively with people and communities they serve. Also, social workers who work in FSW must be well-versed in historical and current policy issues that influence and affect people’s paths toward greater financial stability, as well as those policies that hinder financial stability or perpetuate economic injustice.

More information about the FSW Certificate Program is available online at It will span seven full-day sessions from April to December 2018. The in-person classroom style of the FSW Certificate Program will enable rich class discussion and learning through interaction among the macro and clinical practitioners.

FSWI’s 10th anniversary year officially kicked off with the 2017 Daniel Thursz Social Justice Lecture in April, featuring noted economist, author, and commentator Julianne Malveaux, PhD, who provided incisive commentary on the topic of “Economics, Race, and Justice in the 21st Century: Perspective on Our Nation’s Future.”

In addition to the FSW Certificate Program, the FSWI will host the following:

  • The third Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) Convening on Jan. 10-11, 2018, to be held just prior to the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) annual conference (Jan. 10-14, 2018, in Washington, D.C.). The third convening is titled “Using Evidence to Influence Policy and Practice” and will feature managers of widely used databases in FCAB work, along with social work researchers who are using these sources to further the FCAB research agenda.
  • UMSSW’s Homecoming 2018, slated for March 9, 2018, will focus on family financial stability and  feature influential advocate Jonathan Mintz, executive director of the New York City-based Cities for Financial Empowerment, who will speak on “Strengthening Family Health: Advancing Economic Stability.”
  • Increased infusion of FSW and its role within psychosocial assessment in the Practice 1 courses offered in the MSW curricula.
  • Development of an FSW alumni network at UMSSW.
  • Increased financial support through scholarship opportunities to support MSW students who have an interest in financial social work: The Woodside Foundation Scholarship Endowment in Financial Social Work is available to all MSW students who would like to apply, and The SunTrust Foundation Scholarship Endowment in Financial Social Work is available to incoming first-year students.

“It is hoped that through these events and offerings, and especially with the launch of our FSW Certificate Program, the UMSSW FSWI will continue to advance and lead the field as financial stability plays an increasingly important role in social work education, research, and practice,” states FSWI Chair Jodi Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP.

UMSSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, lauds the efforts of the Financial Social Work Initiative. “I am thrilled by the rapid development of the FSWI from a kernel of an idea and a few active participants to a wide array of services and educational programs that now appear destined to become central to much of what social work accomplishes.”

For information on these and other FSWI activities, visit

Social Worker Appointed to Lead Institute for Research on Poverty

Dr. Lawrence M. Berger is the 12th director of the venerable Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a professor and chair of the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Social Work and a brilliant researcher. Lonnie, as he prefers to be called, is also a dear friend. We entered the doctoral program at Columbia University School of Social Work together in 1997 and graduated together in 2002. Lonnie earned his M.S.W. degree at Hunter College School of Social Work and now has the responsibility of leading the oldest of three federally-supported institutes for research on poverty.

The IRP was created at UW-M in 1966 by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to provide research on the War on Poverty Programs. The 44-year old scholar took over the helm of the IRP last year when the previous director, Dr. Maria Cancian, was nominated to become Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I had the opportunity to catch up with Lonnie recently and he graciously answered a few questions.

I asked Lonnie a question you will hear repeatedly in the coming weeks: why social work? What motivated you to become a social worker?

Dr. Lawrence Berger

I was always interested in social causes and social issues. My parents were pretty active with various causes. After graduating college (Rutgers) and trying to decide what to do next, I was doing a great deal of volunteer work with hunger and homeless type organizations. I was always interested in being a researcher so in choosing an academic researcher path, social work seem to be a good fit. Before I received my M.S.W., I really didn’t have a good sense of the range of things social workers do and can do.

I asked Lonnie to describe the focus of his research.

I am interested in what influences the context in which families function and children grow up. I am interested in the intersection between public policies, family resources, family structures and context and how these factors play out in terms of parenting quality, parenting behavior, and eventually children’s health and well being. I’ve conducted my research in a range of areas. I’ve done much research on family complexity and family structure change. I’ve done research on child abuse and neglect, particularly the role of economic resources in child abuse and neglect. I am currently working on projects looking at how household debt plays a role in family functioning. I’ve also done work on family leave and housing and a range of issues around policy and family functioning.

Because CRISP focuses on policies at the federal level, I asked Lonnie about the implications of his research for federal policy.

I have done projects where I have looked at a specific federal policy or set of policies, but more broadly federal policy—whether you are considering tax policy or income transfer policy, or provision of child care, provision of early child education programs, or near-cash things like SNAP, those policies can influence family contexts and resources. So while my research may not focus on a specific federal policy, what drives me is doing research that has policy implications that help explain how family resources are impacted or how family change is affected, so you can go back and understand how these policies are affecting families and children.

Because of the IRP’s association with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), I asked if the IRP’s research had greater impact with federal agencies than with Congress.

The IRP has this long history of doing policy experiments and policy-related research, particularly in the area of child support policy. In the late 1990s, the IRP conducted an experiment in welfare reform policy on “pass-through” policy, determining how much child support payments would be passed on to the mother after the state had taken its share to repay the state for benefits. In this experiment, the state passed through all of the money to the mother of the child and it turned out not to have adverse effects in terms of labor supply and fertility and it had some positive effects. That ended up driving a change in federal policy so that now states are able to pass through all of the child support payment to mothers. They don’t all do it, but they are not prohibited from doing it. Currently we are doing a large eight-state randomized evaluation called the Child Support Parenting and Employment Demonstration Project for the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement which is looking at how these policies impact low-income fathers.

With 200 national affiliates, a burgeoning research portfolio, his wife Melissa, and four- and two-year old children to care for, I asked Lonnie how he was able to manage his many responsibilities. I also asked about his vision for the IRP going forward.

It’s a bit overwhelming, but I try not to think about it. I am fortunate to have a really good staff and we have really great researchers. I am teaching one class this semester—a professional development seminar for our Ph.D. students. There are things we do extremely well at the IRP and I want to keep doing those things. I think we speak really well—less so to the politicians—but to agency personnel and policy-related groups. We’re quite connected to policymakers and practitioners and we’re really good at doing the translational work. We partner with Brookings (Institution) on a number of things and we have Jennifer Noyes as an associated director who has been very involved with the National Council of State Legislatures and groups like that.

I want to focus on keeping us policy relevant and to keep talking to people who are on the ground and doing the work. One area that I believe is hugely important to poverty but has not been a core focus of poverty research is the criminal justice system writ large. We are looking at all levels from policing to incarceration to release and post-incarceration. Another is location and spatial factors of poverty, whether that’s around neighbor or the region you’re in. Those are areas I would like to see us focus on more.

Dr. Berger is the latest of a number of directors of the IRP with academic appointments to schools of social work. Most, if not all, of the previous directors were trained as economists. Lonnie wears his MSW credential proudly. He did focus on economics during his doctoral work and studied with the phenomenal Jane Waldfogel. I expect him to make significant contributions to the field of poverty research and policy. I am proud of you, my friend.

Social Work White House Briefing Presentations Now Available

As previously reported, Council for Social Work Education joined with the White House Office of Public Engagement on September 25 in hosting the White House briefing “Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in a New Era: The Role of Social Work Education.”

Presentations from the event are now available. Follow the links below to access the presentations of a number of Obama administration officials:

White House Briefing
Aaron Bishop and Roslyn Holliday

Roslyn Holliday Moore, MS, Office of Behavioral Health Equity, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • PowerPoint Slides (PDF) 

Aaron Bishop, MSSW, Deputy Commissioner, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Administration for Community Living, HHS

Data used for prepared remarks:

•         Visualizing Health Policy (Kaiser Family Foundation)

•         Americans With Disabilities 2010 (Census Bureau)

•         Census and Disability (Census Bureau)

The New Expectations of Health Care

Stephane Philogene, PhD, Associate Director, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health, HHS

  • PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

A National Dialogue on Mental Health

Brian Altman, JD, Legislative Director, and Paolo del Vecchio, MSW, Director, Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA, HHS

  • PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

Building Workforce Capacity to Meet the Need

Marcia K. Brand, PhD, Deputy Administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HHS

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Source: Council for Social Work Education

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

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.

Poverty Simulation: Making Cents of Being Poor, Part 2

Recently, I posted about The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Poverty Simulation that was held on March 27th as part of their social justice week, a celebration for social work month.  The simulation was to provide students and other members of the community a glimpse of what the poverty experience might be like for them.  This simulation  is an interactive experiential guided exercise that walks participants into an alternate universe of second class living in which some people have never experienced.

The day began at 9am on a chilly March day. Students first met in the gym for their training of the simulation which lasted until about 11am. The simulation ran from 12PM until 4PM, and it closed with participants and volunteers processing their reactions to the simulation and sharing what they have learned.

The events consisted of participants playing roles of families, single people , some jobless, homeless, sick all trying to get their needs met. Below are some of the highlights of the day.

The “police” taking a “homeless” person to jail for loitering


Photo of Jack Register UNCG professor and Luke McCollum

Students learn the experience of long lines at the Department of Social Services


Mental health professional” telling “prospective clients” that they must have insurance to receive assistance.


UNCG professor Jason Yates and social work students

Another homeless person whom after he could not find any place to stay  is arrested for sleeping in the streets.


Social work student Daniel de la Cruz

The Housing Authority checking for proper documentation before providing services.


Lydia Long and two other participants.

PROTEST! Social work students organizing a protest to advocate for health care being cut.


DSS social worker assisting clients on receiving services.


Social Work alumni Calvetta Watlington (DSS worker)  and social work senior Electre


Students experience frustration and laughter as they navigate through the simulation.


Social work students taking part in the simulation.

The simulation is held annually during social work month at UNCG. It was a rewarding experience, and I encourage any locals to participate in the upcoming year. This experience is one that will undoubtedly impact your perspective of your community and society.

Photos by Mike Long Photography

Making Cents of Being Poor

What do we mean when we talk about “poverty and the poor”? How do we define it? How we understand it affects how we respond to it in our culture. Historically the way we have understood poverty is that it is something that people can control, rather than something that is much more complex. A socially systemic issue that makes it almost impossible for people to escape.

If poverty is seen as an individual problem than a community one, than we don’t have to address community concerns such as living wages, lack of affordable housing, lack of public transportation, lack of availability for quality childcare, and lack of healthcare. Unfortunately, the traditional view in our country I believe is that it is an individual concern; that if a person is having difficulty it is their own fault.

In addition to that, we are outdated on how we measure it . The data that has  been used to define poverty in the U.S. was originated in the 1960’s and didn’t take into concern factors such as regional differences in the cost of living across the country. The government did release a new experimental poverty measure last year, however it will not replace the one currently in place. Even though the new version sees more people in poverty.

We need to re-evaluate how we understand poverty in this country and we need to look deeply at how to tackle this problem. Part of this involves challenging the beliefs we currently have. Jack Register, activist and social work professor at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is aiming to challenge these beliefs in our society. As part of the social work department’s celebration for Social Work month, Jack Register is conducting an interactive experiential guided exercise that will give participants a firsthand look at the state of chronic crisis that plagues so many of our citizens.

This exercise walks participants into an alternate universe of second class living that many people do not experience. This poverty simulation is called Making Cents of Being Poor, and is being held on the UNCG campus on March 27, 2013. Jack Register explains,“The poverty simulation is a way for students to gain perspective about how they not only understand the concept of poverty, but also- and in a very small way- have an emotional response to trying to meet the needs of their hypothetical family.  That is why we chose the name “Making cents of Being Poor.”

This event  includes UNCG students, members of the community and participants invited from five other universities in North Carolina, including North Carolina A&T, and NC State. This will be a huge, all day event, participates and volunteers are still highly needed and lunch will be provided to those that participate. This is an extraordinary event to experience, it is open to the public to observe as well and all are more than welcome.

Photo Credit: Jack Register,  UNCG professor and Rhonda Lang Bruner, a school SW in Forsyth County.  Rhonda was a community volunteer who came to help out.

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