While leading a Social Work Practice class, I asked the students to name the 3 levels of analysis used to organize systems. I thought I was providing a great clue by stating the word “systems” and dropping the number 3. After students sat with puzzled looks for 20 seconds, I realized that my perceived hints were not well received. It got me thinking about numerology in the social work profession.
Even before we get to dates that every social worker should have memorized (*idea for next article), social workers should have some pretty common constructs and theoretical frames on deck listed by their numbers.This is fun. I challenged myself to count from 1 to 10 identifying theories, constructs, or other social work content that fit the number. I was able to account for each number except 7.
The big numbers of the list are interestingly 3, 6, and 9. When someone says these numbers, social workers automatically consider specific content. For my students, if I give these number of spaces for an answer on a test, they should immediately think of content they have learned.
1 Personal-Professional Value Integration
The most important element of self-care is a consonant cognitive state. Who you are as a person is the same as who you are as a professional. What many are attempting to explain in separating you from the job is that you must physically take time away from the job. Just like a long distance runner cannot train nonstop, you need time to recover.
Yet, your value system is most sustainably one personally and professionally. It is dissociative to hold a different value personally than what your professional value prescribes. Seek to correlate the two. If they cannot be correlated, a social worker is trained to change the system.
2 The Smallest System
General Systems Theory is a core knowledge node in the social work profession. The worker and the client form the smallest possible system of interaction in the profession. Because it is so small, the energy in this smallest system can be intense. Worker skill in managing this energy can often make the difference in coping and adaptation.
3 Basic Ecological Systems Levels
Ecological systems perspective describes 3 basic levels: micro, meso, and macro. Beyond a simple categorization of systems components, this model provides a way to organize assessment and intervention–a perspective on the system interactions. The other constructs in ecological systems perspective are chrono and exo systems.
4 ASWB Examination Content Outline
Four of the 5 examinations available from ASWB have 4 sections of content. Advanced Generalist is the exception. It has 5 sections. This is important because knowing how the content of the test is organized may help you prepare. By the way, 5 is the number of ASWB exam administration categories —Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Advanced Generalist, and Clinical.
5 NASW Best Practice Standards in Social Work Supervision http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/naswstandards/supervisionstandards2013.pdf
6 Ethical Parameters in the NASW Code of Ethics
Every student should commit these ethics to memory. They should also be ready at a moment’s notice to explain their meaning and application. They are service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. The most difficult to explain for many students is social justice. The most limited in understanding is integrity. By the way, the code is also organized into 6 sections. These 6 do not correspond with the 6 parameters.
8 Basic Social Worker Roles
Eight social worker roles exist. My list includes:
- In the Broker role, social workers link clients with market resources.
- In the Case Manager role, social workers assist clients to cope with crises.
- In the Initiator role, social workers call attention to a need.
- In the Advocate role, social workers represent the client against a more powerful entity.
- In the Organizer role, social workers organize an activity or group.
- In the Facilitator role, social workers lead a group process.
- In the Educator role, social workers teach content to a client or group.
- In the Administrator role, social workers manage toward a defined set of goals.
9 Competencies http://www.cswe.org/File.aspx?id=81660
The 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) is the document outlining educational standards for the social work profession. Every social work program in the country is required to demonstrate student competence in 9 areas. Follow the link for a list.
10 NASW Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/NASWCulturalStandards.pdf
11 NASW Standards for the practice of clinical social work https://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/clinical_sw.asp
12 Standards for Social Work Practice with Clients with Substance Use Disorders http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/NASWATODStatndards.pdf
13 As with other conventions in the US, I did not find a single use of the number 13. It’s typically considered to be unlucky.
14 Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/childwelfarestandards2012.pdf
20 NASW Standards for practice in health care settings. https://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/NASWHealthCareStandards.pdf
A Holistic View of Social Work Using Systems Theory
Sponsored Article by Campbellsville University
Social workers help struggling individuals receive the care and resources they need to live healthy, comfortable lives. Through aiding vulnerable children at schools, assisting terminal patients with changes to their daily routines and counseling struggling families, social workers serve society in many ways. While unique tactics are required to help people with diverse medical and emotional needs, all social workers can benefit from taking a holistic approach to each case.
Examining Behavior Through a Holistic Lens
A holistic approach to social work involves examining all social factors of a person’s life, rather than focusing on one issue. Social workers who practice this approach may examine their client’s behavior by considering the following factors:
Where someone lives and with whom can have a variety of impacts on person’s well-being. Climate conditions can contribute to medical problems. Neighborhoods can be neglected or underfunded, which could lead to medical and psychological issues. Emotional issues can arise due to the people in a living environment. In addition, the cleanliness and organization of someone’s home may reflect specific behavior patterns.
Regardless if a social worker is counseling an entire family or an individual, understanding the family dynamic is a key to understanding how one communicates and behaves. Familial relationships may provoke a person’s behavior, especially when a family has a history of physical or emotional abuse.
Cultural background can often shed light on how individuals were raised, their religious beliefs and their personal priorities. Culture may also define familial structure and dictate how family members communicate with one another and with those outside of the home.
Many people can be easily influenced by those they work and socialize with. Attitudes and ideas expressed throughout a workplace or inner circle of friends may cause people to question their beliefs and opinions, leading to significant changes in behavior.
With a holistic approach, social workers can view all major facets of a client’s life to better determine underlying issues that may cause medical problems, emotional distress or negative changes in behavior. With a strong understanding of why a person behaves a certain way, social workers can formulate an effective plan to help their client overcome challenges.
When it comes to analyzing an individual holistically, there are a variety of methods to choose from. Still, many social workers subscribe to either the ecological perspective theory or person-in-environment (PIE) theory. Each theory utilizes different methods of sociological framework, and both have proven successful in solving behavior problems through social work.
Ecological Perspective Theory
The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies defines ecology as “the scientific study of the processes influencing the distribution and abundance of organisms, the interactions among organisms, and the interactions between organisms and the transformation and flux of energy and matter.” As applied to social work, the ecological perspective theory approaches behavior by examining the environmental and societal processes influencing a person; their reactions to changes in their surroundings; and the transformation of their overall health, behavior and attitude.
Ideal for individuals of all ages, the ecological perspective theory considers specific social factors of a person’s life to determine the reasoning behind their behavior. When choosing this theory, social workers examine their clients’ interactions with family members and friends, along with their willingness to adapt their identity to fit policies and changes within their environment. By gaining an understanding of these factors, social workers can pinpoint the cause of behavioral changes and determine what kind of care and resources are needed for improvement.
In “The Ecology of Human Development,” Urie Bronfenbrenner discussed four systems to consider when using the ecological perspective theory for social work. Each system describes how humans are influenced by their surroundings.
- Microsystem: A person’s immediate surroundings, such as the location of their home and their communication with the family members they live with.
- Mesosystem: A person is influenced by the behavior and beliefs of others, often within the family and inner circle of friends.
- Exosystem: How the decisions and behavior of others can indirectly change the behavior of someone else, especially for children. For example, changes in a parent’s work schedule may lead to communication disruptions within the family, which can cause behavior changes for children.
- Macrosystem: How a person reacts and adapts to changes taking place outside of their family, community and inner circle of friends. Political and economic changes are categorized in this system.
When referring to the ecological perspective theory, social workers must keep in mind the idea that behavior is ever-changing, and people are constantly reacting and adapting to their surroundings. According to Michael Unger’s article A Deeper, More Social Ecological Social Work Practice, “the social work discipline has expanded this perspective to explain that an individual is ‘constantly creating, restructuring and adapting to the environment as the environment is affecting them.”
Person-in-Environment (PIE) Theory
Developed in the early 20th century by one of the founding leaders of the social work industry, Mary Ellen Richmond, the PIE theory strives to explain an adult’s behavior based on their current and past environments. Combining all of the systems considered through the ecological perspective theory, the PIE theory views each as a component of one main system.
In her research, Richmond found that an adult’s behavior and actions often reflect the social environment of their childhood and current living situation. To determine the source of negative behavior, along with the appropriate solution for each individual and family, Richmond’s theory explores certain factors of a person’s life, including:
- Family dynamic as a child and an adult: Many adults choose to either mirror or oppose the beliefs and practices of their parents based on their own childhood experiences.
- Education: Advanced education leads to more career opportunities and higher income, which may lead to a more comfortable adult life. Those with less education may struggle financially and have a lower quality of life.
- Career: A person’s career may dictate their daily routine, income, and location of residence, all of which are social factors to consider when analyzing behavior and attitude.
- Health: Physical health can often play a role in a person’s mental health.
- Changing political and economic policies: Disagreeing with newly elected politicians and laws may cause a person to act out and display behavior that is typically out of character.
The PIE theory combines these factors to help social workers understand the roots of an individual’s behavior through an illustration of their childhood and adaptation into adulthood. By providing a large-scale view of an individual’s life experiences and social status, the PIE theory offers social workers the vital insight necessary to determine the best plan of action to make positive changes in the lives of their clients.
Use a Holistic Approach to Social Work in Your Career
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted the field of social work will expand 16 percent by 2026, making this industry one of the fastest growing in the country. The Bureau also lists Kentucky as one of the most popular nonmetropolitan areas for social work professionals, and the industry expansion will lead to thousands of new careers in the state.
Campbellsville University serves aspiring social workers in Kentucky and all over the world with its online Bachelor of Social Work and online Master of Social Work degrees. Available fully online through an interactive learning platform, both degrees deliver evidence-based instruction, the expertise you need to succeed as a social worker, and the flexible course options your busy schedule demands.
Sen. Kaine Introduces Bills to Strengthen Child Welfare Workforce, Prevent Mistreatment of LGBTQ Youth
The National Association of Social Workers(NASW) supports legislation introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) today that would strengthen the nation’s child welfare system and help prevent mistreatment of youth who are LGBTQ.
Kaine’s Child Welfare Workforce Support Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to do a five-year pilot program to focus on the best ways to reduce barriers to recruitment, development, and retention of child welfare workers; better support the child welfare workforce; and provide ongoing professional development opportunity and support, including addressing secondary-trauma, to improve retention of child welfare workers.
The senator’s Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act would, among other things, direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct research to protect LGBTQ youth from child abuse and neglect and to improve the well-being of victims.
Take time to visit Sen. Kaine’s website to learn more about the bills.
NASW officials reacted to the legislation.
“Strengthening families and keeping our children safe and able to thrive should be one of our nation’s highest priorities,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “That is why NASW applauds Sen. Kaine for his legislation to bolster recruitment and retention of child welfare workers, including social workers. Child welfare agencies for decades have been plagued by high caseloads and staff shortages.
Now the opioid addiction crisis and economic uncertainty in parts of the United States are putting even more families and children at risk and caseloads are growing. Sen. Kaine’s legislation is desperately needed and NASW urges Congress to enact it.”
“The Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) commends Sen. Kaine for introducing such an important bill that could help improve the quality of life for hundreds of at-risk children in Virginia and around the nation,” said NASW Virginia Chapter Executive Director Debra Riggs. “Like many states, Virginia social workers and other child welfare staff are struggling to serve high caseloads. Virginia also has one of the worst rates in the nation of children languishing in foster care. We are confident Sen. Kaine’s legislation to fund projects to improve hiring and retention of child welfare workers will ultimately benefit children in our state.”
For more information on NASW legislative activities visit our Advocacy website.
A Call to Action for Social Workers! The Time is Now to ELEVATE
As we recognize March as Social Work Month, let’s awaken that original passion in each other and build on our strengths and core social work values to make change and lead the way for others to do so as well.
My fellow social workers, the time is now to lead the way for our nation regarding human rights and human well-being. The shocking cruelty and violation of human rights that occur each day in our nation under the current administration not only violates our Code of Ethics, but is cruel, unjust, and the epitome of what we as social workers dedicate our lives to fight against—socialinjustice.
We cannot risk becoming desensitized to any injustice, despite hearing about a new, abhorrent policy, practice or incident, every day. Let’s channel our frustration into collective action because this is our domain. We are the experts of social welfare, and we are uniquely trained to recognize social injustice and empower individuals, families, organizations, and communities toward positive social change.
It’s what we do every day as social workers. Since we know how to do this, we should be leading the way. This social work month lets ELELVATE our dedication and translate it into collective action for social justice. I believe that in doing so, we honor of the many pioneer social workers who have blazed the trail for us and worked to give us many of the rights we now enjoy.
Every day I am in awe of our society and our government’s attitudes and policies toward the most vulnerable people in our society. Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia seem to be increasing at alarming rates (or perhaps are just more acceptably overt now) and this is resulting in more violence, conflict, and division among families and communities.
To me, that constitutes an emergency. Children are being legally separated from their parents, put in cages, often abused or neglected and “lost” by our government. If that isn’t an emergency, I’m not sure what is. Banning PEOPLE from serving in the military, sending refugees back to their country of origin to face certain death, and women’s reproductive rights at risk are all emergencies to me.
What do you think? What constitutes a national emergency to you? Whatever you answer, the good news is that we know how to deal with crisis as social workers and are bound together by social workvalues. So, let’s do it. Someone has to, and why not us—this is our domain. Plus, we have a lot of professional strengths to build on.
• We know how to build on strengths.
• We know how to organize.
• We know how to educate.
• We know how to build bridges, not walls.
• We know how to empower individuals, families, organization, and communities.
• We understand human rights and human dignity.
• We know how to advocate on micro through macro levels.
• We know how to push through when we are tired because people’s lives depend on us.
• We understand human behavior more than most.
• We know how to critique social policy.
• We know how to conduct research and translate it into practice.
• We know how to problem solve and are used to complex problems.
• We value diversity and we know how to celebrate it.
As a social work educator, I have the privilege of working with budding social workers every day. Their passion for social justice is raw and strong. However, as some seasoned social workers know, that passion may not go away, but it may grow tired, and frustrated by red tape, high case-loads and lack of support.
My fellow social workers, I ask you to ask yourself: How do you want to use your unique innate gifts and your professional skills as a social worker to help our nation awaken to the humanity of others? We cannot let human suffering being the norm or be a line item on news that people shake their head to and go on about their day. Jane Addams would not approve.
Applying the Cass Identity Model to Social Work
Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT+) or other gender and sexual minorities can have significant mental health issues – not just as a result of their sexuality or gender identity but also because of discrimination and isolation. These individuals may find themselves seeking case management, counselling, or other social work support services and it can be helpful to have a framework for understanding their coming out process.
Coming out is the process a lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB+) individual follows in order to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to those around them. It can be an intensely personal and challenging process.
Cass Identity Model
The Cass Identity Model was created by Vivian Cass in 1979 in order to better understand the coming out process for LGB+ individuals. It consists of 6 stages or phases that a person will proceed through. The six stages are:
Identity confusion is the very first stage of the model. In this stage, an individual is confused by their sexual identity and begins to become aware that sexual identities are a concept. They are possibly in early puberty and noticing individuals expressing their sexuality.
At some point though, the individual will experience thoughts or feelings regarding an individual of the same-sex that will make them wonder if they are actually LGB+. This might lead to a denial that the individual is LGB (repressing these feelings.)
In the Identity Comparison phase, the individual will ask themselves more openly if they are homosexual. They will confront the idea that they might be alone in their LGB+ experiences compared to those around them and the resulting social alienation or need to keep their LGB+ identity hidden. This is especially challenging for people living in repressive societies or communities where LGB+ identities are not tolerated.
Once the individual has reached Identity Tolerance, they have understood that they are firmly LGB. To those around them, they may be perceived one-dimensionally – as only homosexual. This can cause these individuals to seek out other LGB+ individuals and begin to build a support network.
Some individuals may continue to deny their identity and thus experience self-hatred, which may delay their coming out process and cause much distress.
Identity Acceptance is exactly what it sounds like. The individual has accepted themselves as an LGB+ individual. They make begin to make the LGBT+ subculture a larger part of their life. This can lead to an insulation of one’s support network as a differentiation is made between those people who are openly supportive of the individual’s LGB+ identity and those who tolerate their sexuality as long as it is not displayed openly. Limiting the role these other individuals play in the LGB+ person’s life serves to reduce distress and alienation.
The Identity Pride stage is the one most associated with LGBT Pride events. The person’s sexuality continues the pendulum swing from lack of awareness to tolerance to complete pride, overtaking the other aspects of their identity. The person may even dichotomize the world into an LGB area and a second, less important heterosexual category.
The understanding of heteronormativity may appear here as well, with the individual reminding others around them that the assumption they are heterosexual is a false one.
Finally, in Identity Synthesis the individual has come to the realization that their LGB+ identity is merely one part of them and does not dominate their life. It is one part, like their career, hobbies, ethnicity and other aspects are simply other pieces of the puzzle that makes them up. At this stage, they fully accept themselves and experience little or no distress as a result of their LGB identity.
Applying the Model
A Social Worker may apply the Cass Identity Model by noting where in the six stages their client seems to be and reading the primary literature to better understand the conflicts that may occur at each stage. This can help ensure interventions are targeted to the unique distress the client is experiencing and continue to deepen the therapeutic relationship by demonstrating a strong understanding of the client’s inner-pain.
The Cass Identity Model is a six-stage model that demonstrates a lot of value in understanding the coming out process as it relates to LGB individuals.
Social Workers Call on White House, Congress to Fully Reopen Federal Government
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) calls on Congress and the White House to act to fully reopen the federal government immediately. Allowing the shutdown to continue is unconscionable.
We are currently at the 33-day mark for the partial shutdown of the federal government. This is the longest such shutdown in our nation’s history and it is exacting a heavy toll on many NASW members and the often financially fragile clients they serve.
Nearly 800,000 federal employees, including social workers and allied professionals, are negatively affected by the shutdown. Almost half of these federal employees have been furloughed without pay.
Many of our nation’s most vulnerable, including children and older adults, could lose essential safety net services if the government is not restored to full operations. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rental Assistance program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), among others, are unable to fulfill their missions.
SNAP participants have received their benefits even during the shutdown, but these are in jeopardy in future months.
Contracts for HUD’s programs for the lowest-income seniors, people living with disabilities, and families with children have not been renewed. This places nearly 70,000 program participants at risk of major rent hikes and possible evictions. Low-income Rural Housing Assistance participants were informed on January 11 that due to the federal shutdown they would have to pay the full (not discounted) rent by January 20 or face eviction. Normally, their rent is limited to 30 percent of their income.
TANF authorization expired in December. The federal government could not distribute $4.2 billion to states for the period January to March due to the shutdown. States are permitted to cover TANF expenses, but it is unclear how many will do so and for how long.
For more information about the impacts of the shutdown on the most vulnerable, please visit the following websites: Coalition on Human Needs, Food Research and Action Center, and National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
SWHELPER Announces Its Second Annual Global Social Welfare Digital Summit
On March 19th thru March 22nd, SWHELPER will be hosting the Global Social Welfare Digital Summit which is an all online digital conference. You can attend the conference from any place in the world with an internet connection. The conference themes will focus on advocacy, trauma-informed care, self-care and healing, and solutions.
Are you feeling unmotivated or uninspired? Maybe you need some professional nourishment to broaden your perspective or add tools to your toolbox for future career growth. The Global Social Welfare Digital Summit aims to extend learning to a global classroom by allowing you to connect with helping professionals around the world. Additionally, you may be eligible for up 10 continuing education credits (CEUs).
Early Bird Tickets went on sale January 1st at 50% off the regular price. The Four Day Education Pass regularly $55 is available at $25. For government employees, the four day pass is $49 and $69 for private and nonprofit. All passes come with 1 year access to view all the sessions on your schedule.
Click here and Use coupon code 4DAYSWH to get an additional 10% off of early bird pricing. Early Bird pricing ends February 8th, 2019. You can also view the session agenda before purchasing your ticket.
Some of the presentations include:
- Twitter – Jerrel Peterson, MSW: From Micro to Macro Leveraging Research, Data, and Ethics for Social Impact
- Facebook – Avani Parehk: Tech and Movement Building…How to Hold Space in the Digital Age
- USC – Melissa Singh: Trauma Informed Interview Coaching for Global Environments
- Columbia University – Matthea Marquart: Helping the Helpers Online Self-Care Technique
Some of our sponsors include the International of Association for Schools of Social Work, International Council for Social Work, Network for Social Work Managers, and the National Organization for Human Services.
For more information visit, https://www.globalsocialwelfaresummit.com.
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