Connect with us
Advertisement

Social Work

A Plea for Humility in the Self-Assessment of Our Knowledge

blank

Published

on

Mr. Harry Finkelstein (Middle), Woodbourne’s Executive Director from 1957-1966. Mr. Finkelstein was responsible for integrating Woodbourne’s population. He has published several journal articles and at 95, submitted another to be published! via Facebook

One does not have to be a serious student of history to know there was a time when people knew that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe.  Some even believed that the Chicago Cubs would never win a World Series.

Today, we know better. In February 1966, after 10 years as Executive Director of the Woodbourne Children’s Center in Baltimore, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescents, I resigned and entered the bureaucratic world of the Children’s Bureau, at that time a part of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).

Today, long retired from HEW and in my tenth decade of life, I find myself looking back at my time as Executive Director, and mulling over some of my positive accomplishments (e.g., racial integration of staff and population); some things I probably should have done differently; and some I probably should not have done at all.

Unless the field of social work has changed significantly in the past 50-plus years, there are probably a number of my former colleagues who are now analyzing these words in an effort to determine why a 96-year-old man would:

1. assume that he had anything of value to impart to his youthful colleagues and
2. invest the time and effort to do so

As I get older, I increasingly believe that age deserves respect, I seek the reader’s indulgence – just for a moment – to veer into what may appear to be unrelated territory, but which I feel would be helpful in proving a point – or at least drawing a parallel.  I promise you: At the end, all loose ends will be tied together.

The unrelated territory to which I refer relates to supermarkets – more specifically, the publications found in supermarkets.  Anyone who has been to one recently must be aware of the number of publications arrayed at the checkout counters.  The best known (most notorious?) of these is probably the National Enquirer.  Each week, these publications carry a trove of stories that follow a predictable pattern.  There is usually a report of an unidentified flying object spotted over New Jersey (or was it West Virginia?) and a story about a child who was reared by animals.  In addition, each issue usually features a diet.

One week the diet may simply be called that – The Diet.  The following week, however, there may be an Improved Diet, followed a week later by a Superlative Diet, and eventually by the Ultimate Diet.  This proliferation of eating recommendations begs the question: If this week’s diet is inferior to those to be published in the ensuing four, five, 10 (pick a number) weeks, what does that say about the current diet?  A diet that can be improved week after week can’t have been very good to begin with.

What has all this got to do with the residential treatment of children?

During my tenure at the Woodbourne Children’s Center, I participated in a number of conferences that produced some very firm recommendations.  Some of these were commonsense; others required a leap of faith, possibly an “aha!” moment. I recall one recommendation made by the psychiatric consultant at my own agency.  He suggested that at each meal, the cook prepare 30 percent more food than the children would consume.  At the time, we did not have a name for this therapeutic approach, but in retrospect “saturation therapy” would probably be appropriate.

I seldom ignored a recommendation by our consultant, but I did not implement this particular one, primarily because I abhor seeing food wasted.  I understood the rationale behind the consultant’s thinking – that children who have been deprived in so many areas of their lives for so long a time have greater needs than does the average child – but “saturation therapy” did not seem the way to go.  Maybe the efficacy, or lack of efficacy, of this form of treatment will become evident in years to come. If saturation therapy is currently an accepted form of treatment, I plead ignorance because of my 50-year absence from the field, and I beg your indulgence.

What point am I trying to make?

I can best answer this question with another question.  How many social workers have left conferences imbued with the feeling that they now really know the truth, only to learn in subsequent sessions that new truths had emerged?

There are things we don’t know and things we don’t know that we don’t know.  What are some of the things we can agree on?  No one would dispute a child’s need for food, clothing, and shelter.  Children need time to work and time to play.  They need a set of rules that are understandable and equally enforced.  But will a residential center that provides each child a monetary allowance twice as large as that of another center have more successful outcomes?  I don’t think this has been demonstrated.

I mean no disrespect when I compare the efforts of professional social workers, particularly in the area of residential treatment, with those of tabloid sensationalists.  I am not suggesting that social workers did not know anything when I was in the trenches 50 years ago or that they have learned nothing since that time.  I only caution that we cannot know everything.  I am certain there are some aspects of residential treatment that are as true today as they were 50 years ago.  But “some” does not mean “all.”  My plea is simply that we never become overwhelmed by our own perceived brilliance.

The take-home message: 

We can’t not do anything until we’re absolutely certain of everything.  But, a little modesty never hurt anyone.  After a lifespan of 96 years and an almost half-century out of the field of social work, I plead for some humility in the self-assessment of our knowledge.  In brief, we may not know as much as we think we do.

Harry Finkelstein was Executive Director of the Woodbourne Children’s Center in Baltimore from 1957-1966. He received his M.S. (Social Work) from Columbia University in 1953, M.B.A. from the City College of New York in 1950, and B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1942.

Click to comment

Global

Turnkey: A Co-Housing Experience in an Italian Public Service for Addiction

blank

Published

on

Turnkey is a term used in the economic field, but it also fits well in a social rehab project. The idea comes from the need to give some answers to the problem of those patients that experienced a long term therapy in an addiction rehab center for 3 or 4 years.

In the Italian welfare system, the outpatient service team -work (doctor, psychologist, educator, nurse and social worker), operating in the addiction recovery can schedule long term treatment in the residential rehab centers. In some cases, this long time permanence is something obliged, because of the serious addiction and also for the lack of different life perspectives after the recovery.

These kinds of patients need more therapeutic help in order to return to civil society in order to find  meaningful social membership. Usually, these clients have no meaningful familiar connections, no job, and no significant friendship.

In the last years, our social services system has become more careful about the use of public money. They noticed social workers more equipped to provide therapeutic interventions using a holistic approach in order to spare economic resources. Social workers are more capable to assist patients in reaching a better life condition by using their abilities toward social integration.

The Project

Five years ago, the program’s director asked for the professional team to think about a solution for the rehabilitation of the” long term patients”.

I started wondering about the meaning of poverty which is not only economics but it also the satisfaction of primary needs. It’s the lack of healthy relational bonds which weakness a lot the patients coming out of the drug addiction recovery programs.

I also noticed that this relational deficiency is a modern human condition; in the weakest social situations the loneliness is something that “destroys the mind “.

So I got an idea: I proposed to my director to start thinking about a possible apartment for a temporary co-housing for at least two patients.

He liked the project and submitted the plan to the municipalities which have the competence in the social side of rehabilitation. The municipalities agreed to the project and financed it.

For the patients in long term recovery, the rent was paid through the financing with the municipalities (an average of 6.000 Euro a year for 4 years, renewable), whereas the utilities and the others cost of the house has been in charge to the occupants.

The management of activities like the admission of the patients, the guaranteed respect of the therapeutic contract, the check of daily life and the help in the money administration, are some of my specific competences as a social worker.

In my job role, I had a significant part into find fitting persons for the project who were able to live together. I also contributed to choosing the people eligible to live in that specific therapeutic situation.

I helped the patients to organize their new life and to establish minimum rules of mutual life in the apartment. The project is strictly tied to the learning of the skills required to come back to live a regular life.

For example:

– living together is an opportunity for the patients to learn mutual respect

-cleaning the home and paying the utilities is a way to come back to daily responsibility and autonomy.

– having a good neighborhood relationship is a way to learn again to have good relationships without drug addiction to interfered an apartment, next to the main social and sanitary services of the town.

The results

Since 2011, we housed 11 clients in the apartment with an average of one year placement. We should consider that one year in a residential rehab center cost 30.000 euro each person.

Eight of them returned was able to manage a regular social life, their addiction, a job, maintain social relationships which helped them to achieve a dignified lifestyle.

Two persons are still in the co-housing situation, one of them has a regular job, and he is searching for an own house. Only one person abandoned the treatment.

This intervention is a daily challenge for our team; it gave us good results in the recovery outcomes like independence, citizenship, struggle against the stigma and improvement of personal resources.

We also have spared a significant amount of public money while offering to our clients a higher quality of life.

The creativity and the professional skills mixed together with the help of other colleagues in the multidisciplinary teamwork made this project an effective strategy to help patients overcome their circumstances.

So, I can call myself a responsible social worker, because I help to improve the personal resources in my client’s life. I was mostly inspired from the basic professional principle “start from where the client is”.

Continue Reading

Diversity

Teaching Inclusion in the Classroom

blank

Published

on

General education teachers are tasked with keeping many balls in the air, which is half the fun of working in a classroom—there are so many constantly moving and evolving pieces for which to account.

One of these essential pieces to ensure equitable learning for every student is inclusion. Of course, this term is nothing new to educators—we work to create an inclusive environment on a daily basis. What might be new, however, are the many ways in which we teachers can look at inclusive practices. Since every child is different, we must continue our exploration of strategies and practices that best suit the needs of all students.

One best practice that supports inclusion is to vary the output of information. By this, we mean that teachers should relay content and instruction in different ways. Some students, especially those with auditory processing difficulties, find that verbal instruction is hard to grasp. To ensure inclusion for these students’ special needs, teachers should try to present information in visual or tactile ways, in addition to the verbal instruction.

Depending on the class or lesson, this might take the form of a demonstration, video, or hands-on activity. Some skills or lesson objectives may even lend themselves to a more kinesthetic or tactile approach. Even students without an auditory processing deficiency would find it confusing to listen to a verbal explanation of cursive letter formation. A demonstrated approach to writing using clay, beads, shaving cream, etc., makes more sense.

Similarly, when teachers are introducing concepts like grammatical conventions or figurative language devices, an audio or visual approach might work better than a written explanation of how a properly formatted sentence should sound. Teachers should also practice inclusion by encouraging students to demonstrate their learning in various ways.

This means that not only is the presentation of information different for each child, but the means by which a student exhibits mastery should be individualized, as well. Some students might prefer to write a formal, organized research paper to convey their knowledge of a subject, while others might feel most comfortable presenting a visual demonstration of their topic. The key is to provide multiple opportunities for students to display their knowledge so that everyone’s learning styles are being incorporated.

Another way to look at inclusion is to utilize multiple means of engagement. For students with attention issues, memory difficulties, or other learning disabilities, engagement in the classroom can make all the difference. Engagement might mean listening to music to identify metaphors, similes, or narrative voice. A film study might help students understand a new culture or part of the world. An analysis of a slow motion field goal might help students understand kinetic energy, velocity, or other properties of physics.

The point is, when students are engaged, learning not only flourishes but behaviors and attentiveness increase, as well. Engagement also assists with moving information from short-term memory into long-term memory. Inclusion, with regard to engagement, means that teachers are not only teaching with methods for each type of learner but also appealing to each learner, so that memory of the information or skill can solidify. In order to provide engagement, there must be a level of interest on the student’s end. As different as each student’s learning style may be, so maybe their interests.

This is where building relationships with students become essential for inclusion. Cultural inclusiveness provides students with a platform to express themselves on a more personal level. This also promotes a positive classroom environment, one in which students feel heard, understood, and accepted. Cultural inclusion allows students to see beyond themselves, as well, which fosters perspective-taking.

Continue Reading

Employment

Networking – The Best Way to Keep Learning on the Job

blank

Published

on

Like most comms professionals, I have a curiosity about learning. Be it about the latest craze on social media, or the newest news platform that I could try and get my organisation into.

I have been fairly diligent about keeping my skills set up-to-date. Regularly attending industry training courses, as well as embarking on a post-grad a few years back while juggling the demands of a busy role.

What’s struck me, however, is that the most profound learning comes from something far less slick than formal qualifications and training sessions, and that’s networking with our peers.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked across a number of sectors having moved from the arts, to education, to health, back to education, and then back to health – you get the theme – and now into the children’s sector now into the children’s sector where I work as Communications Manager at CELCIS (the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland).

With each move, I’ve managed to make connections with my counterparts at other organisations. By regularly keeping in touch with them, occasionally meeting up for a coffee, you can gain so much knowledge from each other by comparing notes, woes, and inspirations all in a oner. It really is cathartic. I would urge anyone to get to know their equivalent elsewhere, you never know when you might need them.

In the earlier stages of my career, I established a useful working relationship with a colleague at another institution. Given the supposed ‘rivalry’ between the institutions we worked for (I’m not naming names!) we had to use judgment and discretion when it came to information sharing. There was a real value to us being able to use each other as a sounding board for managing difficult media requests. On one funny occasion, we both spoke to each other mobile to mobile from our respective toilets!

Peer-to-peer learning comes in many forms and guises. An occasional and irregular meeting to talk shop, can lead to bigger plans for shared learning.

From Networking to Communities of Practice

I moved into a job promoting a brand new museum and gallery in central London some years back. Having attended a meeting on Southbank of arts PRs, I was vocal about the need to develop something a little more formal for us to keep abreast of what was happening in our tiny sector of comms professionals. What emerged from this was a working group of budding volunteers, and the establishment of a national conference where like-minded colleagues from throughout the country got together to learn from each other, and hear insights from those at the top of our industry.

What we didn’t realise at the time of its formation was that we really were a Community of Practice in the making (NB ‘Community of Practice’ is the slightly more academic/formal term for networking with peers.

New Year’s Resolution

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2018 is to help keep a network of comms professionals going in the children’s sector in Scotland. We are a varied bunch – from third sector organisations and campaign groups, to academic centres, NGOs and colleagues working in government – but we have much in common: our values as organisations; keeping our comms relevant to our intended audiences; and the need to embrace new and emerging technology.

Anyone wanting to know more, do be in touch.

Continue Reading

News

Changing the Lens on Poverty Research

blank

Published

on

Using an innovative technique to measure poverty, a Georgia Institute of Technology economics professor has found that more older Americans live in deprivation than official statistics suggest.

Shatakshee Dhongde, associate professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, found that 12.27 percent of senior citizens were deprived in two or more crucial areas, including multiple disabilities, low income, a lack of education, and severe housing burden.

Dhongde said the research illustrates a shortcoming in the official measure of poverty in the United States, which focuses solely on income. The federal government reported that 9.5 percent of older Americans were living in poverty in 2013. That is below the 12.3 percent rate found in Dhondge’s multidimensional poverty index.

Research Reveals Deprivation beyond Official Poverty Count

According to Dhongde’s research, nearly four in ten older U.S. residents reported being deprived in at least one of the four categories: multiple disabilities, low income, a lack of education, and severe housing burden.

Moreover, many of those living with multiple deprivations were not income poor. For instance, 3.6 percent of seniors experienced both multiple disabilities and severe housing burden, but would not appear in official poverty statistics because their income was above poverty line threshold.

Race plays a role, as well. Dhongde found that white senior citizens were less likely to be deprived, while Asian, African-American, and Hispanic seniors were more likely to be deprived. In fact, Dhongde found that 30 percent of Hispanic seniors were deprived in two or more dimensions.

Study Relies on Census Data

The study draws on the 2013 edition of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which includes detailed data on economic, housing, educational, and healthcare circumstances of people living in the United States.

Dhongde, a faculty member in the School of Economics within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, is in the vanguard of economic researchers examining multidimensional deprivation in the United States. Thinking of deprivation in a multidimensional manner is a way of looking beyond income while measuring poverty.

“The main idea is that you change the lens and look at overlapping deprivations,” she said. “So I’m not separately looking at what percent of the elderly population was deprived in X and what percent was deprived in Y and so on. Instead, I choose one individual and then analyze how many deprivations he or she is facing simultaneously.”

By examining multiple areas that can affect a person’s quality of life, Dhongde says the multidimensional poverty index can provide better insight into the population’s broader economic condition. It can also give policymakers tools to gauge where best to focus limited resources.

Multidimensional Analysis Gains Traction

The research follows up on a groundbreaking 2017 paper that Dhongde co-authored with Robert Havemen of the Institute of Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In that paper, Dhongde and Haveman showed that during the “Great Recession” which gripped the United States economy from 2008 to 2013, nearly 15 percent of working-age U.S. residents were deprived in at least two of the measures.

Most of those in the study who were multidimensionally deprived were low-income earners whose incomes exceeded the poverty line.

That paper was the first in the United States to take a comprehensive look at multidimensional poverty at a national level, but similar techniques are taking hold internationally.

The United Nations has used a similar approach in measuring poverty since 2010. The European Union has also adopted a multidimensional approach. The United States government, however, still assessed poverty largely using income data alone.

Dhongde said that her latest research suggests avenues for policymakers to approach quality-of-life issues and health care costs among the nation’s growing elderly population.

For instance, her research shows that people with little education are more likely to have health issues. This suggests that policy makers could address literacy as a way to help people make better health choices — and hold down the spiraling cost of health care.

New Areas of Study to include Transportation

Dhongde is now working to extend the research model to other fields that could benefit from such analysis.

She is currently working with Laurie Garrow, a professor of transportation systems engineering in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Garrow is interested in developing a transportation deprivation index to help guide transit decisions — particularly in rural areas.

“As transportation engineers, we have regulatory requirements to ensure we are designing public transportation systems in ways that are fair and equitable for all individuals,” Garrow said.” By better understanding how transit dependency characteristics, such as income, employment, disabilities, etc., are related and how these characteristics are spatially distributed, we can design public transit services to better meet individuals’ needs.”

Dhongde said such a tool might use data sets to produce a comprehensive evaluation of transportation factors such as access to private cars, availability of mass transit, and even how often public transportation is available, and how far people have to travel to get groceries or go to school.

Dhongde’s new research appears in the book, Measuring Multidimensional Poverty and Deprivation: Incidence and Determinants in Developed Countries.

Continue Reading

News

Assessments Often Miss Mental Health Issues for Youth on Probation

blank

Published

on

An assessment tool used by many jurisdictions within the juvenile justice system that is intended to help recognize the effects of adversity and trauma in children’s lives is not the best means of evaluating mental health problems faced by at-risk youth, according to new study by a University at Buffalo social work researcher.

The groundbreaking research, which lead author Patricia Logan-Greene believes is among the first studies to connect the adverse childhood experience (ACE) assessment for juveniles on probation to mental health problems, could help improve the justice system’s responses to court-involved youth, especially those who have experienced maltreatment and trauma.

“The United States continues to have a massive juvenile justice system that does not, generally speaking, serve youth well,” says Logan-Greene, an assistant professor in UB’s School of Social Work. “We suspect that the way mental health is often assessed in the juvenile justice system is missing many mental health problems – in particular with disadvantaged youth.”

The number of youth on probation is a far larger group than those who are incarcerated or in treatment facilities. Yet most of the research literature is on that smaller population.

“We may have identified a gap,” says Logan-Greene. “The court assessment asks whether youth have ever been diagnosed with a mental illness.  That question makes a lot of big assumptions like equal access to health care and equal desire to access mental health care, which has a lot to do with stigma.

“A better assessment tool would address symptomology,” she says.

The problems faced by youth on probation are widespread, according to Logan-Greene. The vast majority have histories of child abuse, family dysfunction and social disadvantage.

“Only 25 percent have no history of abuse,” she says. “One of my elevator speeches argues against punitive responses for youth with histories of trauma.”

Although most jurisdictions do assess mental health, these are not necessarily good assessments – and some jurisdictions aren’t assessing for this at all. A single question to capture all aspects of mental health simply isn’t sufficient.

“While the adverse childhood experience tool has done wonderful things to help us recognize the importance of adversity and trauma in children’s lives, there is still room for improvement,” she says. “For instance, there is nothing in the ACE tool about childhood poverty, and we know from previous research that childhood poverty is deeply damaging.”

In the current study, Logan-Greene and her co-authors Robert L. Tennyson and Paula S. Nurius, both from the University of Washington, and Sharon Borja, University of Houston, divided their assessment of childhood adversity into childhood maltreatment, family dysfunction including substance abuse, family history of mental illness, physical health problems with the family, and social disadvantage, using a diverse sample of more than 5,300 youth on probation.

The findings suggest a clear connection between childhood maltreatment and mental health problems.  Although there did not appear to be a relationship between social disadvantage and mental health problems, there was a connection between mental health and the symptoms of social disadvantage such as coping problems, social isolation and what the authors call aspirations or the measure of hope for the future.

“Because social disadvantage did have a negative effect on those indicators we suspect the court assessments are not picking up what are probably undiagnosed and untreated mental health problems among disadvantaged youth,” Logan-Greene says.

Continue Reading

Mental Health

Having Difficulty Creating Worksheets and Activities for Your Clients?

blank

Published

on

Nicole Batiste, Hub for Helper Founder – third from left

Tailoring worksheets and activities specifically for your client needs can be challenging for the best of therapists and counselors. For others, maybe you are a natural born artist moonlighting as a mental health professional dazzling clients with your creativity which helps them move one step closer to becoming their best selves.

According to the National Institute of Health, there is a direct correlation between the creative arts and health outcomes when used in a therapeutic setting. The study reports: “Use of the arts in healing does not contradict the medical view in bringing emotional, somatic, artistic, and spiritual dimensions to learning. Rather, it complements the biomedical view by focusing on not only sickness and symptoms themselves but the holistic nature of the person.”

What are my options with limited artistic abilities?

For those of us who are artistically challenged, it is imperative to identify resources and begin creating a therapeutic toolbox for practice. There is one resource that I would like to share which helps both the artistically challenged as well as the artistically gifted mental health professional.

According to its website, Hub for Helpers is an “online library for all licensed therapeutic professionals to access high-quality, interactive, low-cost materials for diverse client populations”.  Hub for Helpers also states that it hopes to lessen the burden of developing materials by providing low cost options to help mental health professionals find materials to best server the need of their clients.

Hub for Helpers was founded by Nicole Batiste, a school social worker in a Texas middle school, when she saw an overwhelming deficit in affordable, accessible, and ready to use materials for therapy. Nicole sometimes found herself spending more time planning meaningful things to do in therapy than providing direct practice.

Inspired by the response to her activities from her diverse client base, she decided to create a hub for therapeutic professionals to access numerous interactive materials conveniently. Nicole states the mission for Hub for helpers is to continuously provide top notch, affordable activities to ensure that we are indeed, “helping you help!”

How does Hub for Helpers Work?

Hub for Helpers provides a quick and easy way to access and save materials in your “My Hub” account. If you are wondering how it all works, here are the tips provided on their website:

  • We strongly recommend you sign up with us to create your personal Hub. It’s quick, easy and free!
  • Begin to browse our materials by searching by the many domains provided
  • All of our resources are multi-paged packets that guide you through each activity, if you so need it
  • Once you’ve chosen an activity, check out is easy, fast and secure.
  • You will then be able to download your resource, all of our resources are in PDF format.
  • Your resource will remain in your Hub to be used repeatedly at no cost.
  • Should you choose to become a subscriber, a $40.00 credit will be issued to you each month
  • If you are a corporate subscriber a $200.00 credit will be issued to you each month to use amongst your employees.

Hub for Helpers has provided three free activities for you to download here.

What else does Hub for Helpers do?

In addition to being an online marketplace to buy low-cost worksheets and activities, for the artistically gifted, you can also sell your creations in the Hub for Helper’s marketplace. For more information, visit https://www.hubforhelpers.com/become_a_seller/.

Sponsored Content by Hub for Helpers

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

swhelperlogo

Enter your email below to subscribe to the Daily Helper delivered to your inbox once a day.

Trending

News. Aware. Share.
Sign up...It's free! Get the latest news article delivered directly to your inbox once a day from Social Work Helper. We promise not to spam you!