Year: 2009

School of Social Work endorses National Conference to Create Living Wage Jobs

The University of Connecticut School of Social Work is an endorser of the National Conference to Create Living Wage Jobs, Meet Human Needs & Sustain the Environment. “This initiative brings focus to critical issues facing our country”, says School of Social Work Dean, Salome Raheim.

The Conference will be held in New York City on Friday and Saturday, November 13 -14, 2009.  The conference will address the following topics:

  • The current crisis in unemployment and underemployment;
  • Faith and community perspectives on living wage jobs and decent work;
  • Underinvestment in physical infrastructure and public services;
  • Creating jobs that meet human needs and improve infrastructure;
  • Defending and expanding public sector jobs for a strong economy;
  • Green jobs and environmental sustainability;
  • Developing a legislative program for job creation and economic renewal
  • Building a broad-based social movement to create living wage jobs for everyone who wants to work and achieve full employment.

The conference will develop goals and strategies to create living-wage jobs for all and meet human needs in an environmentally sustainable economy.

The National Jobs for All Coalition, the conference’s initial convenor and sponsor, is committed to building a new movement for full employment at livable wages. This goal unites a diverse group of otherwise divided, single-issue constituencies. The Coalition includes individuals and organizations with a wide range of interests–workers’, women’s, children’s and seniors’ rights, civil rights, and economic justice. Others work on health care, the environment, economic conversion, are academics, social workers and lawyers, artists or simply concerned individuals.

Conference Promotional Booklet with Call to Action & Endorser List (PDF)

Homeless, Domestic Violence Shelter Groups Sharing Services (Hartford Courant)

At Hartford’s South Park Inn, a handful of women are gathered in the homeless shelter’s day room.

Five are on the run from husbands/boyfriends/partners. One was beaten for not having dinner on the table. The first punch knocked her out, and after multiple surgeries, she left on a bus ride to faraway Connecticut. She wants to learn medical billing. She’ll get a new name and erase her past, she said.

It’s rare to hear a woman in a homeless shelter speak freely about her violent past. Traditionally, homeless shelters have shied away from accepting women who are fleeing domestic violence, for fear their abusers will follow and harm staff or residents. Shelters – domestic violence and homeless – have security systems, but staff members are stretched, already.

Rarely have the two shelter groups shared services. Homeless shelter workers consider themselves concerned with the Big Picture, although by all accounts the vast majority of women in homeless shelters have a history of domestic violence. Those women are, however, savvy enough to disguise any hint of domestic violence, said Michele Waldner, of Middletown’s New Horizons Domestic Violence Services.

Instead, homeless shelter workers tend to refer known domestic violence survivors to a domestic violence shelter – which might already be full.

It has been a case of silo thinking at its worst.

But that might be changing under the leadership of Carol Walter at the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. Last month, the coalition held a two-day training session in Meriden that included a workshop for domestic violence and homeless shelter workers to talk to one another – a rarity, said Sarah Zucker, of CCEH, who organized the workshop.

It’s a conversation that’s been a long time coming.

Organized activism against domestic violence sprang up in Connecticut in the early ’70s. The women’s movement was in full swing, and as men and women began to examine society’s inequities, their attention fell on domestic violence. Domestic violence shelters like Hartford’s Interval House and New Britain’s Prudence Crandall Center for Women opened their doors. Sometimes, the shelters were little more than a spare bedroom in a rented apartment, but they were safe havens.

About the same time, homeless shelters began to dot the landscape to answer a more general, though equally dire, need. Originally meant strictly as short-term emergency housing, the shelters quickly became entrenched as an alternative to longer-term solutions to homelessness.

Domestic violence permeates both shelter systems. The National Alliance to End Homelessness says domestic violence is one of the most-cited reasons for homelessness for families. This year’s point-in-time survey of Connecticut’s homeless said adults in families cite domestic violence as the second-most frequent reason for leaving their last residence. “Rent problems” was the first, but as some activists point out, “rent problems” can include one partner taking undue control of the family finances.

For researchers, gathering data is a maddeningly inexact science. Still, what numbers that do exist paint a stark picture. A Massachusetts study that’s frequently cited in research said that 92 percent of homeless women had experienced severe assault – sexual or other physical abuse – at some point in their lives.

A study last year by Eleanor Lyon and Shannon Lane, both of UConn’s School of Social Work, and Anne Menard, of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, surveyed domestic violence programs in eight states. Among other things, they found that women most desire safety. Their needs include affordable housing and knowing their options, and most were nervous about contacting a domestic violence program, given the stigma.

“Families of homicide victims say the same thing, that there’s a stigma, and if you hang around them too much, you might catch it,” Lyon said. All shelters were fighting for funds – and the survey was conducted before the economic downturn.

If anything, the financial outlook for shelters in both systems is even more grim now. If they haven’t already, shelters are considering cutting services or staff, said Linda Blozie, of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

At the Meriden training, one woman who works at a homeless shelter expressed safety concerns about domestic violence victims. Shannon Lane, who was leading the discussion, said: “Shelters have to realize they are already serving the domestic violence population. Now how will you do that well?”

And how will shelters continue to fund themselves? Said Lyon: “When I was coordinator of a shelter in northeastern Connecticut back in ’78, I used to troop up to the Capitol and lobby for funds. When I think back to those days, we’ve actually come a very long way. And then I think about how far we need to be. We’re nowhere near there.”

ON THE WEB: Visit domesticviolence to view previous stories about domestic violence and to find links to information and helpful resources.

INSIDE: For the past few years, advocates have been lobbying for more help for battered women. But the funding is hard to get.


October 26, 2009

Social work scholar’s book on ACORN draws media attention

After the recent release of  the book “The People Shall Rule: ACORN, Community Organizing, and the Struggle for Economic Justice,” Professor Robert Fisher has been in the news.  A distinguished scholar and professor of community organization at the University of Connecticut, Fisher shares a critical analysis on the contributions and challenges of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families in the nation.

National and local media have sought Professor Fisher’s expertise about ACORN since Vanderbilt University Press released his book. Fisher’s specializations and research interests include community organizing, urban policy, social movements and theory, and social welfare history.  He is widely published on issues of urban policy, privatization and social service delivery, community organization and neighborhoods, and urban social movements. Fisher’s works include the well regarded book, Let the People Decide: Neighborhood Organizing in America, and more recently co-author of Settlement Houses Under Siege: The Struggle to Sustain Community Organizations in New York City.

Excerpts and links to full articles follow.

As ACORN grew, so did its clout and its problems

By Barbara Barrett | McClatchy Newspapers, Posted on Friday, September 18, 2009. The story was reprinted in several national and local newspapers and internet news sites.

“Robert Fisher, a professor of community organization at the University of Connecticut, said ACORN and its budget grew significantly during the second Bush administration as society became more stratified.

“ACORN was being a force for progressive change,” said Fisher, editor of an upcoming book, “The People Shall Rule: ACORN, Community Organizing, and the Struggle for Economic Justice,” due out next month from Vanderbilt University Press.

ACORN succeeded in part, he said, because it worked as a blend of local activists backed by a national structure.

“In their campaign against H&R Block, they were able to hold demonstrations at Block offices at 55 different sites around the nation simultaneously, so they could get the attention of a Fortune 500 company,” Fisher said.

“All of a sudden they had this infusion of money,” Fisher said. “They became much more of a national force. … They needed to become more formalized and more careful about what was going on, and they made errors.”

Read the complete article at:

ACORN scandal: How much federal funding does it get?

By Michael B. Farrell | The Christian Science Monitor, September 19, 2009 edition

The group’s dual local and national focus is considered unique in the world of community organizing, says Robert Fisher, professor of community organization at the University of Connecticut in Hartford and editor of a book on ACORN.

Professor Fisher says the scorn directed at ACORN “comes with the turf” because the group has become a significant player in US politics.

But, he adds, in the current debate about ACORN, “it seems that only one side is being heard.”

Read the complete article at: .

For more information regarding Professor Fisher’s book and its content,

Social Work Dean Spurs Gifts

Dean Salome Raheim is leading by example by matching gifts from faculty and staff. When Salome Raheim arrived as the new dean of the School of Social Work in 2008, she made fundraising an immediate priority.Our Moment logo

“Achieving excellence in social work education requires resources in addition to state funding,” says Raheim. “Private gifts help us attract and support talented students and offer innovative programs.”

One of her goals is to provide greater support for students in the master’s degree and Ph.D. programs.

“We’d like to develop more resources to help our students in the form of scholarships, sources for graduate assistantships, and opportunities for research,” she says. “In this economy, it’s challenging for students to keep up with their financial commitments to education. Since their direct work with disadvantaged populations is so critical and their contributions to the social work community so invaluable, it’s important that the University assist them with the resources to succeed.”

<p>Salome Raheim, dean of social work. Photo by Peter Morenus</p>
Salome Raheim, Dean of Social Work. Photo by Peter Morenus
Raheim is leading by example and helping to inspire giving. She has offered to personally match gifts to the School of Social Work made by faculty and staff members through the Close to Home campaign, up to $10,000.

“When faculty and staff give to the school, they show a deep level of commitment to our mission,” she says. “I offered to match their gifts to build a sense of excitement about giving, as well as to lead by example.”

Raheim says the generosity of faculty and staff members can make a significant difference. She points to a recent major planned bequest from Professor Emeritus Archibald Stuart, an internationally known expert on social welfare policy. The Archibald Stuart Fund for Excellence in Social Work will support professional development for faculty members, student scholarships, and student-faculty activities. Stuart, who taught from 1961 to 1991, remains involved with the school and is currently writing a comprehensive book on social policy to leave as his legacy to the field.

“Professor Stuart’s bequest intention is most welcome, as we set about creating greater opportunities and resources for our students,” says Raheim. “It’s wonderful to see the devotion of faculty emeriti and their interest in determining the future course of the school.”

Article Credits to UConn Today, 15, Oct., 2009

Social Work Dean Spurs Gifts

News by Topic: Faculty & Staff, Fundraising & Gifts
Written By: Jennifer Huber


Louise Simmons is Recipient of 2009 Maria Miller Stewart Award

Louise Simmons, Ph.D. is the recipient of a 2009 Maria Miller Stewart Award “One Women Makes A Difference” from the CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).  The Maria Miller Stewart Awards are awarded to women who are role models in their efforts to advance the cause of equality in Connecticut and who have a demonstrated history of commitment to issues affecting women and their families.

Louise Simmons with Alice Pritchard

and Dan Livingston

Dr. Simmons and four other recipients of the award were honored and celebrated for their achievements at an event on Tuesday, October 8, 2009 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cromwell.

“CWEALF is one of the leading advocacy organizations for women and girls and so getting an award from them is a huge honor for me,” says Professor Simmons. “All of the other awardees remind me of how important our collective work is for this community.”

CWEALF’s announcement of the “One Women Makes A Difference” awards cited that Louise’s scholarship, organizing and advocacy efforts in the Greater Hartford community and in Connecticut is a testament to the exemplary standards of working for equity, social and economic justice, especially directed to vulnerable populations, women and girls. She has been a strong supporter of CWEALF and its mission. She has served as advisor and an informal mentor for many women students at UCONN School of Social Work, many of which have interned or worked at CWEALF over the years.

Dr. Simmons is an Associate Professor of Community Organization and the Director of the University of Connecticut, Urban Semester Program. She teaches courses in community organization, labor and social work, political advocacy, and theory and practice of social movements for community organization. Her areas of specialization include community organization, urban social movements, community-labor alliances, urban politics and policy issues, progressive political movements, and welfare policy.

“Dr. Simmons’ work embodies our mission to promote social and economic justice and human rights,” says School of Social Work Dean Salome Raheim.  “Her outstanding career achievements as an educator, advocate and activist make her an exceptional role model for social work students.  I am proud to be among her colleagues.”

Her research interests are in urban politics and policy; community organization; welfare policy economic rights and labor; collaborative research on the impact of welfare policy changes; labor and social work; and community-labor partnerships.

Dr. Simmons recently co-edited a book with Social Work Professor Scott Harding, Economic Justice, Labor and Community Practice. This was based on a special Issue of the Journal of Community Practice, an  interdisciplinary journal designed to provide a forum for community practice, including community organizing, planning, social administration, organizational development, community development and social change.  Dr. Simmons is among the team of editors of that journal.   She is on the editorial boards of the Labor Studies Journal; Journal of Urban Affairs, and Working USA.


UCONN School of Social Work and Community Mental Health Affiliates partner on SAMSHA grant to support homeless

Cheryl A. Parks, Associate Dean for Research at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, has received a 5 year program evaluation contract with Community Mental Health Affiliates (CMHA) of New Britain. Funded by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) program will serve homeless persons living in supportive housing who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or both, and whose symptoms jeopardize their housing stability. CMHA will work with partnering agencies, housing units, and local shelters to provide treatment in the New Britain and Bristol areas. Barris Malcolm, named as Evaluator on the project, will work with CMHA staff to evaluate PSH program development and measure program outcomes. Funding will begin in early October and the program is expected to be operational by January 2010.

Professor Alex Gitterman named the 2008 Recipient of the Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Award

Professor Alex Gitterman, Ed.D., was named the 2008 Recipient of the Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Award from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This award recognizes a social work educator’s achievements over his or her entire career.

Professor Gitterman received this award for his advancement of resiliency theory, group work, the Life Model Approach to practice, his transformative teaching, and his long time leadership in social work education. The award was received at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting in Philadelphia.

“I am very humbled by the Life Time Achievement Award.” Professor Gitterman says. “Many people in my life journey walked by my side: some even walked in front to protect me from harsh environments; while others walked behind me and pushed me to take on challenges and to view them as professional opportunities rather than as threats. When I accept this award, I will be standing on the shoulders of my parents, and senior mentors. I carry their wise counsel and support with me every day. I look forward to expressing my deep abiding appreciation to them as well as to my immediate family.”

Professor Gitterman, Director of the Ph.D. Program and Zachs Professor, joined the University of Connecticut School of Social Work as a Professor in 1999 teaching in both the M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs. Prior to his academic appointment at our School, he was a Professor and former Associate Dean at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

“When I accepted Kay Davidson’s invitation to become a visiting professor in the fall of 1999,” Professor Gitterman says, “I found an administration and faculty totally committed to providing students with a quality education in a supportive environment. I found a faculty totally committed to balancing teaching, scholarship and service. On a personal level,I found colleagues who extended themselves to make me feel welcomed. I also found superior students who appreciated being challenged and who I was proud to have become social workers.” He continues, “The UConn community has provided the stimulation and support for me to continue my efforts to contribute to teaching, scholarship and service. I have been and continue to be most appreciative.”

“We are delighted,” says Dean Salome Raheim, “that Professor Gitterman has been named the 2008 Recipient of the Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Award.” “The University of Connecticut School of Social Work is so very fortunate to have Dr. Gitterman on our faculty. As we commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the School this year, it is with great pleasure,” Dean Raheim says, “that we also celebrate Dr. Gitterman’s “lifetime” achievements and contributions to social work and social work education.”

Professor Gitterman’s specializations and research interests include health and mental health, social work practice, and group work. He teaches courses in casework, micro foundation method, and comparative social work practice.

His publications include: Mutual Aid Groups, Vulnerable and Resilient Populations, and the Life Cycle (co-editor 2005); The Handbook of Social Work Practice with Vulnerable Populations and Resilient Populations (2001) which has won the Robert Wood Johnson Award for excellence; The Life Model of Social Work Practice: Advances in Theory and Practice (co-author, 1996); Mutual Aid Groups, Vulnerable Populations, and the Life Cycle (co-editor 1994); The Handbook of Social Work Practice with Vulnerable Populations (editor, 1991); Mutual Aid Groups and the Life Cycle (co-editor, 1986); Public Health Social Work in Maternal and Child Health: A Forward Plan (co-editor 1986); and The Life Model of Social Work Practice (co-author, 1980) which is on the Columbia University Press all-time best-seller list in social work. He has published articles on social work practice, social work with groups, field instruction, supervision, organizational behavior and teaching.

Professor Gitterman is the Editor of a series for Columbia University Press on the subject of Helping Empower the Powerless. He is on the editorial board of the following journals: Clinical Journal of Supervision; Families in Society; Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment; Social Work with Groups; Social Work in Health Care; Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, and Teaching in Social Work. He recently served for two terms as the President of the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups, an international professional organization and currently serves on its Board of Directors.

Cheryl A. Parks, Ph.D. appointed as Associate Dean for Research at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work

Cheryl A. Parks, Ph.D. has been appointed as Associate Dean for Research at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.  In this role, Dr. Parks will facilitate and coordinate social work and interdisciplinary research and scholarly activities, generate significant external funding, and provide assistance to faculty with funding proposals and scholarly presentations.  “The position of Associate Dean for Research is a major step forward in support of the School’s research mission”, says Salome Raheim, Dean of the School of Social Work.

Establishment of the Office of Research and Scholarship (ORS) is a major new initiative under the leadership of Dr. Parks.  ORS provides a broad array of pre- and post-award services designed to expand the research, scholarship and external funding portfolio of the School of Social Work. Details of services and resources available through the Office of Research and Scholarship are described on the School of Social Work web site. Faculty and staff may access these resources by contacting Dr. Parks at or by calling 860-570-9296.

Dr. Parks joined the social work faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1999.  She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2003 and Professor in 2009.  Prior to her academic appointment at UConn, she was an Assistant Professor for two years at Florida State University School of Social Work. She received her doctorate in 1997 from the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College, and her Masters of Social Work from the University of Washington in 1978.

Before entering academe, Dr. Parks’ career included eight years as a private practitioner and ten years in agency-based practice settings as a social work clinician and administrator in mental health, substance abuse and child welfare. Throughout her tenure as a faculty member in both the M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs, Dr. Parks has taught courses across the curriculum and has advised students in both programs. Most recently, her teaching has focused on qualitative and quantitative research methods, advanced statistics, qualitative analysis, and substance abuse.  Dr. Parks’ primary research focus is on issues related to lesbian identity and alcohol use, lesbian parenting, and age, gender, and racial/ethnic differences in alcohol use patterns and problems.  Dr. Parks has published extensively and presented her research in local, state, national, and international venues.

Dr. Parks has been extensively engaged in service to the School, University, profession and community.  As Chair of the School’s Academic Planning Committee, she played a major role in the development of the School’s 2009-2014 Academic Plan. The Plan will serve as a roadmap for the School’s growth and development and inform resource allocation decisions during the next five years. “Professor Parks’ appointment as Associate Dean for Research fulfills a key action step in achieving the research goal of the academic plan”, remarks Dean Raheim.

Dr. Parks is a current member of the University’s Graduate Executive Council. In 2009, she served as a member of the Provost’s Online Education Task Force and on the Social Sciences Review Panel, Faculty Large Grant Program.  As a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Council on Social Work Education, Dr. Parks has assumed a leadership role on issues affecting LGBT individuals. She served as a Commissioner on CSWE’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression from 2000 – 2006 and as a member of the NASW National Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues since 2006. Dr. Parks’ affiliations with other professional organizations include membership within the Academy of Certified Social Workers, the Society for Social Work and Research, and the Research Society on Alcoholism. Locally, Dr. Parks is President of the Board of Directors for True Colors, Inc., a family service agency addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth and families in Connecticut.

Dr. Parks is a Reviewer for the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Consulting Editor for Families in Society and is on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services.

New Partnership between University of Connecticut and The Institute of Living to Support Innovative Program for Social Work Students in Aging Care

Hartford, CT – University of Connecticut School of Social Work’s (UCSSW) Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education (HPPAE) is collaborating with The Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital to educate and prepare social workers in the area of geriatric social work. The HPPAE at the University of Connecticut specifically targets under-represented populations in the field of gerontology, such as Latino and African American students. In a recent effort to sustain the enriched learning experiences of MSW students, UCSSW partnered with the Institute of Living to receive generous support for their program from the North Central Area Agency on Aging.

The North Central Area Agency on Aging (NCAAA) will provide annual stipends of $3,000 to each of 10 students participating in the Hartford Partnership Program. A vital part of the aging services network in the State, NCAAA is a regional non-profit organization based in Hartford that provides planning and management of funding and advocacy for services to older persons and their caregivers in the 38-town North Central Connecticut region.

Over one-fourth of all families in Hartford are below the poverty line; over one-third earn less than $15,000. The percent of families living in poverty in Hartford is five times greater than the state. Similarly, older persons (65+)[1] have significantly higher rates of poverty in Hartford than in the state or country (2.2% compared to 0.9% and 1.2% respectively). And although 2.2% appears small, it represents (U.S. Census 2000) 2,575 real people. Hartford is also a city comprised predominantly of minority populations.

Within Hartford’s elderly population, 40.4% are male and 59.6% are female. (These are similar to state and national figures, with a slightly higher percentage of females). Of the 15,762 seniors (over 60) living in Hartford, 19.6% are Hispanic, 35.4% are black or African American, and 47.1% are white. And of those over 65, less than two-thirds (62.2%) speak only English (compared to 83.4% and 87.4% for the state and nation respectively). 16.3% speak Spanish.

“It’s critical to prepare practitioners who are representatives of racial and ethnic minority groups that make up our older adult population in the City of Hartford. As the older adult population in the U.S. becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, it becomes increasingly more important for schools of social work and service providers to prepare practitioners to meet the needs of these older adults. One way to do so is to offer educational models that are culturally specific and competency-based, so that students can become culturally competent with skills, knowledge, ethics and values that enable them to contribute to the dismantling of existing disparities in health and social services currently experienced by older adults. These elements are major components of the HPPAE at the University of Connecticut. Graduate level social work students to take advantage of competency-based intensive group education modules, content- enriched seminars taught by faculty and field instructors, as well as in-service trainings facilitated by renowned practitioners, gerontology researchers and educators.

The New York Academy of Medicine and the John A. Hartford Foundation awarded Karen Bullock a $75,000 grant to develop the HPPAE program at the UConn School of Social Work. “To sustain this innovative educational model, we looked to the NCAAA, a community-based agency that understands the critical labor-force need in our region,” said Dr. Bullock, director of the HPPAE. “I am working closely with Eugene Hickey at the Institute of Living (IOL) to identify resources that will enable us to increase the amount of the stipends and recruit more students of color.”

The University of Connecticut, first established an HPPAE in 2006. The funds from the NCAAA will help to sustain their HPPAE in future years. The collaboration between UCSSW and Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living makes it possible for students to focus their area of study on older adults, while attaining field experience in a geriatric social work setting for intensive practicum experience.

With the HPPAE education and preparation students will become leaders in the field and the profession will be more representative of the populations we are committed to serving. Most importantly, the needs of racial and ethnic minority older adults can be more adequately addressed when practitioners have received high level, competency-based, culturally appropriate education and training. Thanks to the support of the NCAAA, the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living will sustain the practicum partnership.

For more information regarding the practicum partnership program the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, an affiliate of the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, please contact Karen Bullock: 860-570-9148,


[1] The U.S. Census (2000) age categories for these data are 18 – 64 and 65 and above. As a result, the figures presented are for the 65+ population, not the 60+ population.

[2] Percentages do not add up to 100% because: a) the chart does not contain data for other populations, e.g. Asian and Native American; and b) people can identify themselves on the U.S. Census in multiple ways, e.g. white and Hispanic, two races, etc.

SSW Alumnus, Richard “Dick” Jackson Remembered

WEST HARTFORD – – Richard “Dick ” Jackson, a clinical social worker who in 1969 founded The Bridge youth service agency here that has since helped hundreds of troubled teens and families, died Monday after a four-year battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 75 and lived in Rhode Island and Florida.

Jackson, a West Hartford resident for years, had also been director of social services for the Bloomfield school system, had a private practice offering family and marriage counseling and led nonprofit efforts to build affordable housing. He also pushed for alternative high schools and was a special assistant to the CEO of The Hartford, advising on improving corporate-community relations by getting involved in social service projects.

“He had a more liberal outlook on what businesses and leaders should be doing for the community,” Nan Streeter, a former state senator and West Hartford mayor from 1975 to 1981, said Wednesday. Jackson advocated for people in power to be socially conscious and get involved in tackling problems facing the poor, she said.

In an interview with The Courant in 1995, Jackson emphasized the importance of listening to people to understand their needs. In that interview, he gave advice for any organization trying to figure out how to help troubled teens – “talk to the kids on their turf with no agenda, no goals, no time frames … ask them what’s the problem. Ask them to find a solution.”

George Hastings, friends with Jackson since 1970 when Hastings began volunteering at The Bridge, said that Jackson was a very intelligent, outgoing person with a lot of interests, including putting together racehorse syndicates to own and train horses that raced at tracks along the East Coast.

“I last saw Dick about a year ago,” Hastings said. “He was quite sick with Lou Gehrig’s disease but he was absolutely upbeat, no ‘why me,’ no complaints. He was still going to the gym, even though he wasn’t supposed to. People helped him. It was worth it to him for the human contact.”

Longtime West Hartford Resident Richard “Dick” Jackson Dies; Founded The Bridge Youth Service Agency, By BILL LEUKHARDT, The Hartford Courant

August 13, 2009

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant