Dr. Scott Harding has researched the movement to counter military recruitment programs in public high schools. “It’s a neglected issue that needs to be highlighted so that we can have a more informed discussion about what it means to allow recruiters into schools to convince 16- and 17- year olds to join the military” he says. “Many people are comfortable with it, many oppose it, but there’s also a large group who don’t know its happening.” He interviewed more than 70 counter-recruitment activists in 24 cities across the country, and his book, Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to De-Militarize Public Schools (Palgrave Macmillan), co-authored with Seth Kershner of Northwestern Connecticut Community College, is a result of this work.
Working with staff and volunteers from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, Dr. Megan Feely is developing a well-being assessment for children in foster care, designed for use by child advocates. The assessment will be based in part on two years of state data on more than 1,000 children in foster care in Missouri. “There are some existing child assessments, but they do not capture the family relationships specific to foster care, and we want to include those issues,” Dr. Feely says.
In a separate project, Dr. Feely is studying the implementation of prenatal support programs for women who become pregnant while they are clients of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. She is surveying clinicians to gather their views of the program, including whether or not they refer clients to the program.
Dean Nina Heller announced the appointment of Dr. Lisa Werkmeister Rozas as Director of the newly established Bachelor of Social Work Program. “Lisa brings great excitement and energy to this project and her earlier practice experience, scholarship and teaching of diversity and anti-oppressive practice bring important perspectives and skills to generalist bachelors level social work,” said Heller.
We will launch our new BSW program in the Fall of 2018 as the signature undergraduate program for the Hartford Campus. Students will apply as sophomores for admittance in their junior year and will complete field internships in units within the city. Qualified graduates are then eligible to apply for our Advanced Standing MSW program. The addition of the BSW program makes us the only school in Connecticut to offer the BSW, MSW and PhD degrees.
Professor Megan Berthold was a clinical social worker in California, working with survivors of torture from many countries including those who survived the Cambodian genocide, when a judge in federal immigration court reached the limit of endurance.
Berthold had psychologically evaluated a genocide survivor from Cambodia who was seeking asylum in the United States, and had prepared a detailed report on the torture and other traumas the person had suffered, as well as the psychological impact of those experiences. But when Berthold took the stand to testify as an expert witness, the judge said she didn’t want to hear any more about the trauma: she had read the report, and that was enough.
But the judge did have a question for Berthold: How was she able to do her job without breaking?
Dr. Lynne Healy was recently inducted into the NASW Social Work Pioneers program for her prolific career in international social work. She has written extensively on international social work and has consistently held leadership positions in NASW, the Council on Social Work Education, and the International Association of Schools of Social Work. She is the founding director of the SSW’s Center for International Social Work Studies and a board of trustees distinguished professor.
The Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) program was approved by the Board of Trustees last Wednesday and makes UConn the first public university in Connecticut to offer a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree in social work. “We will admit our first class of twenty-five students in the fall of 2018” says Dean Nina Heller.
The School of Social Work secures almost $1 million in HRSA Behavioral Health Workforce Training funds for the next four years. Each year, twenty master’s students will be placed in field assignments focused on moving Social Work into settings where primary care is integrated with behavioral health. Students will receive a stipend, take courses that focus on integrating primary care and behavioral health across the lifespan, and enroll in a clinical seminar that will enhance their learning and practice. This training grant will provide a rich interprofessional opportunity for our students and faculty to partner with Wheeler Clinic, UConn Health, UConn School of Nursing, and the UConn School of Pharmacy. The School of Social Work will also be developing new sites for collaboration in the coming months. Dr. Catherine Medina is the PI and Dr. Edna Comer is Co-PI.
Dr. Nathanael Okpych, who joined the UConn faculty this academic year, has been selected to receive the 2017 Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Transforming Child Welfare Dissertation Award. As part of the award, Dr. Okpych will present his dissertation at the CSWE Child Welfare Track meeting later this year. His work will also be publish in a 2018 edition of Families in Society, the longest running journal in family-centered social work.
Dr. Okpych’s dissertation, “Make or Break: College‐Going and College‐Leaving among Foster Care Youth”, contributes important new knowledge to the child welfare field, and is one of the most extensive studies of college-going among foster youth to date. Drawing on data collected from a 10-year longitudinal study of transition-age foster youth in three Midwestern states, the dissertation examines individual, college, and policy factors that impact college entry, persistence, and completion.
Overcoming methodological limitations of previous analyses, this dissertation finds that lack of academic preparedness for college-level work, as well as financial hardships and other life demands after entering college, compromise the chances that foster youth complete a postsecondary credential. Higher amounts of maltreatment and relational instability earlier in life were also found to subsequently impact youths’ attachment orientation in adolescence, which in turn decreased the likelihood of finishing college. Together, the findings point to four key target areas for increasing college entry and completion rates among foster youth: addressing academic underpreparedness, linking youth to high quality college guidance, meeting financial need while in college, and addressing psychosocial consequences of past maltreatment and relational instability.
The findings of this dissertation motivate several recommendations for child welfare professionals, local child welfare departments, and state and federal child welfare policy. Together, the recommendations underscore the important role that child welfare professionals play in formalizing education goals and linking youth to needed resources, prompt local agencies to form partnerships with youth-serving organizations and education institutions, and advise states to use administrative data to inform college guidance and adopt federally-funded policies geared toward college success. Federal child welfare policy recommendations include expanding the education and training voucher program to keep pace with the rising cost of college and extending the age limit from 23 to 26 so that funding is not prematurely cut off before youth have finished college. Importantly, ensuring college success for foster youth will require partnerships with allied professions, and several recommendations are directed at education professionals, institutions, and policies.
Since educational attainment is a powerful determinant of the health and well‐being of children and adults, this dissertation is an important area of focus in child welfare. Most foster youth aspire to go to college but only about half ever see the inside of a college classroom. There is no quick fix or magic bullet to raising the college completion rates for youth people with foster care histories. Rather, continued investment from public and private stakeholders in combination with early, targeted interventions that remain in place as other foster care supports phase out will be needed to support foster youth through college. The child welfare field is a central player in the effort, and this dissertation is a critical step forward in advancing our knowledge and proposing solutions for undertaking this goal.
Dr. Megan Berthold is Co-PI on a research team that was awarded $100,000 through UConn Health’s Vice President for Research’s Research Excellence Program (REP-UCH) for her proposal “Remote Peer Learning for US-CAMBOdia Community Health Workers Managing Diabetes” (AKA: “PLUS CamboDIA”). She is joined by Julie Wagner of UConn Health (PI) and Thomas Buckley of the School of Pharmacy (Co-PI).
Cambodia is in the midst of a type 2 diabetes epidemic and faces a critical shortage of healthcare workers. In response, Cambodia has developed a national system of community health workers (CHWs), or Village Health Support Guides (Guides). Currently, Guides need more knowledge, training, and support to effect needed health improvements. The research team has developed an evidence-based bilingual diabetes education curriculum called Eat, Walk, Sleep, designed for delivery by CHWs. “We have also developed a cadre of enthusiastic Cambodian-American CHWs who have been thoroughly trained to deliver Eat, Walk, Sleep in Khmer” says Dr. Berthold. “A highly innovative next step is to link the Cambodian Guides and the Cambodian-American CHWs via telehealth for training, continuing education, and ongoing support.” “The critical question for this and other displaced groups is, can lay health workers in the home country and those in the diaspora leverage each other’s efforts to address diabetes?” Dr. Berthold and her team aim to find out.
Dr. Caitlin Elsaesser was awarded $50,000 from the Research Excellence Program (REP) for her proposal “Understanding Social Media Interactions Among Youth Living in Violent Neighborhoods. Dr. Elsaesser was also awarded a $7,500 InCHIP seed grant for a related grant proposal. Dr. Elsaesser “says “while youth violence exposure is nothing new, adolescents are increasingly using social media to communicate with their peers, and social media can be used to facilitate aggression. For youth living in areas with high rates of firearm violence – or with access to firearms themselves – the effects of social media-based aggression can be particularly harmful and even lethal”. Her study will investigate the ways that social media can lead to violence, as well as the strategies youth use to prevent such aggression from happening. “This is critical work in violence prevention, a pressing issue given that homicide is the second leading cause of death among youth”. Dr. Elsaesser will be collaborating with Dr. Desmond Patton of Columbia University, Dr. Christine Ohannessian of University of Connecticut, and Dr. Emily Weinstein of Harvard University.
Dr. Brenda Kurz was awarded $5000 for an InCHIP seed grant focused on building collaborative research. Her study, “Coordinated Pain Management Education with Practice Applications for Interprofessionals,” was jointly submitted with Dr. Paula McCauley from the School of Nursing. In addition, Drs. Caitlin Elsaesser, Megan Feely, and Stephanie Kennedy were awarded $4000 each from the School of Social Work for their submissions to the Dean’s Incentive Award.
Reflecting on these outstanding accomplishments, Dr. Fendrich noted “The UConn School of Social Work faculty are establishing themselves as local, national and international leaders in bringing social work to the table to understand and solve critical public health challenges. These successes demonstrate that UConn SSW is on a very promising research trajectory.”
Sarah Howroyd has been honored by the Hartford Courant as one of their unsung heroes because of her hard work and compassion to change the lives of others. Sarah became addicted to oxycodone after a serious accident in 2005. She abused the pills and then started using heroin, a habit that continued until 2012, when she found herself in the emergency room. Today, she is sober and the co-founder of the Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education Initiative (HOPE) — a partnership between police in Manchester and local hospitals and service providers to help addicts get, and stay, sober.
In recent years, Manchester, Sarah’s hometown, has seen an increase in opioid-related deaths. After getting and staying clean, Sarah decided that she needed to do something about Manchester’s opiod problem. So, she met with Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy. The two joined forces and partnered with Manchester Memorial Hospital and Community Health Resources to connect addicts to treatment specialists and support groups.
The UConn School of Social Work, in coordination with the DMHAS Research Division, has been working with Sarah Howroyd, Chief Montminy, and the HOPE project, to evaluate the intervention. UConn SSW/DMHAS faculty and staff involved in the evaluation include Dr. Michael Fendrich, Eleni Rodis, and Jessica Becker.