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FSU Social Work study explores how COVID-19 influenced decisions of resource-limited mothers

Date: September 24, 2021
By: Elizabeth Chailosky, Anna Prentiss.

The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many families feeling vulnerable. A new Florida State University study suggests single mothers have been put in a particularly tough spot when choosing childcare or schooling.

Melissa Radey, a professor in the College of Social Work, and Joedrecka Brown Speights, a professor in the College of Medicine, conducted a study that explored how COVID-19 influenced the economic, social, psychological and physical well-being of low-income, single-mother families during the early months of the pandemic.

Their article, “I Don’t Have Much of a Choice: Low-Income Single Mothers’ COVID-19 School and Care Decisions,” suggests that single mothers have had “no choice” in their school and care decisions during the pandemic.

“The lack of choice mothers feel in the care decisions for their young children during the COVID-19 pandemic is concerning,” Radey said. “We talked to mothers about their care decisions for Fall 2020, and the angst mothers feel likely continues today amid the surge of Delta-variant COVID-19 cases.”

The study showed that mothers’ decisions mainly centered around three themes — the fear of the COVID-19 virus, work requirements and child needs.

“Putting children first led to limited options,” the study noted. “Few mothers contemplated options beyond trying to meet necessities; mothers made decisions largely on the basis of constraints.”

“During the interviews, it was clear the majority of mothers focused on their children’s safety and financial well-being,” Radey said. “The bottom line was that all mothers wanted to do what was best for their children when making decisions.”

Radey and Brown Speights, with the help of internal funding from the FSU Office of Research, interviewed 34 low-income single mothers about their experiences during the pandemic.

Race was the only socioeconomic factor that seemed to influence the decision-making process. Given the high levels of mistrust in government officials, Black mothers were more likely to select home-based care than white mothers.

“We need to find ways to increase choice,” Radey said. “Providing timely, accurate information about the risk of COVID-19 and available care options is one first step to promote informed choice as well as the well-being of these vulnerable families.”

The study has been selected to feature in Wiley’s Research Headlines, a prestigious publishing company. Wiley’s Research Headlines is known for sending summaries of the most newsworthy research to thousands of journalists and media personnel across the country.

“So much of what we have heard about the impacts of COVID-19 on families comes from popular media accounts,” said Jim Clark, dean and professor of the College of Social Work. “This research study uses ‘experience–close,’ social science methods to hear directly from single mothers about their pandemic experiences, especially the difficult decisions they face in caring for their children. Dr. Radey and Dr. Brown Speights have produced a sobering analysis.”

Radey and her team hope that this data will help inform efforts to aid single-mother families as they make essential childcare decisions during emergency situations in the future.

Original article here:

The Social Worker Role and Impact on the Community

Date: July 27, 2020
by FSU Online

Social workers have an immense impact on communities and the people that occupy them. However, the social worker role has shifted over the last few years and continues to evolve to match the rapid changes of the 21st century.

Social workers’ roles have grown to include crisis management as well as roles of empowerment and advocacy. Social workers can empower communities by encouraging individuals to take an active role in shaping social services, providing education programs and enabling economic independence long-term.

A notable example is the inspiring story of Nadine who was abandoned at the age of nine at a funeral in Lusaka, Zambia. Eleven years later Nadine is healthy and happy pursuing a social sciences degree at a university to educate and inspire kids who share a similar past.

Nadine's success was made possible by the social workers who started Empowerment Village in Zambia. This community was established to provide collective family, house, and education for abandoned children that operate under the creed, "All children need love, respect and security. It is their right."

Social workers’ efforts have the capacity to transform lives at the individual level while also creating a ripple effect at the community-level, to continue a wave of inspiration and motivation for generations.

What Do Social Workers Do?

Social workers assist people to cope with life's challenges by acting as an advocate to raise awareness for client needs and connecting them to solution-based programs and services.

CSW and LCSW provide individual, group, family and couples therapy. Their specialized training allows them to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with challenging situations. Social workers with clinical training may involve other healthcare disciplines to create treatment plans for their client.

Yet another social worker role is the role of macro social work, referring to the interaction between social workers and groups, community organizations and policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies and social conditions for communities.

Social Worker Responsibility

The social worker’s responsibility involves a combination of research, personal interaction, solution development and maintenance of programs and services for vulnerable populations.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics the typical social worker role includes the following duties and social worker responsibility:

“Identify people and communities in need of help”

“Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths and support networks to determine their goals”

“Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce or unemployment”

“Research, refer and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare and health care to assist and improve a client’s well-being”

“Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies”

“Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved”

“Maintain case files and records”

“Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met

“Provide psychotherapy services”

The Changing Social Worker Role

It’s undeniable that the social worker role is changing. The basic structure of the social worker role is evolving to better address the needs of communities by supporting self-development and using technology to enable educational programs.

Rory Tuell from The Guardian remarked on this evolving model when he said, “Our approach of tackling the many effects of poverty and marginalization and working with and alongside communities for their self-led development is the profession’s key contribution in solving social problems.

This approach needs to replace the old welfare model, where governments and international agencies provide last-minute assistance (if at all), rather than listening to and working with people and communities.”

The social worker responsibility has begun to include becoming more connected online, more specialized in their role and increasingly concerned with providing people educational programs and resources.

Types of Social Workers

The social worker role falls into a variety of categories. Some social workers occupy a more general role and others work with specific groups of individuals to provide support and coping strategies. The following are the primary types of social work practice.

Child and Family Social Worker Role

Child welfare social workers aim to strengthen family units and provide support to children and families. These social workers sometimes intervene to protect children from physical or emotional harm or neglect.

For example, a child may have experienced tremendous loss, experienced substance abuse or the effects of it, among other emotionally traumatic experiences.

In these cases, social workers are sometimes called upon to investigate allegations and may testify in court proceedings and cooperate with the courts regarding these allegations.

They may also be instructed to conduct follow up visits with children in the household or the foster care environment where they were placed to ensure the safety of the child in the cases where abuse was found.

Therapy and counseling often follow as the social worker aims to provide children with the best possible environment that offers love, respect and security.

School Social Worker Role

School social workers are an essential link between students, schools and the family. The social worker's responsibility at school involves providing leadership, mental health support, clarity around school discipline and other services.

More schools are operating online and school social workers can interact with students online to provide career counseling, school admission information and coping strategies on how to excel in online learning.

Health Care Social Worker Role

Health care social workers play a critical role in improving the physical and mental health of American citizens, especially vulnerable populations. They are often involved at a policy-level to solve biopsychosocial issues that contribute to poor health.

But it also should be noted that they are often at the personal-level providing case management for patients who need their services.

Mental Health and Substance Use Social Worker Role

Social workers that deal with mental health as addiction can fall under the broad category of clinical social work (CSW) and help with the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health issues and other behavioral disorders.

The uncertainty caused by the global pandemic and consequential economic disparity in the U.S. has created an increasing need for mental health support and active coping mechanisms for American people and families.

Clinical social workers are trained to provide individuals with counseling and therapy to better manage their mental health and improve their quality of life.

Gerontology Social Worker Role

Social workers assist a growing number of seniors ages 65 plus that needs support in America. These social workers are essential as the aging Baby Boomers occupy a large fraction of the American population.

They administer care and services for the unique needs of this demographic and provide both health care and social services that enhance their wellbeing. Social workers that focus on the wellbeing of seniors also work with family caregivers and ensure their clients are being treated with respect and dignity.

Ethnicity and Race Social Worker Role

Social workers are committed to ending racism and eradicating discrimination and prejudice. Ethnicity and race social workers use action programs to address equity issues. These social workers are trained in addressing trauma and prioritize listening to the experiences and needs of communities.

LGBTQ Social Worker Role

Social workers that focus on the rights and wellbeing of the LGBT community support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of all races and ethnicities, all ages, all faiths and socioeconomic statuses through social justice and inclusion programs. On a macro level, social workers fight for laws, policies and programs that support and value the rights of LGBT individuals, families and communities.

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