Social Work in Action (September 2015)

While the migrations of unaccompanied minors to the United States from the Northern Triangle is not new, NASW’s New York City Chapter says there has been a surge of minors entering the U.S. from this area in the past year — more than double compared with previous years.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as Child Health Plus in New York, offers a comprehensive coverage option for all children who reside in the state, regardless of income or immigration status. The chapter says with the current opportunity for children in New York to access insurance for needed health care, the state is well-positioned to ensure that these children all enroll in coverage so that services can be accessed.

In an effort to enhance awareness on this issue among social workers in New York, the chapter — along with other organizations, such as the Hispanic Federation of New York; Catholic Charities; Children’s Defense Fund-New York; Children’s Health Fund; and the New York Immigration Coalition — held a panel event in the spring called “Unaccompanied Minors in New York State - Acculturating Social Service Providers.”

More than 100 social service professionals attended the event, and experts in medicine, law, behavioral health services, and public policy discussed specific models of care and best practices in offering culturally and linguistically competent services to a vulnerable population of child migrants.

According to the chapter, the high level of engagement by social workers in this subject area affirmed that there is much opportunity for social service professionals to gain more insight on existing opportunities for effectively servicing unaccompanied children and youth in local communities.

Building awareness of the needs of the unaccompanied minor population among social service providers, the chapter says, is a key variable to creating a landscape of service that can effectively meet the needs of these children and youth who are seeking safe haven, support and well adjustment in a new home.

NASW was one of the sponsors for the Network for Social Work Management Conference, which was held in June at Howard University in Washington, D.C. NASW CEO Angelo McClain, CSWE President Darla Spence Coffey, and the Network for Social Work Management Conference President Marilyn Flynn were part of the conference’s leader panel, led by NASW member Katharine Briar-Lawson.

NASW member Julie Shroyer and former director of NASW’s Social Work Policy Institute, Joan Levy Zlotnik, gave presentations at the conference outlining NASW’s federal policy agenda. Some priorities in the agenda include assuring that social work is fully integrated into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act implementation efforts; and strategic strengthening and expansion of social work’s role across all areas of health and human services. The conference also included presentations about NASWs mission to enhance social work and social justice.

NASW member Caitlyn Ryan served as a member of the SAMHSA-funded consensus meeting in July, called “Sexual Change Orientation-Gender Identity Change Efforts with Children and Adolescents: A Consensus Meeting."

Ryan was selected to serve as a member of the panel — which the American Psychological Association organized — and she participated in an interdisciplinary discussion to address concerns by professional associations, policymakers and the public regarding psychotherapy to change gender identity and sexual orientation in children and adolescents.

NASW senior policy associate Evelyn Tomaszewski attended as an observer.

The NASW HIV/AIDS Spectrum Project presented two workshops at the National Conference on Social Work and HIV/AIDS, held in May in New Orleans. The workshops — called “What’s So Important About HIV Mental Health” and “Staying on the Road to Wellness: HIV/AIDS, Youth, and Adherence”—talked about the emerging critical issues in HIV mental health and social work practice and the social work role in engaging youth in treatment, promoting adherence, and the benefits of harm-reduction strategies. NASW President Darrell Wheeler attended the conference, and gave a lunchtime plenary called “The Interplay of Identity, Health, and HIV."

The NASW board of directors issued the updated position statement on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts and Conversion Therapy in May, which can be viewed here.

Tomaszewski,Wheeler and NASW CEO Angelo McClain also met in June with Douglas Brooks, director of the Office on National AIDS Policy, to discuss the critical role of social workers in HIV/AIDS prevention measures, awareness and treatment, as well as NASW’s continued support of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

NASW-Texas participated in getting state legislation (S.B. 378) passed, which provides liability protection to social workers who volunteer in a state disaster or with a charitable organization. The chapter was able to bring bipartisan support to the issue and impress upon the legislature the need to increase the number of social work volunteers.

According to NASW-Texas Government Relations Director Will Francis, the Red Cross uses more social workers than any other profession.

“The support and services that we bring to crisis situations are valuable resources that deserve indemnification," Francis said.

The new legislation adds social workers to the list of professions covered under the Texas Charitable Immunity and Liability Act of 1987, making them the only nonmedical provider on the list.

The National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral Health and Social Sciences (OBSSR) hosted a research symposium to commemorate its 20th Anniversary in June in Washington, D.C. NASW co-sponsored the Capitol Hill poster session and reception during the event to highlight some of the most impactful research in the behavioral and social sciences over the last two decades.

Joan Levy Zlotnik, former director of the NASW Social Work Policy Institute, attended the event on behalf of the association.

"The creation of the OBSSR has been important to social work and social work research," Zlotnik said. "It has engaged with many social work researchers over the years as well as leading the trans NIH workgroups on social work research."

Links to the posters can be found at The event was organized by the Coalition for the Advancement of Health through Behavioral and Social Science Research.

OBSSR has worked with the behavioral and social scientists throughout the 27 NIH institutes and centers as well as academia and the scientific community to increase understanding and to develop and evaluate interventions for positive behavior change and health improvement.

NIH also announced that William Riley has been named director of the OBSSR. He previously served as acting director since May 2014.

Social workers play a key role in health promotion for older adults. In recognition of that role, NASW has been a Go4Life Partner since 2012 and is observing Go4Life Month in September.

Go4Life Month is an observance by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in collaboration with the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. The goal is to entice, encourage, and enable older adults to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives. The theme of the month is "Be Active Every Day!”

Go4Life is an exercise and physical activity campaign designed to help adults 50 and older fit exercise and physical activity into their daily lives.

According to the NIA, Go4Life is based on research that shows exercise can help prevent many of the chronic conditions and disability associated with aging. Despite the growing list of benefits of exercise for people of all ages, adults in the U.S. tend to become less active as they age, campaign organizers said.

Go4Life provides information and motivational tools to help older adults increase their physical activity. The campaign also provides resources to organizations that strive to promote physical activity among older adults.

NASW observed World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. The 2015 observance marked the 10th anniversary of the observance, which was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA).

Chris Herman, senior practice associate at NASW, represented the association at the first global summit on elder abuse, also held on June 15.

NASW was a partner organization for the summit, which was convened by the National Adult Protective Services Association, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and INPEA.

The event brought together government agencies, nongovernmental advocates, educators, researchers, health care and social service providers, legal experts, and the financial services industry, all dedicated to addressing and preventing elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The summit celebrated the achievements of the first 10 WEAADs and explored ways in which WEAAD and other elder justice activities can grow in the coming years. It included a specific focus on elder financial exploitation as an increasingly prevalent form of elder mistreatment.

In the weeks leading up to WEAAD and the summit, the National Center on Elder Abuse — a national resource center funded by the Administration on Aging — held an international webinar that delivered a retrospective on a decade of WEAAD accomplishments, provided a lively panel discussion from global experts on the future of WEAAD, and presented pilot findings from the Worldwide Face of Elder Abuse study. The panel included NASW member Georgia Anetzberger, a co-investigator for the first-of-its-kind international study.

Read NASW’s blog on WEAAD, which includes links to the May 22 NCEA webinar, an NASW Practice Perspective on elder abuse, and other elder justice resources.