NASW Georgia Chapter 31st Annual State Conference
October 18-20, 2019
The NASWGA 2019 conference had 380+ attendees and was a great success! Time and space do not permit detailing all the speakers' discussions, but they were all insightful and informative as well as entertaining. Wendi Clifton, Esq., spoke brilliantly about the impact of past and current legislative issues on the Georgia social worker profession. Dr. Adrian Anderson, who has researched the nation of Ghana extensively, painted a fascinating picture of that nation while he compared the United States’ culture and psychosocial delivery system with that of Ghana. Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, provided a forceful argument for ending youth being charged, sentenced, and incarcerated as adults. Amy Potter, LMSW, spoke eloquently about the Medical Social Worker and the need to meet all the needs of a patient, including psychosocial needs. The extremely interesting Keynote addresses of Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW, and Irene McClatchey, Ph.D., LCSW, are summarized below:
Dr. Wehrmann (Kathy) began her presentation by asking us (the audience) to consider our roles as social workers and how these roles determine the future of social work. She asked us to reflect on leadership in the profession and to create an action plan we can use to cultivate social work leadership in Georgia. She also encouraged us to learn about specific NASW benefits for members.
Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW (Illinois Chapter).
Current President of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Faculty Member and BSW Program Director at Illinois State University.
Kathy relayed some of the findings from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) study that was done to learn more about where social work was headed in the future. The study focused on two major questions:
What trends do you see occurring in client issues and needs and societal and demographic trends that will shape or change practice?
How can social work as a profession provide leadership to society’s response to these trends with services and practices that promote well-being?
Kathy discussed trends that are key drivers of change and that affect the future of social work. She stated diversity, racism, and increasing intolerance in our society would lead to increased income inequality and class separation. For social workers, this leads to increased opportunities for leadership, need to address root causes in policy, and develop interventions to address these issues.
Another key driver of change is the complexity of healthcare and the changing healthcare system. These changes could lead to increased spending and the need for social workers to advocate for access to healthcare. Social workers play a critical role within the healthcare system, clinical behavioral health, and case management discharge planning. Again, there will be a need for social workers to take increased leadership roles. The health sector dominates the public’s consciousness and government spending. Social workers need to prepare for new challenges in this area.
Longevity and the growth of the aging population is another trend. There may be gaps between the ability to help people live longer and quality of life. Their desire for independence may not match shifts in the healthcare system. There will be a need to address increased caregiver and economic burdens.
Changes in information technology will impact social workers. Big data will be used by social workers for treatment planning. Virtual connectedness may lead to a rise in physical isolation and depression. Social workers will need to learn to adopt and adapt to new technology, advocate if technology can cause harm, and research emerging technology issues as they affect social work.
Other drivers of change to the profession are environmental changes and privatization. Environmental change can lead to displacement of communities, crop failure, scarcity of food and water, and spread of diseases. There may be the need for disaster management teams to assist with the displaced and to advocate for resources. Privatization may lead to public services being managed through private contractors, and a focus on market-based decision making and return on investment emphasis may negatively impact client services. Social workers will need to advocate to show how these may decrease value of services.
Future changes in the nature of work, such as long-term unemployment and increased automation, will affect social workers. Also, the pushback of the retirement age will affect clients. Social workers must be prepared to work with clients on financial capabilities, employment, and education. It is important
to be prepared to engage in the political process and bring the voice of social work to the political debate. Social workers will need to advocate for changes in regulations as needed.
Irene McClatchey, Ph.D., LCSW, Associate Professor and Director of the MSW Program at Kennesaw State University, Founder of Camp MAGIK for bereaved children and adolescents.
Dr. McClatchey (Rene) titled her presentation “’Dear Dad, I Hate You, Love, Ashley’ – Working with Traumatically Bereaved Children and Teens” and discussed her experiences at Camp MAGIK which Rene founded to promote healing for bereaved children and adolescents. It was established in 1995 and serves 200+ children and their families per year.
The staff at Camp MAGIK uses a trauma-informed approach with these children and incorporates the four key principles of this care:
Realize the impact of trauma
Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in children, families, staff, and others
Respond by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies and practices
She discussed numerous symptoms of trauma, including intrusive thoughts, and gave as an illustration the story of a little girl who could not get past thoughts of her mother’s death. Other symptoms include avoidance of thoughts of trauma and negative alterations in cognition; for example, children who blame themselves. One young camper’s father shot his mother, and the child blamed himself for her death because he felt he did not nag her enough to stay home. Some children act out, and it is important to ask a child what he needs in the moment.
Some needs that the children may have are physiological needs. Some are hungry, and some hoard food. One family who came to the camp had not eaten all day, and one child had broken her glasses. Instead of looking for deeper psychological needs, as was not necessary in this case, the Camp gave her mother a check for new glasses.
Safety is a critical need. Ashley, the child this discussion was named after, would not speak after her father killed her mother and was sent to prison. She did not speak during her stay at Camp MAGIK until after she wrote the letter “Dear Dad, I hate you, Love, Ashley.” Afterward, she spoke and told staff she wanted to go canoeing. This was a major victory.