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Dr. Nelís Soto-Ramírez recently conducted a “time series analysis” of monthly Adult Protective Services (APS) reports—calls to the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) reporting suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of elderly and disabled adults. The purpose of this study was to predict future report numbers so that the agency could anticipate the rising level of reports and prepare its case managers to handle the increase in investigations accordingly.

In May, Soto-Ramírez presented findings from her study at the Modern Modeling Methods Conference (M3) at the University of Connecticut. Organized as a “poster session,” the M3 was Soto-Ramírez’s first conference as a Center employee. Her poster details the analysis she used to help inform and ultimately improve DSS’s response to future APS reports.

Experts often use time series analyses to forecast otherwise-unpredictable numbers in areas like public health and economics. Soto-Ramírez’s employment of this method in APS demonstrates her skill and expertise in applied statistics, which makes her partnership with DSS invaluable.

As a Senior Research Associate at the Center, Soto-Ramírez regularly conducts studies like these that use applied statistics and community-derived research to assist DSS in all of its program areas. She enjoys working with the agency and knows the partnership is making a positive impact in South Carolina. “It’s more indirectly impactful,” she says, comparing her role with that of DSS workers. “But I like to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable populations.”

Rebecca Carney White Bkgd 5 x7The Center is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Rebecca Carney to the position of Quality Assurance (QA) program manager and Out of Home Abuse and Neglect (OHAN) QA supervisor. Carney is an experienced leader, a certified grant writer, and a Licensed Master Social Worker, making her one of the most dynamic and highly skilled new hires at the Center. Preceded by her excellent reputation in the Child Welfare community, Carney’s arrival represents a promise to increase the Center’s already growing capacity to fulfill its mission in South Carolina and beyond.

One of the biggest assets Carney brings with her is her grant writing experience, which has centered on foundational grants to support evidence-based programs. She received her grant writing certification in 2005 from the National Grant Writers Association, in cooperation with Research Associates, when she was working at the non-profit Children Unlimited, Inc.

Carney also has 20 years of management experience, serving in leadership roles and providing support in the areas of foster care, adoption, independent living, and community-based prevention services. She has also implemented group-setting prevention services like the Strengthening Families Program.

Carney is excited to be a part of the Center, whose values are closely aligned with her own. She says her goal is “to further contribute based on my non-profit experience in an effort to expand and diversify our opportunities to work with other organizations.”

QA’s Senior Program Manager Brenda Amedee has great confidence in Carney. She says there were many excellent applicants for the job, but ultimately Carney was beyond qualified, possessing a vast range of skills and experience that make her well suited to a job that requires flexibility and capacity-building vision.

“Having someone we could bring on board with this knowledge and expertise, not just for QA but for the entire Center, was good,” Amedee says. “This wasn’t just about hiring a QA manager; it was about doing what was best for the Center.”

ritaaceIn July, Rita Martin participated in a statewide initiative sponsored by the Children’s Trust to prevent and address Adverse Childhood Experiences, a major public health issue across the United States. ACEs are traumatic events during a child’s life, such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and homelessness. A relationship exists between ACEs and negative health and well-being outcomes as an adult, which makes ACEs an important part of child welfare practice. To increase awareness of ACEs, Children’s Trust brought nationally known ACE trainers Laura Porter and Dr. Robert Anda to South Carolina to train a group of 30 individuals from across a wide range of fields, including child advocacy, business, education, faith, health care, juvenile justice, and child welfare. Martin represented the Center in this training.

With over 15 years of child welfare experience, Martin currently serves as the manager of the child welfare trainers at the Center. Thus, she is in the unique position of being able to infuse the ACEs material into many areas, both at the Center and at the Department of Social Services.

In September, Martin and Megan Branham, with the Children’s Trust, delivered the ACEs training to staff here at the Center, in order to inform all center practice with the latest ACEs best practices. Louisa Vann, a Center research associate who attended the training, said, “The training directly relates to my work at the Center as I interview youth transitioning out of foster care. ACEs training reiterates the need to take trauma into consideration when working with children and youth.”

The goal of the Children’s Trust initiative is to share accurate information across the state about the prevalence of ACEs and the effects that these adverse childhood experiences have on future health and well-being. The Center will take that information and strengthen our projects and trainings with it.

Martin says of the ACEs initiative, “I am excited about the efforts being made in South Carolina to become proactive, spread the word, and encourage the community to TAKE ACTION towards prevention and using the ACEs training as a vehicle to do so.”

NASWConf Presenters 9926This spring, Dr. Suzanne Sutphin, Brenda Amedee, and Traci Gilden joined Malik Whitaker at the 2018 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) South Carolina Spring Symposium, presenting on strategies to improve systems that assist children and families in the state.

A Research Assistant Professor at the Center, Sutphin collaborated with Amedee, the Senior Program Manager for Quality Assurance (QA), and QA reviewer Gilden, describing in their session QA’s experience using the inter-rater reliability (IRR) process and explaining how it can be implemented at other agencies.

Sutphin and Whitaker, the Continuous Quality Improvement Director at the Department of Social Services (DSS), presented on the agency’s Child Welfare Program Improvement Plan (PIP), which aims to reform the system and work toward the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in care.

Essentially QA for QA, IRR helps Amedee, Gilden, and the rest of the QA team refine their review process, making it even more effective in helping keep the agency accountable to the state’s children and families. IRR gives reviewers a chance to look at how they’re rating items and to see (1) if they’re rating items the same way, and (2) if the rationale they used to reach their conclusion was the same. Amedee noted, moreover, that IRR can be applied just about anywhere and in any discipline, especially when there is a large number of individuals performing the same task.

During his session with Sutphin, Whitaker emphasized implications of the PIP for community partners, who work closely with the agency and who need to know what’s going on in order to support the work the agency does. The Center is one such partner. In fact, Whitaker said the Center “has been an integral part of the agency’s vision of an excellent child welfare system.”

Ultimately, Whitaker is aiming for system reform that goes beyond mere compliance with federal mandates. He says the high standards—including the goal of a 95% success rate for safety, permanency, and well-being—make sense, since the welfare of children and families is at stake.

We thank Sutphin, Amedee, Gilden, and Whitaker for partnering and sharing their knowledge and expertise with the Child Welfare community and other partners at the NASW symposium this year.

Pictured: Malik Whitaker, Continuous Quality Improvement Director (DSS); Brenda Amedee, Senior Program Manager for Quality Assurance (Center); Traci Gilden, Quality Assurance Supervisor (Center); Suzanne Sutphin, Research Assistant Professor (Center)

mcknightThe South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) has implemented a new direction with foster parenting. DSS’ recruitment efforts include retaining current resource family homes and increasing the number of homes throughout the state. DSS is also striving to recruit families who are willing to assist both children and birth families. The Center is collaborating with DSS to help the agency reach its goals.

Recruiting resource parents begins with retention. To do this, DSS has created the Regional Resource Family Support Unit. According to Beth Mullins, Director of the Support Units, “These units will play a critical role in ensuring resource families have the tools and knowledge they need to make the foster care experience the best it can be for their own family, and especially for the children that they will care for in their homes.” The Center and DSS have developed the Supporting Resource Families training to explain the role of the support units and the many ways they can offer assistance and reassurance to resource families.

Along with the Supporting Resource Families training, the Center and DSS have developed the Shared Parenting training to reflect the shift in resource family recruitment. As Beth Mullins explains, “We are being more intentional in our recruitment. That means we are recruiting resource families who better serve the children’s needs: geographically, socially, and therapeutically.”

The Shared Parenting training further emphasizes a need for foster families to act as resources and to serve as a support to both the children in care and to the birth families. Carla Tunnell, a DSS Performance Coach and a trainer of Shared Parenting, explains the benefit of this training: “The Shared Parenting training can encourage everyone involved in a DSS foster care case to work as a team and to ultimately take part in the reunification process.”      

In addition to training, the Center has been instrumental in helping DSS create a unified recruitment campaign. According to Ginger Cassell, a Multimedia Developer with the Center’s Information Design team, “We are designing and producing all types of collateral materials to help DSS with its foster care recruitment efforts across the state.” These materials include flyers, brochures, postcards, displays, and a variety of promotional items like t-shirts, cups, and key chains.

DSS’ new approach to recruitment has a direct impact on the welfare of children in South Carolina. According to Deborah McKnight, a resource parent for thirty years who has parented over 100 children, becoming a resource parent can also affect more than just the children in care: “I think it's important for people to become foster parents to bring about a change. We're trying to bring about a change in ourselves and we want to bring a change in our society. If we can make a difference in that child’s life, then we can make a difference in the future.”

APSWomanWheelchairBed 9221Vulnerable adults in South Carolina will be better served as a result of a grant the Center wrote in collaboration with the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). Because of its close partnership with the Center, the Adult Advocacy Division at DSS asked the Center for assistance in writing a grant proposal. DSS has been awarded the Victims of Crime Act funds to increase its capacity to serve vulnerable adults across the state.

Center staff worked closely with DSS to identify program service needs, including specialized intake practitioners to take reports about the abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults. The Center’s statistician used data from the past two years to project the number of reports that will be made over the next several years. In addition, Center staff developed the objectives and evaluation measures, worked collaboratively with DSS to draft the proposal, and coordinated the various parties needed to put the final proposal together.

“The Adult Advocacy Division at DSS is pleased to partner with The Center,” said Kelly Cordell, Director of the Adult Advocacy Division and a graduate of USC’s College of Social Work master’s program. “The assistance we received in writing the VOCA grant was invaluable.” With the awarded funds, DSS will be piloting a new program that brings together a vulnerable adult’s relatives and others in their support network to develop long-term plans to support the individual.

The funds will also allow DSS to hire more intake practitioners who specialize in adult protective services as well as a Victim Advocate who will work as a liaison between APS and local law enforcement.

“We’re proud that we were able to help DSS with this project to enhance support for vulnerable adults in the state,” said Courtney Foxe, the Center’s Training Program Manager for Adult Advocacy, who led the Center staff to success.

kinshipWhen a child is removed from their home for safety and goes not to foster care but to a relative or family friend, they enter what’s known as Kinship Care, a practice as old as human society. Driven by our mission to support best practices in child welfare, the Center’s Information Design team designed and produced an online training to alert DSS workers to a series of important enhancements to the growing practice of Kinship Care in South Carolina. And, in order to more fully engage DSS staff, the Center welcomed DSS Kinship Care Coordinator Chasity Washington into the studio to provide narration for the training.

SCDSS, in a nationwide trend, sees Kinship Care as a best practice when children must leave their homes. In fact, our state has seen an 18% increase in kinship placements in the last year alone, which is a sign that children in danger are going to people they already know and trust. Even when foster families are loving and welcoming, removal is traumatic for children. So SCDSS has added some enhancements workers and caregivers can use to strengthen Kinship Care.
The Center’s training introduced an array of enhancements to state practice.

First, DSS has moved away from using the term “Alternative Caregiver” to Kinship Caregiver. The word “kinship” better expresses the stability and comfort a child can draw from care by someone they know and trust. And when Caregivers are acknowledged as “kin” by DSS, they are better able to see their own value and know themselves to be a crucial part of a child’s network of support.

Next, there are now Kinship Care Coordinators in all regions of the state. These Coordinators can help workers or Kinship Caregivers find needed resources for their children: financial, social and emotional supports differ around the state so the Coordinators always know where to turn.

The training also showed workers new forms that help Kinship Caregivers and biological parents clearly understand what’s expected of them and what’s appropriate, making the time in Kinship Care easier while parents make their choices about working towards reunification.

Finally, DSS’s documentation system, CAPSS, has many added enhancements to help keep children safe and to gather data that can be used to improve Kinship Care experiences in the future. South Carolina is leading the way in kinship data gathering and analysis; other states may be able to use South Carolina’s data to see trends they also can plan for. The Center also hopes to use Kinship data to help DSS keep its practice at the cutting edge of child protective services.

The Center also supports the practice of Kinship Care with our Kinship Care website, which is full of multimedia resources for community members who may be new to Kinship Care. This vital information can help Kinship Care go more smoothly and keep children safe and thriving in lifelong families.

www.kinshipcare.sc.edu

Janel Marvita 0228Center staff members continue to sharpen their skills and enhance the Center’s capacity for excellence. Leadership Project Manager Marvita Franklin has earned a distinguished Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and is using her skills to improve the Center’s management tools and processes. Quality Assurance (QA) Program Manager Janel Mitnaul has completed two case review trainings and helped conduct Colorado’s Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). QA reviewers Natrisha Starr, Traci Gilden, LaTonya Patterson, and Kellena Nelson completed case review trainings in early January.

Marvita’s PMP certification is the “gold standard” of its kind. Her experience in this program has helped her on various Center projects, including the Placement Needs Assessment, a vast research project that involved multiple staff and many moving parts. Marvita has the professional skills needed to assist other organizations with the management of staff and projects as well. “By having the tools and the protocols available to us,” she says, “we have a starting point that allows us to be more responsive to our clients.”

Janel has now completed two case review trainings with JBS International, one on first-level internal reviews and the other on second-level external reviews. Janel was invited by JBS to help conduct Colorado’s CFSR. She learned a lot from the experience, but one of the most critical takeaways was the realization that her fellow QA reviewers are among the best in the country―since they do these reviews every week. “The biggest thing,” she says, “was the confidence that I could bring back to our staff, to say, ‘We’re doing this right.’”

Inspired by this confidence, Janel’s colleagues Natrisha, Traci, LaTonya, and Kellena completed the review training earlier this year. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our QA team, the Center now has an in-house second-tier level of reviewers—comparable to federal reviewers that states hire. As this group learns more about the federal reviews, they help us refine our state review to more closely mirror the federal process. We have the capacity to help other child welfare systems with QA. We can also adapt our processes and technical skills to meet the needs of other state agencies.

We’re proud of these staff and look forward to seeing how their expertise will shape Center projects in the future.

Pictured: Marvita Franklin (standing), who earned her Project Management Professional certification, and Janel Mitnaul (seated), who is a federal CFSR reviewer, second-tier state-level reviewer, and program manager for the Center.

The Center’s Training, Curriculum, and Information Design staff turned out in force on August 18-19, along with key stakeholders, for a two-day training in the SAM development model in order to create stronger, memorable, more siteseffective training in person and online.

The SAM, or Successive Approximation Model , method was created by Michael Allen and Richard Sites, of the Allen Interactions firm, and relies on early meetings with a diverse group of brainstormers who create iterative prototypes. These “Savvy Starts” with iterative prototyping challenge designers to find the best way to train a topic before investing capital and time in production.

Sites came to Columbia and led an engaging and challenging training that has energized the staff. Curriculum writer Casey Carroll says, “I’m excited about the higher levels of learning that we’ll be able to facilitate with closer collaboration in early stages of development.”

In fact, just days after the training, staff are already making use of what they learned. A fundamental principle of the method is to focus training on situating training in the context in which workers do their jobs. As trainer and author Richard Sites explained, it makes the training more memorable and better prepares the worker for fieldwork.

After learning this, trainer Tacita Sumter scrapped her first plans for a training and started afresh, by basing scenarios in the context the trainees would be acting in: “Using context gave me a good starting point―it brought me from a wide view down to the worker’s perspective in the field. What do they need to do? I moved from just imparting knowledge to giving them choices to make and actions to take. I feel like it’s more likely they’ll know what to do when they get out in the field―because they’ve done it already in training.”

The Center exists to support those who help children and families and we welcome the chance to grow and extend our effectiveness to further our mission. We see the SAM method as a big part of keeping us at the cutting edge of training development and implementation.

Center Interim Director Cindy Flynn says of the new method: “Our goal is for participants to take the skills they learn during training and immediately apply them to their work. This new model of instructional design enables us to produce that type of training because it really focuses on learner behavior in the workplace.”

LMS Portrait 0022Some of the Center’s online trainings for DSS are leaving the nest! The Center has been hosting most of DSS’s online learning courses and components in our Learning Management System (LMS) for years. But DSS has recently launched its own brand-new, in-house LMS. The Center has been right alongside for consulting and support as DSS selected the LMS, and we’re now working hand-in-glove as DSS adds Center-created content to their new system.

The DSS LMS is a central hub for online training and reports. Michael Palmer, DSS LMS Administrator, is happy with what the new LMS will bring to DSS. “I’m really pleased with the new LMS and its integration with eLearning is great,” he says. “Staff and supervisors can use the LMS for many trainings and reports and all of their data will be one place.”

The first course to be transferred from the Center’s LMS to DSS’s is the updated, agency-wide compliance training on Civil Rights (Part I and Part II). Civil Rights has been a mandatory agency-wide course for decades but 2017 saw a big refresh of the content. The Center shot the two-part video locally and with a broad array of local talent. The Center has made the course engaging and informative to emphasize the importance of compliance and to correct any misperceptions staff may have about their responsibilities. Now, DSS staff can access the training on their own system and handle rollout in-house.

Palmer says the partnership between the Center and DSS has been smooth and easy: “We’ve worked hand-in-hand together; there’s been good work between the two components.” Center staff from our Instructional Design and Production team who specialize in LMS administration have consulted along the way and facilitated the creation of documents to help course creation in the DSS LMS be as efficient and accurate as possible.

This is the beginning of a new partnership of LMS consulting and cooperation between the Center and a long-term client. We look forward to helping DSS maximize the effectiveness of their training and tracking tool.

Pictured: Brittany Rice (seated) and Lisa Stuchell from the Center’s Instructional Design & Production team

osaIt’s often a sad truism that a person’s doctor knows their health least because a doctor sees patients in such long intervals. But what if caregivers had the medical knowledge to be the eyes and ears of the doctor, all the time?

That’s what the new Home Care Specialist (HCS) Training, from the Office of the Study of Aging at UofSC, aims to do. Created and developed by Carol Cornman and Courtney Davis, HCS training is designed for Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) who are already in the homes of the elderly, giving them daily personal care. The training gives basic but targeted medical knowledge to PCAs, who could alert medical teams for preventative care. The trained Home Care Specialists can also help keep clients on track with their personal Plan of Care to help keep them healthy. This way, clients can avoid preventable acute medical conditions and stay safely and comfortably at home, where they want to be. Visits to the ER and hospitalizations are costly and traumatic; avoiding them when possible is a best practice in elder care.

The Center’s Information Design team worked closely with Cornman and Davis to develop thirteen highly focused modules and two videos that would, over time and on demand, teach PCAs to recognize, record, and report warning signs of impending acute health episodes. The two videos demonstrate the person-centered philosophy of good home care. The learner can take the online modules at their own pace. If they pass ten of the thirteen modules, they receive the Home Care Specialist Certification.

Topics the modules cover are the most common ailments our society experiences, which PCAs see frequently in their clientele: congestive heart failure, dehydration, dementia, urinary tract infections, and falls, among others. This training isn’t med school, but it is a solid foundation in recognizing warning signs that, if caught early, can greatly improve a client’s quality, and even length, of life.

Claire Houle, a writer who worked on the project, believes the training series to be a strong contribution to the life of the community: “By the time I finished drafting the module on dehydration, I understood that the seriousness of the condition is greater than I had ever suspected. I would never have guessed that dehydration can look like dementia! I was really impressed by how practical, engaging, and instantly actionable the modules were. I think this can reach and improve a lot of lives.”

The online training is scheduled to go live in the Fall of 2015 linking from the Office of the Study of Aging website.

DHHS Team Candid 9854The Center is proud to announce a new partnership with the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Center is in the first phase of a multi-year partnership to train Medicaid staff for DHHS. The first step, happening now, is taking over the two-day Medicaid Orientation training. This foundational training introduces Medicaid eligibility workers to the various Medicaid programs and the different computer systems they will be using. In the future, the Center will take over multi-week trainings designed to equip workers with the skills and policy knowledge needed for assisting applicants with eligibility determination for the appropriate Medicaid program. This partnership signals a new direction of the Center’s mission: supporting the health care needs of children and families.

Medicaid is important to South Carolinians. In 2016, more than a fifth of South Carolina’s 4.8 million residents received Medicaid benefits, according to Medicaid Policy Research at the USC Institute for Families in Society. That’s a lot of people needing support and guidance about their coverage so they can receive routine and urgent care.

To best fulfill our partner’s needs, the Center will bring its diverse array of teams to the DHSS project. Center writers will adapt and update curricula to make them as current, informative, and engaging as possible. Center production staff will create media elements that are fresh and thought-provoking. Center trainers will bring the new curriculum to life, equipping DHHS staff to will take their knowledge into our communities.
Program Manager James Randolph is invigorated by the new challenges and possibilities in the partnership: “We’ve worked to find a way to serve DHHS as part of our mission and both DHHS and Center staff are excited about this new partnership. Our two organizations have a lot in common: we want to improve lives.”

The connection between DHHS and the Center was forged by the Center’s longtime partner, the SC Department of Social services. Randolph finds this deeply satisfying: “Our long-time client DSS recommended our services to DHHS. That feels pretty good, to know that we’ve served a client so well that they saw we could benefit others,” he says.

The Center is ready to move into the future with a new partner and new ways to fulfill our mission.

Pictured: New Medicaid trainers Kendra Pickett (seated),Ebony Ligon, and Tuesday Duckett

On May 20th and 21st, The Center for Child and Family Studies partnered with SCDSS Economic Services to present the Economic Services Case Management Conference for case managers and supervisors from around the state. The James7279conference featured presentations by UofSC trainers, DSS leaders, and a panel of representatives from community partners including the Department of Probation, Parole, Pardon Services, the Vocational Rehabilitation Department, and the Department of Mental Health. Topics included time management, professionalism, and dealing with generational differences in the workplace.


The goal of the conference was to provide case managers and supervisors the opportunity to learn about any policy changes as well as best practices. CCFS trainer Cheryl Gant said, “What I hope the participants take away is how they can better serve the clients, and how they can keep the clients’ best interests at heart. Even though we have policy and procedures, they must remember that at the end of the day, this is someone’s life that you are impacting.”

DSS participants and trainers alike also have the opportunity to make connections with colleagues that they may not regularly see. Ms. Gant values these connections, stating that presenting at conferences like this one “gives me an opportunity to see people that I haven’t seen in a long time, but at the same time I enjoy sharing my knowledge with those that will use it to help the clients that they serve.”

CFSR Virgil Tedra 9717 250x250Thanks to the precision and reliability of the Center’s Quality Assurance staff (QA), South Carolina was allowed to conduct its own Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) this year. The CFSR looks closely at each state’s child welfare system and provides states with a baseline for measuring the improvement of the system.

Brenda Amedee, Senior Program Manager of QA at the Center, knew that her staff could handle the CFSR because they have a proven record of conducting thorough, competent reviews for the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

Mary Ellen Nold, a personal service contractor who worked closely with QA on this CFSR, confirmed Amedee’s conviction. Nold said, “The feds wanted to give states a chance to use their own QA, and South Carolina was a good fit. It’s great that South Carolina has a system in place that supports this kind of rigorous self-examination.”

One of the challenges of conducting a CFSR is having to learn and use a required federal instrument to guide the review process. In working with the Center, Nold saw that QA was up to the challenge. She said, “I’ve seen the growth and development of the QA staff. They demonstrate a really good knowledge of the federal instrument.”

Amedee, along with everyone else at the Center, shares Nold’s faith in our QA staff. Their reliability and dedication to conducting thorough reviews make a real difference in our state.

(Pictured: Tedrea Wilson and Virgil D’Antignac, two of the Center’s QA Reviewers)

Jessica Cabrera, Program Coordinator at The HABLA Project, recently published an article with the South Carolina Midlands Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).  ASTD is an organization for professionals in the field of training and human development.  Cabrera’s interest in leadership development was spurred when she attended the 2013 ASTD International Conference and Exposition and heard a speech by Liz Wiseman, whom she cites in the article.  Cabrera’s article, “Developing Future Leaders: 5 Tips for Considering Shifting Expectations,” highlights the ways in which younger people respond differently to hierarchical models of leadership and focuses on strategies for training a new generation of leaders.

Cabrera notes that Millennials don’t do well in restricted environments.  “Each generation is socially constructed differently,” says Cabrera, and technological advances in particular have affected “the way they think, behave, and interact.”  Millennials become stifled when they are told not to think but to obey.  The danger of adhering to a traditional, top-down managerial approach is that “you muffle everything they have to offer,” resulting in unused talent.
“Horizontal leadership” is the best way to engage Millennials according to Cabrera.  Horizontal leadership is more like coaching a team effort, and one person’s success is everyone’s success.  Accommodating this evolving vision of leadership is important not just for managing young employees but also for training them to be leaders in the future.

Cabrera stresses that horizontal leadership is not just for Millennials; everyone can benefit from a management style that empowers employees.  “It’s so important to me to show the people that I lead that I believe in them and that they are capable,” says Cabrera.  “Believing in somebody is empowering.”

APS Competencies 9812The importance of Child Protective Services sometimes overshadows that of Adult Protective Services. But the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Center know that vulnerable adults must not be forgotten. This year, DSS and the Center teamed up to create a new basic training for case managers in Adult Protective Services (APS). This new training aims to improve the skills of APS case managers and ultimately improve the lives of vulnerable adults across the state.

The new training is 18 days delivered over six weeks and runs on an engine of 22 performance-based competencies. Participants master these competencies by successfully completing various intensive assessments.

To ensure that every competency is addressed in the training, members of the development team came up with a competency-by-assessment chart that shows how each assessment in the training satisfies the different competencies. For example, Assessment 3, which asks participants to create mock questions for an intake scenario, intersects with the competency about critical thinking as well as the competency about following the intake process.

The activities and assessments ensure that the competencies are put to work. On top of this, the development team devoted two of the weeks to skills practice in small groups. Group one comes in on Monday, group two on Tuesday, and so on. This way, each small group receives an intensive day of training in which participants work to hone critical interviewing skills. Between weeks, participants complete shadowing assignments to supplement what they learned and practiced in class.

APS Training Manager Courtney Foxe says the new design allows participants to apply their knowledge immediately, to “make the connection between what they’re learning and what they’ll be doing on the job.” Participants “get to work their very first case before they work their very first case.”

Congratulations to the project’s development team on completing this project. We are proud to play a special role in improving the skills of case managers and the lives of our fellow citizens across the state.

Whitaker NewsThe Verizon Foundation has awarded Dr. Pippin Whitaker a 2-year, $15,000 grant to develop an iPad app to be used by Irmo High School students to assess dating relationships with the goal of reducing dating violence.  Dr.  Whitaker, a COSW assistant professor, received recognition for the award at the Nov. 16 USC football game against Florida at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“I am pleased that the Verizon Foundation is supporting our work with high school students and administrators to engage youth as leaders and advocates to promote healthy teen relationships,” Dr. Whitaker said.

About 1 in 3 youth and young adults has experienced some form of teen dating violence, including psychological and physical violence.  In South Carolina high schools in 2011, about 1 in 8 girls and 1 in 10 boys were hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend, Whitaker said.

The Verizon Foundation is funding the second phase of the project. In the first phase, researchers interviewed youth, parents, educators, and state representatives. Youth said they want safe, confidential, and ongoing support to build healthy relationships, Dr. Whitaker said.

The COSW grant was part of $75,000 the Verizon Foundation awarded to seven agencies in South Carolina to assist victims and work toward preventing domestic violence.

“Verizon takes seriously our commitment to ensuring sufficient resources are available to victims of domestic violence,” said Jerry Fountain, Verizon Wireless president for the Carolinas and Tennessee. “Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time when we should all reflect on what we can do to help those in our communities who need help.”

OHAN Traci JeanSan 9760Stability, safety, and well-being—these are just a few outcomes children in foster care should experience. Unfortunately, not all children in care will. A recent lawsuit exposed many flaws within the South Carolina foster care system, specifically problems with accepting and investigating reports of Out-of-Home Abuse and Neglect (OHAN). To assist the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) with these problems, the Center created a review process and a training that will develop and strengthen the skills of all OHAN staff.

The Center’s Quality Assurance (QA) team collaborated with SCDSS and federal court monitors to create a review instrument that would evaluate OHAN Intake reports. This instrument focused on the ability of OHAN staff to correctly identify which Intake reports should be accepted for investigation and which ones should be screened out. Both the federal court monitors and QA examined these reviews, passed the data along to OHAN, and guided OHAN on ways to change their practice. “The QA team has the ability, the knowledge, and the skill set to really make a difference and help OHAN reach their goals,” explains Traci Gilden, the Center’s QA and Special Projects Program Manager.

The QA reviews also revealed specific areas within OHAN that needed to be trained.  Using the data from these QA reviews, the Center’s Training and Instructional Design and Production teams worked closely with OHAN to develop a four-day, blended learning training. According to Instructional Designer Lisa Stuchell, “The QA reviews allowed us to create a training that concentrates on the needs of our client and that will equip OHAN staff with the information they need to be successful in the future.”

The OHAN Intake Training will directly impact children in foster care. “We owe it to these children—children who have already experienced abuse and neglect—to live in safe environments and to not be re-victimized. It’s our job to make sure all children in foster care are safe and protected,” explains Gilden. Through the Center’s evaluation of OHAN Intakes and the development of this training curriculum, OHAN staff will improve their Intake process and ensure children in foster care feel safe, protected, and cared for.

WolferCaseDecisionCoverSocial work professor Terry A. Wolfer is the lead author of a book published in November designed to bridge class work and field work. Wolfer and University of Oklahoma social work professors Lori D. Franklin and Karen A. Gray wrote the book Decision Cases for Advanced Social Work Practice: Confronting Complexity.

Published by Columbia University Press in New York, the book contains 15 cases that involve child welfare, mental health, hospital, hospice, domestic violence, refugee resettlement, veterans’ administration, and schools. The cases were chosen because they confront common ethical and treatment issues.

COSW Dean Anna Sheyett said the book is designed to help students sharpen their critical thinking. In each case, students must sort through the ethical, practice, and personal issues they will face in their careers. The cases revolve around client autonomy, supervisory conflict, and other themes with a depth and complexity that precludes easy answers.

“One of the great challenges in teaching social work practice is helping students move beyond tidy, textbook formulations to wrestle with the messiness of true practice,” Sheyett said.

Wolfer has been using the case method since 2000 for a capstone course that doctoral students take in their final semester. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Recent Contributions in Social Work Education Award from the Council on Social Work Education.

insight telly awards 250x250The highly competitive Telly Awards recognize excellence in video and television across the nation. For the Center, it’s a special honor to receive awards for creating video that embodies our work’s purpose and meaning. The four winning projects were created to strengthen community connections around child welfare: a short documentary called “Come to Know the Catawba” and three recruitment spots for foster youth advocacy programs called Go Out and Live Life (GOALL) and Youth Voice.

“Come to Know the Catawba”
“Come to Know the Catawba” was created to educate our state’s entire child welfare community about the culture and importance of the Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina’s only federally recognized Indian tribe. This video actually won two awards: A bronze Telly Award and a bronze People’s Telly Award, which is chosen by the media community.

The video was part of a multimodal training on the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law enacted to preserve Native American culture and families. “This law is important,” says Claire Houle, the project writer. “But the law comes alive to a child welfare worker when they come to see the Catawba as South Carolinians. By hearing Catawba stories and their hopes for the future, child welfare workers will see the heart of why the law is important.”

Media Developer Ginger Cassell also found great meaning in the project: “Working on the Catawba Indian reservation, going back in time and learning the history was an honor.” The tribe, led by Chief Bill Harris, was an outstanding partner during production and the Center values this new relationship. You can watch the video here.

Foster Youth Recruitment Campaign Videos
Also honored were three recruitment videos for Go Out and Live Life (GOALL) and Youth Voice, created to engage foster youth in the state-wide advocacy programs to improve foster care in our state. Each video won a bronze Telly.

GOALL and Youth Voice are advocacy groups made up of youth with foster care experience who offer their unique understanding to improve the system. The programs offer leadership and advocacy training to these young people, a number of whom appeared in the videos. For Ginger Cassell, “It was great working with the foster youth to create this recruitment series from the ground up. GOALL is an amazing program – we had a lot of fun creating an engaging appeal for foster youth to join this organization.” You can see the GOALL and Youth Voice videos here, and here.

High Quality Means Better Learning
Beck Sullivan, Senior Program Manager of the Instructional Design and Production team, firmly believes that high quality video is crucial to learner investment in their training. “Quality makes a difference for the learner, and we're committed to making the most of the resources we have to create quality,” she says. “We were asked to explain a culture in the Catawba project. The quality of the production gets a learner invested.” Cassell believes that “It’s our job to invent, create and tell stories.” Houle agrees: “It’s often through story that people connect new ideas to their own experience. That’s what creates change. So when we’re asked to tell someone’s story, that’s a pretty big responsibility.”

The Center is dedicated to making production choices to help our clients get the highest quality production no matter what their budget. “Careful decisions are key,” declares Sullivan. So much is possible when creativity, talent and careful planning meet. The Telly Awards are a confirmation that our efforts are worth it for our clients and those they serve.

Flynn adoptionThe Center for Child and Family Studies is improving the odds for teens to build lifelong ties

When Dr. Cynthia Flynn started interviewing youth who were adopted as teenagers in 2001, she was helping build the foundation for a shift in thinking about families, age, and adoption.

In the field of adoption, where research has been scant, one finding has dominated thinking: Chances of adoption dwindle with age. Flynn and other researchers, however, realized that lower odds didn’t mean impossible odds, and increasing adoption opportunities for teens is vital because permanency is a life-long need.

Flynn, Wendy Welch, and Dr. Kathleen Paget published “Field-Initiated Research on Successful Adolescent Adoptions” in 2004. The federally funded research revealed teens and adoptive parents sharing their questions, decision processes, and actions as they moved from considering adoption to legal completion. Other studies had looked at reasons adoptions failed; Flynn’s group examined the ingredients of success. The paper’s straightforward language lent greater power to the voices of the youth and adults.

“I was awed and inspired by what some of the parents went through. They put their lives on hold to provide these teens with what they needed,” said Flynn, now interim associate director of The Center for Child and Family Studies at USC’s College of Social Work.

The Center has been involved in helping the S.C. Department of Social Services fulfill one of the study’s key recommendations: “Employ caseworkers who specialize in adolescent adoptions.” One such practitioner is Debbie Beecken, a certified adoption investigator for more than 17 years. She spent most of her career with non-profit agencies recruiting families for children whose needs and circumstances made adoption challenging. Since January 2013 she has been employed by the Center to train newly hired adoption specialists for DSS.

Teens’ chances for adoption have improved as the number of case workers trained in the methods of matching older youth to families has grown, Beecken said. “We don’t give up on them.”

PNA CindyHeroFor 18 intense weeks, 12 Center staff stepped out of their usual roles and teamed up to conduct the Placement Needs Assessment, or PNA, for the South Carolina Department of Social Services. This major study is part of DSS’s Continuous Quality Improvement plan for making changes to the process of placing youth in foster homes. DSS asked the Center to assist in this effort to meet one of the requirements of the Michelle H. v. Haley lawsuit settlement agreement.

The PNA required Center staff to travel across the state, interviewing 90 children in foster care and others connected to these cases. Center staff are currently analyzing the data gathered in these interviews to identify patterns and figure out ways DSS can improve its placement process.

Center Director Cynthia Flynn, who is in charge of the PNA, says the Center’s “deep dive” into how DSS places youth in foster homes showcases the Center’s agility. The Center’s mission and values promote flexibility, which in turn increases the Center’s capacity to serve clients in a variety of ways.  

This agility impresses Bach Pham, a member of the research team at the Center who is participating in the PNA. For him, the Center’s agility stems in part from its cultivation of teamwork. He says, “It was interesting when we gathered on a weekly basis to watch our skill sets come together. Staff from Quality Assurance, Child Welfare, Research, and Leadership teams quickly learned how to work together to produce better content.”

Quality Assurance reviewer Hattie Greene is also participating in the study. For Hattie, the Center displayed excellence in “making efforts to establish rapport” with children in foster care, despite the time constraints. She said she and the team worked hard to avoid making assumptions about what foster parents know about a child’s “underlying issues.”

Through close examination and an honest approach to data, the Center’s work on the PNA demonstrates its commitment to helping its partners reach their goals and improve their outcomes.

Buddhist approach to mental health templeThe Venerable Thich Minh Thanh, head-monk of Thang Nghiem Temple in Hanoi shared Buddhist approaches to mental health. Buddhist temples in Vietnam are a frequent destination for Vietnamese people with mental health problems seeking healing. Since 1997, the Venerable Thich Minh Thanh has helped many people suffering symptoms ranging from stress, anxiety disorders, and depression to hallucinations, schizophrenia, and/or seizures.

His therapeutic method is based on Buddhist philosophies about the mind, the self and the root causes of mental health problems. In this talk, he will explain the philosophies and methods he used to help Vietnamese people with mental health problems.ThichMinhThanhFull

Contributing to the talk, Dr. Huong Nguyen presented select cases successfully treated by the Venerable Thich, which she had observed during an ethnographic study between 2011 and 2013.

This event was sponsored by USC’s Science and Religion Initiative.

donna“When the Center implemented LAS, our goal was to make it highly applicable to South Carolina,” says Donna Privette, the Center trainer who facilitates the Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS) for child welfare supervisors at the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS).

The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) developed the original online curriculum to enhance the leadership capacity of individuals who work in social services. The Center’s version of LAS for supervisors and performance coaches at DSS is unique and highly impactful. The Center has been dubbed the “rock stars” of LAS nationally according to Marshall Soloway, NCWWI’s LAS Technology Director.

The national NCWWI curriculum was developed by child welfare experts across the country and includes the latest research and best practices in child welfare supervision. When adapting the course for South Carolina, the Center focused on the curriculum’s strengths, combining the rich online content with in-class reinforcement, application, and networking. After each of the five online modules, participants come together for a “learning network” day, where they exchange ideas and focus on ways to apply what they’ve learned.

Implementing a change initiative is a major requirement for each participant. The change initiative is a course of action that the participant identifies to address a need or improve a program area. By implementing their change initiative, participants have an opportunity to practice the leadership skills they are learning during the course.

Often change initiatives include enhancing community partnerships with law enforcement, private counselors, and alcohol and drug abuse providers. Donna uses her considerable experience in developing community partnerships in this course and adds that, “Building strong partnerships is an integral part of leadership and requires specific competencies like advocacy, communication, coordination, collaboration, and negotiation.”

South Carolina is one of only 13 states offering the LAS course. Twenty-five participants including supervisors and performance coaches are nominated by their supervisor each year in South Carolina and proceed through the 4-month course in a cohort.

Terri Thompson who participated in the course says, “Before LAS, I didn’t do anything different for recruitment.” As part of the course, she looked at research on the reasons people left their jobs in any industry. Terri, now a county director at DSS, began to approach the hiring process in a completely different manner with group interviews and more accurate descriptions of a typical day for a staff member.

The Center has been offering LAS to DSS supervisors for four years and has trained over 130 supervisors. Over this period, the expectations and requirements for supervisors have increased. This year Donna is offering increased individual support to participants as they go through the course. The Center is continually improving the course and striving for excellence in every aspect.

Donna says, “As DSS leaders grow and develop their leadership skills, we expect to see increased retention of the workforce and improved services to the children and families of South Carolina.”

Cuban 2013Two professors of social work from the University of Havana spent a week here sharing ideas and talking with students and faculty.

Dr. Sadye Logan hosted two visiting scholars from the University of Havana (Cuba) October 3-10.  

Mariana Munoz Rodriquez and Lourdes Teresa de Urrutia Barroso, professors of social work at the University of Havana, exchanged interdisciplinary ideas with emphasis on social work.  

“There was a feeling of openness—a real connection was made,” said Dr. Logan, a Distinguished Professor Emerita with the College of Social Work (COSW) and the I. DeQuincey Newman Professor of Social Work Emerita.

The Cubans and COSW faculty explored possibilities of establishing transdisciplinary international community research initiatives, and explored the possibility of developing student and faculty exchanges.

“It’s something that requires additional discussion,” Dr. Logan said. “This is the first step in creating a possible future partnership.”

“This puts the university and the COSW in the forefront of a future opportunity,” she said. “Cuba is our closest international neighbor, and we’ve never thought to reach out.”

Dr. Logan hosted the visit with the support of a grant she was awarded from the USC Provost Office’s Institute for Visiting Scholars Program. She had met Dr. Rodriquez in 2012, when she was visiting Cuba as part of a delegation from the Council on Social Work Education.

catawaba cameraThe Center has enjoyed a partnership with the Catawba Indian Nation since SCDSS first asked for an updated training about the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (usually shortened to ICWA). ICWA protects the cultural life and well-being of Native peoples by ensuring that all Native children have a chance to remain connected to their tribal family if their parents cannot care for them. 

After performing a needs analysis, the Center and DSS agreed that we would create a number of training elements including a video about Catawba culture and an interactive timeline with highlights from their 6000 years of history.

A team from the Center traveled to the Catawba Indian Nation for three days of interviews and filming on the Reservation. They interviewed former Chief Gilbert Blue and current Chief William Harris. They also interviewed Catawba potters, storytellers, a social worker, a tribal dancer who is also a musician, and native Catawba speakers. The team recorded footage of the Catawba’s annual culture and arts festival at the Longhouse. Back at the Center, the team edited the footage to create a video that brings the story of the Catawba to learners across the state.

By producing training about the history and rich cultural life of the Catawba, the Center hopes to raise awareness about the Catawba. We also hope to show learners how vital keeping Native children and youth connected to their tribe is. The Catawba are South Carolina’s only federally recognized Native American tribe, and reside on part of their ancestral lands in York County. Despite their 6000 years of history in our area, many South Carolinians are unaware of the Catawba’s presence and their rich cultural heritage. The Center sees this video as ambassadorial training, to inform and to bring people to visit the Nation either online or in person.

It has been an honor to work with tribal leadership and record the stories and hopes of the members.

HiddenPictures300x300On World Mental Health Day, the College of Social Work participates in the Global Web Screening of Hidden Pictures, an award-winning new film about global mental health. Filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston, who grew up in the shadow of her dad’s schizophrenia, explores the hidden struggles faced by the 450 million people living with mental illness worldwide.

Through deeply personal stories involving bipolar illness, depression, schizophrenia and anxiety in India, China, Africa, France and the US, Hidden Pictures reveals a global epidemic of silence on mental health, as well as moments of profound compassion and remarkable change.

Tune in during any time on October 10th at http://bit.ly/hidpicsfilm to watch Hidden Pictures and join a global dialogue about mental health issues.

 

 

MEPAScreenLearners in all arenas fear boring training. To create memorable, meaningful, and motivational learning, the Center uses a context-based approach to learning online, as taught by industry-leader Allen Interactions, Inc. Context-based learning often means using immersive scenarios that mimic the world in which the learner works every day. Scenarios in familiar settings engage practitioners right away and when they return to work, they already have some experience with new skills.
So when tasked with creating a compliance training for the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, the Center set out to create a dynamic, immersive online learning package that shows how vitally important understanding and using MEPA should be―and gives learners actions they can and must take with every placement.

The online learning package grounds learners with a vibrant, illustrated magazine-style online history of the Act, particularly in South Carolina. History can be presented in boring ways―but this document offers case histories and lots of examples to keep the learner intrigued and rooted in practical concerns.

Then, the learners explore a series of scenario-based stories filled with decision points. As the learners gain better understanding of MEPA policy and practice at each step, they receive feedback on their decisions. These story-based scenarios show real-life consequences of learners’ decisions; the story of a child’s life is changed by the learners’ actions. Thus, there are meaningful stakes in the modules. But unlike in the real world, learners can try again and choose another path if they’ve made poor or uninformed decisions. They can see the benefit of making MEPA-compliant decisions―and the harm of poor decisions. 

The scenarios also offer printable resources that leaners can keep for later reference after the training is complete.

The Center eagerly begins the new contract year with plans for further immersive and engaging online and hybrid courses to intrigue, educate and support our partners at SCDSS. 

Meredith C.F. Powers, a COSW doctoral student, is using her skills as a social worker to promote environmental practices that benefit people and their communities.

And she’s starting at home with a small grant from the USC’s Student Sustainability Fund to infuse ecological consciousness into the College of Social Work’s policies, practices, and curriculum during the 2013-2014 academic year.

Powers said she wants to engage students, faculty and staff in practices that most already support: conserving resources so that work is more productive and less taxing on the environment.

Rather than creating a new group, she will be encouraging the College of Social Work to seek a Green Office Certification from Sustainable Carolina. The campus’ sustainability initiative scores departments to award them bronze, silver or gold medals to serve as publicity tools to promote their dedication to sustainability.

To earn any level, an office must meet basic requirements, including having recycling receptacles by trash bins in common areas, and a small recycling bin by each desk. An office earns points for practices such as limiting air fresheners to baking soda, reducing margins on printed materials, maintaining a compost bin in the kitchen and having employees use the stairs (if they can).

DP roundtableChildren in danger need the best help possible. To strive for greater skills in child protection, DSS workers and supervisors want to consistently expand and hone their abilities, and the Center is ready to help them.
The Center has launched a series of trainings designed to help child welfare supervisors and workers build upon current knowledge and hone their skills in a peer-to-peer learning environment. Lenora Reese, Senior Manager for Leadership Development says, “The in-service trainings help employees improve and solidify their competency and confidence in terms of casework practice.” Rita Martin, Child Welfare Training Supervisor, also points out that the trainings “provide workers an opportunity to bring their current cases for practice.” Workshopping current cases can help participants apply best practices to real life situations, which kickstarts the use of new skills right away in a supportive environment.

The county-based training topics include:
• Safety planning
• Behavioral objectives
• Self-care
• Documentation
• Signs of Safety

Bringing content from Child Welfare Basic into the county offices, Martin explains, “gives us an opportunity to go directly to the county and that office, so the training is specific to the needs of that office.” Targeted training means immediate benefit for each office and higher participant engagement since their concerns are addressed right away.
Mixing supervisors and workers in one training also has great benefits, since the two populations are often trained separately. Donna Privette, a Training Development Director in leadership, has helped bring the leadership perspective to these trainings and calls them “a rare opportunity to create a dialogue between workers and supervisors about applying best practices.” Here, the two groups can talk to each other in a training context, which allows exploration and solution-finding. Reese agrees: “Supervisors have an opportunity to coach, model, and mentor around the practice outcomes they want to see their staff achieve.” Ultimately, co-training can help an office function better as a whole.

Already, delivering skill-based training in the counties has been effective. Tacita Sumter, a Training Development Director in child welfare, has seen that “Supervisors are interested in knowing what the workers are learning in training so when they communicate with their workers they can understand their viewpoint and be able to coach them better.”

Creating these trainings and opening up a space for worker-supervisor dialogue is a Center method that better enables DSS to serve the vulnerable children of our state.  

DHart 350x350Dana DeHart, PhD, said she will be looking for new ways to support the work of researchers in her new role as the COSW’s assistant dean for research support.

“My main task for this first semester is to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment, meeting with all faculty as well as incoming PhD students and post-docs,” Dr. DeHart said. “This is to learn about their individual needs for research support as well as to establish an agenda for building research infrastructure as a college.”

Dr. DeHart also said she wants to make faculty research more accessible for teaching, practice, and policy.

Dr. DeHart received her doctoral degree in experimental psychology from the University of Louisville in 1995, and worked with the COSW’s Center for Child and Family Studies from 1997 to 2012. She has been a research associate professor and member of the graduate faculty since 2009.

dssgrad 9629This month we would like highlight the work of two of the Center’s graduate assistants working at SCDSS’s Constituent Services Department. Briannea Hastie and Shayla Evans, both second-years at the College of Social Work, have been with the agency since the spring semester of 2015. Both graduate assistants regularly interface with clients whose families are in crisis, and in many respects, Briannea and Shayla are rare voices of hope for those who call in.

Constituent Services helps SCDSS clients access local services, and takes on the critical role of easing the flow of communication between clients and county offices. Briannea and Shayla have expressed that the two most important skills that they have acquired during their tenure at the agency are patience and empathy, and to perform with the grace and competence that they demonstrate daily means having a healthy dose of each. Briannea and Shayla agree that while the job is certainly challenging, it is rewarding, and they are excited to employ their expertise as they pursue careers in public health and medicine. 

Marilyn Matheus, the Director of Public Information and Media Relations, explained that graduate assistants can gain essential career-building experience from working with the agency: “If individuals pursuing graduate degrees in social work are truly interested in hands-on experience, they should look at an agency like DSS. There are a number of different agencies we interface with who do a lot of social work-type of services.”
Pam Bryant, the current Director of Constituent Services, explains that Briannea and Shayla “have not been part of menial, unrelated tasks—just the opposite. They have been involved in the most important part of our day-to-day work and have been a real asset to us.” Besides having access to hands-on experience and networking opportunities, Briannea and Shayla have become part of a close-knit team. Briannea even notes that the unit has become “like a family.”

Briannea and Shayla, both of whom graduate with their Master of Social Work degrees in May, have a lot to look forward to: Briannea wants to serve the community by getting involved in hospice care, and Shayla dreams of working in healthcare. The Center would like to extend its deepest congratulations to both graduate assistants for their dedication to South Carolina’s children and families.

Pitner R 350x350

Ronald Pitner will bring a fresh wave of energy to the I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice as it strengthens its ties to the community. As the newly appointed I. DeQuincey Newman Chair, Pitner directs the institute, which is dedicated to building bridges between the university and the community to enhance social justice.

His priorities are to disseminate social justice research, promote dialogue on social justice issues through town halls and other forums, and increase student involvement. “Active student involvement strengthens, reinforces, and sustains the mission of the institute,” Pitner said.

A long-term goal is to make the institute a hub for social justice research and related projects. A shorter-term goal is establishing an annual small grant to support a social justice–related research project. The grants would go to projects involving a collaborative team, consisting of a faculty member, a student, and a community partner.

Another goal is to create an advisory council comprising USC faculty, a student representative, representatives from other South Carolina universities, and key community stakeholders.

The institute, housed in the College of Social Work, honors I. DeQuincey Newman (1911–1985), a clergyman and Civil Rights leader who worked to improve conditions for both whites and blacks in rural South Carolina.

lenoraCongratulations to Lenora Reese for earning the 2016 UofSC College of Social Work Alumnus of the Year distinction. Lenora is being honored for her outstanding work in social services. “Lenora has been an advocate for underserved populations and a ‘change agent’ in every organization with which she has been affiliated,” says Katrina Spigner, CEO of Re-Source Solutions, who nominated Lenora for the award. After 13 years as a Regional Team Leader for the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), Lenora joined the Center in 2015. As s senior program manager, Lenora and her team collaborate with SCDSS to create numerous leadership trainings including the Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS), Nuts and Bolts, and most recently the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM). These trainings provide the leadership skills needed to enhance the work SCDSS Human Services and Economic Services staff conduct daily.  With her humility and strong work ethic, Lenora embodies the desired characteristics of an outstanding social worker and community organizer. “Lenora is the most passionate and driven professional I have worked with in social services,” says M. Lauren Hobbs, Department of Social Services. This award showcases Lenora’s compassion for the work our partners do and her dedication toward enriching the lives of others. Thank you, Lenora, for your commitment to improving social services in the state of South Carolina.

Nguyen featureDr. Huong Nguyen has organized a two-week training program for 23 of Vietnam’s top government officials. The delegation is led by the Vice Minister of the national Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (similar to the US DHHS). Accompanying Vice Minister Doãn Mậu Diệp are directors, heads, and deputy-heads of different bureaus, and departments of the Ministry.

Social work is in its infancy in Vietnam, and the delegation members are interested in creating the infrastructure to support services to vulnerable populations, including children, people with disabilities, veterans, and people with mental health problems.

Starting September 16, the delegation is participating in lectures and presentations by COSW faculty and guest speakers. They are also visiting state agencies and nonprofits to see firsthand how policies are implemented.

Jodi Hill-LillyStrong leadership gets the best results and the South Carolina Department of Social Services is further strengthening its new generation of leadership to help children and families with the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM), a national curriculum being implemented by USC and SCDSS. The goal is to empower leaders in the agency to lead with greater vision and enact real change within their teams and communities.

This training kicked off in January with an orientation session for the community leaders who have agreed to be coaches for the participants, led by two national level trainers who will be delivering the material, Jodi Hill-Lilly and Tricia Mosher.Katrina Spigner

A unique feature of the LAMM is the inclusion of coaches for participants. These coaches range from social work professionals and professors to business owners and leadership experts. Katrina Spigner of Re-Source Solutions, LLC is an experienced coach and social work professional who is serving as lead coach for the process. Ms. Spigner believes that the “coaching piece is the critical role to bridging between the day to day and reality, helping to connect what is happening every day to the future. Coaching helps the participants enlarge their perspective from a new vantage point.”

Specifically, South Carolina is doing something new to this national curriculum by including coaches from areas other than social work. Trainer Jodi Hill-Lilly believes that one advantage of this training is the ability to create a common language about leadership and change throughout the agency. She said, “By including coaches from outside of the agency, it allows the community to share a common vision for the welfare of children and families.”

 

 

DHart 350x350Dr. Dana DeHart’s latest study explores the pathways that lead to jail time for women.

How do pathways to jail vary for females who are victims of specific types of trauma? New research by Dana DeHart, Shannon Lynch, Joanne Belknap, and Bonnie Green has been published in Psychology of Women Quarterly. The study pinpoints caregiver violence, witnessing violence, and intimate partner violence as types of trauma that lead to specific types of offending later in life and offers explanations based on real experiences.

For example, intimate partner violence increased women’s risks for property crimes, drug offending, and commercial sex work. And witnessing violence increased risks for property crimes, fighting, and use of weapons.

Researchers also found that the women they interviewed had high rates of mental health disorders, especially serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorders, or psychotic spectrum disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and/or substance use disorder.

The study concludes, “The research is critical to development of gender-responsive programming, alternatives to incarceration, and problem-solving court initiatives that address girls’ and women’s specific needs.”

DeHart has conducted multiple studies of women and girls in prison, and she is now expanding the scope of her research to see how families of prisoners in South Carolina are affected during the incarceration. With funding from the US Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice, she will work with co-investigators Cheri Shapiro and Kathleen Hayes, both with the College of Social Work’s Institute for Families in Society, on this latest endeavor.

psychotropic2A new training for DSS caseworkers on the use of psychotropic medication for children in care has launched. This training is important given growing concerns nationwide that children in foster care are being prescribed psychotropic medication at higher levels than children who are not in foster care. Statistics show that in South Carolina, nearly three out of four children in Intensive foster care take some form of psychotropic medication.

Since many children in foster care have experienced traumatic events, and since trauma often imitates symptoms of mental health disorders, diagnosing children in foster care can be a complex process. Nevertheless, according to Heather Williamson, a DSS regional clinical specialist, “caseworkers do not have to be mental health experts.” She says that this training is “designed to strengthen the advocacy, informed decision-making, and monitoring roles in casework practice to reduce inappropriate psychotropic use and to increase the use of psychosocial support that considers trauma and responsive care processes first.”

The training consists of an online portion and an in-person portion. Developed by the Center’s Information Design staff, the online portion consists of four interactive modules. Participants are required to complete these four interactive modules before the in-person training. The modules include live-action video written, directed, and shot by Information Design staff. The in-person training consists of intensive group discussion and role-play activities that help caseworkers hone skills they need in the field.

The training was developed through a collaboration between Center staff and DSS employees, including Williamson, consulting psychiatrists Dr. Anita Khetpal and Dr. Randy Spencer, and DSS Lead Clinical Specialist Tim Nix. The Center is proud to play a role in the development of this exciting and significant project and looks forward to working with DSS on similar projects in the future.

Andrews C newsDr. Christina Andrews is ready to watch history unfold in the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse.

The USC social work professor is part of a nationwide team of researchers studying the impact of health care reform on substance abuse treatment.

By September, the researchers will begin collecting data from clinics and other treatment centers. After the Affordable Care Act takes effect next year, the researchers will collect another wave of data to allow them to chart the changes brought by the law that many, including the president, refer to as "Obamacare."

The law will expand eligibility for substance abuse treatment and put it on a more equal footing with other medical care. It marks the biggest change in substance abuse programs in decades, Andrews said. “We have the opportunity to collect the data now before the changes occur.”

Dr. Peter D. Friedmann at Brown University is the principal investigator.

Andrews is a co-investigator who will be working with Drs. Colleen Grogan and Harold Pollack at the University of Chicago. Their focus is surveying state agencies that run Medicaid, license treatment facilities, distribute substance abuse treatment funds, and establish health insurance exchanges.

The study, the National Drug Abuse Treatment System Survey, is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It has been conducted in five waves from 1988 to 2005 following the same nationally representative sample of clinics and other treatment centers.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, we reached out to Dr. Suzanne Sutphin, a Research Assistant Professor at the Center, to learn more about the value of mentorship. Dr. Sutphin oversees all Quality Assurance data and training evaluations across the state, and relies on the hard work of her Graduate Assistants (GAs) to fulfill the Research Team’s objective, which is to gather data that informs decision-making at DSS as the agency strives to continuously improve its service to children and families.

The Research Team is responsible for everything data at the Center: they develop all Center training and conference evaluations, analyze Quality Assurance review data for counties across the state, and write data-driven reports. The team’s GAs are critical to these functions.

During their time at the Center, Research GAs are typically completing their degrees in social work or a related field, and are responsible for a number of tasks, from compiling reports to analyzing qualitative and quantitative data. Dr. Sutphin collaborates closely with her GAs to ensure the quality and accuracy of all produced materials.

The GAs are not only beneficial to the Center, but are guaranteed numerous opportunities for their own professional development. For example, GAs learn how to use analytic software like SPSS and NVivo, employ various analysis methods, and develop strong working relationships with their colleagues. Also, GAs who are interested in child welfare get a birds-eye view of what’s happening across the counties, and this experience is particularly valuable for those who will go on to work for DSS after they graduate.

As a mentor, Dr. Sutphin tries to cultivate the kinds of relationships with her GAs where mentorship continues beyond their time at the Center. And her mentoring philosophy has paid off—former GAs regularly turn to her for advice, from continuing education to future careers.

When asked what she would like to share with her GAs, Dr. Sutphin said, “I’m able to produce quality work because of their help and support. The amount of what I do would not be possible without their help.”

The College of Social Work will be enhanced this fall by the addition of new faculty with experiences ranging from helping refugees in Tanzania to helping troubled youth in East Harlem.

And their paths to social work were as diverse as their interests. The five new teachers and researchers are: Breanne Grace, PhD, Michigan State University; Nikki Wooten, PhD, University of Maryland; Benjamin Roth, PhD, University of Chicago; B. Sudie Nallo, MSW, Washington University; and Kristina C. Webber, MSW, who is finishing her dissertation for her doctoral degree from the University of North Carolina.

GraceBreanne300X300Breanne Grace, PhD
Picking ‘once in lifetime’

Breanne Grace, PhD, joined the faculty in August as an Assistant Professor with research interests in refugees.

Dr. Grace grew up in Colorado, but her mother had kin in Sweden. So Sweden might have been a natural pick for overseas study before her senior year started in 2003 at Saint Olaf College, about 40 miles south of Minneapolis.

But Dr. Grace wanted to go to Tanzania, and her mother encouraged her.

“Oh, come on,” Dr. Grace recalled her mother saying, “you can go to Sweden anytime, and stay with your family. You’ll never get another chance to go to Tanzania.”

She has now spent about six of the past 10 years living, researching, and working in Tanzania. She has become fluent in KiSwahili and conversational in a Somali dialect of KiZigua/KiZigula.
While there she worked with refugees, igniting her passion for helping them and understanding their plight. All she needed was a profession that could support her passion. “I chose sociology. It was a means to an end for me.”

WootenNikki 300X300Nikki Wooten, PhD
Serving the military


Dr. Nikki R. Wooten joined the faculty in January as an assistant professor. Her research includes studying how military personnel and veterans cope with the stress of military service and deployments.

Dr. Wooten taught at Boston University for over three years after earning her doctoral degree in social work from the University of Maryland.

She is a major in the District of Columbia Army National Guard with more than 24 years of military service.

She has been part of a team using Department of Defense and Veterans Administration data to identify missed treatment opportunities for substance use among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The team is supported by funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is also funding a supplemental grant to Wooten to study the early identification of substance use and psychological problems in Army women veterans.

Dr. Wooten grew up in Tarboro, a town in the tobacco-growing region of eastern North Carolina, where military service is a family tradition.

She has a brother in the Army Reserves who served two tours in Afghanistan, an aunt who served three tours in Iraq, an uncle who retired from the Army at the rank of master sergeant, and an uncle who is a Vietnam war veteran.

Dr. Wooten earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1992, and her master’s in social work from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1995. She is also a licensed clinical social worker with experience providing services to military personnel, veterans, and their families.

Benjamin Roth, PhD
RothBenjamin 300X300 Listening to immigrants


Dr. Benjamin Roth joined the faculty in August as an Assistant Professor. His interest in studying immigration began when he was working on his master’s degree in social work at Hunter College in New York, N.Y.

Roth, who grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was working with a family service agency that helped low-income immigrants living in East Harlem.

His visits left him with visions that evoked the scenes of New York slums of the late 19th century captured by photographer Jacob Riis.

“Many of the immigrant families I worked with were living in terrible housing conditions,” he said. “When I heard their migration stories, and learned how their landlords were refusing to respond to their complaints, it was clear I wanted to go into social work.”

His work also allowed him to see the influence that nonprofit organizations could have as advocates for disadvantaged families and immigrants—a theme that continues to be a focus of his research.

At the University of Chicago, where he earned his doctoral degree last spring, he studied how the children of Latino immigrants in two Chicago suburbs adapted to life in the United States. Dr. Roth said he was attracted to Columbia in part because of the rapid growth of the Hispanic population in South Carolina and neighboring states.

Sudie Nallo, MSW 
Empowering others


Sudie Nallo joined the faculty in August as a Clinical Assistant Professor. Her research interests include micro-lending and other programs that benefit marginalized populations.

Ms. Nallo was born in Conway, S.C., in 1981, the second of three children of Amidu and Agnes Nallo. Her parents emigrated from Sierra Leone as young people in the late 1970s.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in English from Wake Forest University in 2004, she worked for a year with AmeriCorps/VISTA at Greensboro College in North Carolina, matching students and faculty with volunteer opportunities with more than 30 nonprofit groups.

“AmeriCorps was my ‘ah-hah’ moment,” she said. “My job was to train volunteers to interact and engage with community leaders, allowing people to be the solution to their own problems—empowering them, rather than creating a dependency.”

In 2007, she moved to St. Louis to begin work on her master’s in social work degree at Washington University. While there, she worked under Dr. Amanda Moore McBride, the Director of the Gephardt Institute, who helped hone her skills in cultivating ties between a university and its community.

She also began working as a researcher and loan counselor for the nonprofit Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation. Ms. Nallo helped small businesses develop stronger roots and grow through “micro-loans,” loans for as little as $500.

In her final semester before she was awarded her MSW in 2008, Ms. Nallo began working as a field and research graduate intern for the Centre for Enterprise Development and Action Research in Ibadan, Nigeria.

In one project, she helped a group of orange growers band together to make frozen juice concentrate, rather than selling their fruit as a perishable commodity. She continues to consult for the organization and periodically travels to Nigeria.

Kristina C. Webber, MSWWebber Kristina300X300
Bridging differences


Kristina C. Webber joined the faculty of the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina in August. Her research probes school social work, effective education and youth development programs, and sources of racial/ethnic disparities in education.

Ms. Webber, a granddaughter and great-granddaughter of coal miners, grew up in Shelbiana, a former coal mining village nine miles outside Pikeville, Kentucky.

Her mother was trying to support the family in an area where jobs were scarce. When Ms. Webber was in middle school, her mother moved the family to a town near Washington, D.C., where they lived for a time with extended family.

For Ms. Webber, the move involved crossing a cultural divide far wider than the 400 miles between Shelbiana and Washington, D.C. Her experience of that transition is one reason her research interests include the role of schools in helping children cope with psychological stress.

Ms. Webber graduated from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1997. Afterwards, she helped manage a hotel and volunteered with a women’s shelter.

The hotel offered her a promotion to general manager, but it meant a move to another town. She realized she would have to leave the shelter where she had enjoyed helping women and their children rebuild their lives after domestic abuse.

“I felt much more alive and passionate about what I was doing there than with my day job,” Ms. Webber said. “It felt like a career-defining moment for me.”

She earned her master’s in social work at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus in 2002.

She moved in 2003 to South Carolina, where she worked for Charleston County School District. She was in the doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2008 until this year.

marvitaRecently hired as the program coordinator for leadership development at the Center, Marvita Franklin, MHRD, believes that leaders in organizations like DSS and the Center can learn a lot about themselves, their employees, and their institutions from sports psychology. In fact, Franklin believes leaders can apply strategies that help athletes improve their performance to their own jobs, making them more effective in the workplace.

Franklin is especially drawn to the ideas of Dr. Robert Nideffer, a sports psychologist whose interactions with world-class athletes led him to discover four traits they have in common: focus, confidence, commitment, and adaptability. Franklin will be delivering a new training that looks at the ways in which these traits resonate with leadership. The first training of the series, “Leading Under Pressure: Adaptive Strategies for Enhancing Leader Effectiveness,” is being offered to Center leaders in December; the series will be launching with DSS in January 2016.

Franklin has vast experience with the material and has been a leader herself in various capacities. Before joining the Center staff, she served in the United States Air Force (now retired), worked for the Army coaching recruiting leaders to improve performance, and helped develop training curricula and materials for various organizations.

The first “Leading Under Pressure” training addresses the importance of being mentally tough and adaptive as leaders. Before this training, participants take the TAIS inventory (Theory of Attentional and Interpersonal Style), which helps them understand their personal strengths and vulnerabilities as leaders.

Future trainings will address topics ranging from strategic communication and coaching to decision making and organizational change. Franklin is excited to be on board at the Center and looks forward to developing and delivering these trainings in the coming weeks and months.

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