|Supervised graduate students from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work provide guidance to families and conduct research. A $78,000 grant will enable the school to develop better ways to help survivors of domestic abuse gain independence.|
Toward a New Horizon in Social Work Fed by a dissolving middle class, the disappearance of good jobs, and systems stacked against the have-nots, poverty and its web of troubles are thriving in the U.S. Those who want to end the suffering often become social workers.
But our world is changing faster than the field, and services are not keeping up. Drug addiction, lack of affordable housing, family violence, and diminishing job opportunities continue, but their faces, situations, and solutions have changed. According to the 2010 Census and other studies, every year, the poor and the elderly compose a greater share of social work clients. Foreclosed homeowners are fighting homelessness. More immigrants need help, and in a language they understand. Recidivism remains high, as men and women are being released from prison to communities ill-equipped to help them get back on their feet.
Four Funds United by a Cause
|Lois & Samuel Silberman Grant Fund, established 1992|
Believing that social workers are uniquely equipped to help poor people better manage their lives, the Silbermans have been one of the field’s biggest champions. To help low-income students get an affordable education and ultimately go to work in their neighborhoods, they donated a building to CUNY for a public school of social work in the ’70s. When it no longer met the needs of its students and faculty, Lois Silberman worked with The Trust to build a new home for the Silberman School of Social Work in East Harlem. A second Silberman fund in The Trust supports research and policy work of social work faculty nationally.
|Robert & Ellen Popper Scholarship Fund, established 2010|
Robert Popper was a civil rights activist, chairman of the New York State Office for the Aging, and a Bloomingdales heir. Ellen Popper was a founder of the Animal Welfare League of Westchester. In her will, she created a fund to provide graduate and undergraduate scholarships to social work students with a particular interest in health care.
Harriett M. Bartlett Fund, established 1987
Harriett Bartlett dedicated her scholarly career to turning the art of social work into a science. She wrote, among other books, The Common Base of Social Work Practice. In her will, she established a fund in The Trust to “strengthen the contribution which social workers and the social work profession can make to people and to society.” The Trust has used this fund to help improve the City’s child welfare system and improve hospital discharge planning. Most recently, to help families face problems brought on by the recession, grants totaling $287,000 from the fund are helping eight of the City’s schools of social work add financial literacy to their course work.
Fahs-Beck Fund, established 1986
This fund was set up to support graduate research and scholarships with the guidance of an advisory committee of experienced social work professionals. More than $1.3 million in grants have been made to schools around the country for studies on therapeutic intervention, language development in children, and other topics.
Social work gets the lion’s share of its funding from government, much of it for clinical work that emphasizes low-cost, safe, but sometimes outdated, approaches. With funding concentrated in direct service provision, the “macro” practice of social work—improving systems that affect society or communities—gets short shrift. Developing leaders and managers of institutions that help the poor needs to be prioritized, as does the use of field research in policy development and school curricula.
With four charitable funds that support social work, The Trust now has $1.2 million a year for grants, an amount that impelled us to determine a plan for its use. We decided to focus on improving social work research, education, and practice in those neglected areas.
“The Trust’s new strategy
will help lead the way for the next generation of social workers,” says Jacqueline Mondros, dean of the Lois and Samuel Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. “It will help us push the envelope on what we should be studying and researching, and help translate what we learn into action. It will allow social work to take the necessary steps to be strategic as we move into the next 50 years. There have been enormous changes and the profession alone doesn’t have the resources to keep up with them.”
Four December grants reflect the new strategy. (View revised guidelines>>)
“Women who enter domestic violence shelters bring with them the trauma of violence and long-term poverty. They are often stuck where they are because they don’t have the money, support, or confidence to leave and start over,” says Pat White, program director at The Trust. A $78,000
grant to New York University’s Silver School of Social Work
will fund a new approach to helping these women. The school will work with the Jewish Board for Family and Children's Services to test a job-readiness model for women in four domestic violence residences.
“Unlike most other job-readiness programs, this program addresses the psychological dimensions of women making the transition to work and managing money, particularly the continuing effect of traumatic abuse. We know that financial independence is a key factor in helping women leave abusive relationships,” says Lynn Videka, dean of the Silver School of Social Work. Women in the 20-week program will work on developing their network of family, friends, and other supporters who can help them improve their lives. Videka continues, “The solid research approach is also important because it will gather evidence about the program’s impact as well as women’s experiences moving into work.”
Innovating in the Classroom
More women are being sent to prison and being incarcerated repeatedly, but there is no empirical curriculum in social work schools that teaches students to help women stay out of prison. A two-year $134,000
grant to Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work
will help figure out what works and what doesn’t. The school will work with Greenhope, a temporary residence and treatment program for women released from prison, to assess when and why many women end up back in jail. The research findings will be published and used to improve practice at the agency and develop course work at the school.This grant will also fund a study to build a curriculum for helping the City’s racially diverse elderly, who are living longer—but with chronic illnesses—and who can be cared for at home. Faculty at the school will interview experts in geriatrics and talk with clients about their needs. The study will also determine how social workers can work with professionals in other disciplines to better serve an aging New York.
Creating a “Macro” Workforce Catholic University of America, National Catholic School of Social Service, $27,000
to catalog and assess licensing requirements for macro social work practitioners—those who seek to improve systems and communities based on caseworkers’ understanding of their clients’ needs. Yeshiva University, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, $57,000
to understand and deal with families’ resistance to getting follow-up testing for newborns with possible hearing impairments.
View revised grantmaking guidelines>>