News & Events
SSW-Hosted Leadership Summit Puts Focus on Social Work Safety
Published on December 15, 2010
Alongside the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the School of Social Work hosted the second Leadership Summit on Social Work Safety on November 19, 2010.
"The last conversation (at the 2008 summit) focused on the problem,” said Marilyn Anderson Chase (pictured), assistant secretary of children, youth and families at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Today we come together to talk about the product.”
Speakers focused on training, incident reporting, safety planning and prevention. They also discussed ways to revamp and initiate safety procedures, policies and practices as well as how to promote social worker wellness.
“It is about getting staff to talk about safety practices without feeling ashamed or feeling like they have to tough it out on their own,” said Olga Roche, deputy commissioner of field operations at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. “This is ongoing; we will continue to improve our practices. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragic incident for us to ask if we are doing everything we can.”
Representatives from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Children and Families, the Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PAL), several social work agencies and the Schools of Social Work at Simmons College, Springfield College, Salem State and Boston University also spoke at the summit.
Associate Director of Field Education Judith Perlstein and alumna Rendelle Bolton (M.S.W. ‘09) presented “Understanding Safety in Social Work Education.” Based on the results of surveys, Perlstein and Rendelle concluded that social work students, like social workers in the field, need better safety training and knowledge. In 2009, 63 percent of students who responded to the survey had experienced threats or violence, and in 2010 the number increased to 71 percent.
Based on the findings, the School revised safety policies and procedures and took steps to make students more aware of those policies. Perlstein said she would like to see safety integrated into school accreditation standards at the national level.
The survey will also be featured on the Massachuett's chapter of NASW's new “Taking a Stand for Safety” website, a website the chapter hopes will help centralize resources for schools and agencies that want to build safety awareness.
The summit concluded with a “Voices from the Field” roundtable discussion where participants shared their experiences with violence in social work.
“If we want to keep a workforce that can accomplish the things we want to do, then we need to address these issues in safety,” said panelist Julie Balasalle, government relations and political action associate at NASW.