Blog Post #2

Read and reflect on the “Grand Challenges for Social Work” and post a reflection to the course site about one or two of the challenges that resonate with you and your social work goals. How do you see social work research informing our understanding of this challenge and solutions?

Blog Post Rubric
Posts will be due by Friday of the same week they are assigned on Wednesday. You are expected to respond to your peers posts in a way that enhances our understanding of the subject. Please see the rubric below:

CriteriaFull Participation CreditPartial Credit
Blog PostsDiscussion prompts are answered fully and includes information from the readings, for example:
1. List 1-3 “social worker takeaways” you gained from the reading; or
2. Ask 2 questions you have connecting the reading to social work, or
3. List 1 interesting quote from the reading.
Discussion prompts are sparsely answered with no reference to the readings.
EngagementOver the course of semester, the student has responded to at least 3 other student’s posts. The posts are related to the course texts and discussion content.Over the course of the semester the student has responded to 1 or fewer student’s posts
Response QualityThe student’s responses thoughtfully build upon other’s perspectives and deepen the discussion. The responses include evidence from one of the below categories:
1. The readings
2. Social work practice (internship/work)
3. Professional and self-growth
The student’s responses do not thoughtfully build upon other’s perspectives, nor do they deepen the discussion. The responses do not include evidence from one of the below categories:
1. The readings
2. Social work practice (internship/work)
3. Professional and self-growth

25 thoughts on “Blog Post #2

  1. Niranjana Shankar (She/Her)

    The website on the Grand Challenges of Social Work offers a comprehensive and vast cumulation of resources, that highlight existing patterns and propose to contribute to an evidence based approach to remediating these challenges.
    I believe, my work would present me with ample halts, knowing that even though a Just Society is common sensical to a quality of life – wellbeing and equity – it is also likely a test for my willingness to unabashedly pursue antiracist thought and humanitarian action-processes in social work. I am concerned as the headwind of Racism, as it were, will make me compromise a little bit at a time, my gusto for a Just Society. However, if Selfcare is recognized as a means to help me to sustain my work and avert plausible burnout, it must be intrinsic to my wellbeing also to engage frequently with my assessment of the quality and the value of my work. Further, I would like to sleep well at night, knowing that I am closer to my dream, and that I am approaching it in a structural manner, as suggested by the website. Therefore, I would like to think that my conscience will be my guide, but any amount of resistance to a transformative practice, I am afraid, will make me somatize it.
    In my adductive reasoning, there may be an experience-distance narrative to research thus far, and the master researchers of the past may not know a closer way to read or gauge, let alone engage and understand an Other’s attritional distress. Plus considering research has been dominated by the stranglehold of conventional, patriarchal norms of manliness, thereby necessitating the importance of a holistic, nuanced and autoethnographic approach, can there be an informative and research based promulgation of the meaning of being human, and the unequivocal aspirations we have for Acceptance, Love and Care?
    I believe popular culture, popular expressions and popular figures, tend to function by way of monopoly, and may not be able to covey an ethically meaningful message, and certainly do not speak for those who do not have a stake in that monopoly. This system of new-age disenfranchisement of people and their lived experiences can further make matters about people, in crisis, par for the course, rather than an alarming reckoning for all. Can research on the acquisitiveness of Capitalism continue (and the connection to its consistent popularity) to remind us that there isn’t room for anyone else other than a selected few? Can its conclusion derive data from the patterns of the Critical Race Theory, to substantiate it?

    1. Leah Soffian (she/her)

      Hey Niranjana, I found your response to be incredibly insightful, thank you for sharing with us. As we move further into the semester I’d love to hear more about your thought process around how we can use research to examine the potentials and possible reach of critical race theory. Also agree with your ideas around the importance of a holistic, nuanced and autoethnographic approach.

  2. ZV (he/him/his)

    COVID-19 has brought to the forefront of many of our minds the incredible need for technology in all aspects of our life. We have seen how students without reliable internet connections have suffered disproportionately as we moved to online learning. Similar changes occurred in terms of Telehealth and Telemedicine and access to online services such as unemployment benefits. This has also been evident in the work that we see President Biden pushing forward to expand infrastructure beyond roads and bridges to telecoms and internet access.

    Grand Challenges for Social Work addresses this directly as well stating, “In a high-tech future, the social work profession needs to move away from low-tech solutions and create tech-responsive policies” (2018, p. 1). This has grown even more important over the last two years due to the need for services to be accessible remotely for our clients. Grand Challenges for Social Work addresses this in two areas that especially speak to me. First, to “expand internet connectivity for underserved households” (Grand Challenges for Social Work, 2018, p. 1). Expansion of network access is absolutely paramount to be able to provide services to all that we want to reach. The ability to speak with clients remotely allows us to continue our services during COVID-19, but also allows us to reach clients in a way we haven’t been able to before. For example, a client who lives 1 or 2 hours away from a caseworker or therapist could instead use Telehealth services to receive therapy, participate in an online group therapy setting, or access services without ever having to make the long journey. This is especially important for individuals working more than 40 hours a week who may simply not have the time to dedicate half a day to accessing these services. With an internet connection, computer, and social worker they could now access this without any travel time.

    Second, in terms of research, having internet access and being able to use aggregate and anonymized data significantly improves our ability to perform research. This is emphasized by Grand Challenges for Social Work who state the need to: “Create policy that employs linkage of government data to allow cross-system data sharing and mining for research, program evaluations, and policy analysis.” (2018, p. 1). As we discussed in our first class, the research that is conducted is only as good as the data that we have, and all too often the data that has been used historically does not account for those in underserved communities well. With the expansion of network access, we can potentially reach new communities and aggregate better data in an anonymized and safe format that can be collected much more broadly. Rather than simply studying a group of 100 individuals, datasets could involve tens of thousands of clients if it was standardized and shared in aggregate.

    All of the topics that Grand Challenges for Social Work address are big topics, and I suspect that we will see a large focus in class and from other students on more “local” issues. However, I believe that technology is perhaps one of the least considered and most important avenues in how we provide services to all individuals in the future.


    Grand Challenges for Social Work. (2018). Harness Technology for Social Good. https://grandchallengesforsocialwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/180604-GC-technology.pdf

    1. Nicholas Park (He/Him)

      Great Response! I also read the harness technology for social good portion and found it very interesting. I am in full agreement in the importance of expanding internet access and technological infrastructure to underserved areas. One of the major hurdles following the switch to online learning was finding out which students had access to computers and internet and figuring out how to secure those means. However, another hurdle that I think should be addressed and focused on is in regard to technology literacy. When I was working as a case manager for a home care agency, many of my more elderly clients did not utilize any technology beyond a landline telephone. Even if internet access and a computer were provided to them, they most likely would not have the ability or desire to utilize the resources. Furthermore, a great deal of my clients who did use the computer were scammed by fraudulent emails and fake Facebook accounts. I certainly agree that greater access to technological resources is essential but for many individuals, classes or instruction that enhances their literacy towards these resources are also necessary to reap any of their benefits. Overall an interesting post to read!

    2. Ella Grace Downs (she/they)

      Technology has proven to be so crucial to our moment! For social workers, health practitioners, and teachers especially, we have to advocate for our service users to have access. I found in my placement last year that remote court sessions and hearings were a complete game changer for clients- people could attend their arraignments or meetings without having to commute, take time off of work, or find babysitters. To me, that is an incredible important aspect to create equity and even restorative justice. We have to use this moment to conduct research and change policy for things like this.

  3. Nicholas Park (He/Him)

    Grand Challenges for Social Work is an excellent tool for linking individuals to various forms of media and research pertaining to various current issue topics in the field. There were many different topics or challenges that were very interesting, but I found myself pulled to two challenges in particular. The first was the challenge of eradicating social isolation. This is especially more prescient today given the ramifications of the global pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns. This topic hit very close to home for me as I am currently grappling with the issue regarding my daughter. As indicated in the attached compiled research by the American Academy of Social Work & Welfare, early childhood and youth is a time where children develop their abilities to form/maintain relationships, feelings of social connectedness, and construct social networks outside of the immediate family (Lubben, et. al., 2015). Research indicates that deficiencies during this developmental stage likely results in greater feelings of social isolation (Lubben, et. al., 2015). Social isolation in children and adolescents is linked to greater rates of depressive symptoms, suicide, behavioral problems, low self-esteem, and even medical issues such as heart disease later in life (Lubben et. al., 2015, pg. 5). In the most extreme example of negative consequences due to prolonged social isolation is the occurrence of acts violence externally towards others. Lubben et. al. (2015) discusses research on adolescent mass shooters who are largely described as socially isolated or alienated from their communities.
    This has been an ongoing concern for me in that I want to expose my daughter to social involvement while also keeping my family’s health in mind. The American Academy of Social Work & Welfare’s studies do shed a great deal of light on the essential importance of social connectedness in the mental and physical well being of the clients we work with. But one of the avenues for addressing this need in a global pandemic is through the challenge of harnessing technology for social good. The Grand Challenges for Social Work primarily describes uses for technology to address disability and lack of social infrastructure to meet needs. But one avenue to addressing social isolation, particularly during times of crisis, is through the means of technological advances. During the height of the pandemic, my daughter had a “virtual play date” with her friend who lives next door to us. They both downloaded a few games on their tablets that they could play together and sat on our back porches (which face each other). They were able socialize and further foster the relationship that they have while addressing a current social obstacle. I am not entirely certain what my social work goals are but one aspect I wish to hold onto is to remain creative. This is particularly difficult in the era of managed care and insurance guidelines that may make a social worker feel like a “billing machine” at times. But I believe that quality research inspires innovation and creativity. Threading a concept through psychology, social work, and into technology in order to better address a social challenge requires a degree of creativity and divergent thinking. This is a characteristic I wish to hold onto as I pursue my social work career.

    Grand Challenges for Social Work. (2018). Harness Technology for Social Good. https://grandchallengesforsocialwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/180604-GC-technology.pdf

    1. Niranjana Shankar (She/Her)


      There is much, right now, that is in a state of suspended animation, pending a final and all-telling analyses, but warranting a period of time that would then qualify, the material that we have spent a couple of years observing, as valid, and the time it took to study it, as substantial proof. We are essentially on hold, and while critical methodologies possess all plausible truths, it seems more like the proverbial black hole at the moment. How then do we manage to understand these circumstances to the best of our ability, as well as convey it in a manner that our children will be able to accept, or to what extent can we person-centre our concerns about ourselves and our children, or others, without there being an iota of assurance or certainty? I therefore believe where we reside currently, at varying degrees, depends on the timbre of our interpretative “creativity” – one that Seeks (like Monica) the unknowns of what will be, and how will we all turn out. But more importantly, one that values a capacity for story telling that rests confidently on reaching out and connecting with the unparalleled vulnerabilities of our bodies. This will hopefully create an intersubjective truth, that we may be able to connect to satisfyingly. It may even alleviate our doubt, and further may also help us to understand and diffuse the confusion of isolation, loneliness or fears of personhood and other inadequacies associated with the human condition. But how can we make this happen, this opposite of isolation, in an environment that is primarily given to technology? How can we story-tell, without the body and therefore, without deep listening, reciprocity and touch? I am afraid with technology, we might be chasing the unrequited. No?

    2. ZV (he/him/his)


      I love the two choices that you picked for your response here and how you tied them together. Social isolation is such a concern these days, and though Grand Challenges was written back in 2018, they still identified just how important it was to be addressed. I wonder what research will show in the future as to what deficits children from 2020 will be. “Gen COVID” will certainly have struggles that will need the help of social workers and I agree as well that technology can be a big part of that — both currently, and as they grow. This generation will have a connection to technology different than any prior generation, in part because of COVID’s impact on education. So bringing these two avenues together in social work will really be an important task to be a part of.

      Great work!

  4. Olivia (she/her/hers)

    The challenges that resonate with my clinical social work goals are those that can be addressed (in part) on the micro-level: closing the health gap, building healthy relationships to end violence, and addressing social isolation. Our understanding(s) of these issues are informed by research on multiple levels. Social work practice that is focused on building healthy relationships may look to clinical research (or theory) to help better understand a client’s presentation or diagnosis. Macro-level research may also play a role in how we perceive the client and their presenting problem in the first place. The meso- and micro-level Grand Challenges are framed by the challenges that exist on the macro-level. Putting my social work goals aside, the challenges that resonate with me most strongly are those that address the creation of a just society. Racism and economic inequality are issues that impact not only the social problems that we confront, but also the very research that informs how we address those problems.

    I’ve been exposed to social work research and thought that addresses institutional inequity, the failure of the welfare state, and the inhumanity and racism of the criminal injustice system. The research that has had the greatest effect on how I understand an issue is grounded in individual lives and stories. When my perspective has shifted, or my understanding of the nuances of an issue has deepened, it’s because I’ve read or heard something that appeals to my humanity. Research can be a way to examine and determine a truth – singular – but it can also be a tool that gives voice to and considers divergent truths. I am deeply interested in the creation of meaning through language and discourse within the clinical relationship, but also in research and policy, which more often becomes the site of societal, or institutional, consensus. Social work research – particularly qualitative research – is one of the few spaces that can empower the voices and realities of people at the margins to effect change.

    In clinical work, the clinician both brings awareness to and suspends subjectivity in order to enter the client’s perspective – their reality. Similarly, research that belongs to the subjects, rather than the author, has the potential to deconstruct and transform discourses that ripple through civil society. The Grand Challenges for Social Work are challenges because they cannot be systemically addressed only within social work; they require not only interdisciplinary thought and action, but broader ideological transformation. Narratives and discourses in research that disrupt institutionalized knowledge and ways of thinking can also challenge the audience’s instinct to default to looking for solutions that fit within a neoliberal ideological framework.

    1. NL (She/hers)

      Olivia I love the way you broke this down in micro and macro and made it apply to research I would have never thought to apply it in that way with micro macro and mezzo I always think of the types of social work jobs there are and the supervisor that it may or may not come with thank you for my Aha moment

    2. Leah Soffian (she/her)

      Hey Olivia, thanks for your post. I like the way you considered several of the challenges both as a social worker and on a more personal level, I think I’ll go back through the list and consider the same for myself since so many of these grand challenges apply to us all in one way or another. I also really loved the way you described research as a method or way of meaning making that “gives voice to and considered divergent truths”. That resonated with me especially after reading professor Oswald’s paper about utilizing research as a tool to disrupt the dominant ideology and reclaiming the practice pf research as a tool of decolonization of the social work field. I don’t know much about research beyond the course that I took in undergrad but I am getting excited about the idea of learning about it from the inside out and being able to use it as a tool to highlight and understand marginalized experiences in the future.

    3. Erika Santosuosso (she/her/hers)

      This was so well said! I love your use of the phrase “divergent truths” and its relation to the importance of qualitative research. I also loved your point on the need for discourse that appeals to a person’s humanity, as it will likely ignite empathy and more quickly create space for a new way of thinking. I feel like you said what I was trying to say in a much more eloquent, concise way–so thank you for helping my brain along.

  5. NL (She/hers)

    Grand challenges for social work has a multitude of information that can be beneficial to assisting us as social workers and the communities that we will potentially work in. My work within the community has been challenging depending on the different types of jobs I was working and the community I was working with. my last position on the ACT team was quite challenging I had some patients that were not medication compliant and or chronically hospitalized in the psych ward every week which made it very challenging to say the least. I feel that for my internship I will be better equipped as I will be working with veterans I feel that the ACT team has prepared me for the different diagnosis however, I have done my own research and am still always willing to learn as there is not just one anecdote to diagnosis and treatment. This class will also assist me to engage further and not just look to what is written on paper which can be troublesome due to the forever changing of the people we meet with how someone may have been 6 months ago they may not be the same today they could have and will have been through the stages of change, there can be a lot of misleading information there are also more than one way to complete research. A misleading post I seen and quote ” Research is a learned skill; it is hard, it is nuanced and complex, and it is true that the majority of people would not even know where to begin or even know how to off there own research. research is not google, scrolling Facebook newsfeed, or watching YouTube or the news”. this is not all of the quote but this is just a minimization of the quote and it is very misleading, if I did not watch YouTube channels and I believe its all in whom you follow I would not have known how to do a paper trail on my family and find that we are indigenous Americans, as well as following The Who and the CDC I was able to when I wanted to, to find out covid cases and deaths although the CDC has retracted a lot of their statements it is still a guide on researching the numbers of cases and deaths. I also believe talking to the people is another form of research just by inquiring and maybe taking polls. just like we are all being researched on with these vaccines not just the newest one but all of them just as there is not any one size fit all to health there is not any one size fit all to research and as stated things are forever changing. As this is my first research class I know there will be things that will be aha moments, and new things I will learn about myself as this whole semester has brought out a new me so if anyone was doing research on me they would find that my life is very different from 6 months or even a year ago it is dangerous to pre judge someone based on their past and the documents that are in front of you whether good or bad it is also unethical.

  6. Ella Grace Downs (she/they)

    Read and reflect on the “Grand Challenges for Social Work” and post a reflection to the course site about one or two of the challenges that resonate with you and your social work goals. How do you see social work research informing our understanding of this challenge and solutions?

    One of the grand challenges for social work that I hope to focus my work on in the next few years is on the many issues connected homelessness- from stagnating wages and increased poverty rates, the effects of racism, homophobia, and transphobia on individuals and families, and the long relationship between intimate partner violence and homelessness. The concept paper on the grand challenges website addresses how these societal issues intersect with homelessness, and also emphasizes that no matter the cause of homelessness, there is one major solution- housing first. I appreciate that that is at the forefront of this initiative and that the goal has shifted from simply “serving” the homeless to fully ending homelessness, with a 10 year goal.
    Homelessness is a difficult area to conduct research on, due to the transient nature of the experience. However the research has shown that offering housing first has the best, quickest, and most permanent results for folks experience homelessness. I do wish there was more tangible research on how the privatization of housing, the lack of a rent cap in most major cities, and the fact that many states have laws that protect landlords over tenants is a major reason for homelessness. The market has never been more competitive than it is right now, with rents at a staggering high and wages the same as they were 20 years ago. And yet no one is taking landlords to task. The eviction moratorium is not enough. There has to be much broader policy to address the crisis being caused by individual landlords. I know that sort of research is challenging to conduct due to the private nature of things but it should be presented to policy makers as part of a housing first initiative.
    Finally, I do believe there should be more qualitative research on why certain folks (specifically out west) choose to create their own shelters or homes on the streets as opposed to being in the shelter system or applying for the limited affordable housing. It is a small section of people who experience homelessness but important to understand and address the failings of shelters, affordable housing, and even housing first initiatives.

    1. Liz L. (she/her)

      Reading your post including your passion towards working to eradicate homelessness sparked passion in me. It also reminded me of one of my clients last year who was an IPV survivor working her way out of being a single mother in the shelter system. It’s so heartbreaking to think about how many children and single mothers are struggling in regard to homelessness. All of the issues you mentioned that are connected to, and intertwined with, homelessness are so important to address. I’m wondering how you see mental illness factored into the picture. When I took my first policy class, the mentally ill homeless population was a topic of research for a few classmates and I remember it was a significant factor among the homeless population in NYC.

  7. Liz L. (she/her)

    The Grand Challenges for Social Work project was launched in 2016 to actively address prevalent social issues, categorized into 13 challenges. Each challenge had goals and actions that should be taken to address the issue and updated progress is being published. It was hard to choose just one or two of the challenges that resonate with me, because they are all so important. I chose Ensuring Healthy Development for All Youth and Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality.  
    After reading the website, I began to question if social work research is more action oriented when compared to research of other social sciences and/or how often it is more action oriented. It seems that, in general, research-based programs are more likely to get funded and accepted by policy makers. In the Ensuring Healthy Development for All Youth challenge, it states: “A large body of scientific evidence over 30 years shows that behavioral health problems can be prevented.” The project is using this research to create and implement programs supporting the prevention of behavioral problems among youth. This shows how important and powerful social work research can be. They aim to reach their goals by 2026, which are to “reduce behavioral health problems in people birth to age 24 by 20%” and “reduce racial, socioeconomic and other disparities in behavioral health problems by 20%.” I wonder if the programs established will be implemented across various socioeconomic areas and/or if it is primarily targeting low-income communities.
    As noted in Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality, “Economic inequality permeates our society.” The economic disparities existing in this country are unfair, unjust, and rampant. The fact sheet for Economic inequality permeates our society noted that, in America, “economic inequality permeates our society” and “one in five children live in poverty.” I’ve heard this before and it made me interested in how we compare to other countries. According to the World Population Review (2021), we were ranked fourth in the world for highest wealth inequality. I am deeply passionate about addressing poverty and income disparities in our country.
    As a social work student, I keep coming back to the topic of child/mother, or child/primary caregiver, relationships. I hope to learn more about this, as there seems to be a large body of relative research. I am especially interested in how parenting and/or caregiving affect the healthy development of all youth. The Grand Challenges of Social Work touched upon this in its actions for multiple challenges, including the two challenges that I highlighted.
    Outside Reference:
    World Population Review. (2021). Wealth inequality by country: 2021.

  8. Leah Soffian (she/her)

    I enjoyed reading through the Grand Challenges impact report and found it to be a useful tool in kickstarting our brainstorming process around issues that are prevalent and important to the Social Work field today. One of my biggest challenges when thinking about ways in which I want to approach research is the process of narrowing down a topic or cause that I am interested in learning more about and then translating that cause into researchable methods. So this activity is also assisting in the process of choosing a topic of focus and then generating problem statements that will lead to developing a research topic from the ground up.
    Additionally, I found the page that highlights the use of policy in research to be helpful in drawing parallels to current events which helps me gain a better understanding of the impact and intent of a potential study. Lastly, I strongly align with the mention of “end racism” and the caveat/disclaimer that this is an overarching grand challenge that intersects with most other social justice issues and disparities faced by social workers in the field. I believe that In order to eliminate many of these grand challenges we must start from a place of anti-racism and abolition as many of the issues and grand challenges discussed in the report and thus faced by society are rooted in the caste system of white supremacy and capitalism.
    The first challenge that stood out to me was “End Homelessness”. In my time working in the filed as a substance abuse counselor, one of our most common barriers to achieving long-term recovery for clients was lack of housing availability and homelessness. Almost all of the clients that were coming into the residential treatment program were coming off the streets or from a variety of other unsafe housing conditions. Clients would work incredibly hard for months for a successful program completion only to be faced with the obstacle of returning to these unstable housing situations. Many returning clients reported active drug use and having to navigate various other triggers that eventually led to relapse thus creating a revolving door within substance use disorder treatment. The few clients that were able to secure housing successfully were able to do so via vouchers for NYCHA and only received them through foster care agencies. So if the client did not have an active case with the NYS foster care system availability was extremely limited. As a clinician it was so frustrating to see clients work so hard in treatment become so limited due to a lack of safe and affordable housing. Personally I was shocked to get a first hand look at how many homeless children and families are currently residing in NYC at any given time.
    The need for safe and affordable housing was also very apparent at my field placement last year at a high school in Brooklyn as many of the students who attended were either living in a shelter or “doubled up” with other family members in a small apartment. Students did not always have access to a bed or full meals and then expected to come into school and have the capability to absorb and retain information.
    I support the idea of shifting funds from transitional emergency housing to developing long-term stable affordable housing as this reflects the issue I observed as a CASAC in the field. Most clients would go into PATH shelters which were designed for emergency situations instead of receiving vouchers for apt that were much more sustainable.
    I think that research could support this challenge by focusing on the relationship between trauma informed case mangers assigned to assist clients through housing journeys, emphasis on hiring more housing specialists at schools and other various institutions, examining the relationships between affirmative care in mental health treatment and re-entry, explore community based building programs where developments are built by communities for communities.

  9. Maria Kefalas (She/her/hers)

    Social work research is essential to informing our understanding of different challenges and solutions within the social work field. In the article “Identifying and Tackling Grand Challenges for Social Work”, Hawkins (2014) states, “Prevention is rarely a priority of governments, and practices without evidence of effectiveness are more widely used than are practices that have been shown to be effective.” This is a major problem that the social work field faces because one of our goals is to put effective practices into place, not to use ones that don’t work, or even worse, harm individuals. This is why social work research is vital to our field. We need to continue working towards the most effective practices and then advocate for them to be implemented.

    One of the challenges that resonated with me was ensuring healthy development for all youth. This one challenge has many challenges within itself. To be able to ensure healthy development for all youth, we’d need to advocate for racial equity, educational equity, cultural equity, and much more. Helping to provide safe spaces within the home and community is vital to the healthy development of youth. Every child should have access to safe spaces regardless of their background. This challenge is especially important because of how crucial early childhood development is. It sets the tone for the rest of an individual’s life and having a negative upbringing can lead to impaired development that can show in a variety of ways, one being behavioral problems. The issue for this challenge, as Jenson and Hawkins (2016) state, is “Behavioral health problems in childhood and adolescence take a heavy toll over a lifetime, with significant impacts on rates of economic independence, morbidity, and mortality. A large body of scientific evidence over 30 years shows that behavioral health problems can be prevented.” Prevention needs to be prioritized when it comes to youth development in order to avoid developing economic struggles, illnesses, and possibly even death. If the research found that behavioral problems can be prevented, why aren’t we doing everything in our power to prevent it?

    I worked at a family and adolescent agency and saw first-hand how an upbringing of abuse and neglect can impact youth. I’ve never experienced behavioral problems quite that severe before, and it’s painful to know that it could have been prevented. Racial and socioeconomic disparities were undeniable in this setting and this population is the most at need for the widespread implementation of tested and effective preventive interventions. By increasing public awareness, allocating appropriate funds, assessing risk and protective factors, implementing effective preventative interventions, monitoring these interventions, and enhancing workforce development strategies, we would be many steps closer to where we want to be. Social work research plays an important role in making all of this possible.

  10. Doriel (he/him)

    The Grand Challenges for Social Work that stuck out to me were “ensure healthy development for youth” and “build healthy relationships to end violence.” At the same time, I struggle with how to define phrases like “healthy development,” “healthy relationships,” and “behavioral health problems.” Perhaps I should avoid trying to define those phrases in the first place, since it’s not something for me or anyone else to decide. This type of tension is one that I find myself carrying frequently as a clinical student. Words like “maladaptive” and “unhealthy” are often used but are based on hegemonic norms and, often times, “intuition,” which can really mean bias. Perhaps what Decarlo (2018) refers to as “practice wisdom” is a guidepost, though even that phrase seems amorphous—who decides what wisdom really is? What kinds of experiences/conversations are clinicians having, and with whom, that allow them to declare they have attained so-called practice wisdom? Meanwhile, the phrase did resonate, and I wonder if practice wisdom is something no person can ever actually have. It’s unstable, dynamic, and subject to critical analysis and radical transformation at each moment.
    As I was reading these two Grand Challenges, it became evident that multi-systemic intervention is imperative. I’m going to be working with children in a mental health clinic this year with a focus on trauma; however, therapy and family/community intervention alone is insufficient. Working to ensure healthy development for youth and ending interpersonal violence are lofty goals, but there are acts of violence committed against folks every day by the state itself. It can be difficult and overwhelming to comprehend and tackle all of the ways that folks with differing identities and socioeconomic statuses are harmed on a daily basis. When thinking about achieving these goals, I think about the ways that social workers have the ability to work (i) against the system, (ii) outside the system, and/or (iii) within the system (Credit: Doin’ The Work, Episode 43). This seems somewhat similar to the ecological model of social work (micro, mezzo, exo, macro), but from the perspective of social workers and how they choose to engage with each of those systems personally.
    Social work research has the ability to provide a platform for oppressed voices. These voices can change minds. At the same time, social work research has the ability to identify and admonish oppressive patterns within systems using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. As it relates to healthy development for youth, social work research, unlike many other types of research (e.g., psychology), tends to focus on the child, family, community, and society, rather than just the child and family. I think about researching ways that school systems can shift towards a trauma-focused approach to teaching rather than a punitive one. When considering the child welfare system, most research focuses on either parents with family court cases or on working with traumatized children. I wonder what it would be like to allow for both voices to be heard, while also analyzing the various socioeconomic, ethnic, gender, and racial disparities that lead to involvement in the child welfare system in the first place. When thinking about ending violence, I was reminded of Housing First in that it focused on the root of a problem—houselessness, rather than medication management or substance use. The phrase, “hurt people hurt people” also comes to mind, and an ecological perspective on “hurt” primes social work to tackle this issue multi-systemically. Social work research has the ability to identify and challenge the root of violence rather than pathologizing and finding “optimal” ways of punishing it.

    1. Maria Kefalas (She/her/hers)

      Hi Doriel,

      Those same grand challenges of social work stuck out to me as well, although I only discussed “ensure healthy development for youth” in my prompt. I agree with you that these terms are very broad and that we are in no position to label others as such, unfortunately through my work with youth I’ve been conditioned to use these terms even if I’m not a fan of them. I struggle to find the balance of what vocabulary is appropriate and realistic as social workers without carrying such biases or causing harm. It’s ironic how “ensure healthy development for youth” and “build healthy relationships to end violence” is under the “Individuals and family well-being” category, almost insisting that it’s a micro part of social work when in fact, as you stated, the state (macro) is greatly involved and does harm daily. It makes achieving these goals that we think are micro seem easier, but a lot of micro issues are deeply rooted in bigger issues, does this make it macro? This is something I’ve struggled to understand. I like how you stated that social work research has the ability to provide a platform for oppressed voices, but it makes me question who research has given a voice to thus far and who has had the power to conduct research thus far. I believe this needs to be talked about more and that having representation within research is crucial and can only provide a richer learning environment. When it comes to who is being studied for youth, I think the children’s voices should be amplified because I’m sure they rarely feel heard. Not in a state that prioritizes adults and communities. I’ve seen this first hand at the job I used to work at. We worked towards maximizing children’s well-being, but we were working with their parents more than them. While they are vital to their development, we should make them feel like our priority, because they are.

  11. Erika Santosuosso (she/her/hers)

    When observing GCSW’s list of initiatives, it is near impossible to deem any of them as more important than the others. Each action item on the list, to me, is of immense importance. However, the proposals that I will discuss further are the ones that I believe that I am personally best suited to offer my services in support of. I have a passion for working with children and families and based on who I am and where my interests and talents lie, am best equipped to offer support on an individual and small group scale. Therefore, the section surrounding individual and family well-being caught my eye immediately. More specifically, the challenges of “building healthy relationships and ending violence” and “ensuring healthy development for youth” resonated with me most. While I am still honing-in on exactly how I want to engage with the wider world as a social worker, I know my goals include the support of families and the relationships within them.

    Within the “ensuring healthy development for youth” challenge breakdown, I was very impressed by GCSW’s Path to Progress designed by the Steering Committee of the Coalition for the Promotion of Behavioral Health. Their focus on preventative measures is key, and it seems that they have a very thorough and efficient game plan for harm reduction as well as intervention surrounding behavioral health in youths. “Unleashing the Power of Prevention” and their 7 Action Steps are inspiring to say the least. The acknowledgement that behavioral health problems are so often circumstantially created/exacerbated and the focus on early intervention on multiple fronts is exciting to me. I have always been a believer that much of the DSM can be scribbled out and replaced with the word “trauma”. I also believe that our need as humans to fit things neatly into boxes has misguided our development of mental health policies and interventions. Hopefully this plan will increase public awareness and slowly shift the wider perspective towards a more ecological one. I plan on spending even more time with this content in the future—there’s much to dive into. I am hoping I can find footage of the 2021 webinar somewhere.

    GCSW modifying the challenge to “stop family violence” to the more expansive challenge of “building healthy relationships to end violence” acknowledges the very important link between inner family violence and the power differentials within the wider social context the family is in. In my opinion the inclusion of a more intersectional feminist perspective strengthens and clarifies their goal, and I was happy to see that they opened the challenge’s pitch page with that amendment. This challenge seems to be in somewhat of a developmental stage, but their five-year plan includes pivotal steps like scientifically grounding the challenge to “inform future research and other GCSW goals.”

    Social work research is a mandatory component in GCSW’s initiative’s strategy development. It allows social workers to engage effectively in their work by developing programs, polices, and practices based on what is needed and modifying programs, polices, and practices that need to evolve or be improved upon. In regard to the two challenges I chose to investigate more closely, I think social work research has and will continue to bring light to the challenges children and families face based on their social locations and circumstances. With this information, we will be able to implement strategic planning processes on how to develop and employ policies and services that can better serve the communities we identify as most vulnerable, as well as wider society. Moreover, research can also encourage social workers to double back and re-review what they consider to be “true”. It can challenge our biases that exist based on our subjective experiences, causing us to expand in how we think about others and the meaning they make of their lives, allowing us to modify policy and practice to better support them. This is always important, but I think especially so when working with children and within family dynamics.

  12. Taryn Rothstein (she/her)

    One of the first challenges I was drawn to on the “Grand Challenges for Social Work” site was titled “Build healthy relationships to end violence.” Interpersonal trauma is a personal, familial, community, and societal issue. As a future clinical social worker, I hope to address interpersonal violence in my work and support the goals of Grand Challenges by helping to prevent and interrupt this type of violence. I appreciate their understanding of this challenge as a result of oppression and other facts that prevent people from having healthy relationships. However, as Grand Challenges suggests, fostering healthy emotionally resilient relationships helps individuals, couples, families and therefore, the larger community and society. This perfectly aligns with my goals in social work, to work with individuals, groups, couple and families in therapy settings and use culturally competent interventions to confront interpersonal violence.

    I specifically hope to work with the LGBTQ community, and as I learned when volunteering for the Anti-Violence Project last year, interpersonal violence is a common issue in our community. I would love more training about how we as social workers can use research to inform our understanding of this challenge. I think one way we could use research is to understand what “solutions” from the past have failed us. Meaning, there are some societal “solutions” to violence that can harm a vulnerable community like the queer community. Actions like calling the police can result in more violence and can certainly make the situation worse. The hotline for AVP also acted as a means for queer people to report violence, be heard, held and supported since traditional means of support do not aid our community in the same way. I hope research will also show what types of interventions therapists can use to help address interpersonal violence in therapy, and address the signs before violence takes place.

    I hope to continue to work with the LGBTQ community and address issues of interpersonal violence while working alongside clients and coworkers. This year, I have my internship at Callen-Lorde where I anticipate learning further about this issue and hopefully finding new resources to address it.

    1. C. V. (She/her/hers)

      Hi Taryn,

      I resonated a lot with that challenge as well for a lot of the same reasons. I like how your post points out how relational work on an individual level can have positive effects that spread to the community and larger society as a whole. I agree with the idea that research is helpful in showing us what works and what does not. I also think research is a means of giving power to those who have been more marginalized when they are given the possibilities to lead their own research in ways that work for them. I think there is a lot of power that comes in understanding yourself more deeply and in a way that helps the world progress in its own understanding. I’m not sure if that thought fully makes sense, but hopefully my point is coming across.

      Thanks for your insight,

  13. JTR (she/her/hers)

    Looking at the Grand Challenges for Social Work subcategories of importance that this organization is trying to champion there is not one category that is more important than the other. What this also shows is that there is a lot of social justice and progress that needs to be done. Looking into personalizing the categories the one that I have been the most passionate about from my undergraduate experience would be just society. I think this lens and technically subcategory of Grand Challenges for Social Work is the lens that guides a lot of my work that I have done in the past, present and will use in the future. With the work that I want to do and continue to do is centered around the individual and family well being. My work has been currently with children and families and how to better support children through their development which in turn helps to advance their life, and would hopefully close the health gap as well. I believe all the principles go hand in hand with ultimately building healthy relationships to end violence. I look at violence in a multitude of ways. There is obviously the assumed connotation of physical violence, but there can be psychological, emotional and mental violence that goes undiscussed. Personally and professionally I weigh heavier the latter because of the long term ramifications and effects of this kind of silent violence. Delving deeper into the demographics that I have worked with and will continue to work with, Black and Brown youth and families, it is important to also understand as Social Workers how the latter of, psychological, emotional, and mental violence, has caused physical inward and outward violence in our communities. I saw our because I am multiethnic and bi racial. The work that I do is to help bolster my communities and to continue to empower and support my people.

    With that being said, delving into the tenement of ensure healthy development for all youth, there was an acknowledgment and appeared understanding that behavioral health problems in childhood and adolescence can impact the rates of economic independence, morbidity and mortality. GCSW supported this claim through looking at scientific evidence of over 30 years of preventable behavioral health problems. They offered up goals that would begin to negatively influence the decrease of these rates and offer up more positive outcomes. I believe that this tenement influences the others of closing the health gap as well as advancing long and productive lives.

    Delving into the tenement of building healthy relationships to end violence, I really appreciated the acknowledgement of oppression. Oppression I would say is one of the top factors that can influence violence and the perpetuation of unhealthy intergenerational relationships. When I tried to process what healthy relationships to end violence can look like and how to tackle this important concern, I was shocked to see that I was in alignment with their societal goals as well as their “Decade of Work” segment. I was also relieved to see that the combination of both sections of goals is something that I have done within my work with children and families.

    Overall, I believe that GCSW is a great organization that seems to have supported what we all as Social Workers have taken notice to within our work with children and/or families. Using science was a very impactful and powerful measure to show the importance of each subcategory and what can we measure to impact positive results in each. I truly appreciated processing these goals through a scientific and research heavy lens. It is so important to be able to put your perspective to the side and view it at a different angle. Doing this, in my past, has helped me to continue to see the whole person as well as whole picture.

  14. C. V. (She/her/hers)

    One thing that struck me when looking over the list of challenges from “The Grand Challenges of Social Work” was the way that so many of them intersected with one another in some way. Creating more financial freedom and diminishing extreme financial inequality would result in less homelessness and stronger youth development. Racism is one major cause of financial inequality as well as the current punitive carceral state, so working to end racism would alleviate those other challenges alongside others. This is just an example, but the rippling effects of solving one social challenge on others cannot be understated. That is something that I appreciate about Social Work: those connections are brought to the forefront in many instances and social problems are emphasized rather than solely individual conditions. I think this also illuminates the importance in Social Work research. It is through all types of studies that the connections between these various challenges can be uncovered so that more targeted solutions can be reached.

    One challenge in particular that resonates with me and my social work goals is that of eliminating violence through healthy relationships. The website highlights the detrimental effects of interpersonal violence across various dimensions from micro to macro levels. It seems so simple that so much of that pain and trauma can be mitigated just by strengthening our capacity to form healthy and lasting relationships with others. It begs the questions of why is that so difficult in the first place? In my experiences working with younger children and through my studies encompassing subjects such as generational trauma and systemic oppression, the barriers to building these relationships become all the more clear. A great deal of my interest in working with children comes from the potential I see to help build resiliency and a stronger sense of self before the injustices of the world have a chance to break it down. Part of that injustice, I believe, comes from the cyclical nature of violence and oppression. In this country people tend to be grouped into categories of either victim or perpetrator, but in many instances those lines are so much more blurred and tinted by the histories of trauma that are passed down in invisible and visible ways. Hopefully Social Work can continue to go in the direction of connecting case to cause rather than lean into a more managerial and compartmentalized system so that these major challenges can be faced honestly and overtly.

Leave a Reply