Joint PhD student Charles Williams II is the subject of a new “This is Michigan” video, which chronicles the emergency response program Williams spearheaded during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The School of Social Work partnered with the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, where Williams is the pastor, to care for those in the community who were hit hard by the shutdown. School of Social Work students worked emergency hotlines, manned food banks and conducted wellness checks. Entitled “Caring Throughout Crisis,” the video also features Professor Trina Shanks.
Brittney Barros, dual MSW and MPP student, will brief Congress this week on the Protecting Sibling Relationships in Foster Care Act, legislation which Barros developed as a 2018 intern with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Barros speaks this Thursday, November 4, 2021 at 1 PM. Register to watch the livestream of the briefing.
While current federal law requires states to make a reasonable effort to place siblings together in the foster care system, a majority of siblings are separated. This bill would authorize the Department of Health & Human Services to establish a pilot program to develop foster care programs designed specifically for sibling groups with large numbers, wide age ranges and complex needs.
"Sibling bonds are truly one of a kind. They entail some of the darkest secrets and impeccable loving memories, share valuable life lessons and are the longest-lasting relationships of a lifetime," said Barros. "Siblings bleed the same blood together, cry the same tears together, and fulfill life's destiny together. They are each other's best friends, shoulders to cry on and truly shape life's adversities and achievements. Foster youth deserve this one-of-a-kind bond which should not be taken by a broken system."
Barros speaks from her own lived experience: she was separated from her siblings for more than six years. During her internship with the CCAI, Barros worked on policy reports. "One of my recommendations about keeping siblings together was copied right into the language of the bill," she said. "I took my trials and trauma and turned it into testimony."
"Siblings are the longest relationship of a lifetime and, as social workers, we talk about the importance of human relationships. Those are core values in our [National Association of Social Workers] Code of Ethics and they are core values of mine."
Barros has a BSW from Eastern Michigan University and is pursuing a joint MSW and MPP at the University of Michigan. "I really wanted to go into social work specifically because I had a foster care worker that didn't treat me well. She did everything that we learn in social work school not to do, and she actually fueled my fire to be a social worker, and be the social worker that I never got to have."
Clinical Assistant Professor Justin Hodge, MSW ‘13, has been appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity. The commission was created to develop policies and programs to reduce poverty in the State of Michigan. “I'm excited to be able to inform and influence policy at the state level to expand economic opportunity for our most vulnerable Michiganders,” said Hodge.
Associate Professor Terri Friedline discusses her research in The Conversation on how postal banking could provide a financial lifeline to the millions of Americans without a bank account.
According to data, 24% of U.S. census tracts have neither a community bank nor a credit union branch, leaving 21 million people "underbanked." The lack of affordable banking creates real hardships that disproportionately hurt low-income Americans and communities of color. Without a bank account, people pay higher fees and interest rates, have a harder time building credit history and are less able to get mortgages and other kinds of loans, writes Friedline.
Clinical Assistant Professor and Washtenaw County Commissioner Justin Hodge was quoted in Concentrate on the county’s plans to use taxes from the rapidly growing legal cannabis industry to address racial inequity. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners recently approved a budget amendment that will use all annual revenue from the marijuana excise tax, which is expected to produce $200,000 per year, to create equity-based programming initiatives. Hodge wants this budget amendment to help expand the county’s Racial Equity Office.
“I’d like to see us grow that office to several more staff, so that they’re in the position to work intensely across the county to promote racial justice and equity initiatives,” Hodge said. “Some of that might look like doing trainings, doing audits of departments, providing resources in the community, and making sure that all of the initiatives coming out of every county department are approached through an anti-racism lens.”
ENGAGE Program Manager Fatima Salman, MSW ‘15, was elected president of NASW-Michigan. “I am honored and excited for my new role in this, a time when social workers are needed more than ever,” says Salman. “The effects of the pandemic have magnified the mental health crisis in our nation, the need to destigmatize mental health treatment, and the essential nature of social work practitioners in helping communities heal, deal with loss and be committed to equity and inclusion in all spheres of life. This is THE moment that all of us social workers must step up and deploy micro and macro social workers committed to anti-racist practice and ethics to address our crisis and lead Michigan in mental health recovery.” She will begin her term on July 1.
Professor Trina Shanks discusses with CNN the lasting impact of racial violence from the end of the Civil War through the early 20th century. The Tulsa race massacre, which took place 100 years ago this week, was one of the worst acts of racial violence in American history, and part of a larger pattern of assault. “If Blacks were successful and actually were visibly prosperous, that made them a target. Some of the violence might have been triggered by this economic envy,” said Shanks. She explains that some White Americans thought, “How can we make sure that we reserve these economic benefits and opportunities for the White population and our children and push Blacks out so there can be more for us.”
Professor Rogério M. Pinto spoke with Fox 17 West Michigan about how demonstrations can change public opinion. In the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, there were over 10,000 protests and demonstration events over the summer, 95% of them were peaceful. “Protests are also effective in the sense of changing people’s hearts, not just their opinions but changing how they feel about groups in the population,” said Pinto.
Professor Trina Shanks discusses how public engagement connects U-M, Detroit and local communities. Shanks research focuses on creating solutions, including childhood saving accounts and neighborhood investment programs. After initially researching the “why” in racial income disparity, Shanks learned “I’d really prefer to be part of the conversation about concrete changes that can make a difference in helping people to thrive and improve life chances for all people, particularly those facing economic hardship.”
PhD student and Reverend Charles Williams of Detroit’s King Solomon Baptist Church is featured in a HuffPost article about closing the COVID-19 vaccine race gap. Citing accessibility and hesitancy, Williams thinks it could be a year or more before citywide vaccination rates in Detroit catch up to the rest of the country. “There’s a sincere concern about the care that many of us get when we go to the doctor’s office, end up in the hospital,” Williams said. “You talk to any Black family, we all have the same strategy ― somebody is going to have to be there around the clock, in the room, to stay on top of these nurses and to make sure the doctor comes by, because if we don’t practice that strategy, the system will let our loved one down.”
University of Michigan
School of Social Work
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