Page 1

MARCH 2021 • Vol 30.5







P R E S I D E N T- E L E C T, Widian Nicola

1 S T V I C E P R E S I D E N T, Judyann McCarthy

2 N D V I C E P R E S I D E N T, Dawn Konrady C E N T R A L R E G I O N A L R E P, Caelin McCallum

S E C R E TA RY, Ralph Cuseglio N O R T H E A S T R E G I O N A L R E P, Sierra Spriggs

G R A D UAT E S T U D E N T R E P, Jennifer Sorensen

S O U T H E R N R E G I O N A L R E P, Miriam Stern

U N D E RG R A D UAT E S T U D E N T R E P, Jamie Terrone

N O R T H W E S T R E G I O N A L R E P, Veronica Grysko-Sporer


NASW-NJ has 12 units across the state of New Jersey. ATLANTIC/CAPE MAY/CUMBERLAND CHAIR, Janelle Fleming

HUDSON CHAIR, Jillian Holguin

MORRIS CHAIR, Cheryl Cohen CO-CHAIR, Veronica Grysko-Sporer


MERCER/BURLINGTON CHAIR, Miguel Williams CO-CHAIR, Michele Shropshire



MIDDLESEX CHAIR, Tina Maschi CO-CHAIR: Vimmi Surti


ESSEX CHAIR, Felicia Fdyfil-Horne CO-CHAIR, Ravjit Sekhon


UNION CHAIR, Hannah Korn-Heilner

CHAPTER OFFICE E X E C U T I V E D I R E C TO R Jennifer Thompson, MSW or ext. 111

D I R E C TO R O F D E V E LO PM E N T & E D U C AT I O N Helen French or ext. 122

D I R E C TO R O F S P E C I A L P ROJ E C T S Annie Siegel, MSW or ext. 128

D I R E C TO R O F M E M B E R S E RV I C E S Christina Mina, MSW or ext. 117

D I R E C TO R O F A DVO C AC Y & C OM MU N I C AT I O N S Jeff Feldman, MSW, LSW or ext. 114

A R T D I R E C TO R Katherine Girgenti or ext. 129

M E M B E R S H I P A N D E D U C AT I O N S P E C I A L I S T Willis Williams or ext. 110

N A S W– N J C H A P T E R O F F I C E 30 Silverline Drive, Suite 3, North Brunswick, NJ 08902, Ph:732.296.8070,



























Thank you to our partner Rutgers School of Social Work for their support of NJ FOCUS

PRESIDENT' S M E S SAG E A L o o k B a c k a t 1 2 0 Ye a r s o f S o c i a l Wo r k H i s t o r y f o r S o c i a l Wo r k M o n t h



This month is Social Work Month. As we celebrate our profession, I am led to reflect on the 120 years of social work history. So much work has been done over the past 12 decades to advocate for and improve circumstances of diverse communities around the world. Our history shows how essential our contributions to society has always been. This month, not only do we reflect on the past, but we take time to acknowledge the contributions each of us makes daily, and the impact our work has on the future of the profession. Trailblazers and pioneers like Jane Adams, Dorothy Height, and Whitney Young, Jr. have set the tone for our profession—grounded in resilience and unwavering determination to create a more equitable and inclusive society for all. Through their work, and the work of so many others, our profession has impacted the fight for Civil Rights, workers’ rights, mental health, poverty, child abuse and neglect, substance abuse and so many other critical areas. As social workers, many of us have engaged in efforts that lead to being involved in some of the most important social movements in the U.S. and across the world. As a profession, we have helped transform individuals, families, and communities—empowering them to overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges. NASW is deeply rooted in the fabric of social work and plays a key role the history of the profession. Established in 1955, NASW stands as the largest social work organization in the world, serving over 100,000 social workers. At NASW-NJ, the second largest state Chapter in the nation, we aim to be a leader in providing you—our members—with resources to enhance your professional growth and development, relentless advocacy for the profession, and a welcoming environment to support the development of our social work community. This month, we ask you to join us in celebrating this year’s Social Work Month theme: “Social Workers Are Essential.” We owe ourselves a moment to acknowledge the work we have done this past year on the frontlines of the global pandemic, while at the same time confronting racial unrest, an historic election, and a struggling economy—all while managing the personal needs of ourselves and our families. To help share stories of how social workers are essential, I encourage you all to share the stories of your work and our profession on social media throughout the month of March. Use the hashtags #SocialWorkMonth, #SocialWorkersAreEssential, and be sure to tag @naswnj. We also have a diverse list of Social Work Month programming, including 5 free CEUs available for members, our 2021 Annual Conference, self-care activities including the return of our virtual paint and sip event, and a wealth of Unit events for members to enjoy. I hope you’ll take advantage of some of these virtual events. You can find a full events calendar for Social Work Month on page 08. Lastly, as we take time to celebrate our profession this month, remember your self-care is of utmost importance. With the increased need for us to show up in new and different ways, both personally and professionally, I encourage you to take time to reset, regroup, and reenergize. Let us continue to reserve space to take breaks, reflect, celebrate our accomplishments, and simply breathe. I hope you will take the opportunity to do so this month and every month. Happy Social Work Month!

Nkechi Okoli, MSW, LSW

4 | NJFOCUS •March 2021

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S M E S SAG E T h e E s s e n t i a l - n e s s o f S o c i a l Wo r k e r s



Friends and Colleagues,

Just one short year ago we began celebrating Social Work Month with much joy and anticipation for a time of coming together. We looked forward to the Conference, our annual event in Atlantic City, that brings us together with friends and colleagues. If you are anything like me, those few days are a welcome respite from the day-to-day routine that can feel so hectic. Little did we know we would spend the next year of our lives charting new paths, innovating solutions and juggling complex situations, both personally and professionally. We had no idea how our lives would be forever changed.

During a month we usually hold sacred for rest, and rejuvenation as a profession, we were called to respond swiftly to the needs of our community. We have kept that pace for a year. Throughout this past year, I have often prayed for grace and strength to just do what is right in front of me—one day, one step, one Zoom at a time. I have wondered when we’ll return to normal and what we are to learn from all that has happened. I have kept this quote on my desk (which most of the time has been a kitchen island or corner of a dark basement!) and tried to remind myself that we will come to draw some lessons from this experience in time: “Experience gives us the tests first and the lessons later.”

end at 5. Our work does not cycle and have “busier months.” Our work is mostly comprised of “other duties as the world assigns” and at no point does our profession call out sick. You—our community— rise. You meet the call to action swiftly and without reservation. This year, you have shown this and kept the pace of a rapidly changing world—even in the face of also living in and navigating the changes yourself. I am in awe of your work. This year, the world learned how essential social workers are—and we will not let that lesson be forgotten. This truth will become a lesson for our broader community. Our goal as your Association is to elevate your work—to guarantee there is no question about the value of social workers. We celebrate your work and our profession by uplifting stories of social work innovation and rising to meet challenges. We will continue to ensure the social work voice and perspective holds a dedicated seat at the table and helps to shape our future. In 2020, we learned we can and will be summoned professionally at any moment—and that our planned respite might be taken away. We learned it’s more important to build in intentional moments of rest daily, weekly, monthly—so that we continually recharge. Our Chapter has learned from this too— and we will begin to offer more wellness and selfcare events designed to help you intentionally hold space for yourself. It is my hope that In honor of Social Work Month 2021, you will take some time to reflect on the lessons you’ve learned this past year—and share them with us. Some of you have already done so, as you’ll see in this extra-sized issue of FOCUS. Your experiences and truth in practice shape what we do—where we're headed as an Association. Your voice—your lessons—are critical in shaping our way forward. I hope you’ll continue to share them with us by emailing me at jthompson.naswnj@ In health and solidarity,

One absolute truth I have discovered is that social workers ought to be celebrated every month—not just in March. Our work does not begin at 9 and

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 5



or more than 120 years, the social work profession in the United States has helped bend the arc of justice, making our nation a more equitable and inclusive place. Social workers are essential to community well-being. As practitioners, we are trained to help people address personal and systemic barriers to optimal living. We strive to effect positive change with individuals, families, groups and entire communities. As a profession, we leverage our collective power to pass laws and establish policies that give more people access to community services and benefits, lift up the disadvantaged, and improve the quality of life for everyone. Moreover, social work is the only helping profession which requires social justice advocacy as part of its core mission and professional code of ethics. There are more than 700,000 professional social workers employed in the United States, and more than three million worldwide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to identify social work as one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. Other government sources report there are more clinically trained social workers providing mental health and behavioral health services than any other professional discipline in the nation. Our nation will continue to need social workers as we deal with problems that have stressed our society, including systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. Social workers are

6 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

on the front lines of these crises and others, helping people overcome their struggles. During the COVID-19 public health emergency and in response to growing racial unrest, social workers gained national visibility as a crisis-ready workforce trained to help people find resources and de-escalate community conflict. Social workers across New Jersey worked selflessly to meet community needs—in hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, private practice offices and dozens of other settings, despite the potential dangers to ourselves—all while managing our own needs and the needs of our families and loved ones. At NASW-NJ, we partnered with our members to offer more than two dozen Community Conversations in the past year—free webinars designed to offer valuable social work resources and expertise to members of the broader community during these difficult times. These conversations, which reached thousands of people across the country, included such topics as discussing race with young children, self-care for the Black community, and navigating grief during the pandemic. This Social Work Month, we hope you’ll take some time to celebrate yourselves, your colleagues, and the vast amount of work you have accomplished under trying and unprecedented circumstances. We are in awe of you. Take pride in yourselves and in our profession and remember that each and every one of you is essential.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 7



Social Work Fun Run Virtual 5k March 1-31 (All month long) 2021 Annual Conference: Race, Reconciliation & Responsibility Earn up to 22 CEUs (14 Clinical) March 7-8 Legislative Education & Advocacy Day March 8, 9am-3pm 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Series: Making Justice More Healing & Transformative

Third Thursdays: Virtual Lunch with the Executive Director March 18, 1-2pm (2 Free CEUs for Members) Mind-Body Therapies: Quieting the Neurological Landscape March 18, 6-8pm The Many Modes of Meditation (Bergen/Passaic Unit Event) March 22, 6:30-7:30pm

March 10, 11am-12:30pm

Virtual Paint N’ Sip Self-Care Event March 23, 7-9pm

(1.5 Free CEUs for Members) Relational Gestalt Therapy (Morris Unit Event) March 10, 6-7:30pm

2021 Diversity & Inclusion Series: The Criminalization of Race in America March 29, 4:30-6pm

Let's Talk About Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism from A Social Justice Work Perspective (Essex PPSIG) March 11, 10-11am

Social Work Innovation Lab March 30, 5-6pm

Bergen Passaic PPSIG March 11, 2-3pm Social Work Day at the UN March 16, 12-2pm (Register at

Alzheimer's Disease: Effective Communication Strategies (Monmouth/Ocean Unit Event) March 31, 6-7:30pm (1.5 Free CEUs for Members) 21st Century Ethics and the Politics of Social Work Available on-demand in mid-March

Register at

8 | NJFOCUS • March 2021


Ruby B. Pernell (1917-2001)


ecent discourse among the social work profession has focused on the “white washing” of social work history and education. Social work courses that discuss the history of social work often focus on the formative writings and work of individuals such as Jane Addams, Mary Richmond, Frances Perkins and other white social work luminaries. The website www. features a list of “50 Notable Social Workers in U.S. History,” 42 of whom are white. 1 The Wikipedia page for “social work” mentions only two American social workers by name: Jane Addams and Mary Richmond. 2 A 2014 blog posted on the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work website cites the “9 Most Influential Women in the History of Social Work,” all of whom are white. 3 And a 2018 blog available on the Rutgers University School of Social Work website offers a list of “Influential Women in the History of Social Work.” 4 Of the 10 women listed, all but one, Dorothy Height, are white.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 9

Over the next years’ worth of FOCUS issues, we’ll be digging deeper into the historical archives (thank you internet!), beyond the usually cited names, to bring to light the stories of lesser known individuals, primarily persons of color, who have helped move the profession of social work for ward, as well as society as a whole. This series of articles does not intend to deny the contributions of commonly cited, white individuals to the profession of social work, but rather is intended to raise awareness and create discussion about how we think of social work history and the development of the profession in the U.S.

Pernell’s work impacted many communities: she was a settlement house worker at the Soho Community House in Pittsburgh; a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Denver, Washington, and Atlanta; and a board member and advisor to many local and national organizations, including the Peace Corps.10 She held consulting roles with government agencies and served on the boards of several community organizations.11

Hidden Histories:

Her greatest contribution as a pioneer in the field of social work is considered to be her leadership in the field of international social work. She was Social Welfare Attaché to India for the State Department under Ambassador Chester Bowles, one of only two Social Welfare Attachés in the history of our country.12 Parnell brought her interest in the field Ruby B. Pernell (1917-2001) was the first African of international social work to the International American, female dean at Case Western Reserve Council on Social Welfare, as well as various University. She came to the university as the Grace U Longwell NCOV E R I N G T H E D I V E R S E ROOT S OF O C I A L nature. W OAsR K consultant activities of anSinternational Coyle chair in group social work in part of her commitment to international social 1968. In 1973-74, she was appointed acting dean work and study-abroad programs, Pernell served as of the School of Applied Social Sciences (now a consultant for many nations, including Britain, the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences). Egypt, the Sudan, Jamaica, Germany, Canada, Sri Her contributions at Case Western included the introduction of curriculum in management of human Lanka, and India.13 services, planning for undergraduate social work Dr. Pernell authored more than 35 articles and programs, and membership on the Afro-American 6 monographs, contributing regularly to journals such Studies Program Advisory Committee. as International Social Work, Journal of Education for Social Work, and Social Work, and authoring Prior to joining the faculty at Case Western, Pernell chapters in Fundamentals of Social Work Practice was on the faculty of the Minnesota School of (1982).14 Social Work for many years. She was hired by the University of Minnesota as a professor of social work She continued to serve in a professor emerita role at in 1948, the same year that Edwin D. Driver was Case Western from 1982 until her death in 2001.15 hired by the University of Massachusetts. Pernell and Driver are believed to be the first black faculty members hired by a state flagship university in the century.7 1 2 3

During her career, Pernell became a recognized scholar in social group work, international social welfare and other topics. She contributed her knowledge in social policy through her work with countries such as India, Sudan, Egypt and Jamaica. She was a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups and president of the Minnesota Southern Chapter of the National Association Social Workers.8, 9 10 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

of-social-work/ 5 6 7 8 9 10 ibid 11 12 13 ibid 14 ibid 15 4


NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 11

Responding to Racism Nation in Crisis: A Healer’s Call for Unity by Ralph Cuseglio, DSW, LCSW

"We need a collective and organized effort to dismantle the structures that maintain racism and the influence of white supremacy in our systems. "


merica has fallen gravely ill. The symptoms have been present for some time, yet we are just beginning to see how deeply this sickness has pervaded the individuals and institutions in our country. It took the events of 2020 for many Americans to realize their country was beginning to look unrecognizable. The news each day became unbearable for many; they recognized something desperately needed to be done, or America, as we know it, would continue to suffer and eventually die a premature death (if you don’t believe that is possible, pause and reflect on the implications of the Capitol insurrection on January 6th). This past November, over 80 million American voters chose President Biden to lead our nation. His election is an important step in America’s recovery. Now, more than ever, America needs a leader that can help it to heal. President Biden is uniquely qualified for the job. In 1951, psychoanalyst Carl Jung identified what he termed the “wounded healer” archetype. A common phenomenon in clinical social work and other helping professions, this construct proposes a healer’s own trauma or woundedness can have a curative effect on those they serve.

12 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

As a result of one’s own emotional wounds, and the processing of that pain, the healer can tap into their own strength and resilience and is therefore better positioned to help others. “ Wounded healers” often have a keen ability to empathize with the pain of those they serve and have a profound understanding of it. This, in turn, allows the healer to be more steadfast, patient and understanding, especially in times of stress and uncertainty. President Biden has the qualities of a wounded healer. As someone who overcame a debilitating stutter in childhood, and who would later, in 1972, face personal tragedy when his wife and baby daughter were killed in a car crash, he has, beyond a shadow of a doubt, experienced adversity and pain. Despite his grief and contemplations of suicide, he persevered in the face of tremendous loss, becoming one of the longest sitting Senators in American history. Unfortunately, in 2015, tragedy would strike then Vice-President Biden again, when his son, Beau, died of brain cancer. The grief of this loss would ultimately lead him to forego a presidential bid in 2016. Despite President Biden’s 2020 electoral victory,

Americans are now more polarized than we have ever been. It is hard to conjure a time since the Civil War that our country has been so politically divided. Unifying Americans will be President ’s greatest challenge and his greatest legacy. However, the list of issues requiring immediate and systemic change is vast: growing income inequality, systemic racism, police brutality, the loss of 500,000+ lives and countless livelihoods due to COVID-19 and its mismanaged response, the dire effects of climate change, a shamelessly partisan news media, as well as largely unregulated technology and social media companies that profit from addiction, mental health issues, outrage, shame, and division.

some individuals who will never be able to meet at a middle ground, who are motivated by hate, and who fear a future that is collectively better for all. However, building trust and relationships with those who are different from us is essential to our survival. Without this, as we’ve seen these past months, everything breaks down. As a profession of individual and societal healers, there is a collective wisdom that exists among social workers. We know we cannot empathize with another’s suffering without listening and understanding why they suffer. And so many Americans are suffering—people of every color and stripe. Many will be people we don’t agree with, some of whom will never listen back. Still, we must listen. As Buddhist monk and peace activist Thích Nhất Hạnh writes: Listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty their heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Compassion is what alleviates suffering.Compassion is what facilitates unity. It will take great patience and mercy, and will, no doubt, be difficult. The next chapter in this great American story has yet to be written. We, as social workers, must do our part to help write it. Keep advocating, mobilizing, organizing, educating, protecting, and healing, but above all, please keep listening.

To create positive change in our nation, unity is the only way forward. This is something President Biden cannot achieve by himself. If our country is going to begin to heal, we must work together to make that happen. Whether you are Right or Left, Red or Blue, Black, White or a Person of Color, that healing begins with less yelling, less outrage and more listening. It is imperative we listen to those who are different from us. There will be

About the Author: Ralph Cuseglio is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Monmouth University. He has been in private psychotherapy practice for 10+ years and currently serves as Secretary for the NASW-NJ Board of Directors.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 13

Responding to Racism Pay Me What You Owe Me: Conflict Theory and the Capital Insurrection by Shonnell Flournoy "The events of January 6 were yet another example of conflict for crucial resources—the attempt to keep power, wealth, and influence in the hands of a select group of people." “We know through painful experience that f reedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed....” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

distinctions. 4 Marx believed these conflicts were consistent occurrences throughout history and saw conflict within a society as the primary driver for change .5

The televised “event” to overturn the electoral count on January 6 made me holler out loud, “What’s Going On?” Marvin Gaye, the Prince of Soul, asked this question 50 years ago in 1971. 1 It is as relevant now as it was then.

As I read this theory, I thought to myself, “This is America!!” There is little doubt that America was built on conflict—most crucially, conflict over land and other precious resources. Some of America’s land was bought from other colonizing countries, some was won in war. Regardless of which country laid claim to ownership of these new lands, however, it is at our peril that we forget they were already occupied when colonists first arrived. Rather than share resources, the first Americans stole from, swindled, and cheated the indigenous population in order to amass their base of wealth and power. It was never theirs to begin with.

To help me understand what exactly was going on, I turned my attention to Karl Marx and his Conflict Theory and how it relates to social work’s person in environment perspective. Marx was a 19th century German political philosopher and economist. He believed society was engaged in a never-ending struggle—individuals in constant competition with one another over limited resources to meet their basic needs of survival, things like food, employment, and housing. 2 Marx viewed humankind as divided by hierarchy: on one side, working class people, known as the proletariat class; on the other, the capital class—the “owners of production”—referred to as the bourgeoisie. 3 It was Marx’s belief that the oppressed group, the proletariat, would rise up and take control over the means of production, thus eliminating class

14 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

Today, there is a group of entitled extremists who believe America is their country alone and belongs only to those who share their skin-color, religious, or ethnic background—tied to the myth of the founding of white America. The fact that their descendants were not the first human beings to cultivate the lands of these United States—nor were they the only ones to contribute to the building of our country with their blood, sweat, and tears— carries little meaning to them. Nor has it kept

them from reaping the benefits of historic control over the social, material, and political resources in America. As the saying goes: “if you’re white, you’re right; if your black, you gotta get back; and if you’re brown, you stay down.” It’s no coincidence then that those who migrated to this country to pursue the American dream were pursuing the white American dream. No one came here to live the Black American Experience. The Tulsa Massacre of 1921, for example, can be viewed not just through the lens of racial struggle, but through class struggle, as well. After the Civil War, during the period of Southern Reconstruction, former slaves and free Blacks were able to amass significant power and wealth in several southern states. One such thriving community was located in Tulsa, Oklahoma—the Black Wall Street. The businesses and homes in the community were black owned and financed by black banks. The resources within the community stayed in that community and were used to build further wealth. Suddenly, Blacks found themselves part of the Capital Class— owners of the means of production. This did not sit well with many white people; their control of the means of production, and of economic and political power, was threatened. The white extremists of the time looted and burned the Black residential neighborhoods and business district in Tulsa, killing 36 people, in order to limit Black advancement and reassert control of those resources. 6 Maybe, if Black Wall Street had the opportunity to remain sustainable, we wouldn’t see the disparity of wealth in America that exists between Blacks and whites today. In 2019, white people owned 85.5% of wealth in America, but made up just 60% of the population; Black households owned just 4.2% of wealth, Hispanics 3.1%. 7 It’s all about control of limited resources. The above thoughts help bring clarity, for me, to the January 6 insurrection. Among certain white groups, the fear of losing power and privilege is boiling over. It is power they think they own; power that is theirs alone. Throughout history, there have been efforts made by the dominant, white majority to undermine opportunities for the empowerment, equality and equity of the entire Black race. Jim Crow Laws, Black Codes, Zero Tolerance policies, Mandatory Minimums, Stop and Frisk—all of these initiates,

implicitly or explicitly, denied people of color the opportunity to obtain wealth and power. The events of January 6 were yet another example of conflict for crucial resources—the attempt to keep power, wealth, and influence in the hands of a select group of people. The only way to correct these historic injuries to Black people is to honor Special Field Order No.15, issued by Union General William T. Sherman. This order, a follow-up to Abraham Lincoln’s order to grant 20,000 acres of land to freedmen after the Civil War, was intended to allow Blacks to enjoy their newfound freedom through land ownership and was expanded to offer forty acres of land to each family. Obviously, this never happened. Less than a year after Sherman’s order, President Andrew Johnson shunned the order and returned the confiscated land in Georgia and South Carolina back to its white owners. 8 Strictly speaking, Give Me My 40 Acres and My Mule… then we can talk equality and equity. References Gaye, M. (1971). What's Going On [Album]. Tamla. (May 21, 1971) 2 3 ibid 4 ibid 5 ibid 6 7 8 9 1

About the Author: Shonnell Flournoy is a Family Supervisor Specialist at the Department of Child Protection and Permanency for the State of New Jersey. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and is pursuing her MSW at Monmouth University.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 15

Responding to Racism These Are the Days Made for Social Workers by Lee Marion Lyon, LSW

"We need a collective and organized effort to dismantle the structures that maintain racism and the influence of white supremacy in our systems. "


any have complained our system is broken. It is not. Our system operates exactly as it was intended to. The social contract a lot of us bought into was a bad deal from the start. America was built on race-based oppression. From colonialism to slavery to Jim Crow to today's de-facto segregation, racism is woven into the fabric of our culture and economy. It's present in our politics with code words like "states' rights." It's part of business practices, like how banks decide who to lend money to and where to invest. It affects personal interactions and biases. Like lead pipes that contaminate our drinking water, systemic racism poisons our country and collective psyche. If there's any chance of moving forward, we need to first rid ourselves of the disease of systemic and institutional racism. Social work is a unique profession in that we work in every system of care. Wherever there's a need, there’s a social worker. Our diversity of experience and knowledge gives us a unique perspective. Our micro-level experiences working with individuals, families, and communities inform our macro

16 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

concepts, theories, and practices. We understand, more than most, how environment influences human behavior and the intersections between individuals, communities, and policy makers. As social workers, we see the cracks in the systems we work in. When we provide counseling for military service members, we learn how racism impacts those in our military. When we work with families seeking asylum from poverty and war, we hear the personal stories of survival, violence, and suffering others may dismiss. When we work in school resource programs and jails we see the disproportionate number of people of color in these settings. Social workers see the disparities in access to resources for different families and communities—disparities based on skin color, place of birth, or zip code. We stand in the homes of strangers in varied and diverse communities when they're experiencing crisis or hardship. Most professionals don't engage with people from different walks of life the way we do. The work we do operates within boundaries set by social policies, regulations, and laws. We do our best to help people navigate these systems, but it's

not enough. We need a collective and organized effort to dismantle the structures that maintain racism and the influence of white supremacy in our systems. In his inaugural speech, President Biden did not mince words when he named white supremacy a threat to our nation. But this threat is not new. After the Civil War, defeated proponents of white supremacy established the Ku Klux Klan as a response to the beginning of the Reconstruction era. Today, these same agents of hate organize to undermine social justice and anti-racism movements. Social workers have a perspective that is crucial to solving the enormous problems our society, our nation, and our world face. There will always be those who resist change. White supremacy serves to distract all of us from solving these problems. But to deal with the future, we must confront the past. Change is scary and uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Addressing toxic and dysfunctional conditions to promote stable and healthy outcomes is what we do. White supremacy has had its time. This is the time for social workers to bring our knowledge and experience to the table for big, systemic change. Let's make it happen.

About the Author: Lee Marion Lyon is a Licensed Social Worker with diverse experience working in child welfare, health care, and hospice. She is currently a full-time caregiver and f reelance writer specializing in issues of identity politics, history, and culture.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 17





THE LATEST THE LATEST IN ALL THINGS ACADEMIA FROM THE FIELD The Latest i n All Th in gs Aca d e m ia W h a t to Wa tch W h a t We D i g

18 | NJFOCUS •March 2021

Clinical Social Work

Recovering from 2020: How to Mitigate Therapist Burnout by Alexandria Theordor, LCSW, CBIS

" ...managing burnout comes in three stages: Recognition of the signs/symptoms, Reversing the damage, and building Resilience to prevent it from happening again."


ocial workers around the country continue to clean up the mess of 2020 by caring for patients struggling with social isolation, unexpected losses, and surges in angst and despair related to health and political turmoil. As a result, experiences of professional burnout are on the rise. Social workers are continuing to struggle with anxiety and depression related to being overworked, have been exposed to secondary traumas, and are grieving their own personal losses. A candle burning on both ends will eventually scorch the hand of the person holding it; as a result, I focus my practice on helping fellow social workers combat the effects of burnout so that they can decompress and rejuvenate after a grueling day. My secret sauce to success when managing burnout comes in three stages: Recognition of the signs/ symptoms, Reversing the damage, and building Resilience to prevent it from happening again.

These 3 R’s will help you tackle your own feelings of burnout, as well as effectively treat burnout in others to pull them out of the emotional dip as our world begins to re-open.


Burnout can come from many sources: feeling unappreciated, overworked, or undervalued at work are just a few of the most common forms of burnout. Add this to personality traits such as perfectionism, pessimism, high personal expectations, and the risk for burnout increases substantially. COVID-19 took this to an entirely new level, as the country entered a global pandemic unlike any since the Spanish Flu of 1918. Burnout can look different to different people, but generally the signs are as followed: •

Physical: fatigue, f requent sickness, headaches,

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 19

Clinical Social Work

body pains, changed appetite and sleep patterns. •

Emotional: self-critical, hopelessness, helplessness, feeling trapped and/or defeated, low motivation, pessimistic, apathetic, low feelings of accomplishment, low satisfaction, feeling like a failure.

Behavioral: withdrawing f rom responsibilities, stress eating/drinking/smoking, irritability, procrastination, isolation, f requently coming to work late or leaving early.

Does any of this sound like you? If so, it is time to reverse the damage before things get worse.

Reversing Burnout

Saying “no.” Boundary setting using assertive communication will help to politely acknowledge the requests of others while confidently advocating for your needs. Identifying hobbies/leisure activities that rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul can help you unwind after a chaotic day. This can be anything of personal interest to you, such as sports, music, art, exercise, dance, etc. The only limits are your imagination (literally, daydreaming can be a great stress relief )! Spending time with friends is another great way to relax and get your mind off work, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and reach out to someone who puts a smile on your face. Can’t take some time off from work? I get it; some jobs are a 24/7 responsibility, or perhaps you need to remain at work for financial reasons. In those cases, Reframing the mindset is a great alternative to combat burnout. Can you find the value in your work? What does it provide for yourself and others? This way, when you’re stuck doing a task you hate, at least you know the pain serves a purpose--a purpose somehow in the best interest of those you care about and, most importantly… yourself !

Building Resilience

For many things related to health, proactive management is key. The two primary keys for proactive management circle around health and priorities.

20 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

Finding a realistic routine for managing your physical (and emotional health) can look like: • • • • •

regular follow-ups with medical appointments exercising reducing sugar, alcohol, and nicotine getting a good night ’s sleep spiritual/faith-based practices

Take a closer look at your priorities; do your values align with your actions? Work is important, but is it the MOST important thing? I am willing to bet your answer is no… yet you spend most of your day either at work or thinking about work. Take some time off from work (regularly!!!) and fill that time with things that are important to you, such as family, faith, friends, and of course (my favorite) F UN. As we transition to a new year, a new president, and the hope for a better tomorrow, it ’s time for us to recharge our batteries. As social workers, we often know what we have to do, but putting a plan into action is where things get sticky. Barriers such as family needs, finances, and lack of time get in the way of doing what we know is best for us. Counseling can help you identify the barriers for getting things done and find a way to overcome the obstacles in the name of health. In my practice, I specialize in helping professionals reverse and prevent burnout so that they can live their best life, both professionally and personally. If you or someone you know is struggling with professional burnout, please don’t wait to get help. Take some time off. Call a friend. Schedule a counseling session. You deserve to treat yourself with the same care and compassion that you provide for your clients.

About the Author: Alexandria Theordor, LCSW, CBIS is the owner/ therapist of Body and Mind Counseling LLC, which provides telehealth services to individuals, therapists, and caregivers in the state of New Jersey. Her mission is to be a gentle interruption to what is not working by helping individuals get back on track to a life they enjoy. To learn more, visit

Clinical Social Work

Managing COVID Fatigue: Our SelfCare and the Care of our Clients by Jennifer Vazquez, LCSW

"Much of COVID fatigue is driven by these ambiguous losses—our sense of normalcy, daily routines, structure, hobbies, distance from loved ones, forced separations, and loss of life events and transitions. "


t has been almost one year since the world shut down. One year since our mundane regularities of life were replaced with the uncomfortable impositions of COVID-19. As time continues to drone on, even with a vaccine roll out on the horizon, COVID fatigue has set in for most people. To say the COVID-19 effect is getting old is an understatement. Frankly, it is exhausting. Many of us are yearning for leadership and medical guidance, while at the same time looking for guidance on how to cope and manage what seems to be a normal and expected collective emotional response to an abnormal extraordinary experience.

Much of COVID fatigue is driven by these ambiguous losses—our sense of normalcy, daily routines, structure, hobbies, distance from loved ones, forced separations, and loss of life events and transitions. To manage feelings of ambiguous loss, it is helpful to conceptualize these losses in the context of permanent, tangible loss. We can and will regain ambiguous losses. Tangible losses— the death of a parent, grandparent, child, teacher, etc.—are permanent. When our friends and loved ones die, that is irreversible. When someone dies, the support and energy they previously gave to those left behind does not come back. We are left to carry on, their memory in our hearts. It ’s helpful

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 21

Clinical Social Work

to keep in mind this difference between tangible love and compassion in the absence of a hug or and ambiguous losses when struggling with handshake. COVID fatigue. Let the temporary discomfort of ambiguous loss serve to motivate and ground us, • Go easy on yourself. Particularly if you are while understanding it may return as we grow more trying to homeschool children while you are tired of the burdens of COVID, impatient, and also working from home. Accept it is ok to let worried for our emotional well-being. some things go. Not everything can and will get done. Some days will be better than others; There are some simple things we can do to help either way, tomorrow will still be there. cope with COVID fatigue as we look forward to the months ahead and the continued roll-out of • Remember: This is temporary. We will vaccines. come out on the other side; I am sure of that. Even though we feel apart and disconnected, • Stick to a daily routine. Being home (for we are more connected than we realize. We those of us who are working from home can do this together with patience, acceptance, remotely) does not have to mean sweatpants love and understanding of one another from a and pj’s all day. Get up at the same time distance until we meet in person again. as if getting ready to go to work, keep the “normal” morning routine as best you can, and get dressed. Maybe not business casual, but in something that is more than a COVID wardrobe. • Create your space. If you are fortunate enough to have space to create into a work area, do so. If not, create a small space dedicated to work, even if it ’s just a corner of a small room. Sameness is familiar; familiarity provides a sense of structure and security even in a time of loss. • Keep it light and fun. Be less serious at home—enjoy some fun tv, friendly interactions on social media, or get outdoors. Most of all, continue to seek and find joy. We have had enough heavy seriousness this past year. • Stay connected. When things become tough, reach out. Call a friend, family member or a therapist. Write letters, phone call, have Zoom socials, do a “hit and run” gift drop to surprise family and friends (ring the bell and dash back to the car driving off with a wave). Send flowers, chocolate, or whatever else would brighten someone’s day. These small gestures not only create a sense of connectedness with others but provide an opportunity to show

22 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

About the Author: Jennifer Vazquez, LCSW is a private practice psychotherapist in Lawrenceville, NJ specializing in grief and structural family therapy. Learn more at www.

Clinical Social Work

Social Workers: Don’t Underestimate Us by Melissa Weisel, MSW, LCSW, MSM PH-PP

" Social workers are change makers, resource allocators, healers, helpers, and devoted students of the human condition. The value of our profession cannot be overstated." “I’m so excited to use my master’s degree in social work to help people!” I exclaimed to my grandparents, after completing six straight years of higher education. I assumed they had some investment in this information, since they had graciously helped me with the cost of tuition. “Oh, so secretarial work? That’s nice,” responded my grandmother. This was not a clever roasting on her part, but rather ignorance of our profession’s full glory. The next year I told them I was working in a Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). “Oh, you’re a home health aide? Gladys has one of those.” [Insert facepalm reaction here]. Needless to say, I was speechless. My grandparents aren’t the only people I have encountered that have misconceptions about social work. In fact, most lay people have a very narrow idea of what social work is and what we do as a profession. There is a long-standing and misguided assumption that social workers are expendable; that we are unskilled laborers who can be overworked, underpaid, and easily replaced. How many times have you heard a social worker’s job is to take children away from their parents? Or to push paperwork all day? The spectrum of beliefs in the general public are so vast you might think a

social worker is a catch-all job that anyone can do. Sadly, these beliefs demean the skills and aptitudes required to be a qualified social worker. As a social worker for over a decade, I know better than to doubt our work’s inherent value. I hold our profession on the same level as doctors, lawyers, and teachers. We are highly educated and skilled people, working hard to improve the lives and circumstances of others. Often, we are charged with holding the glimmer of hope in the darkness long enough for others to be able to see it. Even in the smallest ways, we are always striving toward a more fair and promising future. Thankfully, if there is a silver lining to come from the dumpster fire that was 2020, it is a renewed sense that social workers are essential. Like other front-line responders, many social workers reported to their worksites during the pandemic despite the risk to themselves. Others adapted to virtual client care in the blink of an eye. Historically, social workers have been at the forefront of caring for vulnerable populations, including the homeless, displaced, and impoverished. We have transformed mental health and substance use treatment, improved systems of care, delivered resources to raise communities out of economic despair, and advocated at local, state,

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 23

Clinical Social Work

and federal levels for equal rights and justice for all. Social workers change the trajectory of people’s lives by teaching practical skill building, linking individuals and families to resources, and creating emotional bridges to allow others to walk from pain and purpose. We research solutions, interventions, and best practices so our work is ethically and scientifically sound. We speak up in difficult situations and teach others to do the same. We make families whole again. We turn failing organizations into model enterprises. And when we feel dejected and unsure, we lean on our colleagues and fellow helpers to provide us with strength and guidance. Social workers bear witness to unthinkable and painful experiences, sharing emotional space with the traumatized so they are not alone. We provide strength and wisdom in times of darkness, and safe spaces that allow the full range of human expression. Social workers are change makers, resource allocators, healers, helpers, and devoted students of the human condition. The value of our profession cannot be overstated. I can think of no situation that would not be made better by the presence of— the heart and mind of—a social worker. I celebrate each time social workers partner with a system to aid in its collective transformation. I am a proud and essential social worker. May you know us, may you love us, and may you be blessed to have us on your team.

About the Author: Melissa Weisel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certif ied Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional (CCATP). She is the owner of Hamilton Healing Arts, LLC. Learn more at www.

24 | NJFOCUS • March 2021


Social Workers: Sometimes Unseen, Always Essential by Benni Versaci, LCSW

For many, we are unseen essential workers, despite the importance of the services we provide.


hen people think of essential workers at this time, doctors and nurses come to mind immediately, of course. Think a little more and grocery and retail store clerks are now right up there on the list. Maybe teachers are, too. But social workers? I suspect if you took a poll of the general public, social workers would not be given much thought. If you asked those same people directly if they thought social workers were essential, you might get an "umm..yeah…sure," unless you are speaking to a person who needs a service like care management. Otherwise, I think for many, we are the "unseen essential workers." Still, I have heard "you are my guardian angel" or "I don't know what I would have done without you" numerous times from clients and family members throughout my career. That sounds pretty essential to me. As a moderate-sized social service agency owner, I always think about my clients and their needs. Providing care management means we are continually exploring resources and implementing new services to enhance lives. We serve vulnerable people, particularly adults with special needs, such as Autism, Downs Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy. In the early weeks of the pandemic, once everything shut down, we struggled with how we were going to help our clients. Lots of phone calls and virtual

meetings were a start. We made check-in phone calls, had birthday drive-bys, and even sent care packages of masks and hand sanitizer to our clients. The business of helping people, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continued, was crucial. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) mandates that all accredited social work programs teach critical thinking skills that allow the social worker to “utilize creativity while navigating race and ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexual orientation.” This skill set has allowed our organization to think outside of the box to obtain services for our clients. Thinking outside the box in person-centered planning means getting to know what is essential to each person, understanding their vision for their life, and developing an action plan to make that happen. For one client with Cerebral Palsy, the illness has affected her ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Therapeutic horseback riding turned out to be the solution. This service has significantly changed her life. She was able to get out of her house to interact with others and make invaluable connections with her horse and the instructors. She says this experience has given her confidence, and she is feeling physically stronger with improved balance.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 25


A large number of our clients attend day habilitation programs. These programs provide education and training to acquire the skills and experience needed to participate in the community, including activities to support participants with building problem-solving skills, selfhelp, social skills, adaptive skills, daily living skills, and leisure skills. Day program activities and environments foster these abilities, creating positive social behavior and interpersonal competence, greater independence, and personal choice. When congregate programs closed due to COVID-19, it was difficult for many to access virtual services; and even when they could, keeping focus for extended periods was challenging. Additionally, many parents have to work, so staying at home and guiding one’s child through a virtual program is not an option. The situation again required the use of creative problem-solving and outside of the box thinking. At Spectrum Care Management and Counseling, our social workers have set parents up as paid caregivers through New Jersey’s Medicaid Waiver programs and other Medicaid funded programs. This is no small task. Despite the bureaucratic red tape the social worker has to go through, this has been a lifeline for the families we serve. In many cases, the pandemic has caused parents to be furloughed, or some have lost their jobs. Now they can stay home, manage each family member's needs, and still pay their bills. For those families who have lost loved ones to this pandemic, we have found immediate shelter, we have found caregivers to come into the home and help, and we have been their support—often unseen, always essential.

26 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

About the Author: Benni Versaci, LCSW is the founder and President of Spectrum Care Management and Counseling, LLC. She has been providing care management services since 1999; clinical counseling since 2007; and support coordination since the program inception in July 2013. Learn more at

by Ana I. Diaz Lopez, MA, MSW, LSW

Domestic Violence

Providing Essential Services While in Deep Waters

"For domestic violence organizations throughout the state and country, closing doors just wasn’t an option."


ocial workers in the field of domestic abuse are accustomed to supporting survivors during some of the most challenging times of their lives. For social workers in this field, managing crises to help survivors attain safety and stability is no novelty. But what happens when the whole world is in crisis and stability is hard to find? March 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic brought a new kind of crisis. A crisis faced not only by individuals seeking help but also by those tasked with supporting them. Social workers were now concurrently navigating many of the same fears, unknowns, and challenges as their clients. For social workers working with survivors of violence and abuse, the ability to quickly pivot service delivery, while at the same time adjust to the changes taking place in their own lives, allowed for the continued provision of crucial support and services to survivors and their families. For domestic violence organizations throughout the state and country, closing doors just wasn’t an option. Social workers in administrative and leadership roles in domestic violence organizations

were suddenly tasked with making organizational decisions that would enable them to continue providing services while keeping staff and clients safe during a time where little direction and many unknowns existed. While stay-at-home orders and similar restrictions put in place served to curb the spread of COVID-19 they also greatly jeopardized survivor’s access to safety. Social workers working in shelters and safe houses did not have the option to stay home but instead were charged with finding ways to continue providing safe shelter in settings that were not created with social distancing in mind. Under normal circumstances, domestic violence organizations provide critical services to survivors of abuse. For many now quarantining at home with their abusers, these organizations became lifelines. Organizations across the state, like Safe+Sound Somerset, the lead domestic violence organization in Somerset county, began to see sharp increases in requests for services. Not only were social workers faced with responding to the growing caseloads but also with navigating the increasingly complex needs and circumstances of survivors.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 27

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a multifaceted issue. While it ’s true that social workers in this field are well versed in providing holistic support and services that address survivors’ unique needs and situations, the pandemic added additional complexities, some of which stretched their scope of practice. Things changed quickly. Roles shifted. For social workers working with survivors from marginalized and disadvantaged communities, the nature of their clients’ fast evolving needs no longer allowed them to focus largely on issues related to their experiences of abuse. While helping survivors create safety plans, social workers were at the same time working to ensure equal access to remote services and advocating for clients and families challenged by unequal access to technology. Challenges that complicated their ability to obtain life protecting restraining orders or guarantee continued education for their children.

While the pandemic brought many new challenges, it also provided unique opportunities to reach survivors. The ability to provide services remotely allowed survivors—many of whom were previously unable to receive services due to the power and control tactics exerted upon them by their abusers—to connect with advocates and social workers and receive much needed help. This was a huge breakthrough, especially for those struggling to keep themselves and their children safe during the pandemic or those considering

28 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

returning to an abusive situation due to the economic impact of the ongoing crisis. Social workers did all of this without additional training, with no blueprint, or road map to follow while at the same time coping with the changes taking place in their own lives. Social workers feared their safety and the safety of their loved ones, they stretched their comfort zones in ways they likely never imagined. They felt dread, isolation, and struggled with their own self-care. But they found support, guidance, and comfort by leaning on colleagues navigating similar situations and they collectively tackled the challenges in front of them to ensure that an incredibly vulnerable population knew they weren’t alone. To all my fellow social workers and advocates, especially those working towards futures free of violence and abuse, thank you, you make a difference!

About the Author: Ana Diaz Lopez is a licensed social worker and the Director of Programs at Safe+Sound Somerset. She holds a Masters degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work, and is currently pursuing a DSW f rom the Rutgers School of Social Work.

by Joann Downey, MSW, JD


Essential, Yet Expensive: Addressing the Costs of a Social Work Education

" The loan forgiveness program, if refunded, would provide forgiveness of up to $20,000 in state or federal student loans over four years for New Jersey residents who work full-time as direct care professionals in qualified facilities."


e are experiencing a shortage of social workers in our state. Addressing this shortage is only going to become more difficult in the years ahead. There are many contributing factors, including the aging of the population and the increased number of baby boomers moving into long-term care facilities, as well as the wave of social workers reaching retirement age. Others are leaving the profession due to financial concerns and burnout. The social worker shortage has taken on names and faces for me during the COVID-19 public health crisis. The State Assembly Human Ser vices Committee, which I chair, has moved numerous bills over the past year to address COVID-19-driven increases in domestic abuse; opioid addiction; homelessness; unemployment; student isolation and youth depression; and protecting persons with disabilities. In addressing each of these problems, the critical role of social workers has become more apparent, as has the impact of the social worker shortage on the individuals they help.

It was during committee hearings on abuse of people with disabilities that the idea of the Social Ser vices Student L oan Redemption Program resurfaced. The family of Billy Cray told the compelling stor y of the 33-year-old with developmental disabilities who was found dead on the floor of his bedroom in a group home in 2017. The stories of the Crays and other families who testified made obvious that we need more social workers in the field. To achieve this, we must be proactive in making it easier for young people to go into social ser vice professions. That ’s a challenge. Let ’s face it, social work is a lot of work for relatively low pay. Most jobs in the profession require a master's degree, which has deterred some aspirants to the profession out of fear the salaries they would earn would not let them have a life and keep up with the student debt they must incur to get a masters. These students weigh the cost of their education against the incredible professional demands and increasing complexity of problems that social workers face.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 29


We must recr uit more young people— Generation Z ’ers and students who come af ter them—to the profession, as well as make it easier for those already in the field to manage the debt incurred during their education. Re viving New Jersey ’s S ocial S er vices S tudent L oan Redemption Program is a good first step.

The cost of the program is intended to be paid for through a $700,000 annual appropriation from the General Fund to the Higher Educ ation S tudent Assistance Authorit y, which administers the student loan redemption program. The problem is, while the law creating the program has been on the books since 2005, the state has not inc luded the money for it in the state budget since 2011, when the program suppor ted 654 students. The loan forgiveness program, if refunded, would provide forgiveness of up to $20,000 in state or federal student loans over four years for New Jersey residents who work full-time as direct care professionals in qualified facilities. The student loans would be forgiven if they go to work within a year in facilities operated by the Depar tment of Human S er vices, inc luding count y psychiatric hospitals; facilities under the Juvenile Justice

30 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

Commission; veterans’ memorial homes operated by the Depar tment of Militar y and Veterans’ Affairs, or work for nonprofit agencies that contract with Human S er vices to provide direct care ser vices. I hope you’ ll join me in suppor ting the reestablishment of the S ocial S er vices S tudent L oan Redemption Program. We need to recogniz e social workers are an essential par t of the fabric of good mental health and treat them as such. Reviving New Jersey ’s S ocial S er vices S tudent L oan Redemption Program will help restore the pipeline of professionals and ensure that more of the state’s best and brightest students are able to pursue a career in social work.

About the Author: Assemblywoman Joann Downey chairs the Assembly Human Services Committee and represents New Jersey’s 11th Legislative District. You can connect with her team at


The Reality of Being an Essential Social Worker: Re-Discovering SelfCare by Jasmine Owarish-Gross

"...self-care can shine through a daily routine in simple ways, such as being attentive to how one feels emotionally, physically, and mentally at intervals throughout the day."


or “Emily”—a hospital social worker— the true weight of the words “essential worker” did not fully set in until the pandemic erupted last spring. In the early days of COVID-19, she went about her work as best as possible, caring for the needs of more and more sick patients and slowly running herself into the ground. The needs of her patients were extreme and many; she had little mind for herself. The scariness of the pandemic—the sense of fear— did not set in until the day she, like many of her patients, lost her sense of taste and smell. Soon co-workers and colleagues started to succumb to the virus—some even died. Was she next? During times of stress and fear, it is natural to want to reach out to loved ones for comfort and support—but for Emily, this was not possible. She could only be around a few, nonvulnerable family members, and even then, at a distance. She had not hugged another person in months. The loneliness of the COVID-19 pandemic settled in. The joy she used to get from returning home to a quiet and empty space now became a constant reminder of the distance between her and others—a reminder of the weight of being essential.

As the pandemic progressed, Emily noticed a shift in how colleagues dealt with the severity of the virus and the feelings it stirred in them. For many, the virus became almost commonplace. She could sense the desensitization building in those around her, and this bothered her. She felt unseen and unheard. Were others as tired, as shaken, as angry as she was? Emily searched the news for stories about other social workers like her—yearning for validation of her experiences. She saw newspaper articles and postings honoring the experiences of doctors and nurses during the pandemic. But where were the stories of the hospital social workers who worked side-by-side with these medical professionals? Emily soon realized she would not find the validation she needed in the news. It was a sad, sobering truth. She needed another way to handle the feelings she was experiencing. It was then she realized she would have to make active and renewed efforts at self-care. But making time for self-care was not as easy as she thought, given all the demands she was facing. It was just one more thing to do. The dreaded feeling of burnout eventually started to set in. Emily felt confused:

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 31


“what happens when the helpers need help?” she wondered. In a recent New York Times article, Tara ParkerPope stressed that self-care is not just something that should be at the forefront for practitioners during the pandemic; it should continue to be important even after the pandemic is over. 1 However, Piercy reported on studies that show the weight of the pandemic has created a barrier to the practice of self-care. 2 Time constraints, feelings of exhaustion, and being over-whelmed undermine our efforts. To counter these roadblocks to self-care, Clay notes the importance of recognizing our limitations to being productive during stressful times. 3 He reinforces the need to slow down and reassess priorities.

References Parker-Pope, T. (2021, January 9). Recycle your pandemic habits. The New York Times. https://


Piercy, L. (2020, September 8). New UK social work study zeros in on self-care during COVID-19. University of Kentucky News. https://uknow.uky. edu/research/new-uk-social-workstudy-zeros-selfcare-during-covid-19


Clay, R. (2020). Self-care has never been more important. American Psychological Association: Monitor on Psychology, 51 (5), 60. https://www.apa. org/monitor/2020/07/self-care


And so, for Emily, simplicity became the answer. She reassessed her needs and priorities. She resisted the urge to over-complicate and sought relief in small actions and experiences. As noted by Clay (2020), self-care can shine through a daily routine in simple ways, such as being attentive to how one feels emotionally, physically, and mentally at intervals throughout the day. In recent weeks, Emily has still felt a lack of validation and sometimes a lack of appreciation for the sacrifices she has made as an essential worker. However, she found some unexpected validation one quiet evening while washing dishes in her kitchen. Raising her head from the kitchen sink, she realized she could see a beautiful sunset just at the angle she was standing. Emily stopped what she was doing and allowed herself to watch the sunset—to just be. The beauty of the layered colors of sunset unfurled across the sky. She felt comforted knowing the sun would reappear in the morning. It made her feel secure. It was something simple. Something she could count on. She knew, no matter how dark the days can feel with the weight of the pandemic, the sun will always rise in the morning, bringing the promise of a better day for all essential workers.

32 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

About the Author: Jasmine Owarish-Gross is a licensed clinical social worker who works at an inpatient psychiatric facility. She is also an online therapist.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 33

Student Center



s an MSW student focusing on a Management & Policy Specialization, I have gained substantial knowledge and insight through my unique field placement in a non-traditional social work setting. Growing up in a family organized around social change, justice, and equality inspired me to become a social worker. When I initially enrolled in college, I was unfamiliar with the concept of macro social work. I just knew I wanted to help people, facilitate change, and deliver hope to those who need it.

organization’s medications, programs, and services more equitable. We raise uncomfortable questions, such as:

Looking for a masters level field placement— particularly a macro-focused placement—in the midst of a pandemic was a challenge. At first, I was hesitant; but I soon realized an increasing number of organizations that had closed their physical locations due to the pandemic were turning to virtual internship opportunities. Through dedication, determination, and research, my search evolved and eventually led me to a remote internship working in Health Equity and Patient Advocacy with a major pharmaceutical company.

The objectives of the work I am engaged in are to promote and seek improvement in the quality of care that patients receive. At the organization where I intern, this means focusing on supporting patient organizations, professional societies, and communitybased programs and expanding research in the areas of oncology, hematology, immunology, and cardiovascular disease. This includes the application of specific anti-racist frameworks and screening tools designed to improve overall health outcomes in populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases—addressing injustices and differences in health among various groups defined socially, economically, demographically and geographically.

In this position, I have had the opportunity to learn about and participate in efforts to make access to my

34 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

-Why does the organization lack diversity in patients enrolled in its clinical drug trials, when many who will need these drugs are minorities? -Why are social determinants of health not a priority— or notoriously underfunded—when it has been proven that attention to these issues improve health outcomes?

connect communities with the company’s products and resources. Additionally, we can bring our social work knowledge of the human condition to be a voice for social justice, equity, and ethics that many companies are seeking at this time.

Student Center

COVID-19 has forced organizations to reconsider how they work with interns and created some interesting new opportunities if you look in the right places. And modern technology—with almost everything accessible virtually—has given students around the globe the opportunity to gain the experience needed for their careers in new and different ways. With the right planning and management, many internships can become a virtual or remote placement. This is particularly true for macro social work placements in non-traditional settings, such as the one I obtained. Virtual field placements—while not what you may have been expecting in an internship—should not be feared. I have discovered far more pros than cons from my remote/virtual internship. The office is anywhere that includes a laptop with wi-fi access. I am able to easily communicate with staff via phone calls, email, instant messaging, chat rooms, web meetings, and so on. And I have been able to schedule my internship hours and activities in a way that allows me to maintain balance in my busy schedule. I want to emphasize that being in a remote field placement does not mean your responsibilities, assignments, research and workload are going to be less than in a traditional internship. Please remember you are crucial to the mission of your organization— they bring on interns for a reason. You are also responsible for fulfilling all work assignments on time without physical oversight, reporting to virtual team meetings as required, maintaining constant communication with your supervisors, and meeting your internship hours as assigned by your academic liaison. There are internship opportunities everywhere. Search and find the one that is best for you and fits your career goals and schedule. Prepare a wellwritten resume. Start by checking with your school’s career office for internships. Attend career fairs and networking events to learn about opportunities for social work students you may have never considered. Find a mentor and expand your networking resources. My current internship has been an unparalleled pleasure. It has been an honor to participate in an area where the contributions of social workers are less frequent, if not completely absent. Major companies are in need of social workers to help

About the Author: Rodrigo Cardenas is an Advanced Standing MSW student at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. He is currently interning at the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 35

Student Center

ESSENTIAL WORK IN ESSENTIAL TIMES by Leah Cunningham, MSW Class of 2021


arly in the Spring of 2019, facing my 50th birthday, I took account of where my work was headed and whether that was the way I wanted to spend the rest of my career. The answer was a resounding “no.” After twenty years in the software design industry, I finally realized my true calling was social work. I fell into software design quite by accident, and the money was good, so I just took the path of least resistance. It was okay, even exciting at first, back in the late nineties, when the internet was still mostly uncharted territory. I was able to make a meaningful contribution to society by bringing people together electronically. Once that time passed, it just became a job. In the end, I was working for an investment bank, designing applications that would make the rich richer, and I just didn't find meaning in it any longer. I was fortunate to have found excellent care in the social work community over the years. Knowing I was the one in control allowed me to excel without fear of the unexpected. I learned when to ask for help and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. This experience was key to my success

36 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

and would not have worked, were it not for the trust and teamwork of my therapist and psychiatrist. I was so moved and so changed by their support I decided to spend the rest of my career doing this work. Social work is a crucial lifeline, especially now. None of us who are currently on this educational journey knew what 2020 would bring. While the pandemic hit us all hard, it did not hit us all equally. As is the case with many disasters, COVID hit the economically disadvantaged and communities of color with particular voracity. As students, we have borne witness to the changing course of history while we were learning. We have been challenged to rise to the call when so many are suffering. Those who were in most need have been made even more vulnerable by this crisis, and others are finding themselves at risk for the first time in their lives. Because we are all in such unprecedented need, social work is essential work, now more than ever. Moreover, the way we care for others is changing. Telehealth is no longer an afterthought or used only

Student Center

in special cases. Technology and healthcare are coming together in new and better ways to lower barriers to care, reduce stigma, and reach those who are the most difficult to reach while keeping us all a bit safer. These changes to the way we work will permanently alter the landscape of healthcare, and students are living these changes. Personally, my past and future are coming together to marry technology and social work. Ideas abound on how to extend technology further into the helping professions. We are living through a horrible time, but there is also the opportunity to make a lasting impact. Social change, legislative change, and technological change all can come together to build us back stronger, with a sense of unity and urgency that we haven't seen in a century. As MSW students due to be licensed and practicing in just a few short months, my cohort and I have had the unique opportunity to learn from the harrowing experience of COVID in real time. We will rise out of it, knowing in our deepest core that our work is essential. We are on the front lines of a battle against this pandemic that will continue to be fought long after the vaccine is broadly distributed, and the death rate slows. We are all suffering a shared trauma. And while we are not all suffering in the same way, there is hope this experience will give birth to a shared global empathy and the renewed knowledge that none of us are invincible. We all have the fundamental human right to protect ourselves and our families from physical, social, and psychological peril. As soon-to-be licensed social workers, we are all eager to join that fight and stand, arm in arm, ready to wage the long battle back to safe, healthy, and productive lives.

About the Author: Leah Cunningham is an MSW student at the Rutgers University School of Social Work.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 37

Student Center

Meet Our Winter/Spring


MSW Intern

I am Adriana Marquez—proudly Latinx and a first generation BSW graduate currently pursuing my MSW at Seton Hall University. I will be graduating in August 2021. As a graduate of a lower-income school district and community, I know it is imperative to create attainable solutions that allow all children to have equal opportunity to unadulterated education. Education is the foundation of a child's development; however, teachers are constrained financially and experience high burnout rates. Access to necessary tools including training for our teachers is threatened due to lack of funds. These issues constrain young minds and impact students negatively. I chose to pursue a social work education because I desire to help these students. After graduation, I intend to serve low-income communities through the implementation of social service programs for schools and neighborhoods, both in the U.S. and internationally. Being an Intern at NASW-NJ has given me access to mentors I can learn from, honing my ability to network with professionals, and work on projects that matter.


Baccalaureate Intern My name is Lyric Patterson and I am a senior at William Paterson University. I am pursuing a degree in Sociology and Psychology and will be graduating in May 2021. When I graduate, my plan is to get a Master’s in counseling. I’m interested in working with the geriatric population in the future with the hope of raising awareness about the stigma of mental disorders affecting older adults and improving aging and memory care treatment. I want to be able to have a direct impact on people while also being able to help on a larger scale which is why I chose a helping profession. Through my internship at NASW-NJ, I hope to learn to be a better advocate for mental health treatment and lessen the stigma that surrounds it.

38 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

BSW Intern

Hello Everyone! My name is Denise Arias Rodriguez. I'm a first-generation college student currently attending Rutgers-Newark. I will be graduating in May with my bachelor's in Social Work, and a minor in Psychology. What drew me to social work was the opportunity for change. There are so many revolving doors in social work, whichever one you walk through will allow you to reach someone. Originally, I was interested in majoring in psychology however after taking a Contemporary Social Problems class at Middlesex County College, I realized I wanted to learn more about the systems in place, our roles within them, and how to reform those systems no longer serving the community. I understand the value that micro, mezzo, and macro social work have in society and am fortunate to have found a career that gives me so many resources for growth in each level.

Student Center


In September of 2020 I began my internship at NASW-NJ, it has been such an eye opening and rewarding experience. The work NASW-NJ does is paramount, even in regard to students. So far in this internship, I have had the opportunity to work on a myriad of programs, including: the Road to November campaign, setting the foundations for the first ever NASW-NJ Student Council, aiding with the Student Summit, and assisting with the upcoming LEAD day with the other interns on staff (which falls on Day 2 of the magnificent NASW-NJ Conference. Sign up if you haven't— its free for students!) I am deeply grateful for the experience thus far and am elated for what is yet to come.


My name is Jack and I’m a Junior at Seton Hall University, pursuing a Bachelor’s in Social Work. Social work has become more than a subject of study and more than an interest, it’s a passion. I sit on the executive board for Seton Hall’s Student Social Work Association. I also value the connections I have made with my professors and my peers; it is a really unique program. My primary interests are in macro social work practice because of its overwhelming influence on the future and impact on law, policy, communities, and organizations. However, all social work practice is intriguing to me and I may also be inclined to pursue a clinical path in my graduate studies just to have the proper educational experiences when and if I choose to engage in clinical work. My inspiration to become a social worker comes from within. I’ve always had an eagerness to help people wherever possible, and social work offers the unique opportunity to help people in multifaceted ways. I can work with communities on one hand, policy and institutions that influence law on another, or I can work with individuals and families. I see social work as a career that offers a way to get deeply involved with helping people in a broad and deeply important way. Finally, I’m excited to work with the amazing staff here at NASW-NJ, they all have unique experiences that can contribute to my learning. I hope to gain a better understanding of advocacy in all its forms, as well as learn about the policy and legislative process in our state.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 39

Sponsor Give a Student. Back

to the The results are in... Profession:

NASW-NJ has launched a campaign asking our social work community to sponsor NASW memberships for social work students. Times are tough – financially and emotionally – and we want to support future leaders in the profession: our students. Nurturing our social workers in training ensures the legacy of social work will continue into the next generation. Since the launch of this campaign, generous members like you have stepped up to sponsor over 200 student memberships. As a change agent in our community, you can help keep social work generations strong by sponsoring a student membership. Student membership costs $60 and helps provide students with connections to mentors and colleagues, as well as networking and other benefits. Not only that-student members are able to attend the NASW-NJ Annual Conference for free!

# of students sponsored/ sponsorships purchased

204 Total $ value of all sponsorships


Total # of people/schools who participated

62 Number of schools represented by sponsored students


To sponsor a student, make a secure donation here. If you want to sponsor a particular student please email Helen French at: and she will work with you.

40THANK | NJFOCUS YOU!• March 2021

Thank you... to these generous sponsors of student memberships in NASW. You have helped keep Social Work Generations Strong!

Afifa Ansari

Dawn Konrady

Donna Pincavage

Dawn Apgar

Hannah Korn-Heilner

Laurie Poppe

Ruslana Church

Phillip Lane

Juan Rios

Jenny Conger

Natalia Londono

Melissa Rovetto-Ruffner

Carrie Conger

Terry Lyons

M JoAnn Ruiz-Vazquez

Ralph Cuseglio

Lyons & Associates

Paul Saltaformaggio

Tanya Demartini

Patricia Magnotta

Annie Siegel

Jeff Dickert

Linda Matlack

Susan Simon-Fleischer

Katherine Findley

Caelin McCallum

Sierra Spriggs

Marline Francois-Madden

JudyAnn McCarthy

Miriam Stern

Helen French

Kathleen McHugh Akbar

Courtney Taylor

Tracy Grafton

Kecia Melvin

Jennifer Thompson

Chris Heer

Ariel Metzler

Monmouth University

Rod Herrera

Sarah Miller

Gil Velasquez

Christine Hippe-Ribaudo

Christopher Mussell

Lisa Wade

Christine James

Sadie Nash Leadership Project

Miguel Williams

Allison James Chantaya King Mary Beth Kohler Jeanne Koller

Widian Nicola

Nicole Wismer

Nkechi Okoli Carol Parker Phylis Peterman

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 41

NASW-NJ & FIELD EDUCATION COLLABORATION Academic Year 2020- 2021 NASW-NJ is committed to providing the next generation of social workers with the information, tools, opportunities and support needed to step forward into a rewarding and challenging career. These resources include volunteer opportunities, leadership opportunities, networking events, studentfocused activities and more.

Specific Activities for 2021 include: Social Work Student Leadership Council Free attendance at NASW-NJ webinars (which may count towards field hours) Free attendance at 2021 NASW-NJ Virtual Annual Conference (March 7, 2021) Free attendance at Legislative, Education, Advocacy Day (LEAD) (March 8, 2021) Social Work Students Summit, topics to include: o Social Work Professional Identity o Mentorship/NASW/Professional community connection o The Intersection of Micro and Macro Practice o Advocacy and social justice via clinical insight o Negotiation skills (Jobs and Salaries) Mentoring Program (in development) Networking Program (in development) Check out the full calendar on the next page. Registration for events is available here: Additional programs will be added. Non-members pay a nominal fee to attend. (Programs may be eligible for Field Education hours – check with your Field Director)

42 | NJFOCUS • March 2021


Calendar of Events Date/time

Suggested Competencies

NASW-NJ Virtual Annual Conference & LEAD

March, 7-8, 2021

1, 2, 3

2021 D&I Series: Making Justice More Healing & Transformative

March 10, 2021 11 am - 12:30 pm

1, 2, 3

Relational Gestalt Therapy (Morris Unit Event)

March 10, 2021 6-7 PM

1, 4

Mind-Body Therapies: Quieting the Neurological Landscape

March 18, 2021, 6-8pm

1, 3, 4

Third Thursdays: Monthly Virtual Chat with the Executive Director

March 18, 2021, 1-2pm

1, 2, 3

The Many Modes of Meditation (Bergen/Passaic Unit Event)

March 22, 2021, 6:30-7:30pm

Virtual Paint n’ Sip Self-Care Event

March 23, 2021, 7-9pm

1, 4

2021 D&I Series: The Criminalization of Race in America

March 29 2021 4:30-6:00pm

1, 2, 3

Innovation Lab

March 30th, 2021, 5-6pm

Alzheimer’s Disease: Effective Communication Strategies (Monmouth/Ocean Unit Event)

March 31, 2021, 6:30-7:30pm

Prescription Opioid Abuse and Dependence in New Jersey

April 8, 2021, 2-3pm

Third Thursdays: Monthly Virtual Chat with the Executive Director

April 15, 2021, 1-2pm

1, 4.

1 1, 4 1, 4 1, 2, 3

Learn more at:

NA SW - N J P re s en t s th e So cial W o rk

LICENSURE EXAM INSTITUTE BE PREPARED. Learn key strategies to help you pass the LSW & LCSW exams + regulatory tips & tools.



NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 43




or many years, CareOne has partnered with NASWNJ to sponsor educational events for community-based social workers. It is an extremely valuable partnership that honors CareOne’s view of social workers as the “glue” between our patients and the various home and communitybased agencies that provide support services for New Jersey seniors. CareOne has been providing healthcare services to seniors since 1999. With over 30 facilities in New Jersey (and growing) CareOne specializes in the transitions of care for those in need of subacute rehabilitation, homecare, hospice, assisted living, long term care, respite care and dementia care. CareOne social workers are always involved with the transitions of care. They assist with planning and implementing a comprehensive program including counseling and other services for residents and their families in each CareOne center. Social workers are able to identify, explain and create service plans for complex medical needs in a professional and compassionate manner. This is a patient-centered model of care, where the needs and goals of the resident take precedence in medical decision-making, especially when transitioning to a different level of care. CareOne is committed to caring for the whole person including their unique physical, social and mental health needs. All CareOne social workers are either licensed or certified. They are able to assess the resident upon admission, conduct family meetings, and help to develop the resident’s plan of

44 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

care. A key role of the CareOne social worker is to identify specific problems, goals and approaches in order to remove barriers. In this role, the social worker acts as a liaison between the resident/family and outside agencies, providing supports and services necessary for a safe transition back to the community or other setting. CareOne social workers partner with many home and community-based agencies to ensure that residents will be able to thrive at next level of care setting. Social workers also play an integral role in earning and maintaining trust. CareOne’s culture accentuates customer service, striving to provide the highest quality of service in a caring and compassionate atmosphere. CareOne social workers advance this culture on a daily basis and our centers could not be successful without their talent, professionalism and commitment. Learn more about our work at

Members Only Perks


ith nearly 6,500 members in our New Jersey family, you are part of a larger family of social workers, a network of friends and colleagues who share your commitment to the profession and strengthening our community. While the chapter has many opportunities to connect on a broader level—from educational programs to advocacy events, there are also many great ways for you to connect with your colleagues locally or on a specific area of interest. Read on to learn some ways in which you as a member can build your connections, network and grow in smaller, more intimate spaces—and virtually!

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 45




Miguel L. Williams, MSW, LSW, MA,

Michele L. Shropshire, DSW, LCSW, M.S.Ed.,

Mercer/Burlington Unit Chair

Mercer/Burlington Unit Co-Chair


into the new year with a presentation on The Discovery of the “Self” Using Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy (Terry S. Audate, LCSW-R; January 2021).

Program. My experience also includes nonprofit leadership both as an administrator and on the frontlines managing youth programs.

This past fall, our Unit held events which covered a variety of topics, including An Examination of COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health and the Aging Population (Dr. Jennifer A. Pax; October 2020), Social Workers as Advocates: From Practice to Policy (Joyce Campbell; November 2020), and we jumped

I feel it’s always helpful to know a little about the people running our Units, so here’s a little about myself. I believe social workers must have our hands in both micro and macro level practice, because they are not mutually exclusive. My academic profile includes a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with concentrations in forensic psychology and behavioral neuroscience from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (now known as Stockton University) and a master’s degree in Human Services with an emphasis in addiction and recovery counseling from Liberty University. In January 2020, I concluded my second graduate degree earning an MSW through Rutgers University’s Intensive Weekend

After years in nonprofit and serving on various boards and committees addressing minority rights, juvenile incarceration, and analyzing policy from a social justice standpoint, I have begun a new journey and am now working in state government doing reform and policy work within our juvenile justice system. Our goal is to see our system is better equipped in identifying community-based programs, is treatment oriented, and can offer juveniles alternatives to detention when public safety is not at risk. I hope one day, instead of seeing our youth as being “at-risk,” that we may view them as “at-promise.”

reetings from the NASW-NJ Mercer/Burlington Unit! I am Miguel Williams, your Unit Chair. During the pandemic, Dr. Michele Shropshire and I have hit the ground running as the new co-leaders of the Unit. Although we knew it would not be easy, we were ready and willing to take up the challenge of leading during these unprecedented times. After all, our profession empowers us to lead and assist individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities during challenging times.

46 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

And now some words from Michele, our Mercer/Burlington co-chair.

I am Michele Shropshire, and I am honored to be our Unit’s co-chair. As a native New Yorker (Bronx born, Queens raised) who decided to become a Jersey girl a year ago, New Jersey feels like home to me. Career-wise, my 20 years’ experience centers on progressing children and adolescents’ academic, social, and emotional development in the New York City Department of Education as a social worker and teacher. Presently, I am a clinician in the Committee on Special Education, where I help develop individual education plans and assess students who need additional therapeutic accommodations to support their learning. In addition, I am a therapist for a private practice that provides mental health care in New York, New Jersey, and to students in Africa remotely. I have also been teaching a graduate course at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service for over two years, which I thoroughly enjoy.



I am a licensed clinical social worker in New York and New Jersey and have an MSW degree from Fordham University. While there, I was selected to receive intensive training in Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The selectees were trained and provided supervision in TF-CBT by a Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center faculty member. In 2019, I completed my doctoral degree at the University of Southern California. My innovative doctoral project centered on using telemental health with children and adolescent students who are homebound and social work license reciprocity and mobility. As passionate social workers and Unit chairs, we are sensitive to the needs of our members. We have surveyed our Unit to find out what topics you are interested in and have offered programs in accordance with the survey results. Our Unit always has member engagement in mind, and we do our best to make ourselves accessible to you. We have seen a 1.75% increase in our unit’s members and continue to have great turnouts in registration and attendance. We welcome and have been joined by members of other statewide Units at our events. Thank you for your continued support of our Unit and participation as we learn together and lift up one another during these times. Miguel L. Williams, MSW, LSW, MA, Mercer/Burlington Unit Chair Michele L. Shropshire, DSW, LCSW, M.S.Ed., Mercer/Burlington Unit Co-Chair

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 47


contributed to the election of President Biden, flipping the Senate from “Red” to “Blue,” and maintaining a majority of legislators in the House of Representatives who reflect social work values. This is Democracy at its finest, not for the specific outcomes, but because more Americans exercised their right to vote and used their political voices than at any other time in our nation’s history.

NASW-NJ PACE: Furthering Democracy and Social Work Values Robert Kennedy Jr. once said, “democracy is messy, and it’s hard. It’s never easy.” These words have never rung so true as in the past four tumultuous years. We must also remember this sentiment in the years to come. Collectively and continuously, we must do the hard, messy work that ensures our democracy reflects and represents our needs, ideals, values, and beliefs. Democracy is hard not only for its complexities, but for the time one must devote to it. Our lives are full, and we may have only a few free hours on hand each week. Still, we cannot afford to miss our opportunity to have our voices heard. We must use the power of our collective voices to identify and work to elect the individuals who can best champion our causes—at the local, state, and national levels. Moreover, we must also work to cast out those leaders who no longer represent our values. The administration of the 45th President of the United States saw a massive erosion of the law, policies, and regulations that reflect the values of our profession. NASW’s National office, the NASW New Jersey Chapter, and many of you have worked tirelessly to protect those values. This work ultimately

48 | NJFOCUS • March 2021

NASW-NJ PACE is committed to bringing the promise of democracy to all of America’s people. We are deeply invested in ensuring and expanding access to the vote for all citizens and fighting efforts to disenfranchise voters—particularly voters of color, those who have been incarcerated, those who are impoverished, and other historically marginalized groups. We will continue to work with our state and national partners to encourage others to exercise their right to vote, oppose gerrymandered legislative maps, and most importantly, to encourage social workers to become involved in local, state, and national politics. Your contribution to NASW-NJ PACE ensures our Chapter can continue to strengthen its relationships with candidates who support the values, ethics and issues surrounding our profession. All funds donated directly to NASW-NJ PACE are used exclusively within our state.

Make Donations to: NASW-NJ PACE 30 Silverline Dr., Suite 3 North Brunswick, NJ 08902 This year, the entire New Jersey state legislature is up for election. With your help, NASW-NJ PACE will continue to support our allied legislators in this election and in the years to come. We will challenge legislators to support social work values and hold accountable those who contribute to the continued fraying of our society through regressive policies, falsehoods, or needless obstruction. We will build a society that is fairer, more just, more honest, and more representative of all those with whom we share it. La'Tesha Sampson, Ph.D, MPA, MSW, LCSW Chair, NASW-NJ PACE Anthony Gallo, MSW, LSW Treasurer, NASW-NJ PACE

Welcome to Member News—the newest feature in NASW-NJ FOCUS. This space will be dedicated to celebrating the professional achievements of our members from around New Jersey. Have you recently received a promotion? Started a new job? Opened your own practice? Been appointed to a Board of Directors or other organizational leadership position? Had a study funded or received a grant for your work? Keynoting at a major conference? Been published in a peer reviewed journal, featured in major news media, or published a book? Declared candidacy for or won elected office? Let us know! We want to highlight your professional accomplishments to underscore the great work being done by social workers in our state. Send submissions to




has accepted the position of Mental Health Program Manager at the Camden County Educational Services Commission.


has been hired to start a social work department at Centurion, an organization dedicated to the vindication of the wrongly convicted. She also maintains a private practice focusing on treating individuals with severe anxiety and somatization disorders.

ANNE T TE BECKLUND, LCSW, NBCCH... has been busy writing. She will be published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine (Becklund AL., Rapp-McCall L, Nudo J. Using weighted blankets in an inpatient mental health hospital to decrease anxiety. J Integr Med. 2020; xx(x): xxx–xxx) and had a feature interview in Popular Science, January 2021. She will have a chapter this fall in the Social Work Desk Reference on Understanding and Treating Autism. She also had an article published in Florida InFocus Magazine for the Florida Mental Health Counseling Association, "What Happens Under the Sheets Does Not Stay There Forever."


(Rutgers BSW 1994, MSW 1995, PhD 2009) is an LCSW and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor. She is now an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ramapo College of New Jersey and was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of the NJ Association for Infant Mental Health.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 49


Steve Jobs once said “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” We believe that to be a truth for the social work profession, as well.

Social work is rapidly changing. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that we must be forward thinking as a profession. We must be planning now for what our communities will look like in 5-10 years. We must be contemplating the “what-ifs” so we are prepared with solutions and practices that allow us to be nimble and responsive. And we must advocate for policies and legislation that reflect the nature of our work.

We see you, social work futurists— and we are with you. At NASW-NJ, we’ve had our heads in the clouds a bit too, thinking about virtual reality (VR), technology, telehealth and more. There is nothing more exciting than a group of big-thinkers coming together—think hack-a-thon meets social work.If you envision yourself at the forefront of social work practice and technological innovation—if you’re a big-thinker, an imagineer, or a disruptor who

challenges the status quo—we hope you’ll join us for the first meeting of our Social Work Innovation Lab, Tuesday March 30th at 6:00 p.m. for an open discussion about what you envision and how we, as your Association, can lead the way. This group will continue to lend expertise and drive innovation in the Chapter, meeting regularly. The future is now —help us meet it. Register at

Chapter Elections Chapter Elections Coming Later this Month Voting is critical to our organization. Each year, our membership votes on a group of individuals to serve as the programmatic volunteer leadership of the state chapter. This group of elected representatives is charged with working in collaboration with the chapter staff and in unison with the national board to meet the mission of our association. Our elected representatives bring their experience, passion and ideas to the table to help grow our chapter, make us stronger and build our community. This year, we’ll be electing the following positions: 1st Vice President MSW Student Representative BSW Student Representative Northwest Regional Representative Northeast Regional Representative Chapter Committee on Nominations & Leadership Identification (CCNLI) Delegate Assembly Voting will open later this month. Voting is open to members only. Watch our website and your email for more information on our slate of nominees and information on how to vote.

50 | NJFOCUS • March 2021


Unit Events 2021

Mar. 10

Mar. 31

(1.5 CEUs) Morris Unit Event Relational Gestalt Therapy 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Monmouth/Ocean Unit Event Alzheimer's disease: Effective Communication Strategies 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Mar. 11

Apr. 8

Bergen Passaic Private Practice Meeting 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Bergen Passaic Private Practice Meeting 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Essex Private Practice Meeting: Let's Talk About Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism from A Social Justice Work Perspective 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Essex Private Practice Meeting 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Mar. 22 Bergen/Passaic Unit Event The Many Modes of Meditation 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Mar. 24

Middlesex Unit Event Exploring Women's Revolutionary Activism In The Making Of The Indian Nation 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

May 11 Bergen/Passaic Unit Event Why EMDR: Understanding the Process 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

May 13 Bergen Passaic Private Practice Meeting 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM Essex Private Practice Meeting 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Additional events are being scheduled, be sure to check our calendar for the most recent information.

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 51 Register for these programs and more on our website.

Share your Interests. Share your Voice.

NASW-NJ SHARED INTEREST GROUPS The beauty of our profession is that it is diverse. From academia to private practice, macro social work to healthcare, there is no area that social work does not touch in some way. While we often come together in larger groups—sharing our different perspectives and from different places—sometimes its good to find your smaller group of “people”—social workers with shared interests or areas of practice. These smaller places are a great place to discuss unique challenges and needs in the field, as well as brainstorm on programs and help shape specific learning events that the Chapter hosts.

Over the last several months our Chapter has expanded our Shared Interest Groups to meet your needs—giving you more opportunities to connect and collaborate. These dedicated spaces meet on various schedules (virtually for now) and are busy sharing best practices in school social work, healthcare, and more. We invite you to check out the Shared Interest Groups and join a conversation or program. You can sign up for Shared Interest Group information here.

52 | NJFOCUS •March 2021


NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 53

Upcoming CE Programs

2021 (2021 Virtual Annual Conference) ENOUGH: Race, Responsibility, and Reconciliation March 07, 8:45 AM - March 08 6:15 PM 22 CEUs Register

Clinical Supervision Course April 15, 9:00 AM - April 23, 3:00 PM 20 CEUs Register

Relational Gestalt Therapy (Morris Unit Event) March 10, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM 1.5 CEUs Register

Advanced Clinical Supervision: Tips and Tools for Experienced Supervisors April 17 2021, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM 4 Clinical CEUs Register

Mind-Body Therapies (Free to members for Social Work Month. Non-members may attend for a fee) March 18, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 2 Clinical CEUs Register

Rethinking Reentry: COVID-19, Women, Grief & Loss May 12, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 2 Clinical CEUs Register

Prescription Opioid Misuse and Dependence in New Jersey April 08, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM 1 Prescription Opioid CEU Register

NEW JERSEY CONTINUING EDUCATION APPROVAL COLLABORATIVE Recognized by the NJ State Board of Social Work Examiners as an approving entity for social work CEUs in 54 |the NJFOCUS • March State of NJ.

Using Brainspotting to work with Shame and the Inner Critic May 20, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 2 Clinical CEUs Register

Add CE credits to your professional development course. To learn more & apply visit:


Rutgers School of Social Work's five-year strategic plan, Toward a More Just Future, envisions a future for our country and our world that is grounded in justice. We commit to leading for justice, through a focus on innovation, excellence, collaboration and community. Deeply grounded in inclusion, intersectionality, diversity, equity and advancement, our plan focuses on core elements of our mission as a leading school of social work. To learn more, and to read the entire plan, visit

| @RutgersSSW

NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 55



Digital delivery

Frequency: 1 issue

Full-color, camera-ready image sent to NASW-NJ via electronic upload

Full page/bleed: $1000

Advertorial: (story ad w/ image or logo) $1500

1/2 page: $700

1/3 page: $450

Inside back cover: $2000

Back cover—limited availability, call for details

CONTACT:, call 732-296-8070, or visit for more information.

56 56 || NJFOCUS NJFOCUS • • March March 2021 2021

NASW-NJ CLINICAL SUPERVISION CERTIFICATE Become a Clinical Supervisor Next Course Date is April 15


NJFOCUS • March 2021 | 57

3 NJ Offices: Highland Park Jersey City Freehold

Counseling & Psychotherapy In Person and Online 732-246-8439 Our specialties include: Sex therapy, LGBT Issues, Couples and Marriage, Teens and Families, Eating Disorders, Trauma/PTSD, Trans Youth, EMDR

58 | NJFOCUS • March 2021



MARCH 7-8, 2021



Be a part of the solution. Help chart the future of social work. Registration is open through March 5. EARN UP TO 14 CLINICAL CEUS (22 TOTAL CEUS)


Profile for socialworkers

NASW-NJ Focus Magazine - March 2021  

NASW-NJ Focus Magazine - March 2021  

Profile for naswnj

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded