C NNECTIONS October 2017 | Volume 1, Issue 1
C NNECTIONS C NNECTIONS EMPOWERING OUR FUTURE Resettlement Social Work in N.S Page 24
ETHICS IN ACTION
Stay on the Ethical Path Page 9
PRIVATE PRACTICE One Social Workerâ€™s Journey Page 16
Feminism Lives in the Body Page 20
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS of Social Work Page 6
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Share your social work story or news to connect with Nova Scotia’s social workers, advocacy & community groups, heath care professionals and more. WE INVITE YOUR ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON: • • •
New developments in any area of social work Findings from research that relates to the practice of social work or social justice Opinion pieces on social justice and social work related issues
MAGAZINE SECTIONS INCLUDE: • • •
Ethics in Action Social Justice Private Practice
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Diverse Communities Research Social Work Spotlight
Visit nscsw.org to read our editorial guidelines & learn more about the sections in Connection magazine. The Connection Editorial Committee reserves the right to edit all articles and reviews all articles for suitability and to ensure they meet the submission guidelines. The NSCSW reserves copyright for all articles published. Interested? Send your submissions to the College’s Promotions Coordinator, Collette Deschenes, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
C NNECTION C NNECTION
October 2017 | Volume 1, Issue 1
Published four times a year by the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers 1888 Brunswick Street, Suite 700 Halifax, NS B3J 3J8 Phone: 902.429.7799 Fax: 902.429.7650 Web: nscsw.org Connection is Â© Copyright 2017 by the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, and also reserves copyright for all articles. Reproduction without written permission from the publisher is not allowed.
COVER PHOTOGRAPHY: Michelle Doucette CREATIVE DIRECTION & DESIGN: Brittany Pickrem, Branding & Design EDITORIAL COMMITTEE: Harold Beals (RSW) Bessie Harris (RSW) Ngozi Otti (RSW, College Staff) Alec Stratford (RSW, College Staff) Annemieke Vink (RSW, College Staff) Collette Deschenes (Promotions Coordinator) ADVERTISING IN CONNECTION: To advertise please contact Collette Deschenes,
Next issue: January 2018 Submission deadline: December 7th 2017
Promotions Coordinator at email@example.com. See advertising rates at nscsw.org/advertise. CONNECT WITH THE COLLEGE: facebook.com/NSCSW @NSCSW
TABLE OF CONTENTS Volume 1, Issue 1
Celebrating 100 years with social work stories that connect
ETHICS IN ACTION
Stay on the Ethical Path
SOCIAL WORKER SPOTLIGHT
Op-ed: Cornwallis — it’s not about history, it’s about racism
Supporting and serving the African Nova Scotia Community
Lessons Learned: My Journey into Private Practice
Contributions and Connection: Harold’s history with the NSCSW
Feminism Lives in the Body
Empowering Our Future: Resettlement Social Work in Nova Scotia
Jane Wisdom: Rebuilding a City, Building a Profession
October 2017 | Connection 5
Celebrating 100 years with social work stories that connect
Nova Scotians need, now more than ever, leaders who value diversity, challenge injustices and advocate for policies to improve our social conditions.
Social workers are those leaders as they provide essential services to support Nova Scotians lead healthier, happier lives. We want to help share their stories and struggles and celebrate their successes in Connection magazine Connection began as a newsletter back in 1966 when the College (then Association) was just three years old. We’ve built on our member’s support and recognition of Connection by transforming the publication into the full-colour magazine you see today. The new Connection magazine reflects the College’s evolution as we continue to regulate the profession while working in solidarity with Nova Scotians to advocate for improvement to social policies and programs. We hope that Connection will illustrate the realities and challenges that social workers face, promote the profession’s passionate work and bring stories from our community to life.
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While the College has a rich history of sharing social work stories, the social work profession itself has a deep-rooted history in Nova Scotia as 2017 officially marks 100 years of social work in Nova Scotia. We’re celebrating 100 years in this issue with stories about our past, present and future. You’ll read more about the profession’s beginning in our province in the feature story: Jane Wisdom: Rebuilding a City, Building a Profession (page 27). We’ll also look at our future as we highlight how resettlement social workers at ISANS empower newcomers who help empower our collective future (page 24) Moving forward, we encourage you, our social work community, to contribute your social work stories, research and ideas to Connection. Help us shed light on the profession.
Alec Stratford, MSW, RSW Registrar/Executive Director
New NSCSW Members New Private Practitioners, Registered Social Workers and Social Worker Candidates APRIL 2017-SEPTEMBER 2017
PRIVATE PRACTICE APPROVALS Ascroft-Boyd, Sherri Barrett, Tessa Blanchard Segal, Nicole Bourque, Christopher Cameron, Jennifer MacIsaac, Michelle McCulloch, Maggie Morouney, Joyce Rasti, Fatima Tavares, Joshua Tufts, Peter Woodcock, Amandra
RSW DESIGNATION Badman, Joelle Bissonnette, Erin Bond, Karla Brooks, Charnell Butt, Angelina Byers, Nicole Callaghan, Catherine Clairmont, Daniel Conohan, Ellen Cox, Karen Crowe, Brianna Earle-Lambert, Alexandra Fraser, Carol Gates, Steven Gould, John Gouthro, David Granke, Sarah Hattie, Nicole Heidebrecht, Karen Jacob, Abur Jonkman, Tanya
Kilbreath, Kelly Ann Lahey, Crystal Little, Carla Maccuspic, Carly MacLeod, Kelsey MacPhail, Sarah Martin, Danielle Matheson, Ferne McKenna, Lindsay Mitchell, Mitzi Morse, Trevor Moss, Tanya Myers, Marie O’Connor, Jayne Parker, Lindsay Pridham, Chelsea Rasmussen, Shannon Richardson, Renne Rudderham, Jasmine Sheffield, Ashley Thibault, Deborah Titus, Michelle Tournidis, Jocelyn
SOCIAL WORKER CANDIDATE – APPROVAL Allan, Stephanie Arnoldin, Patricia Atkinson, Grace Avery, Ashley Baker, Mitchell Bernard, Roberta Borden, Hayley Braun, Katrina Campbell, Robin Chapman, Stefani Dollimont, Jillian
Ells, Mackenzie Ferguson, Alyssha Gale, Mickella Gogan, Amanda Goodwin, Shaun Hunter, Erika Kandziora, Calandra Kasheke, Mercy Kennedy, Samantha Kerr, Heather Landon, Andrew Lenthall-Ascott, Lorraine MacLeod, Mallory Macphee, David Maloney, Kelsie Marshall, Conchetta Martelle, Meagan Matthews, Jerica McConnell, Kaleigh Morrison, Amanda Murphy, Kristina O’Hearn, Kayla O’Neil, Megan Orchard, Brittany Otti, Ngozi Potter, Breagh Purdy, Lauren Revels, Leann Ring, Nicole Riswold, Kursten Ross, Heather Ann Sobhani, Shabnam Tacoma, Natasha White, Angella Young, Marie Young, Sophie
October 2017 | Connection 7
STAY ON THE ETHICAL PATH BY ALEC STRATFORD, MSW, RSW
After graduating as a social worker from Saint Thomas University; I was fortunate and privileged enough to be recruited for a job in Newfoundland. Myself and a few classmates had the pleasure and challenge of starting our careers in the remote and isolated beauty of western Newfoundland. This area, like many here in Nova Scotia, was devastated by the closing of the cod fishery. Many of the families that we worked with had either moved from their villages into the cities as they sought out opportunities that never seemed to come or they stayed in their communities and tried to create a glimmer of hope for the future. We arrived shortly after the province conducted a very tough child death review which blatantly blamed front-line workers for the child’s death, rather than examining the broader system as a whole (Ethics in Action for another day). This report led to new training for its child protection workers. The training focused on policy around record keeping, assessments and other technocratic legal procedures. Immediately after completing my core training, I had a caseload handed over to me. My manager explained that a family that was just transferred to my caseload had experienced a traumatic event the night before. Both the manager, the on-call social worker and the family’s previous social worker felt that removing the children was in their best interest. Our first interview took place in a jail cell where they had just spent the night. I began my relationship with this family in one of the darkest places in their journey. A narrative continued to develop as I interviewed people who knew the family. Both parents had addiction issues.
When they were using, they were often violent towards each other, and they coached their children to cover for this violent behaviour. As I reviewed the notes from the file there it was time and time again. One child made a statement that contrasted the external evidence of the event and the other child would verify what the first child said almost verbatim.
My co-workers and managers were convinced that the parents coached the child to cover for their behaviour. They were pressuring me to use this assumption as evidence of emotional abuse, on top of the violence that the children had witnessed. The Code of Ethics asks us to uphold each person’s right to self-determination, consistent with that person’s capacity and with the rights of others. As an ethical principle, people in unequal situations have the right to be treated differently to create greater equality. Social workers also advocate for equal treatment and protection under the law and challenge injustices, especially injustices that affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged. I was in an environment where I was pressured to make decisions based on the past experiences of coworkers, the sensitivity created by the child death review, the new legal procedures and the central believe held by many of those around me that the children were safer away from
October 2017 | Connection 9
What grounded my work was the capacity to resist and question assumptions and to build a relationship with the family that was put at the center of all decision-making. A relationship that was rooted in empathy, driven by solidarity and worked towards liberation.
their parents. The Code of Ethics seemed irrelevant and far removed from the tasks at hand. This pressure to ignore the Code of Ethics did not sit well with me and I needed to make a choice. I had a choice to resist the agency’s perception of the family and to put the values, principles and profession’s ethics in the driver’s seat. I knew I could not ethically make decisions without taking the time to get to know the family and the structures that they interacted with. Before I could make any decision, I needed to build trust and create meaning alongside the family. As we worked together I gained the family’s trust by empathically listening and understanding their history and goals. Throughout this process, the relationship shifted as they began to talk candidly about their upbringing and struggles with addiction and violence. This open conversation allowed them to be more honest about seeking support. It also allowed me to ask honest and candid questions about the concerns that they were coaching their children to cover up for their addiction issues. The parents were adamant that this was not the case and explained that their children were always trying to protect them. This was a turning point in our relationship. I had general knowledge of the behaviours that family members display while living with people with addictions. That protective behaviour statement resonated. I quickly researched and brought evidence to my managers that these protective behaviours better explained the actions of the children then the coaching narrative. When I raised these
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discoveries with the parents even more meaning was created. They made a greater connection to how their addictions were impacting their kids. They used this as motivation to seek support and get healthy. More importantly, the family’s work did eventually lead to them being reunited. Ethical dilemmas were continuously thrown at me throughout this journey. From the duel relationship concerns that emerged from practicing social work in a small town, to the tensions created by confidentiality vs self-determination dilemmas. What grounded my work was the capacity to resist and question assumptions and to build a relationship with the family that was put at the center of all decision-making. A relationship that was rooted in empathy, driven by solidarity and worked towards liberation.
About Alec: Alec Stratford is the NSCSW’s Executive Director/ Registrar. He has worked as a child protection social worker, school support counselor, community organizer wand as a sessional instructor. Alec has a passion and dedication for community development and believes that engaged informed communities can lead to transformative change. Alec brings a wealth of knowledge on adult and experiential learning and its connection to social change.
RENEWAL SEASON IS HERE It’s time to renew! We encourage you to complete your renewal as soon as possible to avoid any last-minute rush during the holiday season. Please note: The NSCSW office will be open over the holidays from December 27-29 to assist and answer questions. Here’s a refresher of the steps you’ll take to receive your 2018 practice permit. 1. LOGIN TO YOUR MEMBER PLATFORM
Visit nscsw.org and click on Login in the top right corner of the screen. Enter your username and password to get started. Forgot your username or password? Enter your primary email under ‘Forgot your password.'
Choose the Pay Now option to pay online or Invoice Me if payment will be made at a later date.
2. ENTER YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT HOURS You cannot access the annual renewal form until you have entered all of your hours!
3. COMPLETE THE RENEWAL FORM Ensure all updates and changes are made.
5. PROOF OF REGISTRATION Once your payment is made you may print your certificate of registration, wallet card and receipt.
QUESTIONS? Contact the College’s Executive Assistant, Nancy Viner, at 902.429.7799 extension 226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORNWALLIS It’s not about history, It’s about racism BY ROBERT DEVET
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On Saturday, July 15, 2017 we draped a big ugly tarp over the Cornwallis statue, and for a brief few hours we were allowed to imagine a city that doesn’t aggressively insist on honoring its racist founder. Three hours later the city removed the tarp, and we were back to business as usual. Even a weekend without Cornwallis was deemed too long. These three hours were wonderful though. The statue should go, of course, but I thought seeing the tarp being put in place was extremely moving. I don’t think I was the only one who felt this. Which brings me to the point of this op-ed. From the white men who write editorials in the Globe and Mail, to the ugly white supremacists who post on Facebook and Twitter, to the Cornwallis debates at Halifax Council there has been a lot of talk about the importance of respecting the historical record. “They also took scalps,” “what about so and so, he wasn’t a nice guy either, you have to understand Cornwallis in the context of his time, you can’t rewrite history,” the statue lovers say. “That the words fact- or evidence-based be added prior to “recommendations to recognize and commemorate” in the main motion, somecouncillors suggested. “I apologize for the use of the word “Warpath”. Hopefully “cooler heads” will prevail whereby everyone’s heritage is acknowledged & respected,” tweets hothead councillor and dog whistler extraordinaire David Hendsbee.
All this misses the point. The discussion shouldn’t be about the historic record, it should be about the deep wounds inflicted over time by our city and province onto the Mi’kmaq – assimilation policies, racism, sixties scoop, residential schools, neglect, neglect, neglect, all facts beyond dispute, much of it still ongoing.
Rather than focusing on the historic record we should recognize that the Cornwallis statue at this time has become the symbol of all these deeply hurtful things. No doubt Cornwallis was a cruel leader and a pathetic excuse for a human being. But the Cornwallis statue must go, and must go now, even if we were to find that Cornwallis was donating to the United Way all along. Its continuing presence is hurtful and racist in that it’s telling the Mi’kmaq they don’t count. We have been rewriting history ever since we renamed Kjipuktuk to Halifax, and it never was an issue. You really have to wonder why so many white people all of a sudden have a problem with it. Robery Devet is a reporter and freelance writer. He also runs the Nova Scotia publication, The Nova Scotia Advocate. This article originally appeared in, The Nova Scotia Advocate, which covers issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. Visit The Nova Scotia Advocate online at: https://nsadvocate.org/ Photo on page 12 courtesy of Simon Devet
October 2017 | Connection 13
SUPPORTING AND SERVING The African Nova Scotia Community THE ASSOCIATION OF BLACK SOCIAL WORKERS (ABSW) is a volunteer charitable organization
THE ABSW’S OBJECTIVES ARE:
consisting of black social workers and human service workers throughout the province. The ABSW is a forum through which black social workers and workers in related fields can exchange ideas, offer services and develop programs in the interest of the black community and the community at large.
• To advance education by providing courses, seminars, and workshops about social work related projects and programs geared towards persons of African descent.
ABSW was originally formed in Montreal, Canada in 1977 and the Nova Scotia group started in 1979 and was reactivated in 1987.
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• To advance education by providing scholarships, bursaries, awards and other forms of financial assistance to persons of African descent enrolled in a social work degree program. • To do all incidental and ancillary things to achieve the other objectives above.
The Nova Scotia Association of Black Social Workers has existed for the past 38 years. Dr.Diane Jacobs, a social worker who had been studying MSW at Howard University, brought the idea to Canada.
PRESENTATIONS & TRAINING THE NSABSW: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN The Nova Scotia Association of Black Social Workers has existed for the past 38 years. Dr. Diane Jacobs, a social worker who had been studying MSW at Howard University, brought the idea to Canada. She was introduced to the ABSW at a National ABSW conference. Working as a social worker in Montreal, Canada, she recognized the need for an ABSW in Canada & created one in the city. Maxine Sheppard, a Nova Scotia native was a student of Dr. Jacobs. Maxine was excited as she brought the idea back to Nova Scotia.
The NSABSW has survived over the years through partnerships and grant funding. The organization has formed partnerships with other organizations inside and outside the African Nova Scotia (ANS) community. These partnerships have fostered many opportunities for interdisciplinary programs and projects to service this population.
ABSW provides an immense amount of training. Africentric Theory training is increasingly required and requested within organizations servicing ANS’s directly but also those that are seeking to be more culturally aware. The organization also presents on topics they’ve researched including: family violence, disability, women’s health, healthy eating, mental health, addictions, grief and gambling.
CHALLENGES & STRATEGIES The NSABSW faces the challenge of lack of funding and resources. Although they’ve received grants, the NSABSW does not have core funding which means that time is spent fundraising rather than providing services.
NEW & CONTINUING PARTNERSHIPS
Recruiting participants is a challenge as the organization aims to implement programs within the community. Potential participants may face issues with location, access to transportation, child care, and advertisement strategies. Upon learning of these barriers, ABSW seeks to eliminate them as much as possible.
As the NSABSW continues with established partnerships, they have also established many new partnerships.
An example of this is the Africentric Immersion Summer Camp, which interconnects social work, education, recreation, and business. This camp teaches ANS students in grades five and 6 about literacy, math, science, recreation, entrepreneurship and social work all in an Africentric way. Parents are also very involved and engaged in their children’s learning. This camp runs for four weeks in the summer in a low-income area in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). This partnership is a true example of working interdisciplinary to enhance the well-being of the ANS community.
As demands for services grow, ABSW needs permanent funding to enable the organization to hire a second social worker. There are many areas that ABSW has been unable to address due to limited resources including sexualized violence opportunities as well as disabilities, HIV and other Sexually transmitted and blood borne infections.
Learn more about the NSABSW at nsabsw.ca
October 2017 | Connection 15
Lessons Learned: My Journey into Private Practice BY HEIDI STURGEON, MSW, RSW I began my journey to create a social work private practice in NS back in January 2016. I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary, as a Registered Social Worker (RSW) in private practice on July 18, 2017. The one-year mark of my private practice prompted me to reflect on the past year as I’ve created and established my business. This has also been the first year, since 1994, that I have not worked within a government system. Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise Thinking back to early 2016 brings a smile to my face. I recall the worrisome conversations I had as I tried to decide if I was making the right decision. My mind was plagued with thoughts that I should forget about this dream and go back to the known and secure. Fear was a constant companion, especially as I prepared to launch my website! The acronym for F.E.A.R, Forget Everything And Run OR Face Everything And Rise, truly resonated with me. I could easily connect with feeling the “Forget Everything And Run.” Amidst the FEAR and overanalysing thoughts, I was excited about having my own business. I enjoyed the learning that came along with opening a business/private practice. I was excited as I researched and planned how to offer secure and confidential online therapy services - in hopes of reaching those clients who face barriers to accessing office therapy appointments. Social work skills in business planning My reflections lead me to think about the lessons I learned throughout my journey. I realized that many of my social work skills are transferable to other areas. Social work skills that I can now utilize as a business owner. Here’s how I incorporated my social work skills into creating and managing my business. I hope these lessons may help guide you on your own journey into private practice.
FIVE LESSONS (AMONG MANY) LEARNED: 1. IT IS A BIG DECISION! The thought of launching out my own made me feel liberated. I felt freedom! However, the road to opening my practice was paved with many decisions and many conversations. Although I truly believe in creating a life aligned with my values, there were important personal decisions to consider prior to starting my business.
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Whether you are alone and/or in a committed relationship it is important to explore and communicate your plans as your decision will affect your financial situation. Answering these questions can help guide you as you explore the prospect of pursuing your private practice: • • • •
Will I leave my job? Will I ask for a leave of absence from my job? Will I work reduced hours? How much savings will I need to have to sustain my current standard of living? • What am I willing to let go of to pursue this? • Will I work primarily for myself or ask other therapists to join me? • Will I explore the option to join an already established private practice? Social work transferable skills: Social workers help others with goals and planning on a regular basis. You’ll draw on your social work skills in case management, planning and developing S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant & timely) goals as you create a plan for your private practice.
2. YOU ARE AN ENTREPRENEUR/BUSINESS OWNER As an entrepreneur, you’ll invest “behind the scenes” into marketing, finances, business planning, networking, creating and maintaining a website, blog or newsletter. As an aspiring business owner, you should consider these questions: • Where will I see clients? • What will I charge? • Do I have contacts or referrals who may assist me in obtaining contract work? • Will I have a website? • Will I create my own website or hire someone to do this? • Who is my target audience? How will I reach them? • Do I need additional information on accounting/finances? • Do I need to register a business name? • Do I need an HST number? • What community resources are available to help with business start up’s/networking etc.? Social work transferable skills: Social workers have skills to navigate systems, gather and analyse information and create a plan from the data gathered. Social workers can connect easily with others, are often very open to asking for help, are accustomed to consulting with others and having supervision.
3. ONLINE PRESENCE IS IMPORTANT In today’s market, it is essential to have online presence. Potential clients want to search for potential therapists. Clients may want to read about your approach, your experience and qualifications so they can make an informed decision. This is a huge shift from how I worked in the past. It is important to consider your online presence by asking yourself these questions: • Will I have a website? • What information do I want to share on my • • • • •
website that would connect with clients? Will I have a Psychology Today Profile? Other? Will I have a LinkedIn profile? What social media applications will I use, if any? Will I have photos of me? Will I have photos of my office space?
Social work transferable skills: Social workers regularly engage and connect with others. Your ability as a social worker to navigate different systems is useful as you navigate the online world.
4. SUPPORT I’ve worked on various multi-disciplinary teams over the years so working solo was a BIG change! I have a newfound appreciation for my close colleague support and consultation over the years. As you plan your own private practice you should consider your support network and ask yourself these questions: • Will I find a peer supervision group? • Will I hire a clinical supervisor? • Will I attend local networking events with other business owners? • What social work events will I participate in to stay connected to my profession? • Will I stay connected through social work educational opportunities? Social work transferable skills: Social workers excel at identifying needs and gaps in services. These skills will assist to identify your support system.
5. PLAN AND START EARLY Once you decide to work as a social worker in private practice in Nova Scotia there are important steps to take before you see your first private client.
• What is the private practice registration process with the NSCSW? • What information and documentation will I need to obtain to be registered as a social worker in private practice? • How long does this process take? • What type of insurance do I require? • What do I need to know about client’s health insurance – will my services be covered? Social Work transferable skills: Your social work skills in planning, identifying needs, assessing and gathering information will also help as you prepare for your first client in private practice.
CONTINUALLY LEARNING AND GROWING So yes, there are many factors to consider as you plan your business as a social worker in private practice. Trust me with less than two years in private practice I am still learning! Through my reflections, I recognise that I no longer feel the FEAR of “Forget Everything and Run”. Yes, there are moments where fear still peeks its head in. I try to practice what I teach including self-compassion and self-kindness and I remind myself that I am doing the work that I love. I am learning and growing everyday on my journey managing my private practice.
About Heidi: Heidi Sturgeon, MSW, RSW, is a private practitioner with over twenty years’ experience in social services and health care, including mental health and addictions. She gained extensive experience working with individuals, families, multidisciplinary teams, community programs and government departments. Heidi works from a trauma informed care lens and her counselling approaches include Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), brief solution focused therapy, motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and mindfulness. She completed her Masters in Clinical Social Work at the University of Toronto in 1997.
FIND HEIDI ONLINE AT WWW.HEIDISTURGEON.COM
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CONTRIBUTIONS & CONNECTION Harold’s history with the NSCSW BY COLLETTE DESCHENES, NSCSW PROMOTIONS COORDINATOR
PART OF HIS PROFESSION From an Association to a College, the NSCSW has undoubtedly evolved significantly over the years. One social worker has seen and supported it all. Harold Beals wanted to connect with his profession from the beginning. After graduating in 1968 with a Master of Social Work from the then Maritime School of Social Work, he immediately sought out a way to contribute to the province’s social work community. The Association was the answer. Harold became a Registered Social Worker (RSW) through the Association right away just five years after the organization was established in 1963. “There was nothing else that brought social workers together at the time my involvement with the Association - it made me feel connected to the social work community.”
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He began his longstanding contributions as a volunteer. His urge for involvement lead him to serve many roles as the chair of various committees and eventually as president of the Association’s Council from 1979-1981. Throughout his early volunteer years with the organization, Harold worked full-time for the Department of Community Services as a social work supervisor for Child Protection Services. He recalls some of the challenges he and his colleagues faced after their work in the field. “We [social workers] remember things from our cases. Some situations can linger with you.”
“There was nothing else that brought social workers together at the time My involvement with the Association - it made me feel connected to the social work community.”
COMMITTED THROUGH THE CHALLENGES Harold’s passion for developing social policies and programs for families and children kept him with the Department of Community Services until 1994. In 1994 he became the Nova Scotia Association of Social Worker’s first Executive Director. This started as a part-time position but eventually became the first full-time position in the organization’s history. He had his work cut out for him. The new Social Workers Act came into effect the previous year in 1993 which introduced mandatory licensure for all Nova Scotia social workers. “If we were behind without regulations…you can see how behind the public would be. Finally, the public catches up and sees that yes social work is a regulated profession and it should be. But there was still that confusion in their mind about what we did…and there still is today. Social work is not as neatly defined as other professions. These things take time,” he explains. Coming in as Executive Director during a difficult, albeit exciting, time is one of Harold’s greatest professional accomplishments. “No policies, no procedures, just myself and a secretary and a volunteer group working to bring things together.” It was a challenge he committed to as he drove the implementation of the new Social Workers Act. Harold also worked tirelessly to develop a profile of competencies for social work in NS, helped plan the 2006 National Social Work Conference, co-authored a book on the organization’s history and spearheaded previous social justice committee work on child and youth mental health.
COMMUNICATING SOCIAL WORK’S VOICE Along with all the changes, policy creation and procedures, Harold also faced the task of communicating with members across the province. Connection newsletter was one of Harold’s main communications tools. The first issue was published in 1966 just three years after proclamation of the first Social Workers Act of 1963.
The newsletter evolved over 52 years into the full-colour magazine you’re reading today. Harold witnessed Connection’s evolution as he contributed many articles over the years – many relating to his passions of social justice and child welfare. He also took on the task of creating the newsletter in-house in 2003. Although he retired as a paid employee in 2005, Harold continued to produce the quarterly newsletter version of Connection until April 2017. It’s easy to see the impact of Harold’s dedication to the profession. With his help Connection always kept its promise to inform the public and to give members an outlet to communicate ideas on ways to help resolve issues.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE After decades working and volunteering for the organization Harold still dedicates his time to the College and contributing to the profession. His passion for social justice and sharing social work voices keeps him connected to the College on the social justice and editorial committee. It’s his hope that social justice and advocacy continue to be vital components of the organization. “The organization must continue to be active and dynamic. We need to share the social work perspective and we need to respond to a changing society. My main hope going into the future would be to keep up the advocacy.”
Dive deeper into the College’s rich history by reading History of the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers (1963 – 2010) at nscsw.org. This history read, which outlines the organization’s path to licensure, was written by Harold in collaboration with co-author Bessie Harris. The information they gathered helps to show the evolution and accomplishments of the organization over the course of fourty years.
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FEMINISM LIVES IN THE BODY BY: PATRICIA ARNOLDIN, E-RYT, TIYT, MSW, SWC
THE NOURISHING SOIL AND ROOTS In Canada, we know the statistics of sexualized violence are horrific. Recently, the YWCA (2015) estimated that 460,000 women experience sexualized violence every year in Canada.1 Needless to say, it is an epidemic that needs an end. While working towards that end, I made it my personal goal – my dharma, if you will – to uncover a comprehensive healing for women who have experienced sexualized violence. My personal experience of healing from sexualized violence, through a combination of feminist and yoga practices, was invaluable. So, I sought out specific education, studying the depths of feminist social work and yoga. With nothing more than personal experience and years of education, I was curious as to whether I was completely biased or if others could relate. I asked the question: How might a yoga practice and feminist experience intersect to support the healing process of women survivors of sexualized violence. The trauma of sexualized violence lingers long after the attack or abuse has ended,2,3 therefore understanding just how sexualized violence affects women is imperative. Literature overwhelmingly indicates that sexualized violence permeates everything from one’s sense of self, intimate relationships, sexuality, parenting, mental health, sense of control or agency over one’s body, sense of control over one’s life and the ability to make choices, feelings of shame and blame, and feelings of isolation.2,3,5,6,7 Numerous symptoms associated with the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are also present: heightened startle response, memory impairments, intrusive memories, poor concentration, emotional numbness, and sleep disturbances.2,4 Trauma may also present as fibromyalgia, back and neck pain, migraines, digestive issues, fatigue, or even paralysis.3,7 Suffice to say, like any major trauma, sexualized violence profoundly impacts a woman’s cognitive, affective, and embodied health. For those of us in the social work community, it is likely no surprise that feminist social work is invaluable in healing from sexualized violence. Time and again, research demonstrates how the political practice of feminism addresses the cognitive and affective trauma associated with sexualized violence.8,9,10 Feminist therapy understands that gender greatly affects women’s lives10,11,12,13 and, therefore, supports women in re-conceptualizing the trauma within systems of patriarchy,9 instead of holding personal shame.
Likewise, many of us have felt intuitively confident in the healing power of yoga for our daily dramas as well as experiences of oppression and trauma. However, we live in a culture that tends to appreciate tangible knowledge, well beyond any intuition. While research exploring the healing benefits of yoga for sexualized trauma is limited, it is growing.
A developing body of research shows that yoga helps people who have experienced sexualized violence. It reconnects clients with their physical body, creates a deeper awareness of self, develops compassion and a desire to care for oneself and one’s body. It also increases personal power, cultivates a sense of control and ownership over one’s body, and decreases symptoms of PTSD.3,4,5,14,15 Ground breaking research by van der Kolk demonstrated that embodied practices of breath work and yoga enables clients to work through sexualized trauma without feeling as though their body is being taken over by the automatic fight/flight/ freeze/submit/attach reactions of their sympathetic nervous system.3 Perhaps then it is no surprise that yoga has been shown to be a valuable addendum to traditional forms of talk therapy.14,16,17,18 Additionally, yoga and feminist practices have been shown to work quite well together in a myriad of capacities.14,19,20,21 Interestingly, however, research on the merger of yoga and feminist practices with women who have experienced sexualized violence is scant, at best. Thus, herein lies the foundation for my personal research, exploring the intersection of feminism and yoga with women who have experienced sexualized violence (see Figure 1).22 The connection of feminism with women survivors of sexualized violence, yoga with women survivors of sexualized violence, as well as yoga and feminism together. Exposing the connections gave reason to explore a possible interconnection of all three, as indicated in the white triangle.22
October 2017 | Connection 21
Women Survivors of Sexualized Violence
FIGURE 1 THE TREE TRUNK EXTENDING TO THE BRANCHES Through feminist based thematic analysis of three data collection methods – interviews, creative expressions, and focus groups – it became clear that what lives within the intersection is much more than simply the combined benefits of yoga and feminist healing.
I UNCOVERED THESE FIVE THEMES WITHIN THE WHITE INTERSECTION: • • • • •
Safe community Internalizing an enduring body image Challenging the dualism of mind and body Letting go Transforming vulnerability into strength into empowerment22
Uncovering the themes was easy, organizing and comprehending these themes was not! Consistently, I came back to the participants’ assertions that, while feminist and yoga practices were invaluable in their healing process, neither were all-encompassing.22 What was it about the combination of yoga and feminist practices that was so unique?
THE LEAVES Late one November night, as I ate my children’s leftover Halloween candy and again stared blankly at the pages upon pages of tear-stained data, it hit me. As I reflected on the data collection process, suddenly I realized the unique finding of this research. It had literally been in front of me the entire time. It was a hot summer afternoon when one participant said to me, “Feminism lives in the body.” This lead to the realization that all participants, in one way or another, were sharing that feminism was an embodied experience and yoga was a cognitive experience.22 At the time, this jarred me. I wondered: If feminism is
22 Connection | October 2017
FEMINIST YOGA: ON THE MAT
Moving off the mat
Making political linkages
Valuing multiple ways of knowing
Language to name personal realities
Reconstructing body image
embodied and yoga is cognitive, then what was the point of my research? Did each practice have it figured out individually? I found the answers within the very conundrum I was questioning. Just as feminism and yoga could be complicated healing practices, only fully understood in their entireties, the intersection of feminism and yoga is also a complicated healing practice, which is best understood in its entirety. At first, I attempted to consider feminism and yoga as two separate, overlapping practices. What I uncovered, however, was a comprehensive healing practice that was its own, unique therapeutic experience.
THE ENTIRE TREE Circling back to the five themes mentioned above, the feminist yoga healing experience was described as an infinity symbol, with these themes constantly moving within (see Figure 2).22 Essentially, women shared that the combination of feminism and yoga created a safe and connected community in which they reconstructed their body image without patriarchal constructs, experienced their mind and body together (not as dualistic components), and were able let go of stress and patriarchal shame (enabling them to absorb the healing feminist language).22 The cyclical nature of the feminist yoga healing process encouraged the women to open up to vulnerability, which then fostered strength, and lead to empowerment, ultimately enabling them to return to vulnerability with even more strength and feeling even more empowered.22
FIGURE 2 If yoga and feminism together are so profound, am I suggesting that all social workers – or, at least, all feminist social workers – become certified yoga instructors? Not exactly. However, I do hope that I have inspired you to further your knowledge of embodied healing methods – like
mindfulness based stress reduction or trauma informed yoga therapy – throughout your professional development hours. I believe such embodied knowledge and education could greatly enrich the healing you provide to your clients, whether they have experienced sexualized violence or not. After all, trauma effects or symptoms come from many directions, with sexualized violence being just one. Albeit, a big one. While eradicating sexualized violence is the goal, it is (at least now) imperative that comprehensive healing is available to women who have experienced sexualized trauma. However, it is my belief that through feminist yoga healing we can simultaneously move toward both supporting women and eradicating sexualized violence. In essence, through reconstructing body image, connecting one’s mind and body, letting go of patriarchal discourses, and experiencing the strength within vulnerability we can further build that safe community my participants spoke to. Ultimately and eventually, I believe this can be significant momentum in the rippling wave toward eradicating sexualized violence.
REFERENCES: YWCA Canada. (2015). Realizing rights: From rape culture to consent culture. Retrieved from http://ywcacanada.ca/data/publications.00000071.pdf
I would love to share with you one of the many creative expressions I received from my participants. Susan (whose true identity is concealed with a pseudonym) stated that this image illustrates how the combination of yoga and feminism have “broken me open” and “lifted me up.” About Tricia: As a mum to three children – Nathan (9), Mila (5), and Laya (5) – Tricia’s desire for a better world for her family was the drive behind her education. In addition to completing three university degrees – BA, BSW, MSW – Tricia is a Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT) and certified in Trauma Informed Yoga Therapy (TIYT). Her personal experience of surviving sexualized violence was the catalyst into the combined approach of feminism and yoga. Recently, she completed her master’s thesis, exploring the intersection of feminism and yoga with women who have experienced sexualized violence. Studying these two different yet complementary practices is what brings this article to you today.
Ungar, M. (2011). Counseling in challenging contexts: Working with individuals and families across clinical and community settings. California: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.
Kimbrough, E., Magyari, T., Langenberg, P., Chesney, M., & Berman, B. (2010). Mindfulness intervention for child abuse survivors. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66(1), pp. 17-33. doi: 10.1002/jclp
Bass, E. & Davis, L. (2008). The courage to heal: A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse (4th ed.). New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Penguin Group.
Crews, D. A., Stolz-Newton, M., & Grant, N. S. (2016). The use of yoga to build self-compassion as a healing method for survivors of sexualized violence. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 35(3), pp. 139156. doi: 10.1080/15426432.2015.1067583
Emerson, D. & Hopper, E. (2011). Overcoming trauma through yoga: Reclaiming your body. California: North Atlantic Books.
West, J., Liang, B., Spinazzola, J. (2016). Trauma sensitive yoga as a complementary treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: A qualitative descriptive analysis. International Journal of Stress Management, pp. 1-23. doi: 10.1037/str0000040
Dylan, A. (2014). Nobel eightfold path and yoga (NEPY): A group for women experiencing substance use challenges. Social Work with Groups, 37(2), pp. 142157. doi: 10.1080/01609513.2013.824853
Hébert, M. & Bergeron, M. (2008). Efficacy of a group intervention for adult women survivors of sexual abuse. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 16(4), pp. 37-61. doi: 10.1300/J070v16n04_03
Levine, P. A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma. California: North Atlantic Books.
Chaplin, J. (1999). Introduction. In W. Dryden (Ed.), Feminist counselling in action (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-19). London: Sage Publications.
Musak, J. (2009). Trauma, feminism, and addiction: Cultural and clinical lessons from Susan Gordon Lydon’s take the long way home: Memoirs of a survivor. Traumatology, 15(4), pp. 24-34. doi: 10.1177/1534765609347547
Emerson, D., Sharma, R., Chaudhry, S., & Turner, J. (2009). Yoga therapy in practice – Trauma-sensitive yoga: Principles, practice, and research. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 19, pp. 123-128.
Nolan, C. R. (2016). Bending without breaking: A narrative review of traumasensitive yoga for women with PTSD. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 24, pp. 32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.05.006
Musial, J. (2011). Engaged pedagogy in the feminist classroom and yoga studio. Feminist Teacher, 21(3), pp. 212-228.
Doran, F. & Hornibrook, J. (2013). Women’s experiences of participation in a pregnancy and postnatal group incorporating yoga and facilitated group discussion: A qualitative evaluation. Women and Birth, 26, pp. 82-86. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2012.06.001
Mehta, P. (2016). Embodiment through purusha and prakrti: Feminist yoga as a revolution from within. In B. Berila, M. Klein, & C. J. Roberts (Eds.), Yoga, the body, and embodied social change: An intersectional feminist analysis (pp. 227-242). Maryland: Lexington Books.
Whalen, M. (1996). Counseling to end violence against women: A subversive model. California: Sage Publications, Inc.
hooks, b. (2015). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics. New York: Routledge.
Payne, M. (2006). Modern social work theory (Ed.) (3rd ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Arnoldin, P. (2016). “Feminism lives in the body”: The healing experiences of feminism and yoga for women survivors of sexualized violence (Masters dissertation). Retrieved from http://dalspace.library.dal.ca/bitstream/ handle/10222/72581/Arnoldin-Patricia-M-SW-December-2016.pdf?sequence=1
October 2017 | Connection 23
EMPOWERING OUR FUTURE Resettlement Social Work in Nova Scotia BY KATHERINE BARRETT
“THE WHOLE PERSON” Sarah Cooper speaks with professional discretion and a huge amount of enthusiasm about her work. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Social Work and relates a story about visiting a family in Halifax one morning:
Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), one of several social workers employed by the organization to help newly arrived immigrants, including refugees, settle in the province.
“I was at the home for a short visit,” she says. “During that time, I taught one of the children to play with fridge magnets. He hadn’t seen one before and didn’t know how magnets worked. I also showed an adult how to use the can opener. Shortly after, we had an intense discussion about sexual violence and abuse. All of this happened within an hour.”
Sarah says her social work training has allowed her to see clients as “a whole person,” not simply a suite of needs. In her years at ISANS, she learned that newcomers bring a vast range of professional and life skills. They are not dependent— and do not want to be. Social work has helped Sarah set clear boundaries around the kind of assistance that serves her clients best. Conversely, working in resettlement has helped Sarah get the most out of her education and training.
Such a range of tasks might seem unusual for a site visit, but Sarah’s specialty of social work is still quite unusual. For nine years, she worked as a Resettlement Counsellor at the
“This is as fulfilling a social work position as you’d get anywhere else,” she says of her diverse experiences at ISANS.
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“We are moving away from the idea of simply providing services,” says ISANS Executive Director Gerry Mills. “Instead, we aim to empower newcomers to use their skills and advocate.
CHANGING IMMIGRATION TRENDS The number of immigrants settling in Nova Scotia has doubled in recent years. Over 5000 immigrants, including 1500 refugees, arrived in 2016 and Nova Scotia hopes to increase numbers, as well as retention rates, in coming years. This trend will require more resources but also, as Sarah’s comments suggest, a shift in the way organizations and governments approach resettlement. ISANS is leading that shift. “We are moving away from the idea of simply providing services,” says ISANS Executive Director Gerry Mills. “Instead, we aim to empower newcomers to use their skills and advocate for themselves.” This shift toward empowerment is made explicit in ISANS’ current strategic plan but the organization has worked to enable both clients and staff for many years. It has achieved this in part by recognizing the value and unique perspective of social work in resettlement issues. THREE GENERATIONS OF SOCIAL WORKERS Anna Gregus joined ISANS in 1992 (the organization was then called the Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association or MISA). Anna and her family had come to Canada as refugees from Czechoslovakia ten years before, and she’d worked as a teacher in Newfoundland. When the family later moved to Halifax, Anna was hired as an Orientation Worker at MISA. In this position, Anna could use her formal education, a Masters degree in Economics, as well as her teaching skills and her own experience as a refugee. “It was a dream job,” Anna says. “I admired the strength and resilience of my clients and loved to learn from them about their cultures and way of life.”
In part through supervising Wenche’s work, Anna realized the contribution that social work could make to resettlement. She soon began her own BSW, taking one course at a time and graduating in 2001. Today, Anna has retired from her role at ISANS but keeps active on specific issues, such as private sponsorships. Wenche has earned both her BSW and MSW. She has assumed Anna’s position as Manager of Refugee Resettlement where she has supervised Sarah and many other counsellors. In effect, Anna, Wenche and Sarah are three “generations” of social workers at ISANS. Each generation has seen more employees with formal social work degrees or social work training. Gerry Mills says ISANS now actively seeks professional social workers when hiring for some positions. However, ISANS also recognizes that many of its diverse staff—hailing from 43 countries and speaking 65 different languages— are not able or willing to undertake a full-time degree. The organization therefore includes “flexibility” as one of its key initiatives, allowing staff to pursue part-time studies, encouraging internal mentorship and offering non-degree training through continuing education. ISANS also encourages social work students to do their field placements with the organization. Both Wenche and Sarah did their placements with ISANS. “And it wasn’t just photocopying,” says Sarah. “Placement students are actively involved in cases and get hands-on experience.” ISANS accepts placements for BSW and MSW students and has also accepted international placements, most recently a student from Tibet. These initiatives bring a mix of experience and expertise to ISANS and help all staff work through a social work “lens.”
At the time, MISA did not have professional social workers on staff but, in 1993, Wenche Gausdal joined the organization as a volunteer and student. Wenche was pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work at Dalhousie University and did her field placement at MISA. She still recalls her first day:
ISANS has now employed social workers—and trained staff in social work values and practice—for over twenty years. In several critical ways, this focus has changed how the organization functions.
“There was a dental emergency with a client,” she says. “I was out in the field right away.”
Starting in 2004, Anna and Wenche introduced the process of client-centred case management to their team. At the time,
A SOCIAL WORK LENS
October 2017 | Connection 25
this social work practice was new to the field of resettlement. Case management has helped staff to better define clients’ needs, ensure appropriate record keeping and work effectively with service providers.
“I stopped worrying,” Wenche says. “I realized that my clients are very good at making their own decisions.”
HOW CAN I HELP? While enrolled in their social work degrees, both Anna (in the
Social work training has also allowed ISANS staff to view specific cases in terms of larger, systemic social issues. Wenche says that keeping systemic issues in mind, and working on such issues by participating in committees, consultations and other activities, helps prevent burnout.
1990s) and Sarah (over ten years later) noted that few of their fellow students expressed interest in, or even knowledge of, resettlement work. This is slowly changing, especially as ISANS accepts more placements. Yet with the growing number of immigrants and refugees coming to Nova Scotia, social workers who can
Importantly, a social work lens is also turned on ISANS itself. Critical self-reflection is built into the organization’s practice, says Gerry Mills, such that staff learn from each other. Sarah agrees that humility and recognition of your own limitations “is all part of social work.”
work across languages and cultures, who value the diverse strengths of clients, who can coordinate numerous service providers and who understand community dynamics with regard to newcomers are needed. Gerry Mills notes that public and employer attitudes toward immigration have transformed in the past few years: People
Perhaps most significantly, a social work lens has allowed ISANS focus on the strengths of its clients. Wenche tells of working with three young men who were sharing living accommodations. She became worried that they weren’t eating enough and wondered if they needed support. With an appreciative smile, the men reassured Wenche that, among many other difficulties, they’d survived for days while crossing a desert. They knew how to take care of themselves in far more challenging circumstances than their current situation.
26 Connection | October 2017
once asked, “Why do we need immigrants?” Now, people ask, “How can I help?” Resettlement social workers can help empower newcomers. And newcomers can help empower our collective future. Katherine Barrett (katherinejbarrett.com) is a freelance writer and editor living in Lunenburg, NS. She is also the founder and editor in chief of Understorey Magazine.
Jane Wisdom, 1941, Nova Scotia Archives
JANE WISDOM Rebuilding a City, Building a Profession BY MICHELLE HÉBERT, MSW
Jane Wisdom’s career as Nova Scotia’s fi rst professional social worker spanned the transition from a charity model to professional social work — all in a matter of months. Wisdom was still in her fi rst year of consolidating Halifax’s patchwork of charities into the Halifax Welfare Bureau when, on December 6, 1917, Halifax was devastated by the biggest human-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb. The Halifax Explosion required unprecedented, innovative social work intervention. Wisdom played a key role not only in building a foundation of social work in Nova Scotia, but in helping Nova Scotians to accept and value this new model of social welfare. Jane Wisdom was born in Saint John, New Brunswick on March 1, 1884. Her early years in Saint John were influenced by her Presbyterian upbringing and her family’s adherence to the Social Gospel — a progressive reform movement that used charity and social action to alleviate (but not necessarily address) social problems such as poverty, alcohol misuse, and poor living conditions. After high school, Wisdom attended Montreal’s McGill University, where she
was introduced to the notion of professional social work. At that time, social work existed for over 20 years as a profession in England and the United States with prominent social work schools established in New York, Boston, and Chicago. In Canada, social work was still in its infancy, although Progressives were attempting to change that. During her time in Montreal, she attended presentations by some of the worlds’ most prominent social workers. Later, Wisdom would recall the appeal of this uncharted path of social work during a time when women’s career choices were limited to teaching or nursing. In 1909, Wisdom was hired by the Montreal Charity Organization, the city’s most important welfare agency. In her role of paid visitor, she visited families, assessed need, and identified resources. Although, she quickly rose to the assistant general secretary position she decided to leave and pursue formal social work training. In June 1910, she enrolled in one of the first diploma courses in social work, at Columbia University’s New York School of Philanthropy. She was exposed to the preeminent social work thinkers of day,
October 2017 | Connection 27
Nova Scotia’s first child welfare laws were created in the early 1880s, based on earlier laws to protect animals, but the Children’s Aid Society wasn’t created until 1914. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty looked after the interests of both animals and women.
including Mary Richmond, who rose to prominence as the author of Social Diagnosis, the first professional text on social case work. Later, while working as the executive director of two districts for the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities, Wisdom received letters from the heads of Halifax’s new welfare bureau, urging her to come work for them. Halifax was one of the few sizeable cities in North America that didn’t have a coordinating body for its charitable organizations. The heads of the Halifax Welfare Bureau (HWB) emphasized their need for a trained, experienced social worker who understood both maritime culture and the benefits of a ‘scientific’ social work approach. After turning down several of their offers, Wisdom finally agreed to join the HWB in May 1916, as its first permanent secretary general. Wisdom’s new role included individual casework, public speaking, and training and supervising workers. Her main task, though, was to stitch together Halifax’s patchwork of charities — religious and secular, Protestant and Catholic, Progressive and Poor Law-based — into a coordinated and modern social welfare agency. Although she’d certainly faced challenging work in New York and Montreal, she had her work cut out for her in Halifax.
As soon as the British had established the city as a key naval port in 1749, the social problems associated with a military town flooded in. Poverty Alcohol misuse. Infanticide. Abused and abandoned women and children. Prostitution. Charity work was carried out by churches and religious organizations, such as the Sisters of Charity and the Charitable Irish. As early as 1820, Halifax had its first Friendly Visitors — the same role Jane Wisdom would fill in Montreal almost a century later, using the same principles of casework
28 Connection | October 2017
that Mary Richmond would later make famous. Halifax’s model of Friendly Visiting was revolutionary in Canada at the time. In its first year, more than 4,000 individuals and families were assisted. The Halifax Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (HAICP) was founded in 1867 to coordinate relief work, and for “the elevation of the moral and physical condition of the poor”. Its work was carried out by mostly middle and upper class women volunteers until the 1880s, when the HAICP hired paid male investigators. Charity work with the poor was considered a suitable volunteer activity for women, but not something they should be paid for. Both the Salvation Army and the Sisters of Charity have claimed to have introduced modern social work to Halifax. Both operated maternity homes, hospitals, orphanages, temperance groups, and outreach to the poor. Other groups, like the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, and the Victorian Order of Nurses, came to play more prominent roles in wartime, and allowed women to take on public roles. Nova Scotia’s first child welfare laws were created in the early 1880s, based on earlier laws to protect animals, but the Children’s Aid Society wasn’t created until 1914. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty looked after the interests of both animals and women. Soon after beginning her work with the HWB, Wisdom described the most pressing issues in Halifax as “tuberculosis, mental and physical disease of every kind, poor housing, high rents, illiteracy, ignorance, incompetency (domestic and industrial), intemperance and moral defects”. In her opinion, the role of the HWB was to create opportunities for health, education, work, recreation, and spiritual development. This mission was ambitious and broad, and moved away from an uncoordinated system of charity to a modern framework for social justice. On the morning of December 6, 1917, Jane Wisdom arrived at work with a headache. She left her office, and walked to Barrington Street to purchase some Aspirin. At 9:04 AM she was on the street, three kilometres south of the area in the
harbour where two ships — one carrying tonnes of munitions bound for the war — had collided, caught fire, and exploded.
Wisdom rose to the role of director of the Halifax Relief Commission’s Social Service Department. She worked alongside social work experts from across North America,
In an instant, 2,000 people were killed, and
training local charity workers in social casework methods
over 9,000 were injured. Entire families and
untrained but local social workers. Many of these local
neighbourhoods disappeared. The Halifax
and theory. By March 1918, she was supervising 27 workers are believed to have gone on to social work education and careers.
Explosion remains the worst disaster to happen on Canadian soil.
Wisdom left the HWB in 1921, to complete her social work studies and lecture at McGill University. She returned to Nova Scotia in 1941 to undertake a study for the Canadian Welfare
Had Wisdom stayed in her office that morning, she might have been torn to shreds by shards from the plate glass window that imploded next to her desk. On Barrington Street, however, she was unhurt. At that moment — the moment of Halifax’s greatest need — she was the only trained, professional social worker in the city. That would quickly change. Trainloads of relief workers from the U.S. and other Canadian cities would soon be on their way to Halifax. But Wisdom and her staff didn’t wait for help. In those first confusing and critical 24 hours, Wisdom led more than 60 local charity workers to create a food distribution system, along with depots for clothing and blankets, and applications for food and coal. Working on little sleep or food, she organized a street-by-street survey to create lists of survivor’s whereabouts. Wisdom’s work in those first chaotic hours was critical. Years later, she stated she remembered only the numbness she felt.
Council in Glace Bay, and then served as Glace Bay’s first welfare officer until her retirement in 1952. Jane Wisdom died on June 9, 1975, at the age of 91. Jane Wisdom’s work to rebuild Halifax following the explosion was successful, in large part, due to her ability to collaborate and find common ground. She played a vital role as ‘go between’ when experts from outside Nova Scotia clashed with local sensibilities. Her work to build the profession of social work in the province was successful for the same reasons. She bridged Halifax’s traditional charity sector and the new, more bureaucratic profession of social work, and showed each how it could benefit from the other. Wisdom’s life and work demonstrate how one ordinary social worker can be shaped by extraordinary events, and in turn, forever shape the community around her. Michelle Hébert Boyd is a writer whose career has included
There was no precedent for this relief effort. People on the ground, like Wisdom, had to create a comprehensive social welfare system, encompassing housing, medical care, pensions, relief, and financial support, where none had existed. Within the first month, the Rehabilitation Committee had registered almost 6,000 people. That grew to over 13,000 by the end of January 1918, when a federal body, the Halifax Relief Commission, took over the relief and reconstruction work.
broadcast journalism, mental health advocacy, and serving as policy advisor to NS’s Minister of Health & Wellness. Along the way, she merged her passions for history, social policy, and social work into a book – Enriched by Catastrophe: Social Work and Social Conflict after the Halifax Explosion. She’s currently executive director of Eating Disorders NS, and shares her home office with two cats and a dog.
October 2017 | Connection 29
Advertising Rate & Spec Sheet 2017 Share your message with over 1900 social workers in Connection magazine. Connection is a full colour magazine that is distributed quarterly to Nova Scotia social workers, government, community groups and more.
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30 Connection | October 2017
C NNECTION MAGAZINE C NNECTION
CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR COLLEGE We’re a member-driven organization. College committee members volunteer their time to help guide and support our programs and services. As a committee member, you’ll earn a maximum of 20 professional development hours, connect with colleagues and contribute to your College! We’re looking for members for:
POLICY & ADVOCACY COMMITTEE:
Help capture the College’s policy stances, identify the policy areas that the College should develop a clear concise alternative policy for, work with researchers to develop a policy framework, formulate an advocacy strategy & more.
Review all magazine submissions prior to publication to ensure they fit within the editorial guidelines, identify the theme for each issue by assessing current social work and social justice topics, provides feedback and suggestions for change based on previous issues, connect with potential contributors for the magazine & more.
Interested? Contact the College’s Registrar/Executive Director, Alec Stratford, at email@example.com.
Nominate an outstanding social worker for a 2018 NSCSW Award Do you have a colleague who is doing exemplary and noteworthy social work in Nova Scotia? Highlight their valuable efforts in social work practice by nominating them for one of these awards:
• David Connor Williams Memorial Award • Ron Stratford Memorial Award • Diane Kays Memorial Award
• Ken Belanger Memorial Award • CASW Distinguished Service in Social Work (Deadline is January 29, 2018)
Send your nomination letter by February 26, 2018 to Annemieke Vink at Annemieke.Vink@nscsw.org.
Find out more at nscsw.org/membership/awards
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