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C NNECTIONS Winter 2019 | Volume 2, Issue 1

C NNECTIONS

C NNECTIONS SOCIAL JUSTICE

HOW INDIRECT TRAUMA AFFECTS SOCIAL WORKERS (page 8)

PRIVATE PRACTICE Clinical Registration: Right-touch Regulation (page 11)

IN THE COMMUNITY 211 Community Navigators (page 24)


NSCSW SPRING CONFERENCE Keys to Resilience, Healing, and Trauma-Informed Social Work Practice Friday May 24 & Saturday May 25, 2019 Delta Hotels by Marriott Dartmouth Mark your calendar for two days of learning, connection and growth at the College’s 2019 Spring Conference and Annual General Meeting. We’re bringing Nova Scotia’s social work community together. Questions? Contact Annemieke Vink at annemieke.vink@nscsw.org.


Montserrat

C NNECTION C NNECTION

Winter 2019 | Volume 2, Issue 1

Published three times a year by the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers 1888 Brunswick Street, Suite 700 Halifax, NS B3J 3J8

CREATIVE DIRECTION & DESIGN: Brittany Pickrem, Branding & Design EDITORIAL COMMITTEE: Harold Beals (Associate, Retired) Jodi Butler (RSW)

Phone: 902.429.7799 Fax: 902.429.7650

Bessie Harris (Associate, Retired) Laurie Ogilvie (Student) Shalyse Sangster (SWC)

Web: nscsw.org

Alec Stratford (RSW, College Staff) Linda Turner (RSW)

Connection is © Copyright 2019 by

Annemieke Vink (RSW, College Staff)

the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, and also reserves copyright for all articles. Reproduction without written permission from the publisher is not allowed.

ADVERTISING IN CONNECTION: To advertise please contact the College’s Communication Coordinator Rebecca Faria at rebecca.faria@nscsw.org.

Next issue: Spring 2019 See advertising rates at http://bit.ly/advertiseConnection. CONNECT WITH THE COLLEGE: facebook.com/NSCSW @NSCSW


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24

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18

28


TABLE OF CONTENTS Volume 2, Issue 1

07

WELCOME NEW NSCSW MEMBERS

08

SOCIAL JUSTICE

11 14

September 2018 – January 2019

Indirect Trauma is Deeply Affecting Social Workers

PRIVATE PRACTICE

Clinical Registration: Right-touch Regulation

DIVERSE COMMUNITIES

Katimavik

18

RESEARCH

22

SPOTLIGHT

The Doctoral Research of Dr. Brian Carty, PhD

Student Bursary Recipients

24

211 Community Navigators

28

Poverty & Societal Punishment

IN THE COMMUNITY

FEATURE

Winter 2019 | Connection 5


Real People. Real Impact. Every March we celebrate National Social Work Month in recognition of the contributions of social workers to society. This year, we also celebrate the people and communities whom social workers have the honour to work with, learn from, and walk alongside. In this issue of Connection, you’ll read about the vicarious trauma that social workers may experience as part of their workplace conditions, and the shared responsibility of addressing it (page 8). Turn to page 18 to read research about the work experiences of social workers who try to create structural change, from the unpublished dissertation of the late – and much-missed – Brian Carty. You’ll read about 211 community navigators who support social workers across the province (page 24), and true stories about how trauma caused by poverty and stigma has affected Nova Scotians over the last two centuries (page 28). On page 14, you’ll also read the story of a Katimavik participant in his own words, and about how this program helped him grow, build connection with others, and become more certain of his values and strengths. I have been visiting communities throughout the province this month to discuss the proposed updates to the regulation of private and clinical practice which you can read about on page 11, and our progress towards the goals in our strategic plan. The College is bringing change to the profession in Nova Scotia, working to nurture a visible, vibrant, and vocal social work community; I hope you’ll add your voice to that conversation.

Alec Stratford, MSW, RSW Registrar/Executive Director

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WELCOME NEW NSCSW MEMBERS New Registered Social Workers and Social Work Candidates September 2018 – Jan 2019 REGISTERED SOCIAL WORKERS Ryan MacDougall Ashlee d’Entremont Mary Saunders Jillian MacPhee James Dubé Laura Mullaly Elena Armat Brendan Tweedie Amy Whynot Adam Matthews

SOCIAL WORK CANDIDATES

Marlee Crowhurst Rebecca Guest Marcy MacPherson Danielle Trottier Cora Doucette Ashley Spinney Paula Leblanc Lori O’Brien Shannon Sears Meghan Oliver Denyse Hines Marie-Hélène Larocque Elizabeth Robinson

Megan Finlay Kelsey Turner Alexandra Lang Jennifer MacDonald Kristen Veinott Juanita Layton Gregor Nielsen Danielle Laurie Christina Brown Megan Power Jacquelyn Levy Elaine Cameron Sue Wellings

Robert Clements. Michael Earle Sandra MacLean Jennifer MacDonald Jessica MacDonald Patti Penney                      Cynthia Hunt                      Chelsea Schneider           Janelle MacDonnell         Mireille Robitaille             Brittany Orchard Ryan              

Amanda Logan

Jodi White

Catherine Guzik

Lisa Honeywell

Anne Marie Thibodeau

Joanne Abbott

Samantha Comeau

Rachael Stockdale

Natalie Perkins

Peter Nshimiyimana

Abby Clarke

Juliana Pontes

Dylan Samson

Devin Donegani

Kala Rafuse

Annie Perry

Erica Lafford

Derrick Hamilton

Terri Webster

Tammy Morgan

Delphine duToit

Freya Kaiser-Derrick

Meaghan Bowers

Emily Pipes

Sierra Keary

James Maynard

Yousef Al-Nasrallah

Leonard Omwenga

Tanisha Keddy

Kathleen Parsons

Emily Morean

Melissa Blakie

Bonnie Pero

Celena Samson

Melanie White

Kirsti Roxburgh

Tara Borden

Serena Smith

Denise Billings

Tess Carrigan

Piedad Martin-Calero

Natalie Perkins

Danielle MacDonald

Prasanna Kariyawansa

Samantha Long

Thomas Williams

Justine Macrae

Donna Lee McLellan

Ashley Mossman

Luke Garagan

James Jino

Sarah Collins

Shaelyn Marsh

Valence Parmar

Eileen Coole

Jennifer Vidito

Beth Anne Wood

Angela Steele-Hall

Heidi Simpson

Erika Michaud

Alyssa Buchanan

Stephanie Williams

Alicia Francis

Karis Mitchell

Victoria Dumbuya

Brenna Koneczny

Laura Langille

Jane Wortman

Meaghan Goudey

Kelsey Greenridge

Melissa Phillips

Linda Bent

Nancy Neil

Allison Roy

Melissa Lunn

Emily Bradford

Loro Koski

Ashley Mann

Louise Layton Hannah Stewart Emma Boutilier Jennifer Cormier Freya Kaiser-Derrick Eileigh MacDougall Clare Gribben Kelly Tree Marissa deBlois Samuel Wright Jessica Dilney Jessie Comeau Mardi Taylor Cary Ryan Jan Marshall

Winter 2019 | Connection 7


INDIRECT TRAUMA IS DEEPLY AFFECTING NOVA SCOTIAN SOCIAL WORKERS AUTHOR: LAURIE OGILVIE

The New Democratic Party, social workers, and the Canadian Association of Social Workers have all reported social workers are experiencing burnout, are overworked, and have been affected by their professional interaction with trauma. Despite this, little scholarship has been put towards researching indirect trauma and how it impacts social workers in Canada, though it is part of our everyday working lives.

social workers cope with it within the context of current working conditions – and found out quickly how little information and research is available about the relation between Canadian social workers, vicarious trauma, coping, and resilience.

Our project focused on vicarious trauma and

Over the summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to join the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers as their summer student and began exploring these complex phenomena.

revealed that we need to manage social workers’

We began with defining what the different types of indirect trauma are – focusing on vicarious trauma, and how can

support, and resilience.

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exposure to indirect trauma, through coping,


But who is responsible for managing our relationship with trauma? Moreover, what are the differences between all these types? Isn’t self-care enough to buffer trauma? The research process revealed these questions, and we attempted to find answers for them.

Results also revealed social support continues to be critical. Many participants stated how crucial it was to reflect with other social workers – 25.2 per cent of respondents cited social support as a key component to managing vicarious trauma.

We engaged NSCSW members to complete a survey over the summer to help answer what knowledge social workers have of vicarious trauma, self-care, and support. Participants were explicitly asked about how to manage vicarious trauma, what could improve self-care and resilience, and who is responsible for managing self-care and resilience.

Survey participants believed the impact of indirect trauma on social workers could be decreased by an active college of social workers, the integration of education opportunities, and adding self-care as part of the license renewal process while increasing advocacy about the working conditions social workers face. Better wages, lower caseloads, more workers, and having management understand the impact of vicarious trauma were also believed to be helpful.

What was revealed by social workers across Nova Scotia is an apparent lack of workplace, and managerial support – only 21.9 per cent of respondents feel supported in their workplaces.

A worrying trend is how social workers are

Social workers cited the devaluation of our profession, and neoliberal management practices and policy causing a workplace culture of urgency, technocratic, and socially unjust working conditions. Experiences listed include constant pressure to answer work-related emails outside of working hours, non-existence knowledge of trauma’s impact on social workers, and blaming social workers when experiencing indirect trauma. A clinical social worker participant pointed to a disconnection between the policy and managerial techniques of the workplace, and the experiences and knowledge of socialworkers, clients, and other workers. Another social worker working in a hospital stated that the absence of a social justice lens among other co-workers resulted in those co-workers blaming their clients for their situations.

blaming themselves for being impacted by trauma, a lack of support, and poor management. Social workers said they are expected to cope without workplace supports. Instead they are expected to access social support on their own, but they do not have enough time to do so. Stigma from management and coworkers was experienced by some social workers seeking help from trauma, who often hid their experiences from their workplaces. When asked who is responsible for managing vicarious trauma and resilience, 44.7 per cent reported themselves as solely responsible.

Workplaces with managerial and oppressive policies contribute to social workers experiencing indirect trauma, but social workers are attempting to fight back with self-care, social supports, and advocacy. Self-care is critical to buffering the erosive effects of trauma and social workers accomplish this through a range of behaviours that maintain our health. These behaviours can include healthy eating, sleep, and physical activity, self-expressive hobbies, art, cookery, spiritual yoga, church, mindfulness, etc. Although survey results showed social workers lack a clear and concise definition of self-care, it is clear they are practicing it – 40.8 per cent reported practising self-care every day.

Winter 2019 | Connection 9


We need to remind both new and current social workers that vicarious trauma is part of the working conditions, and the management of its impact – along with that of other forms of indirect trauma – are the responsibility of the employer, the employee, and the College. We must act to ensure we are educated, practice self-care, and engage social supports; but we equally need the support of our managers, coworkers, and workplaces – along with the College – to advocate and fight for traumainformed, supportive workplaces, higher wages, and educational opportunities. This study is limited in its size, but it offers us a glimpse into the conditions social workers are facing in Nova Scotia. Many social workers do not feel they are supported in their workplaces, while they continue to work with high caseloads, unhealthy managerial support, and lacking access to educational opportunities about trauma, coping, and resilience.

Social workers are still using their skills to cope with the working conditions, but are being left to flounder without proper support and knowledge. The College has an opportunity to create substantive change for Nova Scotia social workers and has continued to re-professionalize social workers, laying a foundation for new advocacy addressing impacts of trauma on social workers, and the nature of social work.

LAURIE OGILVIE is a Bachelor of Social Work student at Dalhousie University, and was NSCSW’s research summer student in 2018. He’s currently completing his practicum at the office of Lisa Roberts, MLA Halifax-Needham, and works with the College on various projects.

DEAN OF SOCIAL WORK The University of Regina seeks an accomplished and visionary individual – an experienced person of wisdom, integrity, courage, and energy – to lead the Faculty of Social Work. The Faculty of Social Work is committed to serving its communities in a context of social justice, and to preparing graduates to succeed in the complex, diverse, and rapidly changing environments of today and tomorrow. See full job description at: https://www.uregina.ca/president/assets/docs/PVPA%20docs/Searches_Reviews/Dean%20of%20Social%20 Work%20Review/Dean_Of_Social_Work_Position_Description.pdf Review of applications will commence in April 2019, with campus visits and interviews tentatively scheduled for mid to late May. The target date for appointment is 1 January 2020. Decanal appointments are generally five years in length, and are renewable after review for a further five years.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. The University of Regina is committed to achieving a representative workforce and qualified diversity group members are encouraged to self identify on their applications.

www.uregina.ca/hr/careers

10 Connection | Winter 2019


CLINICAL REGISTRATION Right-touch regulation of social work practice BY NSCSW PRIVATE PRACTICE COMMITTEE

The Private Practice Committee formed in June of 2017 to address issues with the bylaws regarding the registration of private practitioners. The committee has been hard at work reflecting, researching and discussing these issues with the goal of providing a rationale and recommendations back to

SURVEY RESULTS The survey revealed multiple perspectives on the issues, but the committee found beliefs shared by most respondents:

the membership at this year’s AGM.

1. Having an MSW or PhD from an accredited school of social work is a necessary requirement for private practice.

A membership survey revealed that the current regulation

2. Five years of relevant social work experience is a necessary requirement for private practice.

on private practice is unclear and that members perceived private practice to be clinical practice. An environmental scan of private practice and clinical social work regulations across Canada also revealed that Nova Scotia is the only province that regulates private practice as a specific area of practice; however, provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan have specific regulation regarding clinical practice.

3. Supervision in an area of specialization is a necessary requirement for private practice. 4. Conducting assessments for legal proceedings as a social worker requires an additional level of registration to protect the public. 5. Clinical social work requires an additional level of registration to protect the public.

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The committee reviewed the questions regarding specific regulations around clinical practice and agreed that survey respondents also believed the following: 1. The College should work to gain title protection of the title “Registered Clinical Social Worker” – this would mean a specific registration would be required to hold this title. 2. The College should work to update the scope of practice so “Registered Clinical Social Workers” can legally diagnose using the DSM-5. 3. The College should implement an exam to evaluate clinical competencies.

The committee has continued to examine the core issues, to weigh out which regulations are necessary to protect the public and which are not. The committee is considering a recommendation to deregulate private practice and put proportional regulation around clinical social work practice.

OVER-REGULATED PRIVATE PRACTICE Right-touch regulation is an approach of looking for responses that are proportionate to the level of risk. Currently, private practice is defined in the Social Workers Act as being “self-employed” which does not inherently mean clinical practice. The College’s Board of Examiners reviews

12 Connection | Winter 2019

applications for private practice by examining resumes, letters of reference, and years of experience, to assess if social workers have the competencies to provide social work services in the area of specialization that they’ve applied for. As social work has a large scope of practice, it’s problematic to define what competencies are needed in each area of social work; each area of practice is going to be contextual and relevant to the place of employment, clientele, and community. The private practice committee believes that this is an over-regulation and not in line with best practices for right-touch regulation. The committee is now leaning towards recommending that the prescribed requirements and qualifications for engaging in private practice would be that a Registered Social Worker or Social Worker Candidate must be a member in good standing, and only engage in private practice in the area where they are competent to provide the social work service. The opinion is that the current entry to practice requirements, including completing an accredited social work degree coupled with a declaration to adhere to the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics are sufficient tools to regulate private practice.

CONSIDERING CLINICAL REGISTRATION The committee has continued to explore the question of clinical practice regulation. Clinical social work practice is an advanced area of social work that focuses on the individual


and their relationship to the social, economic and political structures that impact mental health, emotional, and other behavioural functioning. Using evidence-based modalities, clinical social work applies assessments, interventions, and prevention practices to achieve optimum psychological and social functioning.

There is a need to regulate clinical social work practice, in order to protect the public. CURRENT STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH CARE Currently, mental health care in Nova Scotia’s is embedded in a worldview that predominantly sees mental health as an “illness,” a psychiatric condition that occurs largely out of the blue in individuals who are genetically vulnerable, are uncontrollable and lifelong. This worldview flows from the medical model which diagnoses and treats symptoms for those who are severely ill. This model is problematic as it drives political decisions towards stacking resources into hospitals and emergency rooms as opposed to communities. This approach is not supported by recent research, which tells a more complex story of mental health. Social work’s grounding principles provide a framework for a different worldview on mental health care. This worldview presents alternatives to service delivery beyond the medical model. These approaches often involve a postmodern lens that is client and family-centred; is built to avoid having the deficit-based, problem-saturated, and pathologizing language of the medical model; and is rooted in strengths-based approaches to practice. These approaches work to ensure that clients’ voices and stories are valued above all else.

This creates challenges for the development of the social work professional identity within the mental health care setting. It often leads to internal tension and questions: “What is the role of social work in mental health care?” “How do our professional values fit and guide our actions within this setting?” and “How do we best collaborate with other health professions through social work’s unique practice lens?” This erosion of professional identity can lead to ethical dilemmas and burnout, which ultimately puts the public at risk. The committee believes that social work professionals are best situated to define the minimal competencies required to practice as a clinical social worker. This process will more clearly define the profession’s role in Nova Scotia within the mental health care system, strengthen our professional identity, strengthen ethical and competent clinical practice and better protect the public.

TOWARDS A CLINICAL CATEGORY OF REGISTRATION Given the current situation in mental health care, the Private Practice Committee is considering a recommendation that the NSCSW regulate clinical social work practice by creating a clinical category of registration, and setting minimal requirements for clinical social practice rather than assessing and authorizing practice in each area of clinical specialization. The committee is considering recommending that the NSCSW set the minimum requirement of: 1. An MSW from an accredited school of social work. 2. A passing mark on the ASWB clinical exam. 3. A minimal amount of supervised clinical practice experience.

SOCIAL WORK & MENTAL HEALTH CARE Since the late 1980s, social workers have felt a split between traditional social work values and medical model values. Social workers often feel tension between who they were trained to be and who they are forced to become in order to remain in the workforce. Private practitioners and their clients continue to face barriers in ensuring coverage of social work services through insurance companies. Parallel to these concerns, members working through the public mental health systems have expressed distress about the current direction of mental health care in Nova Scotia and the role of social work within this system. The competencies required for clinical social work practice are increasingly being defined through the lens of the medical model rather than the values of the profession.

NEXT STEPS There is much to do and much to discuss with members before the creation of a clinical category is decided by the membership at this year’s AGM. The committee aims to complete the following tasks before a vote at the AGM: 1. Complete a policy paper with more a detailed rationale for the recommendations. 2. Develop proposed by-law changes. 3. Travel the province during National Social Work Month to consult with members on these proposed changes.

Winter 2019 | Connection 13


KATIMAVIK A life-changing experience for Canadian youth BY JORDAN ARSENAULT

I am a 22-year-old Katimavik alumni of the Summer/Fall 2018 program in St. Boniface, Manitoba and Nanaimo, BC. Growing up in Maple Ridge, BC was amazing, with many different things to do within a close distance.I always had an interest in volunteer work. It was solidified as one of my core passions in life when I started volunteering with The Ridge Meadows Home Show every year, and quickly gained a manager position in my department.

Life before Katimavik was quite chaotic. Going from such a solid routine in school to having so much freedom can be quite a lot to deal with and is very disorienting. Working was a bit difficult for me, and I was led to believe it was because of the time schedules and over-exertion while on the job, but I’ve come to realize it was the passion that was missing. I felt proud of my achievements and positions, but I wasn’t happy with the work. I felt that being paid was making it a chore, rather than a hobby, and I know that is just a mindset, but it affected the outcomes of my performance in daily life. I got burnt out, I removed myself from the world, and I shut down entirely for a few months in the winter of 2016 before making a lengthy transition back to being functional. Fast-forward to the beginning of 2018, where I was gaining my motivation and spending a lot of time planning travels around the country and exploring what Canada has to offer, but I didn’t have the drive to go out and do it. After dealing with depression and anxiety for well over a decade, I was seeing a counsellor at my doctor’s office. She mentioned a lot of great tools and tips, and one day she brought up Katimavik. I struggled with the pronunciation at first, going around telling everyone about “Kat-/i/-mah-vik” until finally watching some homemade videos from previous alumni in the program

on YouTube. I applied not too long after hearing about it, especially with all the people who loved it that I spoke with around town. About a week later I got a response telling me I was accepted into the program, and I felt ecstatic. As I read more about the program, I realized they had taken on Truth & Reconciliation as a core aspect. I felt the spark inside beginning to grow back as I began to realize the opportunity that now lay in front of me. I was extremely anxious prior to the actual beginning of the program, as applying was an intense leap after a two-year agoraphobia flare-up. Knowing that the future held new beginnings that would be brought forth throughout this experience kept me sturdy. I felt honoured by the opportunity to explore more deeply into North American history, colonialism and its effects, as well as having the chance to build a lasting relationship with the survivors of its impacts. Having Indigenous background that I am hoping to explore and embrace more as I grow older also came into play as an amazing learning opportunity over the following six months.

Jordan and his Katimavik group volunteering at the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre.

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Columbia, which was an awe-inspiring sight to watch in realtime. The always-fun ferry ride to Vancouver Island came, and then setting up home in Nanaimo, BC, traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw. While there, I got to work with the Island Crisis Care Society in a couple of their houses as well as in the head office. Being able to connect with like-minded, caring individuals was wonderful. Lending a hand in helping them provide help to so many of those in-need throughout Nanaimo and its surrounding areas was something I truly appreciate being a part of.

Jordan spent 3 months volunteering with the Island Crisis Care Society in Nanaimo, BC, where he gained new work skills and a passion for helping the community.

Arriving for the first time in Manitoba, traditional territory of the Cree, Anishanaabe, and Métis, and meeting alumni and other volunteers from across the country was overwhelming in so many ways. But the amount of time it took to go from there to being best friends was a matter of days, if not hours! I was feeling right at home with my new Katima family, and the routine was something I welcomed with open arms. One of the most inspirational aspects of the program was the initial introductions with our partners and the host city. Our early days in the city were spent adventuring around town, getting the lay of the land and meeting the amazing non-profit partners that we would get to work with. My time with the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre was incredible and I am so glad to have made that connection. It is somewhere to return to along my future travels across the country. Getting to learn the local languages, practice the crafts, and explore the amazing Indigenous library was an experience of a lifetime! Being able to speak with locals and hear their stories while sharing time with them creating beautiful works of art was my muse, and I hope to return one day and take part again with future Katimavik participants and the MICEC staff. Traveling by train across the country was a perfect way to transition mid-way, with a view of the prairies drifting by out the window. Slowly the grassy plains got snowy and transitioned into the Rockies and Coastal Mountains of British

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As cheesy as it is, I truly believe Katimavik has changed my life for the better. I’m left feeling as though I have received a renewal on life, with another chance to practice jumping out of the nest and taking flight. I now have goals to create my own non-profit now, somewhere down the line, and to reconnect with my lost Indigenous backgrounds. For my entire life I will appreciate these new close friends, my project leaders, and everyone involved in Katimavik. The opportunity to connect with other youth from across the country is very humbling because you get to realize just how much you all have in common and how each of your differences are some of your greatest strengths.

ABOUT KATIMAVIK Katimavik offers an opportunity for young adults to explore Canada, gain valuable skills, and contribute to positive change through volunteerism. With over 40 years of experience in developing programs that respond to community needs and support youth development, Katimavik’s mission is to engage and empower youth to become capable and confident citizens and leaders for a better Canada. Diverse youth aged 17 to 25 years old are invited to participate in the Katimavik National Experience – a fully immersive 6-month program that allows young adults to discover two new regions of Canada while living 3 months in an Englishspeaking community and 3 months in a French-speaking community. This program is funded by the Government of Canada through its Canada Service Corps initiative, and all expenses related to participation in the program are covered. To learn more about the Katimavik National Experience, please visit: www.katimavik.org.


Clannad Counselling & Consulting presents:

ATLANTIC ATTACHMENT NETWORK CONFERENCE This is an opportunity for community to gather together and share the Hope of thinking, working and living from an Attachment lens. In an effort to create a network of people working together to build capacity in our communities, we are offering what we envision as the first of many Atlantic Attachment Network conferences. Join us to learn more about how relationship impacts all aspects of our work and life while generating creative and inspiring ways to be intentional in our mission to promote healthy communities.

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We are anticipating some scholarships to be available, so, if cost is a barrier to attending please let us know on your registration form.

JUNE 7 – 9, 2019 9AM - 4PM • WOLFVILLE LIONS CLUB, WOLFVILLE, NS

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THE DOCTORAL RESEARCH OF DR. BRIAN CARTY, PHD “An Institutional Ethnography of the Work Experiences of Critical Social Workers in Applying Critical Social Work Praxis in their Workplaces” BY LINDA TURNER, PHD, RSW

In September 2017, the social work community of the Maritimes lost Dr. Brian Carty, beloved St. Thomas University

makers, and others, toward structural change with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life for service users.”

professor, strong social justice advocate, and dedicated friend and ally.

Dr. Carty’s research question was, “Given the

Dr. Carty influenced many social workers through his teaching,

neoliberal agenda – to what extent are critical

and his research is relevant to social workers everywhere. He acknowledged: “the incredible contributions of all social workers who work hand in hand with service users, policy

18 Connection | Winter 2019

social workers able to operate from a social justice lens and work on social change?”


In May 2018, social work professors Dr. Merlinda Weinberg of Dalhousie University, who served as external examiner of his PhD dissertation committee, and Dr. Laurel Lewey, a long-time STU colleague and PhD supervisory team member, presented the research. The occasion provided an invaluable opportunity for attendees to learn, to celebrate his accomplishment, and to reflect on their own practice and interactions. Dr. Weinberg identified intersection points between Dr. Carty’s findings and her own important research on ethical practice, in which she articulates key paradoxes, ethical struggles and the concept of “ethical trespass” (Weinberg, 2016). Dr. Lewey shared the research study’s methodology, themes, conclusions and implications. They have graciously shared their material.

METHODOLOGY: The research was conducted within an institutional ethnography framework using feminist scholar Dorothy Smith’s work (1999). Fifteen social workers were interviewed, with a focus on their critical social work praxis. Data was analyzed alongside 4 key texts (NBASW Code of Ethics; the Family Services Act; the (2012) Strategic Plan/Vision Statement of the NB Department of Social Development, and the “Structured Decision Making System” (SDMS), an electronic assessment tool used to assess levels of risk and increase safety in child protection cases). All documents were identified by participants as connected to their daily work.

THEMES: 1. “Challenging the system”: meaning putting the clients first. 2. “Flying under the radar”: knowing when and how to push boundaries. 3. “Bludgeoned by paperwork”: how the processes of documentation generated enormous amounts of paperwork and also reproduced dominant social practices and constituted social relations. 4. “Rules, rules, rules!”: the necessity to work through numerous layers of bureaucracy; following some rules results in prohibiting service users from accessing services and slows response time. 5. “Stressed to the max”: not by service users, but by layers of administration that workers sometimes have to fight against and by being made to do things they don’t agree with. 6. “You’re gonna institute change in an incremental way – small victories”

CONCLUSIONS: 1. Pervasiveness of a neoliberal and managerialist ideology; 2. Institutional processes framed within neoliberal discourse tended toward individualizing social problems, “blaming the victim” and “deficit constructions of service users”; 3. The four texts that framed institutional processes and social work practice lacked coherence and demonstrate contradictions across the texts, leading to ethical dilemmas and consequences for service users; 4. Texts used by social workers on a daily basis have a powerful influence on the provision of social work services; 5. Dr. Carty emphasized the following finding: In spite of these barriers, the presence of personal agency, even when enacted covertly, is a way to resist standardized practices and to pursue interventions that meet the need of service users and are consistent with the ability to work toward structural change.

IMPLICATIONS: 1. Social Work Policy: “New policies should be developed with a critical eye to ensure they meet their intended purpose and these policies must also be regularly evaluated to maintain their continued effectiveness in meeting the requirements of service users” 2. Social Work Practice: “More than half of the participants spoke about the importance of having the opportunity to reflect on and debrief about their experiences working from a critical praxis; allotting time for regular reflection with colleagues could reduce the pressure of day-to-day activities, and would assist critical workers in findings alternative and less oppressive ways of working.” 3. Social Work Education: Need for greater knowledge of standard government processes before beginning employment and a need for students to gain knowledge of how government policies and processes reflect particular ideologies and discursive practices and their potential impact on service users. 4. Further Research: Qualitative research with service users to learn more about how neoliberal policies shape their everyday lives and the provision of services; research that reveals the multiple dimensions of service users’ lives including gender, race, class and social status, and analysis of social workers’ work-related experiences, to expose variations of work place settings and multiple intersecting complexities; experiences of managers in neoliberal environments; social workers’ understanding of court processes, discourse of those processes and experience of service users; and the impact of new technologies and documentation practices.

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Dr. Weinberg’s conclusions provide further food for thought. On behalf of herself and Dr. Carty, she acknowledged that to focus on social justice in today’s neoliberal environment is difficult.

The research noted the value of: “a critical discourse analysis of the language of professional social work and the power/knowledge contained within, both historically and in the present, to discover how the profession constructs subjectivities to which workers and service users are expected to conform.” Dr. Weinberg’s conclusions provide further food for thought. On behalf of herself and Dr. Carty, she acknowledged that to focus on social justice in today’s neoliberal environment is difficult. It is necessary to recognize the potential of ethical trespass, despite intentions. At the same time, there is an essential need to resist the shrinking role of social work, to expand what we understand as ethics to include the political and relational, and to include social justice as a primary value in the profession and to fight for it.

Her closing assertion is echoed in Dr. Carty’s dissertation study: the importance of recognizing that despite the constraints it is possible to resist the current trends.

LINDA TURNER, PhD, RSW, is currently with the NS Department of Health and Wellness, Continuing Care Department and lives in Pictou. She has taught in Social Work programs at St. Thomas University, Dalhousie and UNE in Armidale Australia. REFERENCES 1. Carty, B. (2018) “An Institutional Ethnography of the Work Experiences of Critical Social Workers in Applying Critical Social Work Praxis in their Workplaces”. Fredericton, NB: UNB. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. 2. Smith, D.E. (1999) Writing the social. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 3. Weinberg, M. (2016) Paradoxes in Social Work Practice: Mitigating Ethical Trespass. NH: Routledge.

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2018 STUDENT BURSARY RECIPIENTS Congratulations to our 2018 student bursary recipients! These student members are from Nova Scotia, and are completing accredited social work programs at universities across Canada. They will each receive $500 to help achieve their professional goals. Here are their responses to our question: “WHY IS PROFESSIONALISM IN SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE IMPORTANT TO YOU?”

EMILY ADAMS | UNIVERSITÉ SAINTE-ANNE When studying the profession of social work, you learn about the Code of Ethics  and its six values. These values are very important, as they represent and enforce professionalism. Professionalism in social work practice is important to me because it allows the social worker to establish a good and appropriate relationship with every client. The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice guide Nova Scotia social workers to remain professional throughout their career.

BETHANY TYNES | UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA Professionalism in practice is important to me because it protects both clients and social workers. Professionalism means that clients can count on social workers to serve their best interests. They can rely on Standards of Practice (for example, that their information will normally be kept strictly confidential, except in cases where someone is in danger, generally), and rely on the fact that social workers will act with integrity toward them. Maintaining professionalism in my practice will help me serve my clients to the best of my abilities, as well as to remain beyond reproach in my behaviour toward clients. Being a part of the NSCSW helps me connect to other social workers who have greater experience in similar roles. I benefit from their knowledge and it gives me the opportunity to advocate for the profession and its future.

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ANGELA DAVIS | DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY Professionalism contributes largely to a social worker doing their best work. It means that they are following all ethical and value-based guidelines of the profession. Professionalism ensures that the social work profession continues to be/is regarded as a valuable component of the healthcare sector, and of society at large. Most importantly, it ensures that clients are at all times treated with dignity and the respect and humanity they deserve. It also leads to a stronger voice for the needs of the profession and the clients social workers serve.

MEGHAN OLIVER | UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA Professionalism in social work practice is about maintaining confidentiality and respecting the integrity of the people we work with as social workers. As professionals, we do not share someone’s story without their consent. We are respectful and honor their experiences by maintaining their privacy and dignity.

LAURA COUTURIER | DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY Professionalism in social work is of the utmost importance due to the very nature of social work and the vulnerable populations that we serve. Our values as social workers state that we envision a society in which there is social justice for all, however; many would argue that the agencies and manners in which we can operate function in complete contradiction. Social workers are in a constant state of juggling their privileged authority with their desire to facilitate equality. As the NSCSW’s Code of Ethics states, social workers must take care in their actions to not bring the reputation of the profession into disrepute (p. 9). With that being said, one person’s negative experience with a social worker can have a lasting impact. Social workers work with individuals who are experiencing great hardship and marginalization. If an individual has a negative experience with a social worker, then it is not hard to imagine that they would be significantly less likely to seek out services or help. This means that already marginalized groups are at risk of further falling through the societal cracks and not accessing the supports that they deserve. I may be naive, but I do believe that people become social workers with pure intentions and a desire to help. We cannot lose sight of that.

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Pam Viddal, 211 community resource navigator at work

211 NOVA SCOTIA Social workers share their experiences BY SUZY TEUBNER

Social work is founded on noble principles, though its rewards can sometimes seem short or insufficient in the face of challenging circumstances. Still, guiding people through difficult situations toward their best possible outcome is a social worker’s ultimate goal. Pam Viddal, BSW, a registered social worker since 2010, has firsthand experience with those challenges. Now a community resource navigator with 211 Nova Scotia, Viddal began her career working one-on-one with clients in the community.

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“After graduating from the social work program at Dalhousie University, I worked for about seven years with a diverse clientele of adults and youth with physical disabilities, mental health disorders, autism spectrum disorders, brain injuries, dementia, developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, in community and residential settings,” she said. “In hindsight, had 211 existed when I started out, 211’s community resource navigators would have been indispensable to both me and my clients when it comes to finding resources.”


As a social worker, you often become a client’s go-to person. They frequently rely upon you to assist in decision making, from the life-changing to the day-to-day. This can be difficult and time-consuming. That’s where community resource navigators like Viddal come in. Viddal and her colleagues at 211 Nova Scotia routinely offer support to many of NSCSW’s 1900-plus members, finding unique resources for clients as social workers seek to improve the quality of life for people and help them overcome life’s most difficult challenges.

“As a social worker, I saw firsthand the benefits for my clients and for citizens of our province,” said Marsman, who received her MSW in 1993. “The services provided by 211 can be accessed by all ethnicities, classes, genders, languages, etc. throughout the province and therefore, strives to be an inclusive service. I would strongly encourage any eligible organization not currently in the 211 database to register and be a part of the collaboration, so Nova Scotians can get access to every service available to them.”

Viddal, who also works casually at the Responsible Gambling Resource Centre, believes 211 is an essential part of any social worker’s toolbox. “No matter what the situation, 211 is helpful in more ways than you might think,” she said. “One of my colleagues at the casino called 211 to inquire about supports in the community for a senior who was coming to the casino because she was lonely and wanted companionship. This lady didn’t need to be educated on responsible gambling or help with a voluntary self-exclusion. She needed resources to help with her feelings of isolation outside of the casino. Fortunately, 211 was able to make that connection for her.”

211 launched in Nova Scotia in February 2013 and is funded by the provincial government and the United Way. In 2018, over 37,000 calls were received at their small call centre in Dartmouth, and there were more than 325,000 visits to the ns.211.ca website (which houses an online search portal). The comprehensive human services database has information about thousands of programs and services including services for seniors, mental health and addictions, child care, recreational programs, counseling, financial assistance, or transportation.

On the days when you don’t know where to turn, 211 is here to help you help your client by quickly and promptly identifying helpful resources. The time saved in not having to chase down resource leads can now be spent on much more important work – the actual treatment plan. 211 Nova Scotia’s confidential province-wide information and referral service is free, available 24/7, and designed to help you navigate community, non-profit, and government services anywhere in Nova Scotia, whether you need help for a client, a family member or friend, or even yourself. For the past five years, Veronica Marsman, MSW, RSW, past president of the Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW) has been a director of the non-profit association that delivers 211 service. Her role with the ABSW is to support the president and the organization by providing educational and community based programming ranging from clinical counselling to professional development. When first asked to join the 211 board of directors in 2014, Marsman said there was no doubt it would be a good fit with her 35-plus years of social service practice.

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“It’s great to have an up-to-date service with resources that can be accessed any time,” said Michael Nahirnak, a Nova Scotia RSW who helps mental health and acute care patients in their transition from hospital to the community. “Website resources can be outdated. Resource guides change, numbers change. I typically call when I can’t find a resource to see if [211] knows about a new program I’m not aware of. For people who work overnight, such as in shelters, 211 is always there when they need them after-hours.” Prior to the launch of 211, Nahirnak would reach out to colleagues and co-workers via phone to discuss resources. “With 211,” he says, “I only have to wait a few seconds to talk to someone who is friendly [and] who can give me other ideas that may be able to help too.” Nahirnak has been a social worker for over seven years. He described a situation when 211 was particularly helpful in his daily work which involved seeking community supports for an older client who was isolated at home. “I called 211 and the navigator was able to help with the resources and she then sent them to me in an email, all laid out so they were easy to print. I have had nothing but good experiences with the service. It’s fantastic,” he said.

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In addition to improving the quality of life for individuals and their families, the social work profession seeks to effect system-wide change for the betterment of the local community. Knowing that the work you do is having an impact on people’s lives, and that your efforts have made a difference, is extremely rewarding. Helping social workers to identify gaps in the social safety net is a key part of 211’s mission. Sometimes 211 will receive calls for needs that can’t be met because a service just doesn’t exist or because the person doesn’t qualify for a program that does. Although completely confidential, 211 documents all need and location information, collecting hard data about which needs occur most frequently, which ones are capable of being met, and which aren’t. That data can be very useful in determining where limited funding dollars are best spent to make the greatest difference.


Social workers report a multitude of reasons for choosing the profession as a career. Whether your passion lies in helping individuals and families find solutions to life challenges, or arises from a desire to build better social policy or improve social justice, 211 can help.

Melissa Hum, MSW, RSW, is the clinic coordinator at the Dalhousie School of Social Work Community Clinic. She said 211 allows for individual social workers to engage in their own searching and resource information which leads to an overall sense of personal agency. “Social workers have been able to benefit from 211 in ensuring that there is an accurate, comprehensive database of available resources and services. This general information has previously been difficult for individuals and families to access,” said Hum. “As a result, social workers (staff and students) at our clinic have been able to focus our work on individual, unique and complex issues presented by clients in order to best meet their identified needs.”

211 offers a solution to the challenge of helping navigate community and social services across the province, while providing vital data on the met and unmet needs of Nova Scotians.

SUZY TEUBNER is the director of communications and outreach at 211 Nova Scotia. She holds a degree in journalism from Ryerson University. To request a presentation or 211 promotional materials, you can reach her by phone at 902.466.5723 or email steubner@ns.211.ca.

In addition to being a resource for social workers at the clinic, 211 is often the starting point for people who are referred to the clinic. Since 2014, more than 700 people have been referred to the clinic’s programs by 211 navigators. Hum feels that the clinic benefits because the 211 resource navigators know which referrals are appropriate and which needs fall within the clinic’s scope of practice. “It is key that callers receive relevant and timely information,” said Hum. “Clients share their experiences of speaking with respectful, helpful and caring navigators at 211. Clients often report that 211 has been helpful in listening and providing options of services/resources to access.” She added, “Individuals are often feeling overwhelmed and uncertain when calling 211. When clear, accurate information is provided to them, as well as options for resources and services, they have reported feeling more hopeful.” As this article went to press, the team at 211 was close to completing a new project as part of their ongoing goal of making the work of caring professionals, especially social workers, just that much easier. Early in 2019, the team hopes to launch a feature through which website visitors will be able to quickly and easily create customized directories of resources within local communities across Nova Scotia.

TO USE THE SERVICE DIAL 2-1-1 (phone interpretation service is available for over 100 languages) VISIT ns.211.ca, EMAIL help@ns.211.ca or TEXT 21167.

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POVERTY & SOCIETAL PUNISHMENT Nova Scotia, then and now BY BRENDA THOMPSON

Editor’s note: The content and the language of this piece describe poverty, sex work and violence in ways that may be triggering for some readers. This story was produced in partnership with the Nova Scotia Advocate, an online publication that focuses on stories and voices too often overlooked by news media. Visit nsadvocate.org for more stories about poverty, racism, workers’ rights, the environment, and other issues affecting the day-to-day lives of Nova Scotians.

These stories are true. The first two stories are based on research I did while writing my book about the history of poor houses and poor farms in Nova Scotia. The last three are from my own circle of friends.

Mary Ann Clements Mary Ann Clements felt the baby kick for the first time and cried. She knew she would soon show. She was not the first woman to have a baby and not be married, but she was the first in her family. They would not tolerate her unwed pregnancy by a married man in her community. When Mary Ann’s family found out, they banished her from the home. No one would help her, as Mary Ann’s father was considered a community leader and no one wanted to cross him. Mary Ann moved to a small Black community of Perotte, several miles away in the woods. There she gave birth to her son, William Henry, and stayed until food became scarce. Mary Ann felt she had no choice but to go to the local poor farm. Black people were put into a building that was in bad shape, dark with little heat, and were made to do more menial tasks. William Henry was to be apprenticed out as soon as he was five years old, but he caught dysentery and died at age two. Mary Ann stayed at the poor farm for the rest of her life, dying there at the age of 90 in 1900.

SOURCES http://annapolisheritagesociety.com/genealogy/familyhistories/the-clements Unpublished burial records of the Bridgetown County Poor House

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The Bridgetown County Poor House, Annapolis County. White paupers lived in the front building; Black paupers lived in the older, brick building in the back. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Heritage Society.


Billtown Poor Farm, Kings County. Sarah (Lamont) Huntley lived here most of her life. Photo courtesy of Wayne A. Baltzer

Sarah (Lamont) Huntley

Gloria W.

Sarah’s husband Daniel lay on his bed, drinking rum all through the day to ease his extreme pain. At one time, as a ship’s carpenter he had a good job, supported his family, and they prospered. Then he fell and broke his back while working on a ship. He was carried to his home in Scots Bay and left for his family to care for him. Despite frugality and community support, their savings dwindled to nothing, and the rum gave him the reputation of a drunkard.

Her husband had thrown her out. He had a girlfriend and didn’t want Gloria around anymore. Gloria found a job in the laundry department of the hotel where she made less than her male co-workers and not enough to support herself.

Inevitably the last of their reserves ran out. The house was gone, the money was gone, and the community support was gone. Sarah, Daniel and their family moved into the local county home in Billstown. The older children were quickly apprenticed out; the younger ones, except for Percy, were adopted out. Daniel died writhing in pain within the year. Percy grew up in the poor house, moving in and out as he got a job and then lost it, trying to get himself and his mother out of the county home. He died in the poor house in his 40s. Sarah lived the rest of her life in the poor house, dying there alone at the age of 90, buried in an unmarked grave. The ship company prospered.

One night after work, while waiting for the bus, a sailor told her that he would pay her $20 for a ‘quickie’ in the back alley. Gloria hesitated; that was a lot of money. She relented and the deed was done. Gloria felt dirty afterwards. A week later another sailor showed up at the bus stop offering $10. Gloria took it. This became a regular thing for Gloria, until one night she was beaten badly by one of the sailors. When the hospital found out why she was beaten, she was sent home to her family who quickly threw her out in shame. Next her employer fired her. Alone, on the streets, Gloria returned to sex work as the only way to make any money and support herself. Within two years Gloria’s body was found down by the harbour. She had been stabbed to death. The police filed the case away as Just Another Whore.

SOURCE Private family story told to the author

SOURCES http://poorhousesofnovascotia.com/blog Unpublished census and burial records of the Billtown Poor House

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Steve S. Steve loved his one year old son, Ethan. He and his wife, Patty, lived in a small farming community. Patty found him with another man and Steve confessed that he was gay. Patty packed up and left, leaving Ethan with him. Before she left, Patty told anyone who would listen that Steve was gay and that was why she was leaving him. People in the community started to avoid Steve, and occasionally he was beaten up by some of the men.

Steve struggled to support himself and Ethan. His employer laid him off ‘for the season’ and never hired him back again. Steve’s parents distanced themselves in shame of his sexuality. Steve applied for social assistance but found it that it was for widowed or divorced single mothers only. “Men should get a job,” he was told.

Desperate for food, Steve shoplifted at the town grocery store and was caught. He was charged and convicted, spending six months in jail. While he was in jail, Ethan was put in a foster home and fast tracked for adoption. When Steve got out of jail, traumatized and alone, he died of suicide.

SOURCES Private family story told to the author.

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Our province likes to believe we have evolved with open minds. However, when it comes to people in poverty, our minds remain shut. Our attitudes and policies are still stuck in the 1860s: poor people brought their poverty on themselves and it has nothing to do with discrimination, exclusion or poor policy planning.

Kevin Kevin was fired from yet another job. He did not know why. Kevin couldn’t get along with people for any length of time because his impulsive tics and restlessness alienated them. He found it exhausting to interact with people; the fluorescent lights in workplaces gave him a headache. Time and again he was called lazy, and told to learn to control himself. As a result, Kevin was constantly moving from job to job. Employment Insurance refused him benefits because he was fired so often. Finally, a doctor confirmed that Kevin had autism and ADHD. Relieved but traumatized by the lifetime of ridicule and selfdoubt, he applied for disability social assistance only to find that now he was expected to live on a budget that would barely pay for an apartment, let alone food and heat. Kevin ended up in a boarding house, secretly hiding his food in his room lest it be stolen, and listening to the nightly howls of other men with untreated mental health issues. The thought of suicide was tempting.

Their hardships were not their fault, yet they were punished for being different or for merely being poor. Our province likes to believe we have evolved with open minds. However, when it comes to people in poverty, our minds remain shut. Our attitudes and policies are still stuck in the 1860s: poor people brought their poverty on themselves and it has nothing to do with discrimination, exclusion or poor policy planning. The only change between what has happened to a person in poverty 150 years ago and what happens to them today is the amount of bureaucracy we subject the person to, and the hoops we demand they jump through. If this does not change, someone will be writing an article much like this one a hundred years from now.

BRENDA THOMPSON is an activist and author who lives in the Annapolis Valley. Her most recent book is A Wholesome Horror - Poor Houses in Nova Scotia.

SOURCE Kevin is an alias for an adult family member of the author.

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Profile for Nova Scotia College of Social Workers

Connection Magazine Winter 2019 - Volume 2, Issue 1  

New