Connection Magazine Winter 2021 — Challenging our social justice lens

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CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2020 STUDENT BURSARY RECIPIENTS These students are members of NSCSW and are completing accredited social work programs at Canadian universities. They have each received $500 to help them achieve their professional goals. As part of their bursary application, we asked them what professionalism in social work practice means to them, and what they hope to gain from their social work education. We’re happy to share some excerpts from their responses, and we wish them well in their studies.

KAYLIE MACKEEN, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY An area of social work that I am interested in, is working with individuals who are experiencing homelessness or precarious housing. … Throughout my experiences, I’ve noticed that structurally vulnerable individuals feel shame regarding their current situation and will often apologize or mention how embarrassed they are when entering the shelter. This is likely due to stereotypes that lead to this population having their dignity impaired and being stigmatized and discriminated against. Therefore, as a service provider, when building relationships with individuals, it is important to meet them where they are at mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically; providing ongoing support, so no one falls through the gaps (e.g., harm-reduction, housing first practices, and anti-oppressive frameworks). Often this is a population that feels undervalued, thus the relationship you build with them is vital. Keeping in mind professional boundaries, sometimes you may be the only support person that that individual currently has in their life, thus prioritizing their dignity and letting that individual know that you are going to support them with what they need. This means that we as social workers have a responsibility to them to do things to the best of our ability, and to ensure that our help and support does not damage or disenfranchise them. In doing this, vulnerable individuals feel like their needs are being addressed, and they are being listened to, allowing them to gain trust and respect, further helping with effective practice, crisis support, case management and social accountability. I think professionalism is combining all your skills, social work values, and knowledge in the field to be the best social worker that you can be. This allows you to work with diverse groups of people in various settings.

26 Connection | Winter 2021