UK Social Work Launches Program to Support Kinship Caregivers

By Lindsey Piercy.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 21, 2020) — More and more family members are providing safe homes to children of parents struggling with substance use disorder and mental health issues. For some, it’s a challenge with little help available.

From day care closures to remote learning, the COVID-19 pandemic has widened those support gaps.

“We — as a society — are reliant on kindship care. While systems often spend time focused on foster care, kinship care can be forgotten,” Jay Miller, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, said. “Communities must do more to support kin caregivers.”

There are immense benefits of kinship arrangements — a form of care that allows children to grow up in a family environment. Studies show these children have healthier behavioral and emotional outcomes. But emerging research also takes a closer look at the struggles relatives often face when caring for young family members.

Data suggests that kinship rates throughout the Commonwealth are among the highest in the country. In an effort to provide much needed support for these families, in March, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky launched the Kentucky Kinship Resource Center (KKRC).

Now, the college, in collaboration with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), is going a step further — launching the Kentucky Kinship Information, Navigation and Support Program (KY-KINS) housed in the KKRC.

The goal is to connect kinship caregivers from across the Commonwealth with an array of services designed to meet their unique needs.

“KY-KINS is designed to provide a strong social support network easily accessible by participants in times of need,” Missy Segress, director of centers and labs in the CoSW, said. “Through our innovative partnership with CHFS, we look to implement a program that will reduce the risk of placement instability among kinship providers and improve the quality of care provided.”

Additionally, families being served by KY-KINS will have access to innovative peer support and mentoring initiatives. Kinship Peer Supporters, who are caregivers themselves, undergo comprehensive training to provide the best support possible.

KY-KINS is based on the premise that by connecting kinship caregivers to a supportive network, the overall well-being of the entire family will improve, and the placement of children in the home will become safer and more stable.

Ultimately, young people need caregivers, and caregivers need support. 

The KKRC, and now KY-KINS, aims to be that support — striving to ensure all current and prospective kinship caregivers are connected with resources and services they need.

“Kinship providers are an essential component of the child welfare system not only in Kentucky but across the nation,” Miller said. “KY-KINS is an innovative way to meet the needs of, and support, the caregivers, which is particularly vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Kinship invites some of players to play pin up bet and win some extra money to spen in food court.

To learn more about KY-KINS, you can watch this video. For additional information about KY-KINS, email or text KINSHIP to 888-845-0189.

New UK Social Work Study Zeros in on Self-Care During COVID-19

By Lindsey Piercy, LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 8, 2020) — It is a profession committed to the well-being of others — social workers provide a broad range of services and help people cope with everyday issues.

But meeting the needs of others day after day, while potentially putting their own needs aside, could lead to burnout. Now, add the stressors that accompany a global pandemic.

To learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on social workers, researchers in the College of Social Work (CoSW) Self-Care Lab at the University of Kentucky conducted an insightful study.

“We focus a lot on the acute medical issues associated with COVID-19, and social workers are definitely doing pertinent work alongside other health care providers in that arena,” College of Social Work Dean Jay Miller, lead investigator of the study, said. “But social workers are also doing work to address other problematic consequences, such as unemployment, growing mental health needs, child protection and access to education. These factors certainly make for stressful practice conditions, which can contribute to professional burnout.”  

Burnout, a term first coined by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1975, describes what happens when a practitioner becomes increasingly inoperative. As symptoms worsen, its effects can turn more serious.

That begs the question, how can social workers provide compassionate care for others if they are not doing the same for themselves?

To better identify self-care issues, the comprehensive study surveyed social work practitioners throughout Kentucky. This is the first-known study to examine the impact of COVID-19 on self-care among social work practitioners.   

The study, launched this summer, assessed several aspects of self-care and factors that influence self-care practices among social work practitioners in a wide array of settings. 

Researchers found that since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early March, self-care practices among social workers have significantly decreased. In fact, over 90% of practitioners reported COVID-19 has negatively affected their ability to engage in adequate self-care.

“Given the importance of self-care to the profession, these findings are extremely concerning,” Brenda Rosen, executive director of the Kentucky chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said. “This research really illustrates the need to support social workers during this unprecedented time.” 

While some of the findings were expected, researchers noted a few surprising results. For instance, analyses revealed that gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation are all factors that influence engagement in self-care. 

In summary, social workers who identified as female, white or LGBTQ* reported engaging in significantly fewer self-care practices.

Additionally, practitioner’s working remotely reported struggling to engage in adequate self-care practices.

“Though there are certainly commonalities, results from this study show that people are experiencing the pandemic in very different ways,” Miller explained. “Responses and interventions aimed at improving self-care must take these differences into account.”

The CoSW understands managing crippling stress among these practitioner groups is fundamental to their well-being and the well-being of the populations they serve.

Researchers, like Miller, believe self-care is not only indispensable but cannot be ignored. He hopes this study will highlight the need to examine and develop beneficial approaches to support all helping professionals.

“For the foreseeable future we, as a society, will be dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19. Social workers, and other professionals, will be instrumental in the recovery from this pandemic,” Miller said. “Given the importance of these practitioners, it is absolutely imperative that we build a knowledge base that informs how we support them. This study contributes to doing just that.” 

To learn more about The Self-Care Lab, you can view this video. If you have additional questions about this project or would like to receive a copy of the full report, email

Dr. Julie Cerel Receives Engagement Award for Suicide Survivors, Research

A new project, spearheaded by a team of researchers in the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky, aims to empower those with lived experience of suicide.

The project — which will inform suicide-related advocacy, education, research, and treatment — is being funded by a nearly $100,000 grant through the Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards Program, an initiative of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

“This is an incredible opportunity to create an active and meaningful interchange of ideas between those with lived experience of suicide and others involved in suicide-related work,” Julie Cerel, director of the CoSW’s Suicide Prevention and Exposure Lab (SPEL), explained. “Through this project, we hope to create a lasting partnership and a lived-experience framework congruent with preventing suicide and meeting the needs of those who have survived an attempt.”

Using her expertise in suicidology, Cerel will lead the project. Dese’Rae Stage and Jess Stohlman-Rainey, suicide attempt survivors and advocates, will serve as co-leads. Additionally, the team is partnering with the American Association of Suicidology — the nation’s longest-running membership organization for those involved with suicide prevention and postvention.  

“The Suicide Prevention and Exposure Lab is uniquely situated to conduct this ground-breaking work. This project is consistent with SPEL’s vision, which is centered on participatory engagement in all facets of work related to suicide,” Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW, said. “We certainly appreciate PCORI’s support for what is sure to be an exponentially impactful endeavor.”  

Projects approved for funding by the PCORI Engagement Award Program undergo a highly competitive review process, in which applications are assessed for their ability to meet PCORI’s engagement goals and objectives, as well as program criteria.

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 to fund comparative effectiveness research — providing patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence needed to make informed health care decisions.

For more information about PCORI’s funding to support engagement efforts, you can visit the institute’s website.

Dr. David Royse receives William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Award

The eighth edition of Research Methods in Social Work has received a William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Award from the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA).

Research Methods in Social Work, authored by Dr. David Royse, Professor in the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, is one of seven textbooks to earn the McGuffey Longevity Award, which recognizes textbooks and learning materials whose excellence has been demonstrated over time. The award bears the name of William Holmes McGuffey, whose influential primers helped bring the United States out of frontier literacy and were in print from 1836 – 1921. To be nominated, a work must be in print for 15 years and still be selling.

The 2020 TAA judges shared the following about Research Methods in Social Work:

Research Methods in Social Work is just the textbook many of us who teach research methods to undergraduate Social Work majors have been waiting for. It will make students happy because it presents difficult (and often greatly-feared!) content in a simple, understandable, and engaging way. It will make instructors happy because students will actually read it. Royse utilizes a creative, engaging approach to demystify what some consider intimidating subject matter. The hands-on, user-friendly approach rivals more formal styles used in other methodology textbooks.”

“Authors write because they must,” said Dr. Royse. “It always feels like time to celebrate when someone else likes a concept and then a draft—and particularly when the constructed paragraphs and pages and chapters blossom into a beautiful book that others want to have their own students read.”

Royse will receive his award  TAA’s 33rd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in San Diego, CA, Friday, June 12, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. at the Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter Hotel.

Dean Jay Miller Named Social Worker of The Year

College of Social Work (COSW) Dean Jay Miller has been named 2020 Social Worker of The Year.

Dean Miller received the award during Social Work Lobby Day activities at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort on Tuesday. The award, which is given by several professional social work associations, honors significant impacts in advancing the profession. Of note, Dean Miller was recognized for his work to integrate social work regulatory and educational essay processes, innovations in preparing practitioners for advanced practice, and for his research about wellness and self-care among helping professionals. Previous recipients of the award include Rep. Susan Westrom and Rep. Jim Wayne (2018).

In addition to receiving the award, Dean Miller delivered a riveting address that challenged social work practitioners and students to be meaningfully involved in systems change.

Please join the COSW in congratulating Dean Miller on this tremendous achievement! He can be reached at should you wish to reach out to him personally.

March 1st Deadline for Integrated Behavioral Health Application

IBH Cognate Area of Study:

The College of Social Work will award $10,000 stipends to full-time MSW students and $5,000 to part-time MSW students accepted in the Integrated Behavioral Health Cognate Area of Study. IBH students learn advanced clinical competencies through practicum placements in primary care medical settings as members of interprofessional clinical healthcare teams.

What Is Integrated Behavioral Healthcare?

IBH is a structured approach to treating “the whole person.” Medical staff and social workers improve patient well-being by providing coordinated care for medical, mental health, and substance abuse issues within primary care settings.

What does the IBH Cognate Area of Study offer MSW students?

  • Enriched learning opportunities through coursework and specialized trainings that prepare students for professional practice in integrated healthcare settings.
  • Two-semester advanced practicum placements in primary care medical clinics with on-site mentoring from licensed behavioral health providers.
  • Stipends of $10,000 for full-time students and $5,000 for part-time students.

Why do IBH students receive stipends?

The stipends are part of an initiative by the federal government to build up the social work workforce in Kentucky, with the aim of increasing the number of IBH social workers. The College of Social Work has been awarded a 4-year Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to prepare students and health care professionals for work in IBH settings.

The Principal Investigator for the grant is Karen Badger, Ph.D., MSW (CHS); Co-Investigators are Pam Weeks, J.D., MSW (COSW), and Janet Ford, Ph.D. (COSW). The Integrated Behavioral Health Cognate Area of Study will be offered on UK’s main campus and at UK MSW program off-campus sites in Eastern Kentucky to full and part-time MSW students in their last 30 credit hours of the MSW program.

The purpose of this grant is to improve access to behavioral health services in Kentucky for vulnerable and underserved individuals and communities across the lifespan by increasing the number of well-prepared behavioral health social workers in primary care. The grant also supports interprofessional healthcare education to students, faculty, and healthcare providers.

Who should apply to the IBH Cognate Area of Study?

  • Applicants for Advanced Standing in the UK MSW program who are interested in behavioral health are encouraged to submit an IBH application at the same time they apply to the MSW program. The deadline for IBH applications is March 1, 2020.
  • Current 60 hour MSW students are encouraged to apply during their foundation year of MSW coursework before the Spring semester deadline of March 1, 2020.

Apply To the Program

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Examining Military Behavioral Health with Dr. Chris Flaherty

The Military Behavioral Health Lab (MBH) is a unique lab focused on generating empirical knowledge and testing clinical interventions to address mental health and wellness issues that affect active-duty, reserve, and veteran military populations and their families. The lab builds on CoSW’s considerable expertise in working with military populations. In addition to research and outreach, MBH educates social work students about career opportunities within the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Administration (VA), while training them to be the best candidates for those jobs.

Mentoring Foster Parents with Jeff Damron and Tamikia Dumas

Imagine you’re a new foster parent or kinship caregiver, and if you’re being honest, it’s nerve-wracking. No matter how prepared you are, once a child walks into your home, it can feel overwhelming. You ultimately need someone who understands; just ask Jenny Knecht.

“Often, foster parents feel alone. They have questions and fears and don’t know who to turn to.” Knecht understands, because she began her foster care journey nearly 10 years ago. Today, she is a mom of five. Three of her children are adopted, and Knecht is not ashamed to admit, being a caregiver is challenging.

“The need for foster parents is so great and we cannot afford to lose good families for reasons that can be avoided, such as providing support,” Knecht continued. “Even those that have experience with parenting will face challenges in their foster care journey. No one can go through this process alone. Not successfully.”

Undoubtedly, being a foster or kinship parent can be demanding. Research indicates that caregivers often struggle to find support. Moreover, the number of children entering foster care in the Commonwealth continues to increase. In response to these challenges, the College of Social Work Training Resource Center (TRC) has expanded its Foster Parent Mentor Program. 

In existence for more than 20 years, the Foster Parent Mentor Program specializes in one-on-one, intensive coaching relationships for newly approved foster parents and kinship care providers. Mentees receive encouragement, skill reinforcement, and information on parenting strategies unique to providing out-of-home care. The program matches newly approved foster parents (mentees) with veteran foster parents (mentors) to provide hands on assistance with application of skills learned during training, help identifying resources, providing emotional support, and sharing practical parenting strategies.

Jeff Damron and Tamikia Dumas are Program Coordinators for the program and administer all aspects of the program statewide. From recruiting and training new mentors to helping facilitate the perfect match of mentor and mentee, Damron and Dumas ensure foster and kinship families are receiving the support they need to be successful in their foster care journey. 

“Peer mentoring is an innovative approach to providing support to foster and kinship caregivers across the state. What’s more is that the program is specifically designed to reach caregivers that night not otherwise be served,” said College of Social Work Dean Jay Miller. “Given the rising numbers of youth in out-of-home care, programs like the Foster Parent Mentor Program will be integral to ensuring the well-being of children and families. The program is an initiative rooted in a common purpose; aimed at a common good; and, for the Commonwealth.”

“I have seen families isolate themselves and then fail in their journey. With added supports, we can make sure our families feel supported and get their questions answered,” Knecht, added. “Simply connecting with others that are going through the same things can often fill a void and rejuvenate foster parents, so they are able to continue positively impacting the lives of children.”

University 1st in Kentucky to Launch Online Doctorate of Social Work degree

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 1, 2020) — It’s a daunting, but necessary task – serving the most vulnerable members of our community. In a world filled with social injustices and inequality, individuals, families, groups, and communities need continued support, advocacy, and professional services.  

Social workers provide critically important services aimed at improving community safety and wellbeing. The hope is, that with every challenge – whether it’s related to abuse, addiction, disability, discrimination, poverty, or others — there’s a social worker to help address that challenge. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

There’s a critical shortage of social workers across the country — including right here in the Commonwealth. In fact, a recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a 16% increase in the need for social workers nationwide since 2016. Of particular need, are social work practitioners with advanced training and education. The College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky is committed to meeting that need.  

With the well-being of Kentuckians in mind, the CoSW is launching an online Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program.  

The first of its kind in the state, the program will successfully prepare students for advanced social work practice, clinical, research, administrative leadership and executive roles. The DSW program is designed to prepare students to creatively address society’s most complex social issues. 

According to Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW, the program could not come at a more pressing time. “We recognize that as the social challenges become increasingly complex, so too must our response,” he explained. “For now, that response is the DSW program.”

The growth in child abuse and neglect cases, the devastating opioid epidemic, complex mental health issues, and shifting regulatory dynamics are overwhelming social workers with complicated caseloads. 

In an effort to lessen the burden, the DSW program will provide social work practitioners the opportunity to build upon their skills by receiving specialized training in one of three areas: administrative leadership, advanced clinical practice, or military behavioral health.

In a continued effort to make UK programs accessible and attainable, the DSW is fully online and can be completed in two years (full time). There are also part-time options available. 

“This program was conceptualized with practitioners in mind,” Natalie Pope, director of CoSW doctoral programs, said. “Our College has made significant investments in educational technology — which ensures that we can offer an academically rigorous educational experience in a flexible and efficient format.” 

Ultimately, graduates of the program will be positioned to advance their careers and become transformational leaders within the profession.   

Social workers play a prominent role in improving the lives of those who need it most.

With shortages expected to worsen over the next decade, Miller hopes the CoSW’s cutting-edge approach will transform communities and the lives of those who call those communities home.

“The DSW program will fundamentally improve the social work practice and academic landscape in Kentucky and beyond. It will afford social work practitioners an advanced career trajectory and make the profession more desirable for those exploring helping profession disciplines,” he explained. “The program will draw people to social work and address current practice and workforce needs.”   

The first DSW cohort will start Fall 2020. The program will begin accepting applications on February 15, 2020. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, call (859) 257-6650, text “DSW” to 888-845-0189, or email