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.” 

To learn more about KY-KINS, you can watch this video. For additional information about KY-KINS, email kinship@uky.edu or text KINSHIP to 31996.

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 selfcarelab@uky.edu.

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 Justin.Miller1@uky.edu 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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