March 14, 2007
As the largest producer of social work graduates in Arizona, the ASU School of Social Work is responding directly to community needs for Spanish speaking social workers.
Consider these two scenarios:
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• An elderly relative in your care needs community-based care.
• You are facing a serious disability.
These are difficult scenarios for anyone, but for those with language and cultural barriers, finding social workers who can help can be a tremendous challenge. For the growing numbers of Americans who speak Spanish at home and also are in need of mental health assistance, child and family welfare, aging and other complex services, access to caseworkers with appropriate language and cultural skills is increasingly difficult.
A national study, “Assuring the Sufficiency of a Frontline Workforce” (March 2006, National Association of Social Workers and the Center for Workforce Studies), found that 77 percent of licensed social workers in the United States serve at least some Hispanic or Latino clients. The same study's 2004 data show that, just as in most health care professions, social workers are not as diverse as the populations they serve. Fourteen percent of the U.S. population at the time of the study was Hispanic or Latino, and just 4 percent of the licensed social workers were Hispanic or Latino.
Social workers proficient in Spanish are further challenged by the professional terminology, cross-cultural factors, service delivery issues, context and principles specific to many bilingual or non-English-speaking Latinos. Arizona faces the added challenge of being one of four states nationally with the lowest ratio of social workers to population: 24 to 45 social workers per 100,000 residents (“Assuring the Sufficiency of a Frontline Workforce,” March 2006, National Association of Social Workers and the Center for Workforce Studies).
ASU's new Latino Cultural Competency Graduate Certificate in Social Work School of Social Work is responding directly to these needs. To be eligible for the certificate program, individuals must already be proficient in Spanish. The program is open to social work graduate students, professional social workers with a bachelor's or master's degree in social work or a related master's degree, and to individuals with an undergraduate degree and two years experience in the social service field.
In addition to courses on Latino populations of the Southwest, diversity, borderlands issues, financial and community asset building, and oppression, the certificate requires 480 hours of field experience with Latino clients. Faculty who developed the program note that the program will improve service delivery to Latino communities and clients, and also expand the employment potential of those who earn the certificate, since the demand for this expertise is critical in Arizona and other areas of the United States.
“In social work, forming professional helping relationships is central to what we do,” notes Mary Gillmore, director of the School of Social Work . “A commitment to understanding cultural values, behaviors, attitudes and practices is not new, but the certificate offers intense study and practice on the latest research and practice in this emerging area. It's a win-win for our communities and our graduates.”
“This innovative certificate focuses our faculty's research strengths in culturally grounded social work, including protective factors, immigration, health and financial disparities,” adds Barbara Robles, who manages the program out of the School's Office of Latino Projects. “Associate Professor Juan J. Paz Jr. and Josefina Ahumada of the school's Tucson component have been instrumental in leading this initiative, recognizing early on that these skills are in high demand in the social services sector.”
Luz Sarmina, president and chief executive officer of Valle Del Sol Inc. and an alumnus of the ASU School of Social Work notes, “Spanish-language skills are in daily demand – not just in Arizona, but across the United States . Building language and cultural competency in social work professionals is a key tactic for long-term success of community-based organizations such as ours. The certificate also aligns with Valle Del Sol's mission of building the next generation of Latino leaders. This is a very innovative program launch.”
Individuals interested in learning more about the certificate program, the school's course “Spanish for Native Speakers: Social Work in the Borderlands,” or the Study Abroad immersion experience planned for 2008, can contact Robles at (602) 496-0074 or (firstname.lastname@example.org).