Making Social Work Work: Presentations on Current Research in the Field of Social Work

Making Social Work Work: Presentations on Current Research in the Field of Social Work

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Congress 2021 blog edition 

By Valerie Leow, J.D. Candidate, University of Alberta 

The Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) hosted “Life Satisfaction for Disabled Youth: What Role Does Resilience Play?,” which comprised of three pre-recorded videos, each followed by a brief Q&A session, that summarized the results of some recent research that was conducted in the field of social work. 

University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work doctoral candidates Ran Hu and Ami Goulden presented their research on resilience, stating that “young people living with disabilities in Canada report significantly lower levels of perceived life satisfaction than their non-disabled peers.” They name ‘resilience,’ defined as “our capacity to navigate and negotiate resources that sustain our wellbeing,” as playing a significant role in narrowing the gap in life satisfaction between disabled and non-disabled young people. While meanings of resilience may vary, it is largely related to hope, confidence, future prospects, and readily available supports within the community. With regards to the development of intervention programs, Hu and Goulden recommend that said programs contain strategies such as offering young people support with future planning and professional development, encouraging young people to build and maintain personal connections within the community, and providing opportunities for personal growth and development for young people. 

Dr. Nélida Ramírez, Associate Professor in the Social Work School at the Technological Metropolitan University Santiago in Chile, discussed the effects that different socio-environmental contexts, movements, and organizations have – and have had – on social work, particularly drawing from examples in Antioquia, Colombia, and Maule, Chile. According to Ramírez, “the poorest and most vulnerable communities generally suffer the worst effects of climate change.” Ramírez cited a need for us to understand the different experiences of socio-environmental organizations and movements, and actively engage in processes of exchange and dialogue on best practices in order for social workers to “more consciously lead the planning and social advocacy efforts” in responding to these issues. 

The third and final video was an examination of the settlement of refugees from post-conflict societies in Canada by Master’s Student and Research Assistant in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary Maimuna Khan’s. Khan found that the entire system responsible for settling refugees tends to paint the refugees in one of two lights: as “superhuman,” having endured and overcome all that they have, and having the courage and strength to travel across the world to land in a place with an unfamiliar language or culture; or as “traumatized,” being overwhelmed by their traumatic experience and needing the system to “cure” them from this trauma. The entire system responsible for settling refugees tends to “valorize” the host country – namely, Canada, in this example – by painting the host country as the refugees’ “benevolent saviour” while simultaneously “over-victimizing” the refugees by denying their agency, ignoring their resiliency, and homogenizing the refugee body and experience, thus perpetuating colonialism. To follow, Khan talked about the system cycling from: boasting its benevolence in its ‘saving’ of the ‘pitiful’ refugees; to gradually withdrawing their support from refugees due to the huge drain on finite resources, leaving refugees to “hit rock bottom” or “fail,” in Khan’s words; back to swooping in to ‘save’ the ‘pitiful’ refugees. Thus, the system “promotes the need for itself by letting the refugee family fail,” with some agencies not intervening with refugees unless absolutely necessary.