The School of Social Work's upcoming Social Work Practice Fellows (SWPF) program is designed to heighten the teaching and leadership skills of participating M.S.W.-level social work supervisors. But the initiative aims to do more than that.

The School of Social Work’s upcoming Social Work Practice Fellows (SWPF) program is designed to heighten the teaching and leadership skills of participating M.S.W.-level social work supervisors. But the initiative aims to do more than that.

Daniel Kaplan, Ph.D., assistant professor at the School, said, “To date, social services provided to children, adults and other adults have been treated as discrete fields of practice due largely to age-specific funding streams and a perception that the needs and problems of the older and younger populations are divergent. The resulting compartmentalization of the workforce—often referred to as the problem of practicing in discrete silos—contradicts the realities of practice and the common challenges faced by families and individuals of any age.”

Dr. Kaplan added, “To bridge this artificial divide, SWPF brings together agency-based leaders—the managing supervisors who oversee direct practice and who serve as teachers and role models for their teams. By recruiting supervisors from diverse practice settings and providing a state-of-the-art educational curriculum focused exclusively on supervisory skills and strategies to improve care across the life course, the program promises exponential returns on investment as our graduating supervisors return to their agencies prepared to lead their teams toward excellence in direct practice.”

SWPF has $120,000 in funding from the Florence V. Burden Foundation and the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York, Dr. Kaplan said. The Burden Foundation awarded $40,000 and the Health Foundation $80,000.

Designed to enhance supervisor skills, the Social Work Practice Fellows program is set for the Garden City campus from September 26 to December 5, 2018. Dr. Kaplan and Barbara Silverstone, Ph.D., managing partner of SBW Partners and a former president of the Gerontological Society of the America, are “the masterminds behind this program,” said Joanna Suppa, the School’s coordinator of continuing education and professional development. Dr. Kaplan serves as the program’s director, with Dr. Silverstone as co-director.

This grant-funded initiative will build a curriculum and test the delivery of a 36-hour continuing education program at Adelphi and other universities in the Northeast. The program is being shared with the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University, which will also be running the program this fall, Suppa added.

Key to this premier tuition-based professional development program’s success is the limited size of the training cohort—about 25 at each site—meeting in person, with time between sessions to network as well as reflect upon and practice new teaching skills, he said.

“Early-career social workers are often thrust into supervisor positions without adequate preparation for serving as a manager, teacher and role model,” Dr. Kaplan observed. “Whatever their setting, social workers are inevitably thrust into situations involving diverse clients, both old and young, who experience challenges beyond the limited scope of any one area of specialized expertise.”

As examples, he said, “Supervisors in agencies primarily serving older adults experience case-related challenges involving younger relatives, and social workers serving children often engage older persons serving as surrogate parents. Thus, effective supervisors must achieve advanced levels of skill in supervision as well as a broad scope of expertise about supporting teams in overcoming practice-related complexities involving individuals of all ages, as well as families.”

He believes this collaborative effort can improve that situation and also bolster staff retention.

Dr. Kaplan praised the “invaluable” role played by Associate Professor Carol Cohen, D.S.W., who consulted in the curriculum’s creation and who will teach two workshops, one of which is Advancing Skills in Individual and Group Supervision. Another Adelphi faculty member, Bernadette Marson, Ph.D., Hauppauge Center licensing coordinator and adjunct professor, will focus on Advancing Knowledge of Mental Health and Addiction Challenges Across the Life Course.

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