Advocates Forum 2010 Letter from the Editor

From the 2010 issue of the Advocates' Forum


For most in the field of social welfare, the past year proved particularly challenging.  Many who had never before relied on social services came through agency doors as they faced unemployment, financial uncertainty, and hardship. Many working in the field saw budget cuts significantly reduce service provision while need for services increased.

In the face of adversity however, SSA students only deepen their commitment to social welfare. This issue of Advocates’ Forum highlights this commitment and showcases the School’s traditions of responding to pressing social issues and promoting social justice. The articles in this issue demonstrate the innovative and thoughtful ways in which SSA students think critically about and address community needs and challenges in the field.

This year much of that thinking was applied to issues of gender-based violence. Three articles focus on this urgent problem, yet each examines it in a different context and suggests new intervention strategies accordingly. Two of the issue’s other articles lend a critical eye to the process of policy making and its implementation. The final two articles delve into the philosophy of the human experience with an emphasis on healing and how we measure the ways in which people acclimate to new social environments, respectively.

Ursula Wagner’s article “Standing STRONG against Gender-Based Violence,” examines the social problem of all forms of violence disproportionately affecting women and girls and assesses current intervention strategies. Ursula proposes an innovative intervention model that addresses existing gaps in intervention models and considers both the individual and the larger systems within which the individual functions.

In “An Intervention Designed for American Orthodox Jewish Women who Experience Domestic Violence,” Meredith Blackman also highlights the social problem of domestic violence against women, but discusses the unique cultural and religious challenges to effectively respond to the needs of the Orthodox community. Meredith, too, proposes an intervention strategy based on her own experience and research within the community.

Finally, Madeline Brigell examines gender-based violence across two national contexts in her article, “Participatory Theater and the Prevention of Gender-Based Violence.”  Madeline’s article illustrates the impact and influence of theater-based violence prevention models used in Latin America on prevention strategies for teens in theUnited States.  The article also discusses important cultural implications of program design and suggests the need for continued research in this area.

In “Suffering, Relatedness & Transformation,” Ruth Domrzalski connects philosophic principles of the human experience to the core social work tenets of empathy, attunement and responsiveness. Her article uses 20th Century philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’ theory of ethical responsiveness to inform the social work practitioner’s use of the therapeutic relationship to understand pain and suffering. 

Dina Drankus’ article “Indicators of Acculturation: A Bilinear, Multidimensional Approach” suggests use of a clinical instrument to assess a client’s level of social acculturation.  This article is particularly timely in light of the rapidly changing demographics of manyU.S.communities. 

“Animal Product Consumption as a Social Problem: Framing, Mobilization and Agenda Setting” by Betsy Rubenstein uses the vegan/vegetarian movement to illustrate how social workers can effectively use framing techniques to position issues as relevant social problems and set corresponding agendas for change.

Finally, in “Landscaping Neo-Liberalism: The Weed and Seed Strategy,” Julie Garfield re-examines a federal initiative to improve socioeconomic conditions in poor urban neighborhoods by removing criminals and implementing programming. She raises questions about the program’s outcomes and argues that this piece of social policy sabotages its own goal by privileging capitalist development, re-enforcing small-scale social spending, and contributing o the mass incarceration of theUSprison system.

In a year of increased hardships for those needing services and those who provide them, SSA students responded by applying rigorous examination and original thinking to key issues. The work in this volume demonstrates their effort to think in an informed and creative way in order to be more effective in our quest for social justice. It also typifies the students’ commitment to the changing face of the social service landscape, on an individual, community, and even international level. We are proud to present the 2010 issue of Advocates’ Forum.

Jennifer E. Baker
Emily C. Oshima