Hundreds of scholars, practitioners, and students of social work met to discuss contemporary social justice and mental health challenges the Latinx community face in the U.S. and the ways in which they can support it.
This year’s theme was “Transforming the Social Worker: From Research to Advocacy to Practice.” The program started with a panel on “La Familia Perspective: Integration of Self Care, Ethics, Cultural Competency, and Leadership in a Turbulent World,” and ended with a panel on “Advocating Approaches and Social Justice Initiatives to Protect Immigrants,” at which Assistant Professor of Human Service Studies Carmen Monico was asked to speak.
Participants included faculty from the hosting university and a wide range of higher education institutions such as New York University, Columbia University, Harvard University, University of Chicago, University of Southern California, University of Denver, Northeastern Illinois University, California State University, University of Georgia. Faculty from universities from Mexico and El Salvador also participated. Students from these and other universities were in attendance as well as mental health professionals from a wide range of local and national organizations. Monico served as a peer reviewer of abstracts submitted and got approved two presentations, which were attended by over 60 participants.
The first workshop delivered sought to get participants familiarized with key terminology and facts, as well as relevant evidence-based research for working with LGBTQIA+ individuals. It aimed to elicit critical thinking and self-reflection among participants regarding their own identity and their attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ individuals. It engaged participants to support LGBTQIA+ clients in identifying and securing resources. The workshop intended to develop competence in creating an affirming environment for those self-identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ communities.
The findings of a study about LGBTQIA young residents of Alamance County, North Carolina conducted by Amy Belfer ’19, who was mentored by Monico, were presented. Using interactive exercises, this workshop sought to facilitate the development of more competent service delivery to members of the LGBTQIA+ communities while promoting wellness among LGBTQIA+ youth and adults, particularly those of Latinx identities.
The second workshop was on forced family separation and included Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow Jovani Mendez-Sandoval ’22, who has been mentored by Monico during the last year about migration research. The worskhop examined the situation of minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who have been forcibly separated from their parents at the southwestern U.S. border. It reviewed international standards and national contexts regarding the rights of children and protection of families in the evolving human rights crisis.
The workshop analyzed discrimination policies and unjust practices have already triggered institutional condemnations and legal complaints at the national and international levels. It discussed how the zero-tolerance policy has resulted in forced family separation policy and their associated detention and resettlement practices violate the rights of children and have serious implications for the health and well-being of children and their families.
The workshop proposed the recognition of wellbeing as a right of migrating children, which must be ensured in tandem with their safety and search for permanency to achieve the goals of the child welfare system in the U.S. It proposed how social workers, as human rights defenders and gatekeepers of child welfare practices, may respond to the current unjust immigration policies and practices.
The presentation was based on Monico’s recently published articles in the Journal of Human Rights and Social Work and a manuscript that Monico and Mendez-Sandoval are finalizing for a special issue of the journal Geneology.