Social work

Construction of a social work program at UTPB

Leticia Haro, a student at the University of Texas in the Permian Basin, said what led her to study social work was that it aligned with her values ​​of fighting for social justice, human rights man and human dignity.

Haro, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in social work, said she had been interested in the field from a young age. Haro has tried nursing and psychology, but feels she has found her footing.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Haro plans to earn a master’s degree in clinical social work and work in mental health before returning to UTPB to work as an educator.

A single mother of three children, one of whom is an adult, Haro is from Big Spring. She has lived in Odessa for more than 10 years.

Besides mental health, there are a variety of areas in which social workers can intervene, from hospitals to criminal justice.

“…If there’s a human in the mix…there can be a social worker, so it’s a pretty broad area of ​​practice,” said Sam Terrazas, university chair and professor of social work.

Terrazas said social work values ​​guide her practice.

“…We are very much grounded in issues of social justice, which include…making sure people’s basic needs are met…” Terrazas said.

Social workers can be found in sports, working for the FBI in forensics or psychotherapy, for example.

“Social workers actually provide most of the psychotherapy in the United States when you look at that statistically for psychologist…more than psychiatrist…so that’s also a misnomer. As an undergrad, you do the kind of stuff that’s more related to case management. I don’t want to put this in a box, but this is what it looks like. But as a social worker with a master’s degree, you can do things like clinical social work, but also administration, research, policy, advocacy, community organizing. It really branches out to other types of services for people who may be more specialized…” Terrazas said.

Bachelor of social work students are trained to become general practitioners and someone with a master’s degree in social work has a wider range of specializations, he added.

UTPB’s social work program currently has just over 30 students, but it is growing.

“We’re a small program, but we’re growing steadily,” Terrazas said.

Field education director Samantha Perales said she and Terrazas are trying to get the message across that social workers don’t just deal with child protection issues or make referrals.

A degree in social work opens up a wide range of possibilities.

“…One of our values ​​is that all people have dignity and worth, so we teach our students this as a way to understand that interpersonal context when working with others,” said Terraces.

Perales said they strive to provide students with interdisciplinary work.

“Because of course, as Sam mentioned, we’ll be wherever there are humans. Sometimes we think those settings are a bit atypical for a social worker and so it’s really important that we expose students to those possibilities of things like interdisciplinary teams and looking at the individual holistically,” Perales said.

Terrazas said social workers can help people struggling with the mental health and wellness aspects of postpartum depression and help new fathers navigate that role.

As part of the program, students complete field placements in areas ranging from domestic violence to mental health and addiction.

Haro works with the Parents as Teachers program at First 5 Permian Basin.

“They offer home visiting services for families and focus on early education for children aged 2-5. But there is also the HIPPY program, which prepares toddlers for kindergarten. And they have the Nurse Family Partnership. … It helps first-time mothers. They are assigned a registered nurse who walks them through the process, from their pregnancy and after having their child until they are 2 years old,” Haro said.

Terrazas said all fourth-year students must average 16 hours a week in real-world practice at an agency.

“…Rather than the traditional internship, she’s not stapling papers, or anything, she actually has to practice and do social work within this agency,” Terrazas said. “Our social work, like other health or applied disciplines, is competency-based. Thus, Leticia is evaluated on nine different practice skills. Mid-term, Samantha comes out and says, “Hey, how’s Leticia,” but not just in general. She looks at these nine skills and her supervisor has to say, “Yes, Leticia to some degree and if not, which one; she is one of our best students. But if she’s not able to do that, then technically she can’t complete our program, like any other applied profession,” Terrazas said.

He added that social work is guided by ethics, values ​​and skills.

Perales supervises seniors in the final year of their internship.

Perales said she meets students if they have reached a certain amount of their degree.

“If they have taken their practical courses, we can place them in the practical course in the field. I will then work with the student on their interests, as it relates to what they wish to do with their social work degree. And then we will go through the avenues of community organizations (and) locating social workers who are already in practice and who can supervise our students while they are in this internship year. My job is really to make sure that the students have that connection between what they learned from us through the program on this theoretical approach, or in these practical courses, and the applied practice in the community. And so I’m going to work with them and work with their agencies to make sure those skills that they’ve learned with us translate well into what interacting with the client looks like,” Perales said.

Perales said this is her first year as field education director. One of the things she enjoys is helping students understand what their post-graduation looks like, whether it’s grad school, talking to recruiters, or emphasizing the importance of getting a degree in social work.

“…It’s also something that we try to make clear to the community, is that we are a protected profession. We have licensure and it’s important that I expose that and prepare students for licensure in the state of Texas,” Perales said.

Licenses are obtained through the Texas Department of State Health Services.

There are also master’s level licenses for licensed clinical social workers. Terrazas said it allows them to work in private practice or lay down their own shingles.

Terrazas said the program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, which determines skills and shows graduates are ready to practice.

The licensure part indicates that the state now recognizes that you are ready to practice. Students take a national test, but each state has different licensing requirements.

Haro said she hasn’t started studying for the exam yet, but Perales said Haro will take a “crash course” in the spring semester.

Haro said applying his college experience to the real world has been enjoyable.

“…I feel like Ms. Perales really groomed us. …” Haro said.

Haro said she noticed Terrazas’ approach was innovative and creative, and she felt there was more connection between faculty and students.

Terrazas said he felt the connection was important “because we’re professional, so there’s also a mentoring aspect to it.”

He added that Haro is an exceptional student.

“…Leticia and I talked about grad school. We talked about doctoral studies. We talked about what the profession looks like for her on the road, just like Samantha did in practice. So this relationship and these conversations are really important beyond academics…” Terrazas added.

Generally speaking, he said a lot of students are first-generation students, so they don’t think about going to graduate school and maybe never thought about it. This makes that teacher-student connection even more important.

“…Samantha and I have worked very, very hard to change the culture of our department to one where students understand that we are there for them academically, but also to prepare them for professional social work… “, said Terrazas.

Haro, who has a 20-year-old child, a 13-year-old child and a 4-year-old child, has to juggle his life and his schoolwork.

She said she is able to do this because she has a lot of family support.

“(I) have both my parents nearby as well as my siblings. … Without that, I don’t think I would make it,” Haro said.

To further enhance student training, the department has set up a Family Services Simulation Lab.

The idea is to help students learn to practice social work in a “near real environment”.

“…We’re going to take students through this just like they do in nursing and we’ll give them some scenarios…” Terrazas said.

“…We are preparing the simulation; we give people their roles and the student must intervene and be able to intervene accurately and appropriately in cases of suspected child abuse. … They’re mandated journalists, so it’s something they have to do,” Terrazas said.

“It’s really the way to prepare practitioners for the field and the profession, because it gives them the opportunity to make mistakes,” he added.

So Terrazas can watch how things are going and stop him. It cannot be done on the ground.

“It takes this program to the next level because we believe our clients deserve… the most qualified and competent social workers we can prepare for the profession,” he said.

The program also has virtual presence technology, which can be used for customers in rural areas.

“Our dean, Dr. (Donna) Beuk, funded us to buy this device here. We use it to train our students to use virtual presence technology in settings where they can’t be. …It’s basically telemedicine, but using a robot…” Terrazas said.