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Primary health care teams can help solve Canada’s health care crisis – and social work will play a key role

members of Team Primary Care pose with a print out of their Call to Action

Team Primary Care summit attendees, including Keith Adamson, pose with members of the Senate of Canada and a Call to Action signed by summit participants

How leaders from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work are creating a national vision for the role of social work in primary care

The human resource crisis in Canada’s health care system is growing, with people across the country struggling to find a family doctor who can address their needs — including support for mental health. Team-based primary care, which involves health care professionals from different disciplines working collaboratively over time on behalf of their patients, offers a sustainable solution to this problem. And involving social workers in the process is key.

Rachelle Ashcroft and Keith Adamson, both associate professors at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, believe that social work can play a leading role in building a strong system of interprofessional collaboration. With funding from the federal government and in partnership with the Canadian Association of Social Work, they’ve assembled a group of social work leaders to develop a national vision for social work in primary care. Together, they are not only charting a path for social work’s role in primary care, but also ensuring the valuable skills and expertise that accredited social workers offer are recognized as integral to the system.

“In primary care, one of the number one most prevalent challenges is mental health,” says Ashcroft, the group’s project lead, and one of Canada’s top primary care researchers in this field. Ashcroft’s research focuses on the examination of the organizational and policy contexts needed to support the delivery of health and mental health services in team-based primary care. With over 15 years of clinical social work practice experience in healthcare, she began her social work career working in primary care after completing her BSW at the University of Manitoba.

Adamson holds more than 20 years of progressive senior management experience in clinical, management and professional practice leadership roles. His research, meanwhile, examines healthcare system transformation and innovative approaches to social work practice and education. The feedback he has received from physicians reflects Ashcroft’s findings as well. “When you ask physicians what profession they need in terms of working with patients, they tell you a social worker,” he says.

composite photo of Keith Adamson and Rachelle Ashcroft

Keith Adamson and Rachelle Ashcroft of the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

Building a national vision

The project to strengthen the integration of social workers in primary care is part of a larger initiative working to build a Canada-wide strategy for team-based primary care, one that will help ensure that Canadians have improved access to quality primary care in their communities. With funding from the federal government, the initiative, called Team Primary Care, convened over 20 practitioner groups representing different health care disciplines to examine their roles in and preparedness for team-based practice.

“Team-based care is already happening, but not consistently across the country,” says Adamson. “There are some programs that are working well, but the ideas and models are not expanding because we haven’t been adequately talking to each other.”

While health care is a provincial responsibility, the crisis in primary care is nationwide. Addressing the crisis and ensuring equitable access to health care across the country necessitates sharing knowledge and best practices.

“Some provinces, like Ontario, have had community health centres and Family Health Teams since 2005 and earlier,” says Ashcroft, “but in other provinces team-based care is really brand new.”

Research has shown that team-based primary care can increase the capacity of health care providers, improve patient access and ensure people receive care appropriate to their needs from a recognized heath care practitioner. The challenge now is to promote the benefits of this new approach to practitioners and decision makers who don’t yet have experience with team-based care and to develop creative, evidence-based models that can be replicated nationwide. Education and training will also be key to developing a successful new system. Embedded in this work, says Ashcroft, is the need for “a more coherent plan to move social work in primary care forward.”

Investing in new models of care

In February 2024, Team Primary Care hosted a summit that brought together more than 300 health professionals across various disciplines to share lessons learned and to discuss next steps in transforming primary care. The conference culminated in a Call to Action, signed by summit participants, urging governments to ensure that investments in primary care include “the required policy, training, and infrastructure reforms needed to train health professionals to work in team-based care.”

On March 20, Adamson along with professionals representing nursing, pharmacy and physicians met with the Federal Health Minister, Mark Holland, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, Randy Boissonault to present the Call to Action and champion team-based primary care. Adamson also participated in conversations with Canadian Senators.

“It’s understood that social workers are part of this new evolution of primary care,” says Adamson. “We are being recognized as key, and that’s exciting.”

Developing education and training

With 11 health science programs across three campuses in the Greater Toronto Area, the University of Toronto is well positioned to lead both research, education and training in team-based primary care. “We’ve been working on our social work specific work, but we’ve also been very intensely collaborating with family physicians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech language therapists, dietitians and others,” says Ashcroft.

In addition, the infrastructure to support students who wish to develop experience in team-based care in general is well established. U of T’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) Curriculum has also long provided students studying a health profession with opportunities to build experience working in interdisciplinary teams. Offered by the Centre for Advancing Collaborative Healthcare & Education (CACHE), the program grew out of a strategic partnership between U of T, the Toronto Academic Health Science Network, and the University Health Network. Ashcroft and Adamson are the faculty leads/representatives for IPE at U of T’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

Unfortunately, at present, few social worker graduates think about going to primary care. “That’s because we don’t really talk about primary care,” says Adamson. “Many of our practicum sites are hospital based. So even when we approach teamwork, we are focusing on different questions around health.” He and Ashcroft would like to see this change.

In Ontario, opportunities to work in team-based primary care — say, in tandem with a family physician or nurse practitioner or as part of a community health center — already exist. In these cases, social work graduates currently receive training on the job. But there are variations in the roles that social workers are offered and how well they are integrated into a team. Building capacity for social work in primary care will require recognizing the robust skills and expertise that social workers provide, strengthening education and training, and providing clarity on their essential role within a team. All of this must be incorporated into the national vision and strategy for team-based care.

“We have such an amazing opportunity,” says Adamson. “Social work is all about equitable access and is interdisciplinary by nature, with a deep understanding of how broader systems and experiences impact health. Our philosophy and expertise strongly align with the aims of primary care. We can be leading this work.”


Related:

 

 

Now on YouTube: Carmen Logie highlights the connection between climate change and sexual health

On March 20, Professor Carmen Logie delivered the 2024 Innis Alumni Lecture, “More than Clouds and Condoms: Connecting Climate Change and Sexual Health” at Innis Town Hall. 

During her talk, Logie, who joined the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work in 2013, shared insight from her international research that has uncovered strong links between climate change and mental health. 

In addition to her role at FIFSW, Logie is Canada Research Chair in Global Health Equity and Social Justice with Marginalized Populations and an Adjunct Professor at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment & Health. 

Logie started her lecture by listing the many people whose lives have been impacted by a lack of safe water, access to food and sanitation — all of which are consequences of climate change.  

Citing other global studies, Logie shared that worldwide: 

  • 2 billion people are affected by water insecurity,  
  • 2 billion people experience hunger, 
  • 1 billion adolescent girls and women suffer from undernutrition, 
  • 276 million people are affected by acute hunger, and 
  • 673 million people have no access to toilets. 

“Our team has been looking at the lived experiences of these events among young people in climate-affected communities in different contexts,” said Logie. Her research has examined the experiences of refugee youth living in urban informal settlements in Kampala and in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda, Africa’s largest refugee-hosting nation. She has also explored how extreme weather events impacts youth in diverse climate-affected regions in Kenya and how water insecurity shapes risks of depression among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons in Bangkok, Thailand and Mumbai, India. In addition, Logie has new research examining adolescent experiences of the forest fires in Canada’s Northwest Territories. 

As Logie shares in her lecture, the impacts of climate change, particularly for girls and women, have been vast. In Uganda, for example, water insecurity due to drought has meant that girls and women have had to walk long distances to fetch water, with some travelling at night to avoid long lineups, which has increased the risk of gender-based violence. Extreme heat, which has led to people sleeping outside, brought about similar risks. A lack of water has also affected access to safe sanitation and food security, increasing transactional sex to meet basic needs. Meanwhile, drought has disrupted education, especially for girls, and access to health care, including HIV treatment and prevention. 

These are just some of the examples Logie shared in her talk on research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the International Research Development Centre (IDRC). 

For those who missed it (or those who may want to watch it again!), Logie’s full lecture is now available online and can be viewed above. 

online poster for Carmen Logie's Innis Alumni lecture: More than clouds and condoms: connecting climate change and sexual health"

Are you a member of the media interested in speaking to Logie for a story? Contact FIFSW’s Senior Communications Strategist Dale Duncan at dale.duncan@utoronto.ca 


Recent studies led or co-authored by Dr. Carmen Logie referenced in the lecture 

 

Logie CH, Okumu M, Berry I, Loutet M, Hakiza R, Kibuuka Musoke D, Mwima S, Kiera UM, MacNamee C, Kyambadde P. Social contextual factors associated with lifetime HIV testing among the Tushirikiane urban refugee youth cohort in Kampala, Uganda: Cross-sectional findings. Int J STD AIDS. 2022 Mar;33(4):374-384. doi: 10.1177/09564624211069236. Epub 2022 Feb 5. PMID: 35125037; PMCID: PMC8958564.

 

Logie, C., Okumu, M., Tailor, L., Taing, L., Dorea, C., Mbuagbaw, L., Hakiza, R., Kibuuka-Musoke, D., Katisi, B., Nakitende, A., Kyambadde, P., MacKenzie, F., Admassu, Z. (2024). Water and food insecurity and linkages with physical and sexual intimate partner violence among urban refugee youth in Kampala, Uganda: cross-sectional survey findings. Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development. https://doi.org/10.2166/washdev.2024.298

 

Logie, C., Okumu, M., Admassu, Z., Perez-Brumer, A., Ahmed, R., Lahai Luna, M., MacKenzie, F., Kortenaar, J.L., Berry, I., Hakiza, R., Katisi, B., Musoke, D., Nakitende, A., Batte, S., Kyambadde, P., Taing, L., Giordana, G., Mbuagbaw, L. (2024). HIV vulnerabilities associated with water and food insecurity among urban refugee youth in Kampala, Uganda: Implications for resource insecurity-informed HIV prevention. AIDS & Behavior, 28(2), 507-523.

 

Logie, C.H., Okumu, M., Latif, M., Musoke, D., Odong, S., Mwima, S., and Kyambadde, P. (2021). Exploring resource scarcity and contextual influences on wellbeing among young refugees in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, Uganda. Conflict & Health, 15(3).

 

Logie, C.H.; Lys, C.; Sokolovic, N.; Malama, K.; Mackay, K.I.; McNamee, C. ; Lad, A.; & Kanbari, A. (2023). Examining Pathways from Food Insecurity to Safer Sex Efficacy Among Northern and Indigenous Adolescents in the Northwest Territories, Canada. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. EARLY ACCESS July 2023. DOI: 10.1007/s12529-023-10195-w

 

Logie, C.H.Newman, P.A.; Admassu, Z.; Mackenzie, F.; Chakrapani, V.; Tepjan, S.; Shunmugam, M.; & Akkakanjanasupar, P. (2024). Associations between water insecurity and mental health outcomes among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons in Bangkok, Thailand and Mumbai, India: Cross-sectional survey findings. Cambridge Prisms-Global Mental Health. DOI: 10.1017/gmh.2024.27 

 

View a full list of Professor Carmen Logie’s scholarly and creative works via Discover Research. 

Research on LGBTIQ inclusion in Asia is advancing human rights and addressing the root causes of HIV

FIFSW Professor Peter A. Newman, centre, with (from left) Chia-Wei Shiu, Director of Community Resources, Tongzhi Hotline; Chih-Liu Peng, Vice Secretary General, Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBTQ+) Hotline Association; Deng-Min Chuang, Assistant Professor, National Taiwan Normal University (and FIFSW Alum); Suchon Tepjan, Research Manager, VOICES-Thailand Foundation

After more than two decades spent studying HIV prevention among sexual and gender minorities in Asia and North America, Peter A. Newman is well-acquainted with the factors that increase vulnerability to HIV infection: discrimination, stigma, violence, and marginalization in education and employment, to name just a few. Now he’s investigating those root causes directly, through a global partnership that’s advancing LGBTIQ inclusion and human rights in the region.

“While individual health behaviour is a critical area of HIV research, we’re focusing on the social and structural conditions that place people at higher risk,” says Newman, a professor at U of T’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “In Canada, with progressive support for LGBTIQ rights, we may forget that consensual adult same-sex acts remain criminalized in 64 countries and punishable by death in 6 countries — monumental obstacles to accessing healthcare.”

MFARR logoNewman is the lead researcher on a multidisciplinary team made up of collaborators from the social sciences, medicine, fine arts, community-based organizations, and UN agencies. The Partnership, called Mobilizing for a Research Revolution to Ensure LGBTIQ Inclusion in Asia (MFARR-Asia), is gathering data on the degree to which LGBTIQ people enjoy full and free participation in the economic, social and political life of India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In general, Asia — home to 60% of the world’s population — lags in human rights protections for LGBTIQ people compared to Western nations.

“The only way we’re going to end the HIV epidemic is if sexual and gender minorities are no longer excluded and stigmatized in mainstream systems and laws,” says Newman. “We’re focusing on inclusion because the ability of LGBTIQ people to participate fully and equally in society is fundamental to health and human development, yet is understudied and lacks data.”

MFARR’s overarching aims are to create an evidence base on the state of inclusion of LGBTIQ populations in each society, and then use that data to identify research gaps, inform community-engaged interventions, and advocate for government programs and policies to protect and ensure human rights.

Despite launching just before the pandemic, MFARR has already had a significant impact in the region. In India, for example, Newman has been working with his research collaborator, Dr. Venkatesan Chakrapani, and community partners such as The Humsafar Trust for over 20 years. MFARR co-sponsored India’s first public-facing national LGBTIQ health symposium and co-authored the subsequent symposium report and action plan, which led to the landmark inclusion of gender affirming hormone therapy and surgery in the Prime Minister of India’s Health Insurance plan. “This expands health insurance coverage among the estimated 4.8 million trans people across India, including access to gender affirming care,” says Newman.

India’s Ministry of Health also endorsed the symposium report recommendation to develop and implement anti-discrimination policies for LGBTIQ people across government healthcare. “The road to implementation for both of these policies will be bumpy, and communities will still have to advocate, but the policies have real teeth now,” Newman says.

Meaningful engagement with community partners is embedded in every aspect of MFARR’s work. “There are always things we can learn from LGBTIQ communities that don’t show up in the research literature or government policies,” says Newman. “To get the full picture, we integrate the knowledge we gain in focus groups and community forums with our strong empirical foundation on inclusion indicators.”

He points to same-sex marriage in Taiwan as an example. As the first jurisdiction in Asia to legally recognize same-sex marriage, in 2019, Taiwan demonstrated ground-breaking progress in societal inclusion. Yet community input from the Tongzhi (LGBTQ+) Hotline Association revealed challenges faced by many individuals in Taiwan, where all marriages are officially registered in local Household Bureau records. Many who would like to get married don’t exercise their right because of anticipated stigma and fear of exclusion by their own families and local communities. “We can learn from the Taiwanese experience to better anticipate implementation challenges in places like Thailand, where the Parliament has indicated initial approval for a marriage equality bill.”

MFARR’s influence is also evident in its collaborations with community organizations across the region, both through sharing research evidence to support effective programs and providing training and capacity-building for staff and volunteers.

During the pandemic, MFARR reacted quickly, knowing the heightened vulnerability of LGBTIQ communities in the absence of human rights protections. MFARR collaborated with academic and community partners to develop and test #SafeHandsSafeHearts, a peer-delivered online eHealth intervention in Bangkok and Mumbai designed to increase COVID-19 protective behaviours and reduce psychosocial distress among LGBTIQ populations. “Our team trained 50 community members as peer counselors, who reached over 850 LGBTIQ people,” says Newman. “The results were very positive, such as reducing levels of depression in participants after just a few sessions.” Now several of MFARR’s community partners, including a major HIV clinic in Bangkok and Women’s Health in Women’s Hands in Toronto, have adopted this model to expand services to thousands of clients.

MFARR’s global partners include universities, community organizations and UN agencies, with multiple funders, led by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). “Our longtime community partners were overjoyed when we initially proposed a research program on LGBTIQ inclusion — not solely HIV focused — because they’ve always known that it was a crucial element in HIV risk and prevention, and broader LGBTIQ wellbeing,” says Newman.

The partnership is helping to build the next generation of researchers on LGBTIQ human rights issues in Asia. “Part of the vital progress we’re making in the region is through the development of our own team, students and trainees,” says Newman. Already, the partnership has provided training to over 80 students and community organization staff. “In Canada, we sometimes accept as a given our ability to openly pursue LGBTIQ scholarship and advocacy, but this is not the case in many academic institutions in Asia.”

icons illustrating 6 domains for LGBTI Inclusion: Political and civic participation, family, education, economic well-being, health, and personal security and violenceWhen Newman approached the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which had initiated work with the World Bank to create an LGBTI Inclusion Index, they were extremely supportive of MFARR’s work — and even provided funding for MFARR’s initial development meeting in Bangkok — because they recognized a critical need for more research and data. To date, MFARR has completed five comprehensive reviews of the research on LGBTIQ inclusion across Asia. Based on this evidence, the MFARR team built on the UNDP-World Bank work to include a new domain in the Index. Family, which is centrally important in Asia, is now proposed as a new domain, in addition to education, economic wellbeing, health, personal security and violence, and political and civic participation.

In preparation for a regional symposium in June, MFARR is currently surveying experts and people with lived experience in Asia and worldwide to develop and prioritize indicators of LGBTIQ inclusion in each domain.

“Something we learned a long time ago in HIV research was that if we didn’t have data, we couldn’t prove there was a problem,” says Newman. “And if we couldn’t prove there was a problem, we couldn’t get the resources to address it. Now that we’re gathering more and more evidence to demonstrate the challenges around LGBTIQ inclusion, and models of success, we’re starting to see and track progress, and real-world transformation.”

By Megan Easton


Publications

For those interested in learning more, below is a list of selected recent publications by Professor Peter A. Newman and the MFARR-Asia team.

Wong, E. M. Y, Chan, R. C. H., Suen, Y. T., Tepjan, S., & Newman, P. A. Inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals in Hong Kong: A scoping review. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. [Accepted].

Huang YT, Hang YC. (2024). Relational well-being among lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults in Taiwan: Before and after the legalization of same-sex marriage. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 21:240-52.

Chakrapani, V., Newman, P. A., Shunmugam, M., Rawat, S., Mohan, B. R., Baruah, D., & Tepjan, S. (2023). A scoping review of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people’s health in India. PLOS Global Public Health, 3(4): e0001362.

Newman, P. A., Akkakanjanasupar, P., Tepjan, S., Boborakhimov, S., de Lind van Wijngaarden, J. W., & Chonwanarat, N. (2022). Peer education interventions for HIV prevention and sexual health with young people in Mekhong Region countries: A scoping review and conceptual framework. Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 30(1), 2129374.

Reid, L., Newman, P. A., Lau, H., Tepjan, S., & Akkakanjanasupar, P. (2022). A scoping review of LGBT+ inclusion in Thailand: Policy proposals and recommendations. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 19, 1731-1746.

Chakrapani, V., Newman, P. A., Sebastian, A., Rawat, S., Mittal, S., Gupta, V., & Kaur, M. (2022). Mental health, economic well-being and health care access amid the COVID- 19 pandemic: A mixed methods study among urban men who have sex with men in India. Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 30(1): 2144087.

Chakrapani, V., Newman, P. A., Sebastian, A., Rawat, S., Shunmugam, M., & Sellamuthu, P. (2022). The impact of COVID-19 on economic well-being and health outcomes among transgender women in India [Perspectives].Transgender Health, 7(5), 381–384.

Chakrapani, V., Scheim, A. I., Newman, P. A., Shunmugam, M., Rawat, S., Baruah, D., et al. (2022). Affirming and negotiating gender in family and social spaces: Stigma, mental health and resilience among transmasculine people in India. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 24(7), 951–967.

Newman, P. A., Prabhu, S. M., Akkakanjanasupar, P., & Tepjan, S. (2022). HIV and mental health among young people in low-resource contexts in Southeast Asia: A qualitative investigation. Global Public Health, 17(7), 1200-1214.

Newman, P. A., Reid, L., Tepjan, S., & Akkakanjanasupar, P. (2021). LGBT+ inclusion and human rights in Thailand: A scoping review of the literature. BMC Public Health, 21, 1816.

Strategic planning: Join an upcoming strategy hive

illustration of people in discussion online.

Thank you to everyone who has provided input into FIFSW’s new strategic plan. We are now moving to the next phase of the consultation process! In May, the Faculty will be hosting strategy hives, where we will co-create the priorities, intentions and shared commitments for our next strategic plan. 

Below is an overview and detailed information on each hive. FIFSW faculty, students, staff, alumni, program partners and collaborators are encouraged to register for as many as possible!

Strategy hive dates

All hives will be online.. Click the links below to register.


Overview

Throughout the “pollination” phase of the strategic planning, we heard many perspectives about FIFSW’s strengths and impact — across global leadership in research, excellence in clinical practice, a supportive community and a shared ethos of continuing to work for a more just world. The conversations surfaced a profound commitment to continual evolution and shared learning, and appreciation for a space that “balances evidence-based approaches to practice with principles of anti-oppression.”

As we move into the next phase of planning, we shift from surfacing ideas, hopes and needs to co-designing intentions and priorities for FIFSW’s future.  In a series of five “strategy hives,” we will explore key strategic questions to shape the strategic framework.

Strategy hives are 2.5 hour sessions where mixed groups develop shared intentions, priorities and initial and ideas for actions around strategic questions.  These topics are NOT the ultimate strategy framework, but overlapping conversations that surface the core strategic themes and priorities.  Underpinning all of the Hives are the conceptual questions of:  Who are we and why does what we do matter?  What is the future and story of social work?  How do we shape our research, teaching, partnerships, collaborations, advocacy and relationships to achieve our highest purpose?

Between each Hive, we will synthesize the highlights from the previous sessions, which will allow the conversations to build on each other.

Participants are welcome to one or all of the Hives – the best sessions have a diversity of participants and perspectives. Please register for the hives you are interested in attending via the links below.


Strategy hive topics

All hives will be online, except May 17. Click the links below to register.

How do we shape the future of social work as a discipline?

Hive #1 (May 1st 9:00 to 11:30am) – ONLINE

The Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work is recognized for fostering strong clinical practice and world renowned research, nested in a deep commitment to supporting individuals while continually evolving a more just, equitable and inclusive social world.  Against this foundation, the discipline of social work is in significant transformation.  In this Hive, we will explore how FIFSW can lead in shaping the evolution of social work, recognizing shifting context around practice environments, decolonization, the role of professions, increasing transdisciplinary work, economic sustainability of practice, opportunities for novel partnerships and how to evolve greater understanding of the value and impact of social work. 

What does the future of applying critical EDI lenses to research, teaching and delivery of social, human and health services look like?

Hive #2 (May 1st 2:00 to 4:30pm) – ONLINE

Anti-oppression, decolonization and structural equity are at the core of all of the work of FIFSW.  As we shape the next strategic plan, setting intentions about the next evolution of these principles fundamentally influences all priorities.  In this Hive, we will explore the next iteration of EDIA, across research and teaching practices, holding and evolving our ethos in a polarized world, and creating a truly inclusive community where everyone can  “feel in their bones that they belong,” (as one focus group participant expressed).

What experience of “learning and becoming” do we want to create in classrooms, fieldwork and other learning spaces? 

Hive #3 (May 9th 1:00 to 3:30pm) – ONLINE

FIFSW is continually evolving and innovating the learning experience for everyone connected to the Faculty, balancing curriculum needs, practicum experience, regulatory shifts, inclusion and accessibility, evolving practice environments and the space for learners to increasingly define and shape content.  As the profession of social work evolves and as the Faculty continues to challenge and transform power structures, what does the evolution of the learning experience look like? In this Hive, we will explore the future of truly inclusive curriculum and classrooms, expanding ways of knowing and demonstrating knowledge, generative space for reflexivity and “becoming”, the evolution of accessibility, sustainable fieldwork and other opportunities to “live” our ethos in innovative ways.

Where is FIFSW being called to lead in the research and practice of Social Work?

Hive #4:  (May 16th 1:00 to 3:30pm) – ONLINE

The research, practice and advocacy led by FIFSW faculty, students, staff, alumni, and other collaborators are fundamental in evolving global understanding of critical topics that influence social worlds.  As we look forward to the next several years, the FIFSW will be called on the shape and influence issues that influence everyone’s lives, including Artificial Intelligence, climate justice and sustainability, sustainable and accessible public healthcare, policing, and commercial determinants of health.  In this Hive, we will explore the impact FIFSW wants to have in these and other critical areas, and what innovations, partnerships, collaborations and other approaches to action will make the biggest difference.

Hive #5 Update

As we move through this process, we have realized that the conversation around the desired impact for the Faculty is being well addressed through our other four hives and other discussions.  We are therefore cancelling that planned time, so if you have registered for the May 17th session, please join either Hive 3 or Hive 4 instead (if you are able).


NEW! Macro Hive for FIFSW Students

Macro Hive for Students (May 13 12:00 to 1:30pm) – ONLINE

This strategy hive was set up to ensure that MSW year one students who are currently completing their practicum are able to participate, however any FIFSW community member is welcome to join on this date. During this hive, we will be asking participants to create future-focused visions from a student perspective for the key strategic questions that we’ll explore in the other hives. This conversation will be short but go deeply into the core questions of the future for FIFSW, and participants will receive questions in advance to think about or consult their colleagues on.

Please note that students who are able are still encouraged to join as many of the other hives as they want in addition to this one.


Learn more about the consultation process for FIFSW’s new strategic plan

A new lab at FIFSW will help children and youth exposed to trauma thrive

Children running through a field laughing on a sunny day

Professor Ramona Alaggia will soon be opening the doors to the new Child and Youth Trauma Research Incubator (ThRIve) lab thanks to support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund – Research Infrastructure.

Part of a new network of eight Canadian universities, the ThRIve lab aims to make a difference for children and youth exposed to trauma. Bringing together researchers, practitioners, community partners and students, this research incubator will further the mission of the Canadian Consortium on Child and Youth Trauma to improve the lives of mistreated children and youth. Research from the lab will inform provincial policies and practices to “create consistency in the training provided to social workers, police officers, legal professionals and health care providers working directly with the children and families involved”.

Ramona Alaggia“Nurturing, non-violent families and communities are the bedrock of healthy child development,” says Alaggia. “The ThRIve lab is a powerful way to use research for providing leading edge information and best practices to professionals and caregivers for responding to and preventing childhood trauma.”

Alaggia will lead the ThRIve lab from the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, together with Dr. Delphine Collin-Vézina, who is heading the national hub at McGill University. They are working in partnerships with Dr. Steve Geoffrion (Montreal), Dr. Melissa Kimber (McMaster), Dr. Sheri Madigan (Calgary), Dr. Lise Milne (Regina), Dr. Tristan Milot (UQTR), and Dr. Elisa Romano (Ottawa), making this the first pan-Canadian collaboration for child and youth trauma.

Alaggia is the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Chair in Child and Family. Her body of research focuses on gender and violence; child sexual abuse disclosures and mental health effects; intimate partner violence and structural barriers; and promoting ways to foster resilience processes in children, youth and adults exposed to violence.

Locally, Ramona has been instrumental in leading research and evaluation on the wellbeing of children, youth and their families. She supports prevention and intervention programs, and helps develop innovative models of service to enhance children’s mental health. Internationally she provides training on trauma and resilience informed approaches to mental health service providers in the UK and Ireland to ensure leading-edge research for families, communities and systems to support the optimal growth of children. Her co-edited book Cruel but not Unusual: Violence in Families in Canada (3rdE) is widely read by students and practitioners across the country.


Related:

New research, led by Professor Ka Tat Tsang, explores inter-ethnic relationships in Canada’s settlement sector

Members of the research team for the SSHRC-funded project “Exploring Inter-Ethnic Relationships in the Settlement Sector in Canada”

Members of the research team for the SSHRC-funded project “Exploring Inter-Ethnic Relationships in the Settlement Sector in Canada”

On March 13th, 2024, SSHRC-funded research, led by FIFSW Professor Ka Tat Tsang, took center stage at the Metropolis Conference in Montreal. Supported by a team of dedicated researchers from across Canada, as well as international collaborators from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the project delved into the complexities of inter-ethnic relationships in Canada’s settlement sector.

The panel at the conference offered a glimpse into the study’s preliminary findings, which challenge traditional assumptions about immigrant adaptation in Canada. To date, the researchers discovered that, rather than conforming to a Euro-American mainstream, newcomers to Canada find themselves navigating a richly diverse tapestry of cultures and ethnicities. The study is also unique in its inclusion of Indigenous communities, whose experiences have often been sidelined in immigration research.

Drawing on data collected from settlement services and extensive outreach efforts within Indigenous communities in Montreal, Sudbury, and Toronto, the research sheds light on the dynamic interactions between various ethnic groups. These findings hold significant implications for Canada’s immigration agenda, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and accommodating the diverse needs of newcomers and Indigenous populations alike in the nation-building process.

Visit the project’s website Inter-Ethnic Relationships in the Settlement Sector to delve deeper into this pioneering research.


Opportunity to contribute to the research as a work study student

The research team for this project is excited to extend an invitation to current MSW students to join their ranks as part of a work-study opportunity for the summer of 2024. This presents a chance to actively contribute to a project that is at the forefront of shaping policies and practices in newcomer services and inter-ethnic relationships.

Interested students can apply for this unique opportunity via CLNX (Job ID 233915). Save the Job ID and apply on CLNX starting April 2. Prospective applicants and those with further inquiries are encouraged to reach out to Jemima Utami, Project Coordinator, at jemima.utami@mail.utoronto.ca.

Don’t miss this chance to be involved in a groundbreaking research initiative that promises to make a lasting impact on Canada’s diverse and inclusive society. Apply now and become a part of shaping the future of settlement services and inter-ethnic relationships!

Empowering youth as researchers to improve access to abortion

While abortion services and accurate information on reproductive health are vital to our health and wellbeing, access to affirming care isn’t equitable. Stephanie Begun, an associate professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, aims to change that — and is empowering youth researchers to take the lead. 

“Youths’ intersectional perspectives are essential to building optimal approaches to care,” said Begun in Spring 2023 when the Government of Canada announced more than $4.2 million in funding to strengthen access to abortion services. The funding was received in part by the University of British Columbia’s Contraception and Abortion Team (CART-GRAC), where Begun serves as director of social work research. 

Working with youth through the Youth Wellness Lab (YWL), a research collaborative that she co-founded and co-directs with Associate Professor Bryn King, Begun and a team of youth researchers set out to identify new ways to make abortion information and services more accessible, affirming and comfortable for equity-deserving groups, including youth. They are also aiming to develop curricular and continuing professional development materials on abortion information and care for social workers. 

“As someone who identifies as non-binary, abortion discourse and advocacy have often felt women-centric. At times, it has even felt transphobic,” says Cam Bautista, youth research coordinator with YWL. “This work highlights the important intersection of reproductive justice, queerness, and trans healthcare that so often is acknowledged merely on a superficial level. Now more than ever, we need to name trans and non-binary identities within abortion work as integral voices in discourse and active collaborators in this space.” 

During the Summer and Fall of 2023, six YWL researchers under age 29 engaged healthcare and allied helping professionals, including family physicians, OB-GYNs, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, social workers, and abortion navigators from across Canada, in focus groups and individual interviews. The youth-led conversations sought to better understand, compare, and contrast professionals’ efforts in the abortion care workforce, collecting providers’ interdisciplinary perspectives on abortion care practices, while also inquiring about barriers that they see being faced by equity-deserving groups as they seek abortion information and care. A scoping review, led by postdoctoral Research Associate Preetika Sharma, on social work’s role in abortion care, was also carried out and will soon be published.  

The Youth Wellness Lab research team at the Summit in Ottawa. From left to right (standing): Cam Bautista and Ruby; Ayla Arhinson, Sarmitha Sivakumaran, Hajar Seiyad, Preetika Sharma, Stephanie Begun and Anysha Reid-Henry. From left to right (sitting): Ali Pearson, Temulun Bagen, Gaja Ananthathurai

In February the research team presented its findings at a knowledge exchange summit in Ottawa. Common themes unearthed included the need for more resources to support safe and non-judgmental abortion care for transgender and non-binary abortion-seekers and to increase youths’ understanding of their rights to privacy and confidentiality in abortion care. In addition, social workers reported challenges when helping people who are also navigating substance use, under-housing and homelessness, and family and intimate partner violence. They also reported challenges for newcomers lacking health benefits and systems-navigation experience, and youth lacking accurate information and safe situations in which they can exercise their rights to abortion decision-making. 

“Speaking with healthcare professionals to learn about their unique experiences in providing abortion care allowed me to comprehend the barriers and enablers present within both urban and rural communities,” said Sarmitha Sivakumaran one of YWL’s youth researchers. “These conversations, along with the insights gained from the Summit in Ottawa, further inspired me to explore additional avenues for the effective dissemination of comprehensive and meaningful resources to equity-deserving groups.” 

In addition to presenting their research findings, the research team shared knowledge translation resources and tools, such as infographics, provider checklists and youth friendly guides that they are developing as a result of their research. All materials and research findings will eventually be hosted on the YWL website and social media sites, as well as CART web-based platforms. 

“As a proud contributor to this project, I am thrilled to witness its profound impact on reshaping the abortion landscape in Canada,” said Sharma. “It’s especially gratifying to see it address the needs of trans and non-binary individuals, voices too often unheard. This project represents a vital step towards inclusivity and progress, and I have learned so much about the barriers faced by underserved populations in our healthcare system. Together, we are breaking down barriers and paving the way for a more equitable future.”  


Related:

 

#SocialWorkOpensDoors — how FIFSW faculty, alumni, students, partners, and collaborators are opening doors for the communities they serve

Compilation of 21 photos of the social workers who shared how they are opening doors.

March 4 to 10 is Social Work Week, and March is National Social Work Month. This year the Ontario Association of Social Workers is celebrating by highlighting the many ways that #SocialWorkOpensDoors.

We asked FIFSW faculty, alumni, students, partners, and collaborators to share how they are opening doors for the communities they serve and shared their answers below.

(Scroll to the bottom to learn how you can also contribute.)


How do you open doors for the communities you serve?

Michael Adia

MSW 2018
Co-Founder, Hope Leads Mental Health Care
Wellness Counsellor and Coordinator, Health & Wellness, University of Toronto

Michael Adia, standing outside an historic building wearing a blue sweater.

As a social worker, opening doors for me means meaningful mentorship. By providing support and relevant opportunities for future social workers to thrive, we can create a community of practice that values empowerment, generosity, and supportiveness. Through this we can contribute to ensuring the continuity of care for people’s well-being across the province and beyond.

Learn about FIFSW’s EDI workshop, which Michael Adia co-facilitates and read about his involvement with Hope Leads Mental Health Care, which offers inclusive care to racialized and queer communities.

Ashley Quinn

MSW 2007, PhD 2016
Assistant Professor, FIFSW, University of Toronto

Assistant Professor Ashley Quinn

I am opening doors as a social worker by partnering with our students, such as Karima S. Jaffer, to co-create diverse and innovative perspectives that enrich Indigenous learning in social work education and practice. Coming together with a Two-Eyed Seeing approach, Karima and I have worked on projects that promote the Medicine Wheel, Seven Grandparent Teachings, and IQ Principles to find proactive solutions to the world’s biggest problems impacting Indigenous communities. This includes topics such as challenging food insecurity, literacy and numeracy rates, and the need to enhance Indigenous child welfare research through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Jordan’s Principle, and Shannen’s Dream. We also hope to create pathways where we understand how to better engage students and other professionals to better the systems impacting these populations. By mentoring students like Karima, I hope to work with the new generation to bring restorative justice through such collaborations.

Read how Ashley Quinn’s research is promoting cultural connections and identity for Indigenous children in the child welfare system.

Elo Igor

PhD student, FIFSW
RISE YBMen, Toronto Project Coordinator
Centre for Research and Innovation for Black Survivors of Homicide Victims

Elo Igor, smiling outdoors

In every role I assume as a social worker, I have had the absolute privilege of hearing peoples stories. It is my responsibility to honour each person I have worked alongside by making space and amplifying their narratives to advocate for social change. I truly believe that community makes the world go round; we need each other. By keeping the door open for one another, we will eventually break it down.

Learn more about RISE YBMen and The Centre for Research & Innovation for Black Survivors of Homicide Victims (The CRIB).

Dillon Dodson

MSW 2013
Field Instructor & Adjuct Lecturer, FIFSW
Director, Social Work, Toronto Humane Society

Dillon Dobson with her arm around a brown dog with floppy ears

The Toronto Humane Society recognizes that animal welfare services are connected to larger systemic challenges that can have direct impacts on pet owners’ access to, and ability to use, pet care services. In order to improve animal well-being, we must also improve the manner in which we care for “those on the other end of the leash.” Our social work department participates in the development and delivery of all programming for our community, with the shared goal of maintaining the human-animal bond and increasing access to resources and services that may improve animal and their families’ health and wellness. The department also strives to advance the field of social work within animal welfare, as well as raise awareness of the human-animal bond and the intersection of human and animal suffering.
Learn how to become a FIFSW Field Instructor, like Dillon Dodson.

Vivian Zhang

MSW 2016
Field Instructor, FIFSW
Founder, Clinical Therapist, Vivian Therapy

Vivian Zhang

The concept of therapy was considered taboo in the Asian community, even in 2016. Since then, with the rise of awareness in Asian mental health, more knowledge and empowerment has been given to individuals around the supports they seek and with more visible representation in mental health providers. As a social worker, my hope is to continue to destigmatize the use of therapy by making it easy and approachable as well as be a point of connection for clients and future social workers/therapists in their mental health journey.

Read about the benefits of becoming a Field Instructor at FIFSW.

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Sessional Lecturer and Assistant Professor, Status Only
CEO, CanAge

Laura Tamblyn Watts professional headshot

I pair my appointment at the Faculty, with my other work running CanAge: Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization, and other organizations which lift up and give voice to older adults and their supporters. It’s critical that research be matched with knowledge mobilization and advocacy. In all our work, we start with the stories that older Canadians share, whether that means during House of Commons testimony or media interviews. People need to see their own experiences raised up and barriers acknowledged in order to really make the change we need.
Read about Government of Canada funding to help prevent and address the mistreatment of older adults in Ontario — a project that Laura Tamblyn Watts is also involved with.

Michael Sullivan

MSW 1998
Policy Analyst, Accessibility Directorate of British Columbia
Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction

headshot of Michael Sullivan

I work through the Accessible BC Act which establishes a statutory framework for government to work in partnership with people with disabilities and the broader community to identify, remove and prevent barriers to the full and equal participation of people with disabilities. I worked on the development of the legislation and the regulation. We are currently working on the first two accessibility standards which will have implications for the private and public sectors:

  • Employment Accessibility Standard – to ensure that barriers in hiring, training and retention for persons with disabilities are identified, removed and prevented.
  • Accessible Service Delivery Standard – to ensure that events, activities, and the process of buying goods are provided in accessible ways that enable the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Learn about FIFSW’s combined Law and Master of Social Work (JD/MSW) program.

Kaitrin Doll

PhD Candidate
Co-chair of the Canadian Regional Research Network, INQYR
Course Instructor, FIFSW, University of Toronto

Kaitlin Doll

I contribute to ‘opening doors’ in social work research by highlighting the importance of cultivating inclusive and empowering spaces where sexual and gender diverse (SGD) communities can thrive. My research is focused on the lived experiences of SGD groups and the significance of community belonging, social support, and connectedness for mental well-being. My doctoral work investigates the positive impacts of sports participation in affirming environments. By examining roller derby as a case study, I hope to highlight its role in affirming identity, fostering community, building resilience and enhancing mental health and experiences and joy among SGD individuals. Over the past four years, I have been a part of the International Partnership for Queer Youth Resilience (INQYR), a collaborative initiative aimed at strengthening the resilience of SGD youth through interdisciplinary and international research efforts.

Read about Kaitrin’s research project, Reimagining Roller Derby, on INYR’s website.

Zahra Alysha Wells

MSW student, CAMH Social Work Student
Member of the Core Engagement Team for the FIFSW Academic Strategic Plan
Vice-Chair of MSW Studies Committee
Y1 Student Representative for Faculty Council Committee
Past Co-President of the FIFSW Graduate Student Association

"Zahra Wells, left, at a community event hosted by Community Addictions Peer Support Association (CAPSA Canada)

As an aspiring social worker with over a decade of experience in the field of substance use health, I am committed to building a more inclusive society for the communities I serve by advocating for more equitable access, care, and education. I aim to elevate the role of social workers in crucial decision-making processes and to strengthen the impact of our profession within this area.
Learn about the launch of the consultation process for FIFSW’s new strategic plan and how you can provide feedback.
Photo: Zahra Wells, left, at a community event hosted by Community Addictions Peer Support Association (CAPSA Canada)

Jeremy Reinblatt

MSW 2019
Field Instructor and Adjunct Lecturer, FIFSW, University of Toronto
Social Worker, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Jeremy Reinblatt headshot

As a social worker, I strive to be a strong advocate for the clients I work with, who might otherwise not be able to advocate for themselves. Community supports, housing, and re-integration is a large part of my role, and I see and respect the part that social work plays in helping vulnerable individuals achieve these goals. I strive to bridge gaps for complex client populations, including those with dual diagnoses in the forensic mental health system. I also value the importance of learning, and therefore enjoy giving back to the social work community by supervising social work students who will one day continue to open doors to communities.

View the upcoming professional development schedule for FIFSW Field Instructors.

Vithusan Arunakirinathan 

MSW Student, Mental Health and Health Field of Study, Year 2
Placement Student, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Complex General Psychiatry and Forensic Community Reintegration Unit

Vithusan Arunakirinathan 

As a Social Work student committed to equity, social justice, and anti-oppressive practice, I am opening doors for individuals and communities by fostering collaborative relationships and engaging in interprofessional collaboration. By demonstrating active listening, understanding diverse needs, and advocating effectively, I work collaboratively with individuals and families to address the barriers and systemic inequities they face. Through these efforts and by building partnerships with members of the interprofessional team as well as individuals and families, I strive to cultivate a wholistic network of care that supports them in navigating their pathways to healing, ensuring they have equitable access to the opportunities and resources necessary to thrive.

Learn about the University of Toronto’s Interprofessional Education Curriculum, which provides health professional students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for collaborative interprofessional practice.

Adriana Shnall

MSW 1988, PhD 2014 Program Director Koschitzky Centre for Innovations in Caregiving
Assistant Professor, Status-Only, FIFSW, University of Toronto

Adriana Shnall

I’m passionate about making a real difference in the lives of older adults and their families. As the Program Director at Baycrest’s Koschitzky Centre for Innovations in Family Caregiving, I’ve spent over three decades working closely with older adult and their families. Whether it’s through teaching at the University of Toronto and training the next generation of social workers, or leading innovative research and initiatives to support family caregivers, I’m committed to opening doors to improve the quality of life for everyone I have the privilege to serve.

Check out the project Understanding Resident-to-Resident Interactions (URRI) in Ontario Long Term Care, c0-led by Adriana Shnall.

Farai Gore

Field Instructor, FIFSW
Program Manager, Delta Family Resource Centre
Faculty Advisor, York University

Farai Gore

I am working to open doors by supporting individuals, families, and marginalized communities, who are often isolated due to limited access to resources. I do this by challenging and addressing barriers that have existed, and continue to exist, through time, and by creating learning opportunities and empowering communities through advocacy. With the knowledge that many who have come before me created spaces that I can walk through today, my hope is that many who will come after me can say that I have been able to work intentionally to support their pursuits in navigating the field of social work.

Read insights and advice from FIFSW Field Instructors.

Stephanie Begun

Associate Professor, FIFSW, University of Toronto
RBC Chair in Applied Social Work Research

Prof. Stephanie Begun, FIFSW

My work with youth researchers, particularly through participatory, arts-based, and qualitative research designs, has been so inspiring. Though I mentor young people on how to get involved in research, I certainly learn far more from them than they do from me. Their brilliant efforts serve as important reminders of all that is lost when systems and policies are designed for young people without their input.


Hogan (Chi Ho) Lam

MSW 2022
Diversity and Inclusion’s Specialist, Ontario Disability Employment Network

Hogan Lam

As a macro social worker, I work with the disability communities, businesses, non-profit professionals, and the government to co-create a more inclusive and accessible work environment for people with disabilities. At Ontario Disability Employment Network, we open doors not only for people with disabilities, but also for businesses and other stakeholders to build their disability awareness and confidence – social work opens doors for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.

Read a report that anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic that Hogan Lam co-authored in 2023.

Svetlana (Lana) Popova

PhD 2006
Senior Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
Associate Professor, Status Only, FIFSW, University of Toronto

Lana Popova headshot

My overarching goal is to prevent alcohol and other substance use during pregnancy. Alcohol is a teratogen and can cause permanent brain damage, resulting in neurodevelopmental impairments, intellectual disability, and mental health problems in prenatally exposed people. My education and intervention initiatives target children, adolescents, childbearing age and pregnant women, their partners and families, parents of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and communities around the globe. Alcohol and Pregnancy DON’T Mix!

View Svetlana Popova’s profile on FIFSW’s website.

Steve Lurie

MSW 1973
Adjunct Professor, FIFSW, University of Toronto

Steve Lurie

During my 45 year career in community mental health, I focused on working to reduce stigma and homelessness by advocating for funding to increase evidence based community programs such as Housing First. There is no health without mental health.

Steve Lurie is part of the Core Engagement Team for FIFSW’s Strategic Plan. Learn about the engagement process and how you can share your feedback. 

Hannah Jackson

MSW 2020
Learning Strategist, Accessibility Services, University of Toronto
Psychotherapist, private practice

Hannah Jackson

In February 2024, I initiated a Black History Month panel within the Accessibility Services Office. After years of working with Black disabled students who felt they had to choose one identity or the other, I felt compelled to leverage my positionally to create an inclusive and uplifting space for these intersections. I am grateful to have had a supportive team that helped bring this idea to reality.

Learn about learning strategist support offered to U of T students through Accessibility Services.

Celissa Vipond

MSW 2010
Clinical Director, Virtual CBT Psychotherapy
CBT Consultant & Faculty Member, Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program

Melissa Vipond

In 2023, I won an award for “Innovation” with Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care for helping increase access to free therapy for priority populations by making small changes over time in their marketing and operating plans. I am also opening doors through a virtual private practice I co-founded that has helped hundreds of people receive specialized cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) from the comfort of their homes. My team consists of 9 therapists with a variety of cultural backgrounds, education and specializations.

View information on the five fields of studies offered to MSW students at FIFSW.

Reshma Dhrodia

MSW 2012
Field Instructor, FIFSW
Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Director, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto

Reshma Dhrodia

To develop and enhance EDI-related strategies, policies, programs, and practices within postsecondary institutions — to open doors for folks who belong to equity-deserving groups — involves acknowledging that access was intentionally closed or limited to countless equity-deserving communities for generations. It means knowing that barriers continue to exist to achieving full access and a felt sense of belonging for women, folks with disabilities, BIPOC and racialized communities, 2SLGBTQ+ folks, Muslims, Jewish community members, and so many others. I focus on building trust, developing a deep understanding of the needs of our Faculty’s communities, working collaboratively across difference, and ensuring I stay grounded and humble so I can nimbly adjust my approaches to the work as needs evolve over time.

Read more about Reshma and U of T’s other EDI Leads.

Shelley Craig

Professor, FIFSW, University of Toronto
Canada Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority Youth

Professor Shelley Craig, FIFSW

As Canada Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority Youth, I am opening doors for 2SLGBTQ+ youth by leading the International Partnership for Queer Youth Resilience (INQYR), an interdisciplinary and multilingual global partnership designed to support the resilience of sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth through technology-engaged research. I also lead AFFIRM, an affirmative cognitive-behavioural group intervention that empowers 2SLGBTQ+ youth to embrace their authentic selves in the face of discrimination.

Jennifer Burt-Yanoff

MSW 2003
Field Instructor, Adjunct Lecturer, and ATC Vice-Chair, FIFSW, University of Toronto
Professional Practice Leader, North York General Hospital

Jennifer Burt-Yanoff headshot

I open doors for new and existing Social Workers by supporting the delivery of high-quality clinical services, by offering coaching and mentoring, and by creating robust orientation schedules for new hires and graduate learners. I serve as a practice resource to social workers and team members, collaborate with internal and external leaders and community partners, participate in program and clinical team meetings, and conduct research and program evaluation. By opening doors I hope to elevate the role of social work within the healthcare landscape and help create space for leadership opportunities.


Valeria Ciric

MSW student
Graduate Research Assistant for Bordering Practices Research Project
Team Lead at the York Region Supervised Parenting Time Program
MSW Intern at The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto & St. Michael’s Hospital

My current professional roles involve developing evidence-based practices for interagency collaboration and bolstering support for families affected by intersecting systems (i.e., child welfare, health care, and/or family law). As a Graduate Research Assistant at the FIFSW, I also contribute to projects, such as Bordering Practices which seek to address systemic issues equitably and meaningfully, valuing different ways of knowing to best meet the needs of community members. My focus is on providing direct care that is culturally responsive and trauma-informed, while advocating for underserved and under resourced communities.


Emma Silver

MSW 2015
Clinical Social Worker, Child & Adolescent Outpatient Program, NYGH & Family Psychology Centre

Emma Silver standing in front of a window

As a Social Worker, I see opening doors for the communities I serve as a collaborative effort aimed at eliminating barriers to accessing care. In the context of children’s mental health, this involves amplifying the voices of caregivers, who play a pivotal role in supporting their loved ones. It involves implementing innovative interventions, tailored to meet the unique needs of young individuals, many of whom may not respond to conventional talk-based therapeutic approaches. It involves advocacy for essential resources and providing support across all aspects of a young individual’s life, be it at home, school, or within the broader community.  Above all else, opening doors involves empowering young individuals to recognize the multitude of possibilities available to them, ultimately increasing their sense of hope, nurturing resilience, and expanding their horizons of what is achievable.


Shawnette Thompson 

MSW 2015
Supervisor of Clinical Affairs
Talk It Out Clinic & Social Worker Psychotherapist in Private Practice
Field Instructor, FIFSW
Shawnette Thompson
In my roles at the Talk Out Clinic and private practice, I am committed to supporting healing and empowerment through anti-oppressive practices. I aim to nurture self-awareness and resilience in both MSW students and clients, focusing on systemic change that transcends mere navigation of oppressive systems to their transformation. My dedication lies in fostering the professional growth of emerging social workers, equipping them to cultivate inclusive, supportive environments.

How are YOU opening doors for the communities you serve?

Let us know! We will be accepting submissions for consideration throughout the month of March

Members of FIFSW’s community who work in the social work field are invited to respond to dale.duncan@utoronto.ca with the following:

  • Your name
  • Your professional title
  • Your place of work if applicable
  • Your relation to FIFSW (ex: student, faculty member, sessional instructor, alumni, field instructor)
  • If you are alumni, you could include your year of graduation
  • Your photo (high resolution if possible)
  • A 1-3 sentence description of how you, as a social worker, are opening (or hope to open) doors to the communities and individuals you work with. (If it is possible to point to the impact of your work, that would be wonderful.)

Share your feedback on FIFSW’s future

In February, Dean Charmaine Williams formally announced the launch of the consultation and engagement process for the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work’s new Strategic Plan.

We want to know what you value about the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, what makes us unique, and how we should evolve to shape the discipline of social work and make a difference in the world.

Your thoughts and ideas will help shape the next strategic plan, which will outline the overarching priorities for the Faculty’s research, teaching, advocacy and community engagement over the next five years. The strategy will be a framework that describes the purpose, principles, focus and desired impact of our work.

The survey includes 5 sets of open-ended questions. You may answer as many of them as you wish. The responses are anonymous and no identifiable data will be used. Your responses will help us identify themes and core ideas that we will need to explore further in the next phase of our strategic planning work.

Share your feedback on FIFSW’s future. Complete the survey here.

The Government of Canada announces funding to help prevent and address the mistreatment of older adults in Ontario

From left: Chenell Small, Laura Ostler, Andie MacNeil, Laura Proctor, Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Marta Hajek, David Burnes, Charmaine Williams, Ramona Alaggia, Steph Conant, and Andria Allen

On February 22, the Government of Canada announced nearly $800,000 in funding for the University of Toronto to implement and evaluate RISE, a community-based program working to prevent and respond to the mistreatment of older adults across Ontario.

Led by David Burnes, the RISE program has been designed to reduce harm, respect autonomy, restore relationships, and advance justice among those experiencing elder abuse and self-neglect.

Support for this work is vital. Research has shown that the mistreatment of older adults can have serious health and psychosocial consequences, including premature mortality, poor physical and mental health, diminished quality of life, and increased rates of emergency services use, hospitalization, and nursing home placement.

Professor David Burnes speaking at the federal government announcement. Heads of audience members in the foreground

Professor David Burnes, Canada Research Chair on Older Adult Mistreatment Prevention, RISE team

“One in ten older adults living in the community across Canada experience some form of elder mistreatment each year, which translates to nearly 900,000 older adults who fall victim,” says Burnes, who is also a professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “Unlike other domains of family violence, we currently do not have an organized system of response in the community for cases of elder mistreatment. In fact, most people have no idea what to do if they have a concern about a family member or neighbour who may be experiencing elder mistreatment.”

RISE, in partnership with Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, provides an evidence-based solution to this problem and a way to address gaps in the system. As Canada Research Chair on Older Adult Mistreatment Prevention, Burnes (who also co-leads the RISE program in the United States) has been uncovering the prevalence of elder abuse and identifying risk and protective factors through his work.

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Labour and Seniors, speaking at the federal government announcement

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Labour and Seniors

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Labour and Seniors, made the funding announcement on behalf of the Honourable Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health in FIFSW’s student lounge. “Seniors deserve to age with dignity and choice,” O’Regan says. “That can’t happen when seniors are fearing for their safety. Research in elder abuse is how we’ll build the tools we need to stop it.”

Marta Hajek, Chief Executive Officer of Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, speaking at federal government announcement

Marta Hajek, Chief Executive Officer of Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario

Marta Hajek, Chief Executive Officer of Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, joined Burnes in expressing gratitude for the federal government’s support. She credited RISE for its high levels of client engagement. “Already we are seeing positive impacts on the life of those who are supported through RISE,” Hajek said. “Clients are grateful for this lifeline. When they are at their lowest and have no one to turn to, RISE is making a difference.”

Dean Charmaine Williams speaking at the federal government announcement at podium. Media cameras in foreground

Dean Charmaine Williams, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

Charmaine Williams, Dean of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, also provided remarks as part of the announcement. “On a day like today, you just have to be so glad that there are people who are so committed to the cause,” she said. “If I think of my own parents, and as I think about my own path to being an older person, it is reassuring to know that people are innovating and working on these issues.”

Learn more about RISE via its website and follow RISE on X.

View a video of the announcement below.


Related:

Joelleann Forbes’ journey to becoming a leader in culturally attuned care

Joelle Forbes poses for a photo outdoors in front of a historic building.

When Joelleann Forbes took a social work elective during her undergraduate degree, it was like finding a missing puzzle piece. “I’d been working and volunteering in the mental health field, where I saw that racialized people were seeking help but not accessing it or receiving inappropriate care,” she says. “I was looking for a career that would allow me to help these communities connect to meaningful care, and I knew I’d found it in social work.”

Barely a decade later, Forbes (MSW 2018) is helping to break down barriers for Black communities in the mental health care system as a social work educator, researcher, private practitioner, and consultant. From teaching students about anti-racist practices and contributing to research on health equity to providing direct care for racialized individuals through her new private practice, Forbes’ body of work is meeting a rising demand for mental health services designed to empower racialized and queer communities.

It wasn’t always a straight or easy path to get to this point. Like many young Black women, Forbes was “put into a box” by those who did not expect or encourage her to excel. However, she didn’t let this stop her. “When I decided to give myself a chance and see whether I could dismantle those expectations by trying a little harder, I became a high achiever,” Forbes says.

Always fascinated with health care, she opted for a bioethics degree at U of T and excelled. But Forbes wasn’t sure about her career path until she met Professor David Brennan, who taught the undergraduate social work elective. “He recognized my interest in the field and encouraged me to explore it, and the more I learned about the profession, the more I became passionate about how I could support the African, Caribbean, Black community with social work.”

Forbes chose to specialize in Mental Health and Health in the Master of Social Work program at U of T’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. Based on her firsthand knowledge of the mental health care system as both an employee and client, she was motivated to explore it through the lens of equity and diversity. “I’ve had experiences of trying to access support but again getting put into a box,” she says, describing how service providers relied on false assumptions and categorizations about her. “The interventions and assessments weren’t informed by racialized communities.” As a student research assistant to social work Dean Charmaine Williams, she learned about anti-racist, culturally-adapted approaches to mental health care designed to increase access and a sense of belonging for Black communities.

In her field placement, Forbes worked at Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre in Toronto, an organization known to be a leader in equity-based care. “I felt very aligned with the Centre’s mandate to provide culturally safe care to racialized women,” says Forbes, who landed a job as a therapist at the centre after completing her MSW and rose to become the manager (interim) of the population health team.

Throughout these years in the field, she’s maintained strong links to the faculty, working as a sessional lecturer and a research coordinator for Dean Williams’ Family Caregiving Project. The project, which has produced educational resources for mental health professionals and caregivers, aims to increase awareness of how mental illness impact families, including barriers to support stemming from structural violence.

In 2023, Forbes expanded her contributions to the Faculty by co-developing and facilitating a new equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) workshop that’s now a degree requirement for MSW students. “What we want students to take away is knowledge of how to be a social work student, and eventually a social worker, who embodies anti-racist, anti-oppressive practices in the classroom and the environments they’ll eventually practice in,” she says.

Michael and Joelle pose for a photo siting outdoors on concrete stairs surrounded by grass

Michael Adia (MSW 2018) and Joelle Forbes (MSW 2018). Photo by Maria Vega @maria.vega.photography.

Since Forbes started her MSW in 2016, she says she’s observed a shift in the Faculty from viewing EDI as supplementary to essential. She’s also witnessed a growing commitment among mental health care organizations to embed EDI principles across their operations. In August 2023, she and her former classmate Michael Adia (MSW 2018) co-founded Hope Leads Mental Health Care, a private practice that offers inclusive care to racialized and queer communities in addition to program consultation for mental health organizations. “I’ve witnessed a lot of humility in leaders and social work teams who are very motivated to ensure their services are accessible to underserved communities,” she says. “We work with them to see how they can create environments that provide appropriate care for these populations.”

Since they opened Hope Leads, Forbes and Adia have seen rising demand for their services, including individual and group therapy and trainings on topics such as as anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism, 2SLGBTQ+ mental health and case management, health equity, EDI, mood disorders, and psychological safety.

“We’re very purposeful about Black and Asian allyship, and demonstrating how this looks in practical terms,” she says. “At the same time, we’re aware that many people have overlapping identities that can make it hard to find the right support. So we created a practice where every client’s intersectionality, whether they’re queer and/or racialized, is welcomed and never judged. I think this is what makes us really unique.”

Forbes’ therapeutic method relies in part on Afrocentric practice, which emphasizes clients’ voices, their ties to their communities, and the connection between the mind, body and spirit. “Afrocentric practice is a response to generational trauma, but we also celebrate generational wisdom, joy and love,” she says.

In all of her work, Forbes aims to create mental health spaces and services where racialized people never feel boxed in or shut out. “Rather than confronting stereotypes and having doors closed everywhere they turn, I want community members to have the autonomy to choose the services that feel like a fit for them,” she says. “On the other side, I want organizations to have the capacity and understanding to make everyone feel safe and supported.”

By Megan Easton


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