Social workers, pastor take poverty attack plan to national conference

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The presentation looks at how local congregations can utilize social work professionals to assist, educate, and better serve those in need.

November 24, 2017

Darla Martin Tucker


Social workers, pastor take poverty attack plan to national conference

Participants of a poverty simulation exercise at the La Sierra University Church line up to deal with simulated banks, pay day lenders, and other life services frequented by those with low income. [Photo credit: Natan Vigna]

Two La Sierra University social work faculty members and a university church pastor gave a presentation at a national conference this month on ways churches and social workers can join forces to better meet the needs of impoverished populations.

Associate Professor of Social Work Daphne Thomas, Assistant Professor of Social Work Marni Straine, and university alum Steve Hemenway, a La Sierra University Church pastor, led a workshop titled “Bridging Gaps: Social Workers Provide Solutions in Faith-based Arenas” for the National Association of Christian Social Workers convention. The event took place November 2 – 5 in Charlotte, N.C. The trio spoke on ways churches and other faith-based organizations can work with social workers and social work student interns in better helping the poor connect with appropriate agencies. They also explored new models of partnerships between congregations and local and governmental agencies.

“Not only can it be difficult navigating the wide array of services provided by city and county organizations, many clergy and faith-based leaders may lack the time, skills, or training to adequately provide helpful and long-term solutions,” they said in their proposal prior to the convention. “This presentation will look at how local congregations can utilize social work professionals to assist, educate, and better serve those in need throughout the community.”

The workshop’s concepts are the outgrowth of an internship program begun three years ago at the La Sierra University Church by La Sierra’s social work department. Interns, working with Hemenway and under the direct supervision of Straine, began working with the church’s community services program to help people who needed more assistance than the food and clothing provided by the church. The social work interns were able to assess individuals and families and direct people to appropriate local service agencies. The internship program grew out of Straine’s previous volunteer work at the church helping guide individuals and families to appropriate agencies.

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