Areas of Emphasis: School of Social Welfare

This report is in two parts:

  1. Strengths in the School of Social Welfare
  2. Expanding a Theme: Child Well Being

  1. Strengths in the School of Social Welfare

    Based on external dollars awarded over the last three years (2009, 2010, 2011) and national reputation, I would suggest that the School of Social welfare has at least three areas of strength that could contribute to interdisciplinary themes. The strengths are associated with our three research offices.

    1. Office on Aging and Long Term Care
      • Primarily does social policy research on aging, and social welfare best practices research. Suggestion regarding themes: Could easily contribute to Architecture’s innovative plan? Public policy? Emerging School of Public health?
    2. Office of Adult Mental Health Research
      • Known nationally and internationally for its work in developing and testing best practices in community rehabilitation for people living with severe mental illness; one of the top two or three in the country in this arena. The case management model developed and tested here is used in at least 45 states and 6 different countries.
      • Suggestion regarding themes: anything around health and wellness or public health (Social workers provide over 80% of community mental health professionals nationally). Connected to the effort to build a School of Public Health.
    3. Office on Child Welfare and Child Mental Health
      • Primarily focused on intervention research related to child well-being and workforce development. Works closely with child welfare agencies in the state of Kansas and other states. Also has worked with the Kansas four tribes on Indian child welfare training. Includes not only recent funding for establishing best practices in family reunification for children with severe emotional disturbances currently in foster care—it also includes research on “bullying,” children with incarcerated parents, best practice interventions in schools.
      • Suggestion regarding themes: Child Well-Being (or alternatively: Child and family well-being) Will expand below.
  2. Top

    Expanding a Theme: Child Well Being

    I would like to suggest that “child wellbeing” or “child and family wellbeing” are themes with some universal appeal.

    What does a society or a community want for all its children if not the conditions necessary for them to grow to their full potential? These conditions include health, education, safe and secure environments, adequate nutrition, adequate and stable shelter, among others. The University is already doing so much that would fall under this umbrella—and could do much more. And there are urgent social issues that just beg to be addressed in Kansas and nationally. (I identify just a few of them below – from a not very systematic search of literature. Web sources on request)

    1. Child health
      • Infant mortality (age 0-1). Infant mortality rate in Kansas is 20% higher than the national average, and Kansas ranks 47th worst in terms of black infant mortality. Early child mortality (age 0-5) rates in the US are among the highest in the developed world—with approximately 40 countries scoring better on this statistic.
      • Health Disparities in child health outcomes by race/ethnicity, income level, other factors
      • Child Mental Health including disparities in access to services (by rural/urban, by race and ethnicity, and by income level). Very difficult access problem in western Kansas. We have folks working on this access issue. Public Health and telemedicine would be interested, I would think.
      • Autism Spectrum Disorders; ADHD
      • Childhood obesity
      • Children with disabilities
      • And other
    2. Children and food insecurity. Of the 49.1 million people living in food insecure households (up from 36.2 million in 2007), 32.4 million are adults (14.4 percent of all adults) and 16.7 million are children (22.5 percent of all children). During childhood, the body is growing quickly and researchers say even a brief period of poor nutrition could lead to lifelong issues.
    3. Child poverty. There are more than 25 million young children under age 6 in the United States. 46 percent – 11.7 million – live in low-income families (less than 2X the national poverty level), and 24 percent – 6.1 million – live in poor families (below the poverty level). Poverty is associated with so many other risk factors – including mortality, school dropout, attention by the correctional system. NOTE: Researchers in our School just completed a national, longitudinal pilot study funded for approximately $ 2,200,000 by Ford Foundation, Aspen Foundation, CFED, Kellogg Foundation and others on Child Development Accounts.
    4. Other risk factors of childhood
      • School violence and bullying (Faculty in our school and in psychology are working on some projects here) (Lots of NIH money in this arena for intervention research)
      • Children in foster care because of abuse or neglect (We have a number of faculty who work in this area)
      • Child trafficking
      • Truancy
      • Homelessness 22 percent of all sheltered homeless persons in the U.S. are under the age of 18.

        Affordable housing directly influences a child's health according the report. Unsafe living conditions, homelessness and frequent moves put children more at risk to suffer from a number of health issues including hypertension, heart disease, depression or anxiety, asthma, developmental delays and behavioral problems.

      • Substance abuse and other risky behaviors In 2006, approximately 10,000 children ages 12–17 in Kansas needed but had not received treatment for illicit drug use in the past year. In 2006, approximately 16,000 children ages 12–17 needed but had not received treatment for alcohol use in the past year. (Latest stats available)
      • Children’s exposure to violence
    5. Educational achievement US High School graduation rate was 73.9 (2009). Kansas was higher than the national average at 78.9, but lower than its neighbors, Missouri (81.9), Nebraska (86.3), Iowa (86.5)
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