Against the backdrop of discussions surrounding

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immerse themselves within a newly developing social work subspecialty. Against the backdrop of discussions surrounding religion and its place, if any, within social work, congregations slowly emerged as viable field education placement sites. Poole, Rife, Pearson, and Moore (2009) clearly demonstrate the unique and untapped opportunities for collaboration between social workers and RAO’s. In addition to the rich learning experi- ence for students, the community benefits as a new (and some researchers note), more embracing service portal emerges for community members. Noting their work with older adults, Myers, Lawrence, and Jones (2013) opine, “Congregations are uniquely equipped to offer a range of potential services” (p. 466). Also, the stereotypical institutional chill to social services provided by a governmental agency is the antithesis to the perceived warm, welcoming environment provided by a faith entity. Smidt (2009) found that services provided by congregations are “often viewed as more personal and less bureaucratic, more holistic and less narrowly materialistic, than those provided by secular social service agencies” (p. 49). He also found that those services were offered with an efficiency, speed, and customization not found in public sector organizations. However, other studies dispute these findings, especially in rural congregations where social workers are perceived much more negatively. CSWEI was the first and is still the sole social work internship program in our community which partners with congregations for field education placements. As noted by congregational social work research pioneers, Yancey and Garland (2014), “Social work within a congregational context is still a developing field of practice” (p. 279). Given its status as an evolv- ing field of research and education, congregational social work has had little guidance and too few resources in the development of curriculum and resources to ensure practitioner competencies in this nontraditional
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85 THE CSWEI: A NEW PATHWAY setting (Sherr & Wolfer, 2003). However, bereft of any national model or programmatic blueprint to follow, CSWEI has benefitted from the innovative program opportunity offered thereby. Since CSWEI was not encumbered at its inception by a well-researched and nationally adopted prototype, the opportunity offered the program greater creativity and flexibility to design a collaborative model which best met the needs of this community. Community Profile To fully comprehend the CSWEI Program, it is important to understand the two communities, one urban and one rural, wherein it operates. CSWEI operates across diverse and socio-economically challenged sub-communities. As service gaps have been identified, CSWEI has shifted its services to more targeted population groups, specifically immigrants, refugees, and persons experiencing homelessness. Older adults 64 years of age and younger have also been identified as an underserved group by the Initiative’s funder.
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  • Winter '17
  • Jennifer Jones
  • English, CSWEI

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