Pandemic highlights need for more social workers

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UOG professor and current head chairperson of the social work division, Dr. Lisalinda Natividad, says there has always been a consistent need for social workers for decades but this need has constantly been neglected. (PNC photo)

The need for more social workers in government jobs is now being looked into because of the pandemic.

UOG professor and current head chairperson of the social work division, Dr. Lisalinda Natividad, says there has always been a consistent need for social workers for decades but this need has constantly been neglected.

With the recent spike of suicides and family violence since the pandemic, Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio, Director Theresa Arriola, and Deputy Director Carissa Pangelinan of Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center reached out to Natividad and Dr. Leticia Lizama to discuss the possibilities of improving the possibility of students from their social work programs being employed in government facilities.

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“As part of that pipeline, what we’re looking at is addressing the barriers and creating a sort of closer connection in terms of the transition of students and ensuring that as they graduate from our program, they are ready, prepared, and engaged to help the community,” Natividad said.

One example Dr. Natividad mentioned is Governor Lou Leon Guerrero declaring a state of emergency for the Department of Youth Affairs to have temporary administrative custody of Child Protective Services.

“The reason why they (CPS) are always struggling is because the needs in our community is so high that no matter how many social workers we funnel in and with dire cuts, and budget cuts and so forth, the numbers are always very lacking. So when you have that condition as your baseline and add to that, the situation of COVID, you end up exactly what we have at CPS. Almost a 1,000 cases were uninvestigated that have been reported,” Natividad said.

Though it is still very much in the preliminary planning stages, Natividad says they have looked at the following possibilities:

  • Paid internships for senior year students;
  • The development of Behavioral Health Certificate programs; and
  • Students being able to apply in advance in receiving their degrees so they would already be in the administrative pipeline. This way, upon graduation, they can submit their transcripts and the hiring process can begin.

Another component will be funding for scholarships. Although the Social Work Division does have a scholarship program, it is currently underfunded and they have not had a student recipient in two years.

However, Natividad believes that if they are able to get funding for scholarships, students will have the resources they need to get through their bachelor’s and master’s program.

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