The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

“Social Work Isn't Just for Foreigners”: The Experience of Starting a BSW-Granting Social Work Institute In Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 10:00 AM
Executive Center 2B (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Athena R. Kolbe, MSW, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Soulouque Anderson, Student, Enstiti Travay Sosyal ak Syans Sosyal/Institute of Social Work & Social Science, Petion-Ville, Ouest, Haiti
Background and Purpose: Since the 1990s, when U.S. and European foreign aid policies started diverting funds to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) instead of the Haitian government, social work practice in Haiti has been increasingly driven and delivered by foreigners. Often Haitian nationals are limited to minor roles as peer facilitators, drivers, translators, and lay workers, with NGO leaders complaining that Haitians lack the skills, knowledge, and experience in social work to play a greater role in the provision of social services. In 2007, a diverse group of academics, community leaders, and Haitian social service providers came together to talk about the challenge of social work practice in Haiti, later forming the Enstiti Travay Sosyal ak Syans Sosyal(Institute of Social Work and Social Science). This presentation focuses on the success and challenges of creating a BSW program in a developing country, the methods used by students and faculty to create a uniquely Haitian curriculum, and the impact of the curriculum on improving social work practice.

Methods: Data, including objective measures of student knowledge and skills, was collected from students at baseline (upon enrolling in the BSW program) and after the first and second term of their BSW education (three and six months). Additionally, qualitative focus groups were held at baseline, three months after beginning the BSW studies and six months after beginning the BSW. Topics included the student’s understanding of social work practice, responses to ethical quandaries, and a discussion of their participation in creating and modifying the school curriculum to make it more relevant to Haitian social work practice. Field supervisors participated in a semi-structured interview regarding student practice behaviors in the field setting and the impact of the curriculum topics on improving social work practice in Haiti at three and/or six months after students began their social work studies.

Results: Both qualitative and quantitative assessments indicated improvement in both social work skills and ethical behaviors. Male students, who appeared to have the most difficulty with evaluating ethical situations at baseline, demonstrated the most dramatic progress in the areas of ethical behavior and identifying ethically risky situations. Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds voiced more concerns about their social work skills than other students, but quantitative assessments indicated that these students absorbed more social work knowledge in the first six months of the BSW program than students from more privileged backgrounds.

Conclusions and Implications: Social work educators in developing countries often rely on curricula from abroad when teaching social work practice. The process of creating unique curricula and modifying foreign curricula to make it more relevant to local social work practice is rarely examined in social work research. This study was a modest foray into examining how North American social work curricula can be modified to fit a Haitian context. Initial results are promising, indicating that foreign curricula from wealthy countries can be a useful in the developing world and can be adapted to local contexts.