Session: Return to Normal Inequality? Social Work and the Anticipated Aftermath of the Pandemic (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

32 Return to Normal Inequality? Social Work and the Anticipated Aftermath of the Pandemic

Thursday, January 12, 2023: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Hospitality 3 - Room 432, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy
Symposium Organizer:
John Doering-White, PhD, University of South Carolina
Karen Staller, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
This symposium considers how social service providers have approached and conceptualized the ongoing transition from the COVID-19 pandemic to normalcy and the impact of this transition on chronically under-resourced populations. Scholarship on disaster vulnerability and resilience has emphasized that chronic, pre-existing inequality shapes response processes as well as disparate outcomes for vulnerable populations. This symposium considers the other side of disaster response: how the end of the pandemic and the transition back to "normal" reinstalls or reworks baseline conditions of inequality. How have social service providers anticipated the end of federal pandemic aid? How is infrastructure that was repurposed during the pandemic (e.g. hotels for homeless shelters, the transition to virtual mental health) now re-repurposed during the transition back to non-pandemic time? To what extent is the end of the pandemic associated with putting inequality back into place? Conversely, what strategies have social workers relied on during the time of the pandemic to disrupt pre-existing chronic inequalities and develop sustainable solutions moving forward?

Mathias presents results of a qualitative study of how staff at nonprofit social service organizations are navigating the gradual winding down of pandemic-related aid. He shows that staff sought to leverage pandemic aid to make durable improvements in their services and, thereby, to challenge chronic inequality in the US. However, their ability to bring about this "phoenix effect," was limited by policies and resources flows that were largely beyond their control.

Doering-White presents findings from a qualitative study of how aid workers at a nongovernmental migrant shelter in Mexico anticipated the return of international volunteers as air travel restrictions began to lift and vaccines became widespread. He argues that aid workers reconceptualized the anticipated return of international volunteers in terms of "mobility privilege" where volunteers, in addition to migrants, must demonstrate deservingness. Ultimately, aid workers described this shift as part of a broader effort to reconceptualize humanitarian ethics from a politics of "aid" to one of "collaboration."

Gonzalez-Benson presents findings from a qualitative study of refugee-led community organizations (RCOs) partnered with mainstream organizations during the pandemic to diminish language, culture, and geographic proximity barriers. She argues that while these new partnerships brought legitimacy to RCOs, they were also characterized by a lack of shared decision making, appropriation or cooptation of RCOs' modalities and expertise, and limited technical assistance or opportunities for RCOs' organizational development, dynamics that were present prior to the pandemic.

Together, these papers address challenges in managing public health and social services at multiple scales and make recommendations for effectively serving vulnerable populations. Staller will offer synthetic comments and starting points for discussion with the audience.

* noted as presenting author
The COVID-19 Pandemic As Critical Incident: Examining the (re)Configuring of Relations Among Refugee-Serving Institutions
Odessa Gonzalez Benson, PhD, MSW, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Alex Judelsohn, University of Michigan Taubman College of Urban Planning and Architecture; Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, PhD, University of Michigan Taubman College of Urban Planning and Architecture
See more of: Symposia