Making room for learning and unlearning in June

In 2017, the month of June was named National Indigenous History Month by the House of Commons, updating it from its previous status as National Aboriginal History Month in 2009. It is a month where we are invited to honour the histories, achievements and resilience of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, as we lead up to National Indigenous Peoples Day on the summer solstice, June 21. 

Ideally we would already have robust knowledge of Indigenous history, particularly that of any nations whose territory we have lived within, and the nations whose people we are most likely to encounter in the context of our practice. Sometimes official days and months of recognition can help to galvanize some extra authoritative weight to the necessary learning and unlearning that must be done, for us to raise awareness and begin to work more intentionally toward truth and reconciliation.

As social workers, it is especially important that we center our learning and unlearning in this area. Our professional obligations were named in the Canadian Association of Social Workers’ Statement of Apology & Commitment to Reconciliation in 2019, and the 2024 CASW Code of Ethics places this commitment as a central component of ethical social work practice.

Similarly, NSCSW’s professional development standards were updated a few years ago to specifically require engaging in activities that can help us to be better treaty partners and to work toward the restorative justice that is urgently needed, and we have been offering learning opportunities to support Nova Scotian social workers in pursuing this knowledge. Our evolving understanding of this ethical requirement is also reflected in the commitments and objectives of the NSCSW’s latest strategic plan

There are many other “officially” designated honours for the month of June, from celebrations of ethnic belonging and national origin (e.g. Italian Heritage Month, Filipino Heritage Month, Portuguese Heritage Month) to public health appeals for awareness and action (e.g. Canadian Men’s Health Month, Brain Injury Awareness Month, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Awareness). It would be too easy to turn June into a fierce competition for attention and advocacy resources, fostering lateral violence instead of solidarity. 

In particular, June is also Pride Month to honour the Stonewall Uprising that began June 28, 1969, in the contemporary and ancestral homelands of the Canarsie, Munsee Lenape, and Wappinger people (aka Manhattan, New York). It marks the beginning of an ongoing Pride season that stretches through summer and into early fall, with both joyous celebrations and more serious observances held across Mi’kma’ki, Turtle Island, and many other parts of the world.

Gender and sexuality have long been weaponized for colonial purposes. Diverse gender norms existed in many Indigenous nations across Turtle Island long before those of settler descent arrived here. The Two-Spirit umbrella term was created in 1990 to encompass many nation-specific identities and roles that colonial societies had suppressed because these ways of being did not align with the strict binary gender roles preferred by their cultures of origin. Advocating for 2SLGBTQIA+ human rights is therefore intrinsically intertwined with our commitments to reconciliation. 

It is urgently necessary to pursue transformative changes in attitudes, behaviours, and knowledge within our broader society to address the root causes of systemic racism, inequality, injustice, and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people. Critical work must be done to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, as well as the Reclaiming Power and Place calls for justice that have informed the goals and priorities of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan.

The Mi’kmaq phrase Msit No’kmaq means “all my relations” and refers to the traditional understanding that everything in the universe is interconnected; everyone and everything has a purpose and is worthy of respect. This aligns with the solidarity and allyship that is also found in the Africentric principle of Ubuntu: I am because you are, and I am because we are.  

The idea that we need to focus our advocacy and allyship narrowly in ways that limit our solidarity is absurd. We are all related, and our shared liberation is and must be intersectional. By engaging in activities this month that foster reconciliation and justice, we can bring a deep foundational healing that can extend to all living beings, reconnecting us back to this planet and working collaboratively to realign ourselves with the land-based Mi’kmaq teachings and values that must ground us all. 

Learning & unlearning opportunities

We’ve loosely organized these to align with this year’s weekly themes of National Indigenous History Month. If you know of something we’ve missed, especially local/regional events open to the public, please leave your recommendations in the comments.

Environment, traditional knowledge & territory

Children & youth

Languages, cultures & arts

Women, girls & 2SLGBTQIA+ people

2024 general meetings recap

We didn’t have any bylaw changes this year, but there was still some big news. If you missed our general meetings you can watch the livestream recordings on our YouTube channel or read the highlights below.

Strategic plan overview

The special general meeting revolved around a strategic plan presentation that reviewed the five-year goals and resulting achievements of the 2018-2023 strategic plan, and the new plan that has been developed for 2024-2027.

The new plan has four strategic commitments to fulfil our mandate for protection of the public:

  1. Strengthen Regulatory Mandate and Renewal of the Governance Framework
  2. Cultivate Ethical Social Work Practice Towards Safe(R) Services
  3. Meaningful Dialogue
  4. Responsibility, Accountability & Transparency

Council will be voting on approving the new strategic plan at their next meeting.

Clinical practice regulation is live

Our transition from private practice registration to clinical specialist registration was a topic of discussion at both meetings. We are pleased to report that the new application process for clinical specialist registration is now in place.

Flowchart illustrates NSCSW's application pathways for clinical specialization, as explained in detail within the clinical specialist registration guide. The most straightforward pathway is for RSW applicants who completed all academic requirements while obtaining an MSW degree and already have 1800 hours of clinical practice experience. However, applicants who have only partially completed these requirements have alternative pathways open to them.

Engaging in clinical social work services as a private practitioner now requires additional authorization from the NSCSW Board of Examiners. Non-clinical private practice no longer needs specialized Board of Examiners authorization at all; RSWs and SWCs can pursue non-clinical self-employment in Nova Scotia as long as their NSCSW registration is in good standing and they possess the required competence.

Private practitioners who received Board of Examiners approval for clinical specializations under our old framework will be grandparented into the new registration class, and their profiles in the registry will be updated accordingly this summer.

Finally, please note that the prior application process for private practitioners will run in parallel until the end of 2024; any clinical social work practitioners who were already preparing to meet the old requirements will have months to complete their application process within that framework and be considered for grandparenting into the new one.

Changes affecting annual renewal

The 2025 budget approved at the AGM included several key adjustments in response to the current economic climate and the objectives of the new strategic plan. Notably, it introduced a 3.5% fee increase, which is below the 3.9% cost of living increase observed in 2023. This fee adjustment will bring the baseline active member rate to $465.00 in 2025.

Council has also announced that they are altering the registration year and renewal period, which is aimed at reducing end-of-year pressures and burdens. Our next renewal deadline will be set for January 31, 2025.

New faces on NSCSW Council

We are grateful for the efforts of several council members who have completed their terms. Many thanks to Laura Rodriguez (Western), Donna LaMoine (Central) and Laurie Ehler (Secretary). Special thanks to outgoing President Lynn Brogan who has agreed to stay on our council in the Past President role, and Crystal Hill who moved from a Northern representative role to one of Secretary. .

We welcomed a new President, Robert Wright, and new Central representative Eva Burrill. We do have two vacancies on council for the Northern and Western regions, and members interested in stepping forward for these roles are encouraged to contact NSCSW staff.

Annual report

Our 2023 annual report that was presented during the AGM is available to read online. We are grateful to the efforts of our volunteers that made so much of last year’s work possible.

Join our team: Professional Development Consultant

Position Summary

We are seeking a dynamic and dedicated Professional Development Consultant to join our team. This role is pivotal in developing, implementing, and overseeing professional development opportunities, supervision and mentorship support, community development, and promoting the profession of social work.

Employment Equity 

NSCSW is committed to the value of equity and strives to create an organization that represents the intersectional identities of Nova Scotians. Applicants from groups who have historically faced barriers to employment are encouraged to self-identify in their application.

Compensation 

  • This is a FTE permanent position; the salary range is between $75,161 – $92,279 annually, depending on experience.
  • The NSCSW offers a defined pension plan through the NSHEPP.
  • The NSCSW offers competitive extended health benefits.

Job Accountabilities 

Professional Development Services 

  • Supports the Professional Development Committee to develop and implement ongoing professional development opportunities across Nova Scotia.
  • Develop and implement a professional development program adhering to the Professional Development Policy Manual, focusing on Indigenous social work practices, Afrocentric social work, anti-discrimination, and ethical social work practice.
  • Perform ongoing evaluations of professional development opportunities to ensure alignment with members’ professional development requirements and highest standards of competency.
  • Administer the professional development quality assurance program to ensure registrants integrate learning and growth as professionals.

Supervision & Mentorship Support

  • Support the professional development of social work supervisors and mentors.
  • Provide support to mentors and candidates in the Candidacy Mentorship Program.
  • Develop supports and guidelines for NSCSW mentors and clinical supervisors.
  • Work with social work educators to ensure alignment between practicum opportunities, candidacy, and clinical supervision.
  • Foster an environment that encourages members to provide clinical supervision and mentorship in alignment with employer engagement strategy.
  • Promote peer support and supervision to enable social workers to discuss challenges, gain feedback, and learn from each other’s experiences.

Community Development:

  • Support NSCSW committees to achieve the NSCSW strategic goals.
  • Serve as a bridge between staff and NSCSW public interest committees; advise the chair and committee members, provide strategic advice, and facilitate communications, action, and cooperation.
  • Write research statements, including policy papers, press releases, backgrounders, and campaign content.
  • Monitor media, government legislation, ministerial programs, and provincial budget estimates to respond publicly to emerging issues.
  • Apply knowledge of practice consultation issues and trends to influence policy development and outcomes for the betterment of social work practice.
  • Determine projects that can be supported by the College to enhance partnerships with organizations to develop statements and policy aligned with the NSCSW positions.

Promotion of the Profession

  • Coordinate the presentation of various social worker awards and scholarships, including organizing events for award or scholarship presentations.
  • Organize the annual awards and gala event, presenting an award annually to an African Nova Scotian social work practitioner who has made significant contributions to the profession in Canada.
  • Provide input and direction to multi-dimensional communication efforts with members and the public.
  • Develop internal and external communication strategies with the Communication Coordinator for the College’s members.
  • Create awareness of activities across the province by identifying content for the College’s website, paper communications, and industry mail-outs.
  • Develop the Connection Blog to disseminate best practices and spotlight stories of social workers who have effectively managed challenging situations, and establish a methodology for evaluation.
  • Support employer outreach to educate employers about the profession and regulation.

Resilience-Building Activities

  • Encourage social workers to participate regularly in activities that build resilience to manage stress and ward off burnout, including mindfulness exercises, boundary setting, mental health focus, and ample rest.

Knowledge/Experience

  • A master’s degree in social work. (A specialization in community development is an asset.) 
  • Excellent knowledge of social work professional development standards, standards of practice, and code of ethics.
  • Knowledge of adult education theory and practice.
  • Demonstrated experience in policy analysis and development.
  • Demonstrated experience organizing and implementing professional development offerings utilizing all social media platforms.
  • Demonstrated research and evaluation skills.
  • Must be an RSW in Nova Scotia or eligible for registration.  
  • Minimum of five (5) years experience as a social worker is required.
  • Must hold a current driver’s license that is valid in Nova Scotia, have access to a motor vehicle and be willing to travel.

Competencies

  • Outstanding writing and communication skills 
  • Create social media content, including text, image, and videos
  • Excellent community development skills
  • Proficient macro practice advocacy skills
  • Sound project management skills 
  • Requires strong organizational skills.
  • Excellent facilitation skills.
  • This position must have a solid understanding of the NS Social Workers Act, Regulations and By-laws.

Application

Applicants should send a resume and cover letter to Alec Stratford, Executive Director/ Registrar at Alec.Stratford@NSCSW.org by June 28, 2024, at 4:30 p.m.

2023 Annual Report — Charting our Course

Towards Safe(R) Social Work Practice

Understanding the Role of the Unconscious 

Ambiguous images such as the one above effectively demonstrate that two people can look at the same item and see two different things. It can take work to be able to discern both images simultaneously (spoiler alert: the illustration is both a duck and a rabbit!). Some research suggests that the ability to see both may indicate greater creative thinking. This may offer a pathway to healing.

Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall’s concept of Etuaptmumk or two-eyed seeing illuminates how holding space within oneself for multiple perspectives simultaneously can be deeply rewarding. This decolonizing principle encourages learners to embrace and integrate Western and Indigenous ways of knowing.

The ability to discern multiple co-existing narratives is invaluable. For those of us who can see multiple perspectives readily, the skill may have developed because of our own social position and lived experience. If we belong to a marginalized group or identity, code-switching is an adaptive strategy that allows us to perceive and communicate from the dominant perspective as well as that of our own. While code-switching may be learned by anyone who grows up in a multi-lingual or multi-cultural context, the skill is commonly developed as a survival tactic by people who have experienced traumatic pressure to assimilate.

The African American feminist theorist and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to describe how racism and sexism interacted to amplify and alter how each were expressed towards Black women; the discrimination they experienced was not only intensified but transformed in its nature, and this divergence from the experiences of both Black men and white women made it challenging for others to recognize.

Intersectional bias and oppression affects each of us differently depending upon which aspect of our identity is involved in any given situation or interaction. The 2019 apology and the 2024 National Code of Ethics published by the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) reflect this growing awareness of the ways in which our collective and individual biases affect the way we practice social work.

Each of us, depending upon our social location and positionality, has a unique perspective. What we see will often determine how we assess and interact with those around us. But what we see is generally influenced by the experiences that we have had and the associations that come from it. Because we live in a colonial world where racism and intersectional oppression are embedded within the systems in which we live and work, many of these beliefs are internalized in ways we may not recognize. A sponge immersed in water will get wet; we should not be surprised that each of us have absorbed some of the beliefs that surround us or the misinformation that makes them possible.

Fundamentally, we must begin to become aware of the role of unconscious bias in shaping our beliefs, and the ways our intersectional positionality affects how we communicate with one another. Being aware of the factors that shape our understanding of the world around us is crucial to ensuring safe(R) social work practice. This is why our professional development must be trauma-informed and focused on both learning and unlearning. We must learn about those approaches and perspectives that can help us to expand our understanding, and we must unlearn those that perpetuate bias.

Safety is a process, not a destination

Central to safe(R) social work practice is recognizing that true safety is impossible, because we are all human and fallible. Many recent public reports highlight the ways in which social workers, alongside all other health and social care professions, have been complicit in systemic injustices. While true safety is not possible, that should not deter us from continuing to advocate, as well as reflect upon our own internalization of assumptions and values.

Safe(R) social work requires the creation of safe(R) spaces for us to examine how we have absorbed some of these messages. We must also direct our advocacy toward the systems that have shaped us. A trauma-informed lens recognizes the intersectional traumas that contribute to the maintenance of the status quo. An anti-oppressive framework includes a structural approach to social work, because of this understanding of the complex relationship between individuals and the colonial systems within which we exist.

Our profession’s new national Code of Ethics demands that we shift from the illusion of neutrality to actively working to dismantle systemic racism and intersectional bias, both externally and internally. The adaptation of the national code for the Nova Scotian context is expected to be completed this year. In the meantime, we are already striving towards fulfilling its intent.

The NSCSW’s next strategic plan seeks to find ways to operationalize this shift in our approach and practice, as we work toward the decolonization of ourselves and the world we live and work within.

The courage to learn

Amongst our many projects, our professional development committee is working to develop new resources to support our members in their process of learning and unlearning. Our upcoming events offer multiple opportunities for social workers to begin to reflect upon the ways in which each of us is affected by our own intersectional positionality.

Our lunch & learn on April 30, “Navigating our way to safe(R) social work practice,” invites you to begin examining how your own social location and experiences have shaped you. “First voices” on May 10 invites you to learn how to learn from people with experiences radically different from your own. These build a foundation for our other activities this spring, so we encourage all members unable to attend these sessions to find time for reviewing the recordings soon.

On May 16 we begin a new series of panel discussions, “Safe(R) care while our hearts are breaking,” which seeks to explore this issue from a new perspective. Personal heartbreak, vicarious trauma and burnout are all powerful forces that can affect our ability to function, diminishing our awareness and influencing our reactions. Sometimes we think we are coping “fine” and then we might find ourselves lacking compassion or snapping at someone: in such situations, we are reminded of our humanity and limitations.

Finally, our 2024 conference, Celebrating Courage, seeks to create real and virtual spaces where we can gather to co-create a new approach to social work that can reflect our shared values and ethical commitments.

Looking ahead

Individually and collectively, working towards safety involves recognizing our strengths and limitations and working to create protections for those we serve.

Creating safe(R) social work practice looks different for each of us and it is fluid. It may mean that we need to take a day off for restorative rest and self-care when we find ourselves running on empty. It may mean that we need to seek supervision or therapy or extra training. It may mean that we need to make a referral. There are multiple ways that we can ensure safer social work practice, but the first step involves an honest self-assessment. This, in turn, requires courage: to stare at ourselves unflinchingly, and to share and receive difficult feedback nondefensively.

This year marks the start of a new chapter for our profession and our organization, as we prepare to launch a new Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice in Nova Scotia, and as we prepare to embark upon a new strategic plan that can help us to transform ourselves and our communities for a safe(R) and brave(R) future.

Nova Scotia College of Social Workers highlights crucial gaps in places of safety following Auditor General’s report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2024

KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX, NS) – In light of the Auditor General’s new report concerning places of safety in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW) calls attention to the significant gaps in the report regarding its understanding of service users’ needs, the realities of social workers, and how these factors contribute to the reported challenges in the delivery of places of safety.

“The Auditor General’s report recognizes that conditions are severe but fails to capture why. Case load standards at DCS are outdated and don’t match the complexities of modern families. Limited access to social determinants of health impact child and family well-being. Inadequate housing and income support lead many into poverty, further increasing the need for intervention,” said Alec Stratford, Executive Director/Registrar of the NSCSW.

The inadequate grasp of child welfare services by the Auditor General’s office has resulted in recommendations that reinforce existing challenges, such as increasing administration, standardization, and management. Most of these suggestions are likely to result in social workers spending more time at their desks or in transit, and less time engaging with families and children.

“Many children and youth in places of safety deal with complex issues including disability, mental health challenges, violence, and safety concerns,” noted Lynn Brogan, President of NSCSW. “The solutions will require a whole-of-government approach.”

In response, the NSCSW is advocating for the application of its Social Policy Framework to the challenges with temporary emergency shelters. The Social Policy Framework was developed in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Nova Scotia Office in 2020. The framework’s 10 guiding principles are designed from an intersectional lens, focusing on evidence-based practices; applying them would address the systemic challenges observed and experienced by those in places of safety.

Key recommendations include immediate poverty alleviation efforts, prioritization of family and community connections, cultural caregiving practices, quality childcare, and mental health services provision. Additionally, professionalization and support for workers in places of safety, expanding the roles of not-for-profit organizations in providing care, implementing strategic investments in public and non-profit sectors, and stringent accountability and transparency measures are highlighted as essential steps forward.

Through strategic leveraging of the proposed Social Policy Framework, NSCSW aims to ensure that the profession of social work effectively serves and protects the interests and welfare of all Nova Scotians.

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About us:

The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers serves and protects Nova Scotians by effectively regulating the profession of social work. We work in solidarity with Nova Scotians to advocate for policies that improve social conditions, challenge injustice and value diversity.

For more information or to arrange interviews with NSCSW spokespersons, contact: Rebecca Faria, communication coordinator for NSCSW (902-429-7799 ext. 227, rebecca.faria@nscsw.org).

Lunch & Learn: Mi’kmaq language & values

Lunch & Learn: Supporting Indigenous people in urban settings

Supporting our self-care (collaborative care series)

61st Annual General Meeting of the NSCSW 

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