Social Justice Solutions is a forum for discussing many topics in the helping fields, and an important part of that forum is highlighting the work of many writers and bloggers from multiple fields, especially that of social work. But what makes these writers and blogger tick? What drives them to write about their particular subjects, and how is this connected to their work as a social worker? In an effort to know more, SJS is partnering with these bloggers to offer a bit of insight into the world of a social work blogger.
One of those bloggers is Ellen Belluomini, LCSW who is the author of the blog “Bridging the Digital Divide in Social Work Practice”, where she writes about the use of technology in Social Work treatment, practice, and education. Let’s see what she has to say about the field of Social Work, and blogging:
Can you tell us about your background as a social worker such as how many years you have been practicing, what let you there, and in what areas/roles you work
Since 1989 I have been practicing social work, longer if you include my undergraduate internship. Social work has been a passion of mine since my first introduction course. I had the privilege to experience all areas of social work; case management, advocacy, clinical practice, management/leadership, consultation, and teaching. I became a supervisor in 1995. Noticing how processes could be more efficient began my education about technological solutions. At each subsequent agency I integrated technology into the practice of social work. The programs started with computerizing client records, then tracking outcomes, and finally using technology for client problems or connection. Now, as a consultant and instructor, I develop programs/curriculum specifically integrating digital solutions into practice. Looking back, most of my career I have been using innovation to improve client services or advocacy for populations. Technology fell into place as the most logical solution to some social work dilemmas.
What inspired you to get into blogging about social work topics?
As I moved into management at social service agencies I brought technology to each program I supervised. Integrating these two fields seemed natural considering the advances technology brings to advance client populations. Blogging is a tool used to educate. It is a lot easier to publicize a blog than educating individuals one at a time. If our clients are blogging, or we are asking them to blog for a therapeutic purpose, I believe social workers should have some understanding of the technology we are integrating with client work.
Do you have a particular focus in your writing? If so what is it?
My focus is to encourage conversation about integrating technology into social work, and improving the issues a digital divide causes for vulnerable and marginalized populations. The extremes of the haves and have not’s are polarizing our populations to an incredible disadvantage, and the use of technology, particularly client centered technology (CCT) in the field could decrease this divide.
Why is it important to discuss in a blogger arena?
Social work and blogging have one important element they share, communication. Instead of waiting for newsletters, journals, or magazines to let social workers know the latest research and trends, information is at our fingertips with blogging. A study can be published one day and the next become viral. The power is in connecting to the blogs which interest you instead of having to sift through useless information. Ideas are priceless. Social workers from around the world can now connect and share experiences. This leads to better global connectedness and an increase in understanding diverse practices. I have found many interesting studies throughout the world regarding professional blogger use, and I try to showcase them on the blog.
In respect to technology and social work specifically, agencies cannot afford to place the issue on the back burner, and having an accessible blogger forum to discuss technology in social work is important because perceptions of social workers integrating technology are mixed. Depending on the generation of the social worker, technology can cause trepidation or an inherent mistrust in digital alternatives. Many of the silent generation and baby boomers grew up with books like 1984 (George Orwell) and Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury). These books have a sinister aspect in regards to technology and society. This is made worse by the themes of these books coming true today as in Snowden’s release of the mass surveillance programs being similar to Big Brother in the book 1984. These fears must not immobilize social work practice with technology. Ethical guidelines and technology trainings will add to the knowledge of the appropriate ways to integrate digital equality with our populations.
How is your writing connected to your professional employment or experiences?
I do not know one social worker who does not have an opinion, so what better way to have a voice than to write? When I present at speaking engagements or meet other social workers, I am stimulated by the diversity of information. Writing is a way to share what I have learned or am learning to an interested group of professionals. Writing connects my passion for living social work principles to my commitment of social work education. I am in the process of starting my dissertation about social work and technology. I have found writing on the blog to be a way to start myself in the creative writing process when I am feeling blocked or need inspiration.
Does you blog include research done by yourself or other social workers?
Yes to both, I incorporate evidence based practices and research about CCT. My research is based on CCT curriculum in Master’s level Social Work programs. I see the need to start at the beginning and progress my research along the continuum. I also post resources for social workers to use themselves or at their agency. Each tool will not be for everyone, but I try to reach out to all areas of social work with technological improvements.
Does your blog encourage action or comments by readers or is it information based only?
The blog is a little bit of both; action cannot happen without dialogue first to understand the context of how and why implementation of CCT is necessary. I encourage discussion and debate between social service providers to further understanding. Anyone with other solutions is welcome to post and add to the community of resources. Some of the solutions posed can encourage others towards an action agenda. If an agency can apply for a grant or integrate digital solutions with a population then I am satisfied with my work.
How do you feel the profession of social work and blogging are linked?
Never before have social workers been able to link together in communication, education, advocacy, and support. Technology opens new windows of opportunity for our social work community. Social work has always been about resources, and blogging is another resource to help the profession cultivate information. Once social work embraces the power of technology and blogging I believe our field will take a quantum leap in advocacy, social justice, and working toward global solutions to end social issues.
What value do you think bloggers hold in the field of social work now, and what might they be able to achieve in the future?
The only thing inhibiting where blogging and technology will take the profession of social work is the limits we place on our imagination.
Visit Ellen on the Internet:
Written By Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer