Taking the Border Crisis to Heart

Team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare travels to immigrant detention center in Texas to counsel mothers and children seeking asylum in the U.S.

Abrams Publishes Research on Child Incarceration, Adult Health

Professor Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare, recently co-authored an article in Academic Pediatrics investigating the relationship between child incarceration and subsequent adult health outcomes. The United States is the world leader in youth incarceration, and research by Abrams and co-principal investigator Elizabeth Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, aimed to bridge the data gap on repercussions from child incarceration. The study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to compare adult health outcomes in individuals grouped by age of first incarceration. The study compared individuals first incarcerated before age 14 with those first incarcerated at 15-17 years old, 18-20 years old and 21-24 years old. Among the adult health outcomes analyzed were physical health, such as mobility limitations, and mental health, including depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. After controlling for sociodemographic and ecological factors, the study found that “child incarceration independently predicted adult mobility limitations, adult depression and adult suicidal thoughts,” confirming the link between younger age at first incarceration and worse adult health. The research also identified sociodemographic disparities in child incarceration, finding that “individuals first incarcerated as children were disproportionately of color, more likely to be from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and more likely to have been raised in a single-parent household.” The findings will likely have repercussions in the health arena. The report concluded, “Child incarceration displays even wider sociodemographic disparities than incarceration generally and is associated with even worse adult physical and mental health outcomes.”


How to Help Queer Kids in Foster Care Author Cris Beam shares insights based on extensive research and personal experience in her Luskin Lecture

By Mary Braswell

LGBTQ youth in the foster care system often grapple with rejection, harassment, violence — and their own mistrust of the individuals and institutions charged with protecting them.

Restoring that trust requires taking a hard look at what these youth really need, not just to navigate the child welfare system but to lead rewarding lives.

This was the message shared by Cris Beam — author, educator and herself the foster mom to a transgender young woman — at a UCLA Luskin Lecture on March 5, 2019.

Beam’s talk included many moments of insight and encouragement, even as she described a foster care system that is woefully broken.

“How can we be spending upwards of $22 billion nationally and nobody — not the kids, not the foster parents, not the bio parents, not the administrators, not the policymakers, not the lawyers — nobody thinks this is working?” she asked.

That question sent Beam in pursuit of answers. Her extensive research into the U.S. child welfare system, LGBTQ issues and the power of empathy, as well as her personal experience becoming a foster parent at age 28, led her to a solution that is both simple and daunting.

What kids in foster care need, she said, is what all kids need: lasting human relationships, whether biological, adoptive or built from scratch with “teachers, babysitters, bus drivers” — people who are willing to step up, learn parenting skills and stick around, Beam said.

“The only way a child can succeed is to connect to a family, or even an individual person, for a lifetime. Whether they are gay or straight or bi or trans or otherwise,” she said.

Beam has published several acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books, including “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care” and “I am J,” the first book with a transgender character to make the state of California’s high school reading list. She is also an assistant professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

Prior to her lecture on “Queer Care: LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura noted that Beam’s work is in line with the School’s mission to “provide a voice for the unheard and change society in ways that help those most in need, including and especially families and children.”

Beam’s appearance at the UCLA Faculty Center fittingly coincided with Social Work Month and the National Day of Empathy, said Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare, which organized the Luskin Lecture.

More than 50 people came to hear Beam’s insights, including students, faculty, lawyers, child psychologists, and current and aspiring social workers. Their questions for Beam revealed frustration at wanting to serve foster youth within a system that often fails them.

“I feel for you because you’ve got so many people,” Beam said of the heavy caseloads many social workers carry. “But if you can stick by somebody and be constant, sometimes you can be that person that is around for someone for years and years. That’s what they need. It’s that human connection.”

LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. To illustrate the cycle that many of them enter, Beam shared the experiences of her daughter, Christina, who was 16 when they met at a group home where Beam taught. Christina had been in and out of foster care since age 7, was jumped into a gang as a 12-year-old boy, survived on the streets by doing sex work, then entered the criminal justice system — all as she transitioned into a girl.

The probation officer who approached Beam about fostering Christina said, “‘Don’t worry. She’s already 16. She only has another year until she ages out.’” But Beam quickly learned that Christina needed much more, including “time to heal, to be stable and to trust.” No adoption papers were needed to form a lifelong mother-daughter relationship, she said.

Building this kind of support network should be a priority of child welfare agencies, Beam said. Instead, the system often labels children who suffer complex traumas as difficult, equates foster children with juvenile delinquents, and squanders resources training teens to get a job, write a rent check, survive on their own.

“Really what queer kids need are not more resources, more things, but human beings to rock with them all the way,” Beam said.

View more photos from the lecture on Flickr.

Town Hall Gives Graduate Students a Forum for Dialogue

Dean Gary Segura and key members of the UCLA Luskin leadership team fielded questions from graduate students at an informal Town Hall on March 14, 2019. Joining Segura and his staff were Public Policy chair JR DeShazo, Social Welfare chair Laura Abrams, Urban Planning professor Chris Tilly and Undergraduate Affairs chair Meredith Phillips. Students submitted questions in advance and from the floor, and the dialogue touched on diversity in admissions and hiring, space issues in the Public Affairs building, teaching assistantships and other financial support, and opportunities to connect UCLA Luskin graduate and undergraduate students, among other topics. As the Town Hall coincided with Pi Day, members of the Association of Masters of Public Policy Students served pie to those present. A separate Town Hall for undergraduate students is planned for the spring quarter.

View a Flickr album of images from the Town Hall.


 

UCLA Luskin Again Ranks High Among U.S. Graduate Programs

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is once again among the top 15 public affairs schools in the nation as ranked by the latest U.S. News and World Report ratings released March 12, 2019. The School retained the No. 14 (tied) spot in the ratings while moving up to No. 13 (tied) in the social work category. “I am extremely pleased that Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin has moved up in rankings to 13 in the nation as rated by our esteemed peers,” said Laura Abrams, professor of social welfare and chair. “We will continue to work to educate the most-prepared social workers at all levels of practice in our pursuit of equity and social justice.” The School — with graduate departments in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, and a new undergraduate major in Public Affairs — also received high marks for subcategories that include health policy and management (No. 12) and urban policy (No. 9). A number of UCLA professional schools and programs also were named among top schools in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools 2020” guidebook, which will be available in the spring. According to the publication, yearly graduate program rankings are based on experts’ opinions about program excellence and on statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students. Research for the publication included surveys conducted in fall 2018 and early 2019 of more than 2,000 graduate programs and more than 22,000 academics and professionals in the disciplines.


 

In Memoriam: Yeheskel ‘Zeke’ Hasenfeld The emeritus professor of social welfare was a pioneer in the study of human service organizations, an influential author and a trusted mentor of UCLA Luskin students for more than three decades

By Stan Paul

Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld, a member of UCLA’s Social Welfare faculty for more than three decades, passed away Feb. 28, 2019, after a battle with cancer. He was 81.

Hasenfeld joined the faculty in 1987 following a post as professor and associate dean at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. Upon retirement in 2014, Hasenfeld was appointed as a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus “to reflect his ongoing and continued engagement with his students and with our department,” said Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

“Zeke was a true friend, colleague and mentor to our faculty and students, which is how he will be remembered. I know I speak for all of us in expressing deep sorrow about his passing,” Abrams said in a message to the UCLA Luskin community.

Hasenfeld was a pioneer in the study of human service organizations, earning the Society for Social Work and Research Distinguished Career Achievement Award in 2011. In 2013 he was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. In February 2019, Hasenfeld was included on a list of the 100 most influential contemporary social work faculty by the Journal of Social Service Research.

“Zeke published many influential books and award-winning articles and was recently noted as one of the top 100 scholars of our time in the social work field,” Abrams said.

During his long research and teaching career, Hasenfeld focused on the dynamic relations between social welfare policies, organizations that implement policies and the people who use their social services. His research also looked at the implementation of welfare reform, as well as changes in the organization of welfare departments, and how those changes have affected the relations between workers and recipients. Recent work focused on the role of nonprofit organizations in the provision of social services.

Following his retirement, Hasenfeld volunteered with the American Civil Liberties Union, working on issues related to homelessness and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

Among his publications was the classic and best-selling text, “Human Services as Complex Organizations,” which was updated and republished in a second edition in 2018.

In 2017, Hasenfeld received the Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize from the University of Chicago’s publication Social Service Review for research on professional power relations in social work. Hasenfeld shared the prize with co-author Eve Garrow MSW ’03 Ph.D. ’08. Hasenfeld and Garrow married in 2018.

Hasenfeld, who was born in Israel, earned his undergraduate degree in sociology and economics in 1960 from Hebrew University at Jerusalem. He went to Rutgers University School of Social Work on a Fulbright Scholarship and received his MSW in 1962. In 1970, Hasenfeld earned his Ph.D. in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan and joined the faculty of the School of Social Work there following a yearlong teaching stint at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also held an appointment in the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology.

“Zeke was a dear colleague and a good friend,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, UCLA Luskin professor of social welfare and public policy. “He and I had much in common — our interest in organizational behavior and community theory, commitment to doctoral students and, in a most personal manner, being polio survivors,” added Torres-Gil, who also serves as director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin.

Torres-Gil recalled Hasenfeld’s “steadfastness and courage that inspired me to stay involved,” adding that Hasenfeld used his adversity to enlighten others about important policy and intellectual issues. “His iconic humor gave one pause, no matter how serious or how funny. I will miss Zeke for all this and for his dedication to the academic enterprise and to aging gracefully with a disability,” Torres-Gil said.

Hasenfeld is survived by Garrow, his wife; daughters Rena Garland and Rachel White from his first marriage to Helen Hasenfeld; and granddaughters Cassie White, Allie White and Summer Garland.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his name may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, 1313 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA 90017.

The 2018 UCLA Luskin Diversity Fair drew more than 100 prospective students. Photo by Mary Braswell

A Schoolwide Investment in Students of Color UCLA Luskin showcases its strengths at 2018 Diversity Fair

By Mary Braswell

Eliza Franklin-Edmondson came to UCLA Luskin’s annual Diversity Fair to gather information about the School’s programs and priorities. She went home with so much more.

“I’m leaving here so full,” the prospective Urban Planning applicant said. “Being here and seeing the myriad of disciplines that give back to communities that are told that they have no value. … I’m leaving knowing that I have my purpose in life, my calling.”

For the third year, Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning invited prospective graduate students from all backgrounds to hear what sets the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs apart: a social justice ethos that is strengthened by a commitment to diversity. Key speakers included the chairs of each department, all of whom are professors in their respective fields.

“We are all united at Luskin by wanting to make our society and the world a better place for everyone,” Social Welfare chair Laura Abrams told the audience of about 125 prospective students.

The fair’s moderator, second-year planning student Dora Armenta, said she came to UCLA Luskin because it invests in students of color.

“We choose students that reflect our cities, that are diverse in backgrounds, experience, interests and skills,” Armenta said. “And because of these students, the program gets a little better each year.”

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning is highly ranked and has one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, chair Vinit Mukhija said.

“We are the only program that is able to bring together excellence and diversity in urban planning,” he said. “Our program is made richer by that diversity, and it makes teaching in this department exciting for me and my colleagues.”

Public Policy students at UCLA Luskin develop deep analytical skills but also step into the real world, chair JR DeShazo said. They partner with clients to conduct research projects in fields such as health care, education, criminal justice and transportation, among many others, he said.

“In Public Policy, we really focus on understanding the programs and the policies that are supposed to meet the needs and provide the protections and services to our communities,” DeShazo said.

Social Welfare also pairs theory with practice, focusing on society’s most vulnerable populations, Abrams said, adding, “At UCLA, you get a set of interesting opportunities that really represent the breadth and the depth of the profession as a whole.”

Prospective student Laura Elaine Daza came from the Bay Area to attend the fair because “I want to be a decision-maker in my community.” As an immigrant, first-generation student and tenant rights advocate, she said, “I think it’s important to go to a program that reflects the communities that we come from and that provides you with the skills to give back to your community.”

The Dec. 1, 2018, Diversity Fair included financial aid counseling, a workshop for applicants preparing a statement of purpose, and a conversation with alumni who shared why they chose the Luskin School.

“I fell for the rankings,” said Rodrigo Garcia MURP ’15. “And I knew there was a big social justice component at Luskin whereas other schools that I was applying to didn’t have that component.”

“UCLA felt more like home,” said Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18, in contrast to other schools where “they dressed in suits and tried to schmooze you.” Espinoza said she appreciated the personal attention she received from Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity (PPDE), which guided her through the application process.

PPDE was a co-sponsor of the fair, along with the Luskin D3 Initiative, Luskin Leadership Development, Social Welfare Diversity Caucus and Planners of Color for Social Equity.

The alumni panelists spoke of the skills they developed at UCLA Luskin and offered advice for how to maximize the graduate school experience. At the top of the list: Get off campus and out of the Westside.

“If you really want to do community work, then be in the community,” said Sheila Nem MURP ’15. “Get to know the landscape and really build those connections.”

“Be comfortable exploring opportunities that maybe you don’t even think are your interests,” said Diane Terry MSW ’04 Ph.D. ’12, urging the audience to jump into projects and research outside their disciplines. “That skill set, that perspective that you would get just from being out there, is going to be useful in some space at some time in your future career.”

UCLA Luskin offers the best of two worlds, said Hector Palencia MSW ’08, who is a field faculty member in Social Welfare. “The university is constantly alive,” a world-class research institution rich with opportunity, he said, but the Luskin School feels like a close-knit family.

“There are a lot of good programs out there. But how many of their faculty actually know their students well enough, by name, and how comfortable are the students to come back and look at this place like home?”

Isaac Bryan MPP ’18 cautioned the students that their time at the Luskin School would fly by.

“Land your solid GPA, learn your skill sets, but really build yourself a power base of relationships and connections to the city,” Bryan said. “Because here in Los Angeles I firmly believe that if you can solve a problem here and be a part of working on it, you can really take that anywhere. And that is something about UCLA Luskin that is really unique. So get busy.”

View additional photos on Flickr:

Diversity Fair 2018

Social Welfare Ph.D. Faculty Ranked Among Top Three in Scholarly Productivity

Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams, right.

UCLA Luskin’s Social Welfare doctoral program is one of the top three most productive in the nation, according to a newly published study measuring the impact of faculty research. “The search for meaningful metrics of program excellence has been a longstanding effort by social work schools and colleges,” the researchers said. To understand variations in faculty productivity, they built upon previous work analyzing scholarly citations by considering the impact of a program’s funding sources, regional location, year of establishment and faculty demographics. “Researchers are not expected to build knowledge in a vacuum,” the study said. “Rather, it is a professional expectation that researchers also demonstrate the ability to disseminate knowledge widely despite the narrowness of their specialty area.” The analysis found that the three most productive social work doctoral faculties were based at public universities in the West: the University of Washington, UC Berkeley and UCLA Luskin. “One surprising finding was that there were significant differences among programs with the same size but located in different parts of the country,” the researchers said. “Why Western and Midwestern programs outperform their Northeastern and Southeastern counterparts is unclear.”  The research, published in the journal Scientometrics, was based on empirical data from the entire population of doctoral tenure-track social work faculty at 76 research-oriented universities.

 

Bill to Deem Children Under 12 Too Young for Court Is Backed by Abrams’ Research

Research by Professor Laura Abrams of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare is mentioned in a story that originated with the Chronicle of Social Change and has been picked up by other media outlets, including the Appeal and the Press-Telegram. Senate Bill (SB) 439 would prevent the juvenile justice system from hearing most cases of children younger than age 12. “I think people have an assumption that juvenile court is potentially a helpful intervention for young children,” Abrams says in the story, which notes her analysis of state juvenile justice data. “But in most cases, the charges aren’t sustained or they’re dismissed, so the family doesn’t get any help at all.”