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Social Work: SL:Social Work with Refugees

SWSS 380 OL2 (CRN: 60189)

3 Credit Hours

About SWSS 380 OL2

Designed to cover selected social work issues in depth. Major emphasis on intensive and critical analysis of the literature and practice in a given area. Prerequisite: Instructor Permission.



Dates: May 18 - June 12, 2020; MSW students with Concentration Yr status ONLY

More Information

Section Description

This specialized practice year focus course is designed to provide an in-depth exploration and knowledge around: the social construction of “refugees” and the discourses and practices that surround it; the profound impact of that construction on the lives of the people who inhabit that role; and the rich, generative opportunities and challenges of social work with refugees. The course uses both a human rights and strengths lens to explore and deconstruct the geopolitical, economic, ecological trends and discourses that give rise to human flight and subsequent complex humanitarian emergencies both within states (internally displaced refugees) and across states (UNHCR Convention refugees) and the human rights framework that purports to support it. Next, the history, development, and implementation of the international infrastructure developed to respond to crisis’s that produce refugees and the durable solutions designed to resolve the loss of national protection inherent in a refugee crisis are introduced and examined with the same lenses. The international response is then linked to a comparative analysis of the history, law, and structure of the US response to international refugee crisis’s and asylum-seekers as well as the US commitment to refugee relief and resettlement in the US with other nations of resettlement. This is followed by a human-rights/strengths-based interrogation of and the roles of social workers and social service agencies in direct, organizational and community practice. Strengths and shortcomings will be highlighted, with the intent to develop the capacity for specialized social work practice with people with refugee status, their children, and their communities. The heart of the course focuses on the resilience and human struggles involved in the human experience of living the refugee journey across the person-environment context from conflict and war in the home country, to the experience of flight and temporary asylum, and the process of durable solutions which for less than three percent of those deemed refugees ends in resettlement. Within-population diversity in the areas of race, class, gender and age are also explored, leading to the focus of the course – advanced social work practice with vulnerable populations.

Section Expectation

After completing this course, students will: o develop an understanding of the construction and meaning of the global political, social, and economic conflicts and conditions giving rise to human flight and the potential subsequent identity shift to “refugee” status from social work transformative lenses. o become conversant with and to lend a critical eye to the international and local apparatus developed to respond to refugees globally and locally and its present capacity and generative potential. o see beyond the label “refugee” and understand the human strengths and resiliency as well as the challenges of the refugee journey in the context of health and mental health, education, food, housing, etc., as well as how “race” impacts the refugee journey. o apprehend the needs and circumstances of vulnerable populations within the refugee journey and develop a social work practice approach in working with them. o gain a deeper understanding of the populations of people with refugee status and their children in Chittenden Country, Vermont, and to understand the service network that supports them. o develop advanced social work practice approaches in working with people, families, groups, organizations and communities with refugee status or that serve them. o understand the complications and strengths of identity and race in the resettlement


o 1) A. Readings Facilitation & Participation (25%) Each member of our learning group will prepare at least one set of seminar style questions to increase the depth and breadth of our discussion as well as provide a short readings summary for each colleague in the seminar. If you send it to me by 4:00, I will print it for you. The schedule is included on the Weekly Course Grid attached to the course syllabus. If this night does not work for you for any reason, please switch with a colleague. If that doesn’t work, please come and talk to me. The written readings summary is an integrated overview of the assigned readings of the day. Please be prepared to lead a discussion for approximately 60 minutes and turn in a clean copy of your facilitation notes and your facilitation outline to the instructor. o B. The Politics, Pragmatics, and Promise of Resettlement – The Organizational Level of Analysis  This is a group-based learning activity, based on real, contemporary data, specific to the cities and towns of Burlington, Winooski, and Colchester. The resettlement of refugees provides opportunities and challenges for both the people who resettle with refugee status and the communities and the social service agencies that support them. o 2) Engaging Youth with Refugee Status and the Organizations that serve them - Service Learning Component (25%)  To integrate the theoretical with the practice dimensions of working with people whose external identity (and potentially internal identity) includes but is not limited to refugee status, I am asking you to participate in a service learning experience. This experience of 3-5+ hours per week over the 4-week length of the course, or in the case of a project you will be designing or participating in, a total of 12 – 20+ hours. If you have the time this summer, I want to encourage you to give this as many hours as you have. It is a fabulous experience. I have allotted Thursday evenings for this purpose. We will not meet formally on Thursday evenings throughout the course. This is your service learning time. o 3) INTEGRATIVE LEARNING ACTIVITY THREE  The Refugee Journey – Social Work Practice with the Vulnerable, among the Vulnerable (50%) What is vulnerability? From the International Committees of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies




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