Doctor of Social Work Capstone Reports

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    Helping the Helper: A Systematic Review Regarding Clinical Supervision Techniques and the Impact on Supervisee Competencies
    (2023) Wilderman, Summer; Davis, Curtis; Dickerson, Jay
    Supervision is key to a new social worker’s continuing development. Research supports the importance of supervision, but the literature is lacking regarding what is and is not taught in curriculum, what best practices are in training someone to become an effective supervisor, and what the impact of supervision can be on supervisee competence. The following systematic review asks the question, will providing quality supervision increase a supervisee’s competence, with specific focus on curriculum, best practices, and the impact of supervision. The dearth of research in this area implies a call for changes to curriculum, application of established supervision best practices, and that there is a positive effect on supervisors’ knowledge and confidence, supervisees’ competence, and client outcomes when a supervisee receives effective supervision.
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    Supporting a Successful Transition to Independence for Youth in Residential Care Programs
    (2023) Parker, Chad A.; Ruggiano, Nicole; Cheatham, Leah
    The outcomes for transitional-aged youth in care continue to be a concern, regardless of their setting (i.e., foster homes, residential treatment centers, residential group homes). Successful transitional programming must consider the complex needs of these youth. This review synthesizes approaches to transition planning for youth in residential care programs. Five themes emerged from the literature: extending care, independent living, mentoring, self-determination, and policy interventions. Implications for research, policy, and practice are discussed.
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    Restoring Equity for Black Youth in Urban Schools: A Scoping Review
    (2023) Manigault, Douglas F., III; Davis, Curtis; Bradley, Samuel
    Zero tolerance policies in urban schools increased the disparities in urban school discipline for Black youth in comparison to white youth. Restorative interventions continue to be a popular response to deviant student behaviors; however, exploring the impact of restorative interventions in reducing harsh discipline on Black youth should be a continued focal point for scholars. This study used a scoping review to explore knowledge available regarding using restorative interventions in urban schools and how they impact Black youth. Five databases were used to identify relevant literature. Eight pieces of literature met the criteria for inclusion in this review. Findings revealed that restorative interventions do not have substantially positive impact on Black youth’s suspension rates; yet racial inequities in school and perceived negative thoughts about Black youth are among chief reasons Black youth are more likely suspended. Implications for future research and interventions are discussed.
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    Addressing the "Digital Divide" and Impact to Educational Equity and Access: A Qualitative Inquiry of Students in Higher Education
    (2023) Thorn, Lauren; Jackson, Sebrena; Tuchmayer, Jeremy
    In March 2020, much of higher education transitioned to emergency online education as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of colleges and universities, with many students being sent home to communities that were not able to support reliable broadband internet service or to environments that lacked the necessary devices and software for their educational studies (Ibacache et al., 2021). Universities were provided with funding to address student emergency needs, including providing additional devices to students and families, utilizing technology to make courses mobile-friendly and to connect students to the internet through hot spots or supplementing the costs of increased internet usage in their homes (Ratledge et al., 2020). This study explores the research question, “As online education and digital access remain an integral part of the higher education experience, what programs can colleges and universities implement to ensure equitable student access to technology and highspeed internet needed for academic success?” Through a review of current literature, relevant questions were identified, and a qualitative research study protocol was established to host focus groups with students who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to assess their experiences and identify potential services and resources for additional support. Following review and coding of the focus group transcripts, key themes emerged around access to digital course codes and texts, technological efficacy and skills needed to engage in online classes, addressing financial barriers associated with external software and platforms, and integrating training and educationinto existing programs for faculty, students, and staff. The project explores systemic practice implications, legislative and policy impacts, and related theoretical framework that will guide future research in this area.
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    The VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (Mission) Act and Community Care: Progress, Opportunities, and the Path Forward
    (2023) Ferrigno, Frank F.; Ruggiano, Nicole; Sloan, Douglas
    Introduction/Background: The VA Health Care System was established in 1930 and Community Care (CC) for veterans has been available since 1924. Prior to 2014 CC was only utilized for veterans’ Care in exceptional cases. The passage of the VA Choice Act in 2014 and the VA Mission Act of 2018 rapidly increased the availability of CC to veterans. This study is the first that utilizes a macro historical perspective combined with an empirical examination of the impact of the increased use of CC under the VA Mission Act post-program implementation and offers recommendations for a path forward. Methods: An analysis examining the use of community care in the VA with a focus on the VA Mission Act that encompasses both the macro level of policy development and the micro level of program implementation. Results: The initial results following the implementation of the VA Mission Act were mixed. Greater options for care in the community and increased opportunities to obtain care via telehealth were enhancements to the care system. Disparate impact, challenges with care coordination, the need for increased support services and the lack of a readily accessible common set of performance metrics offer opportunities for improvement. Discussion: Proposals to effectively improve the VA Mission Act must be empirically driven, encompass both the macro and micro levels, and keep patient care as the centerpiece. Integral to achieving this goal will be a deliberate long-range plan that involves all internal and external stakeholders and facets of care delivery that considers all the potential indirect and direct impacts on the care being provided to veterans.
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    “Failure Is Not An Option”: A Scoping Review to Identify Contributing Factors of Nonprofit Organizational Failure
    (2023) Thomas, Courtney Chapman; Davis, Curtis; Gold, Shaunna Payne
    Failure in the context of nonprofit organizations is a concept that has intrigued many scholars. Unfortunately, the research of the root cause and indicators of failure is still fragmented. A great deal of the current research focuses on the success of nonprofits. This study is founded in systems theory and seeks to derive a list of common indicators of factors that attribute to failure among nonprofit organizations. It also seeks to determine if leadership is an overarching correlating factor among all failures. Through the evaluation of literature and a content analysis, this paper produces a list of indicators of failure within nonprofit organizations. The author utilizes this information to propose intervention and prevention models that could correct or deter failure with intentional focus on the role of Social Work Education.
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    Synthesizing Paternal Mental Health Advances and Clinical Social Work Practice: A Mapping Review
    (2023) Brennan, Matthew; Davis, Curtis; Gallego, Joseph
    Clinical research and practice in the area of paternal perinatal mental health is expanding throughout the allied health fields However, the absence of father-focused paternal perinatal research and the prioritizing of child and family-focused paternal perinatal research is particularly noticeable within Social Work literature. While recent Social Work scholarship on research related to paternal mental health and the experience of fathers exists, it is sparse. This mapping review focused on what is currently known about helping fathers in the perinatal period, in order to increase Social Work knowledge and practice. This review explores existing and relevant knowledge related to practices to better serve fathers and their families, and identifies gaps in research and clinical care for Social Work readers. Themes amongst the existing knowledge related to developmental change, traumatic birth, paternal mental health, interventions, neurobiology, and policy will be discussed before concluding with a focus on emerging focal points for future research related to nurturing fathers during perinatal care.
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    Outcomes of Continuing Education Programs for Social Workers’ Self-Efficacy towards Job Performance: A Systematic Review
    (2023) Burrow, Aisha Monikee; McKinney, Bob; Lee, Lewis
    The aim of this systematic review was to identify the outcomes of continuing education programs on social workers’ self-confidence towards job performance. This systematic review was guided by UNC’s Systematic Review Workbook and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systemic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) 2020 Statement. The literature search was completed in July 2023. Databases searched included Academic Search Premier, MEDLINE, and SocINDEX. A total of 133 peer-reviewed journal articles published in 2011-2023 that evaluated outcomes of continuing education programs for social workers were identified. Covidence software was used to present and synthesize results. Two reviewers independently analyzed fulltexts and assessed quality and biases. Seven journal articles met the inclusion criteria. The fulltext review revealed five common outcomes: professional development, enhanced practice skills, increased knowledge, preliminary effectiveness, and increased self-confidence towards job tasks. Based on these findings, continuing education programs have some positive outcomes. However, there were no comparison groups or randomized control trials used in the included studies. None of the studies are generalizable due to biases and small sample populations. Therefore, this systematic review is a first step to gaining a greater understanding of continuing education programs’ utility, feasibility, and outcomes for social workers’ self-efficacy towards job performance.
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    Foster Parent Factors Associated with Placement Stability: An Umbrella Review
    (Journal of Public Child Welfare, 2023) Pixley, Jeanna; Cheatham, Leah; Smith, Brenda
    Introduction/Background: This umbrella review summarizes empirical evidence of foster parent factors associated with placement stability. Methods: Joanna Briggs Institute protocol for umbrella reviews was applied in the narrative synthesis of data from four systematic reviews and one meta-analysis to isolate empirical evidence specifically related to foster parents and placement stability. Results: Sixteen foster parent factors associated with placement stability were identified. Twelve of the sixteen identified factors are related to social-emotional competencies (SEC). Discussion: Key limitations to the study include inconsistent operationalization of concepts related to placement types and outcomes in literature and methodological design which precludes examination of primary sources to resolve discrepancies in data reported across reviews. Recommendations include further exploration of the connection between SEC of foster parents and placement stability, more research regarding foster parent mental health, and increased focus on intersectionality of variables related to placement types and outcomes.
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    Behavioral Health Needs and Barriers to Care Among Soldiers Who Report Past Year Sexual Harassment and/or Sexual Assault
    (2023) Kunhavijit, Michael; Shah, Avani; Ruggiano, Nicole
    Background: Sexual harassment and sexual assault (SH/SA) continue to be a problem in the military despite extensive efforts to mitigate incidents. The mental health needs of military SH/SA survivors are often unmet due to stigma, military cultural values related to self-reliance, and logistical barriers. This secondary analysis assessed data related to the prevalence of past-year SH/SA across demographics, identified the mental health needs among those who experienced it, and ascertained the perceived barriers to treatment among members of an Army brigade combat team (BCT).Methods: For this analysis, any affirmative response to either 1) past-year sexual harassment, and/or 2) past-year sexual assault was combined to create a past-year SH/SA indicator variable. Mental health outcomes included major depression, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, alcohol use, and insomnia. Perceived barriers to treatment outcomes included stigma, self-reliance, and logistical barriers. Descriptive statistics, chi-square, and logistical regression were used to report findings.Results: SH/SA incidents were concentrated among young (17-24) junior enlisted (E1-E4) female soldiers; SH/SA survivors reported psychological problems at a higher rate compared to non-victims (73% vs. 31%); and SH/SA survivors reported higher occurrences of stigma and barriers to care compared to non-victims.Conclusion:The results of this study were mixed. The SH/SA survivors that indicated psychological concerns reported higher rates of stigma and barriers to care but sought mental health care at higher rates than non-victims that indicated psychological concerns. The gap between SH/SA victimization and BH utilization needs improving as unmet BH needs can lead to a myriad of issues. Changing perspectives on self-reliance as it relates to coping with mental health problems is a way to address this gap. Leaders must emphasize that mental health care is a form of self-reliance, while military mental health professionals must implement effective self-care initiatives and promote available resources to aid soldiers in overcoming their mental health problems.
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    Supporting Mental Health in the Classroom
    (2023) Kerr, Angela M.; McKinney, Robert E. Jr.; Traylor, Amy C.
    Today’s youth are facing a significant increase in mental health disorders, many of which are unable to receive the support and care they need due to various barriers (Ghandour et al., 2019; CDC, 2022. As a result, many have turned to schools to assist in promoting mental health and well-being. However, many teachers report lacking the training to efficiently address and support mental health issues in the classroom (Kratt, 2018). Numerous studies have identified programs that are effective at increasing a teacher’s ability to address mental health in the classroom. However, few studies examine the change in frequency of teachers intervening with students displaying challenging behaviors and/or mental health concerns. The aim of the current study is to examine the change in frequency of teachers addressing mental health in the classroom following a teacher-mental health collaboration training group. Teachers and staff members attended six training sessions, led by a mental health professional, focused on mental health and related topics. Pre and post tests were administered to evaluate the change in helping behaviors. Studies were needed to further assess the frequency in which teachers utilized newly learned skills and information to address mental health concerns in the classroom. While participants provided positive feedback for the group, data analyzed only identified one area, responding to a student in crisis, that met the criteria for a significant change. Small sample sizes and lack of a standardized tool to measure the frequency could serve as limitations for this study. Future research is needed to further explore the impacts of mental health-teacher groups on teachers' knowledge and ability to address mental health in the classroom as well as the impact to students’ well-being.
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    Eating Disorder Rates and Body Image Dissatisfaction Among College Females
    (2023) Blair, Abigail Hogan; McKinney, Robert; Cheatham, Leah
    The purpose of this study was to obtain further information on the rates of eating disorders among college-aged females and the possible sociocultural protective factors at play, especially those concerned with race and ethnicity. Participants included female undergraduate students at colleges and universities in the Southeast and Midwest portions of the United States who completed online surveys. The study remains ongoing, but implications to date are discussed.
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    There is No Time Like the Present: Conceptualizing a Radical Self-care Approach in Black Women Social Workers
    (2022) King, Quinchele LeKesha; Davis, Curtis; Gresham, Kay; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Radical self-care is a self-care model that centers the health, wellness, and communal care of Black women. Radical self-care is rooted in self-determination, self-preservation, and self-restoration that nurtures the experiences of Black women. The theoretical lenses put forth in this paper show how interconnected COVID-19, Blackness, and Black womanhood in social work are all salient identities and experiences in need of radical self-care. Embedding radical self-care in the social work discourse is needed as it provides a method to broaden the well-being and retention of Black women social workers. It is imperative that social work organizations look at their policies and practices surrounding supporting self-care practices of Black women social workers as they are coping with racial trauma and navigating systems of oppression. In this paper I postulate how Black women social workers can take charge and ownership of their self-care needs and instill radical self-care practices in their marginalized clients through the proposed intervention of green therapy.
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    The Social Work Role in Higher Education: A Systematic Review
    (2022) Naasko, Rachel T.; Jackson, Sebrena; Elliot, Willie; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Social workers apply social work knowledge and skills in various educational settings, including higher education. Although this career path is not widely recognized, social workers address the needs of students in higher education by providing mental health services, case management, program management, and outreach. This systematic review aims to explore the roles of social workers in higher education settings. This review includes empirical literature, articles written by students, and grey literature to demonstrate how the profession understands social work practice in higher education settings. The twenty-eight articles reviewed reflected six themes: the role of social work, field education, mental health, substance use, foster care, and diversity and inclusion. The results of this review support that further research is needed on the social work roles in higher education and that this setting is rich with field placement opportunities.
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    A Synthesis of Research Examining Culturally Specific Barriers Black Female Students Experience Following Incidents of Sexual Violence
    (2022) Turner, LaSharia; Davis, Curtis; Rainer, Shawra; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    This review examines the barriers experienced by Black female students following incidents of sexual violence. Research revealed that nondisclosure amongst college students is linked to the student feeling fear, embarrassment, doubt, uncertainties, and unfamiliarity of resources and services. In contrast, Black females experience additional barriers that impede their decision to report the incident formally. Research on Black female student's barriers after sexual assault revealed the following themes: experiences, cultural-specific barriers, support. This systemic review concludes by recommending colleges and universities to develop culturally grounded campus prevention initiatives for Black female students.
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    “Who Am I?” Utilizing a Systematic Review of the Literature to Explore Relevant Black Youth Identity Models for Social Work Practice
    (2022) Jones, Vanessa Martin; Davis, Curtis; Hall, Kathryn; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The identity and wellbeing of Black adolescents is often explored in the context of racial development with emphasis on the deficits of the developing youth. Subjected to adultification, racism, and anti-blackness in the United States, Black youth face unique challenges that interventions and theories do not adequately account for. A systematic review was conducted to examine the available applicable models, interventions and theories to answer the following question: In what ways do interventions target the nurturance of Black identity and wellbeing? Several themes emerged including connectedness as a buffer for the developing youth, however, the nurturance of Black identity was not present. Assuming identity development is a monolithic and universal experience, literature fails to examine the complexities of intersecting identities for the developing Black youth.
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    Exploring Virtual Calming Rooms as an Intervention to Address the Mental Health Needs of Students
    (2022) Gainey, Brittny; Davis, Curtis; Ruggiano, Nicole; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    A Qualitative Content Analysis was conducted to determine prevalent themes in Virtual Calming Rooms in Virginia K-12 Schools. Given the inclusionary criteria, located in Virginia and connected to a K-12 school, eleven Virtual Calming Rooms were analyzed. Through this analysis six common themes were identified, and 18 content areas were coded. The results of this study suggest that Virtual Calming Rooms are a viable intervention to address the mental health needs of students. A thematic review of the literature exploring educational disparities stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown created foundational knowledge of the mental health crisis that children and adolescents experience(d) particularly those of school-age. This review was through the lens of the opportunity gap as it conceptualizes educational outcomes within students resources accessibility and attainability and exposure.
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    Virtual Opportunities: A Study in the Accessibility of Public Education for Homeless Youth
    (2022) Creger, Cara; Cheatham, Leah; Ruggiano, Nicole; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The number of youths experiencing homelessness has increased over the last decade and has only been exacerbated due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although overall rates of homelessness declined in the last decade, the numbers of homeless youth continued to increase. Much of the existing body of research related to homelessness fails to capture the experiences of homeless youth and their families, many of whom are excluded from mainstream relief efforts due to the classification of nighttime residence categories. The McKinney Vento Act is a federal program established and reauthorized to allow additional resources for homeless youth and their families to reduce barriers to academic achievement. Despite these resources, McKinney Ventoeligible youth experience poorer academic outcomes and attendance rates than their housed peers. One consistent challenge for this population is transience, and protocols aimed to address transience often leave families without support or access to academic instruction for weeks at a time. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts were left to find solutions to new barriers for all students and implemented virtual learning opportunities on an unprecedented scale. This study examines how one school district’s approach to virtual learning resulted in new means to accessibility for this vulnerable population, despite high levels of transience. Through retrospective analysis of 191 de-identified student transcript records for 9th- 12th grade McKinney Vento youth from the 2018-2019, 2020-2021, and 2021-2022 school years, this project examined whether increased accessibility through virtual course opportunities would yield greater academic outcomes for McKinney Vento youth. Academic outcomes (measured as pass rates) were consistent with pre-COVID years. Despite national findings indicating significantly poorer academic outcomes for all students during this time, for MV youth to have fared consistently to prior years can be considered a successful outcome with possibilities for future implementation. Implications for practitioners, school social workers, and public-school faculty include greater congruence for MV youth remaining or achieving grade-level status, higher graduation rates, and reduced barriers to instruction.
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    The Impact of Religious Trauma on the LGBTQ+ Community: A Systematic Review
    (2022) Goodwin, Miranda; Ruggiano, Nicole; Payne, Nancy; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Religious and spiritual practices have shown to be an integral part of developing positive health and mental health outcomes for many individuals; however, evidence shows that this is not the case for most LGBTQ+ individuals. Adverse religious experiences can lead to religious trauma which has significant and profound impacts on spiritual and sexual identity development, mental health outcomes, and social and family support. Trauma-informed clinical interventions have shown significant reduction of poor mental health outcomes; however, the efficacy of these interventions are undetermined in response to religious trauma. The current study involved a systematic review to determine the impact of adverse religious experiences on mental health outcomes within the LGBTQ+ community and to examine the clinical outcomes and treatment of trauma related to negative religious experiences. Of 383 articles identified and screened, 17 articles met eligibility guidelines. The current review found that the majority of LGBTQ+ individuals faced adverse religious experiences manifested by microaggressions and abuse within a religious setting, rejection based on sexual identity, conflict between religious identity and sexual identity, and extent of rejection of religious practice throughout the lifespan. The impact on mental health included increased rates of depression, anxiety, internalized sexual stigma, suicidality, substance abuse, and high-risk sexual activity. The study also determined a significant lack of research conducted to determine the outcomes of clinical treatment of religious trauma within the LGBTQ+ community.
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    Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace: Best Practices for Covid-19 and in the Future
    (2022) Bolt, David; Ruggiano, Nicole; Lee, Lewis; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Introduction/Background: This was a descriptive survey research project on promoting employee mental health. This project used a survey that was created in Qualtrics to assess what mental health services are offered by employers as well as the perception of those services by employees. The findings were then used to recommend best practices that organizations can use to improve employee mental health. Methods: Data were collected through a Qualtrics survey that was distributed electronically via LinkedIn and professional/academic email listservs. Best practices for supporting employee mental health were researched using a literature review on the subject. There was a total of 203 validated responses. A convenience sampling approach was used which resulted in a non-statistically valid sample size. Descriptive statistics were generated using Microsoft Excel. Results: There was a total of 203 validated responses. The survey had many findings that involved employees’ knowledge of existing workplace-based mental health services offered by employers and the perception of those services by employees. A full report of the results is included as an appendix to this report. Discussion: The three main implications of this research are that employees view their employers as having a responsibility to address mental health, that employees desire an organizational and interpersonal approach to workplace mental health programs, and that organizations can use workplace mental health services as a tool to attract or retain employees. The findings from the survey were used to inform a discussion of best practices for promoting employee mental health. Limitations of this research project include that a non-parametric sample was recruited for the survey.