Climate change, natural disasters affect well-being

Feb 23, 2017

By Alison Laurio, News contributor

When Samantha Teixeira was at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work earning her MSW and then her Ph.D., she and a young black man walked up to a high school where the entry door was locked.


“He rang the bell, and they wouldn’t let him in,” she said. “He looked at me and shook his head. ‘They’re not going to let me in,’ he said. ‘You ring it.’ I rang the bell, and a white woman walked up and let us in.”

That was just one memory from when Teixeira, now assistant professor of social work at the Boston College School of Social Work, worked with youths participating in the city’s Homewood neighborhood improvement and cleanup project named Junior Green Corps.

“Imagine being treated that poorly,” she said. “The biggest thing I learned from them is I got a glimpse of what it means to belong to a marginalized group and be stigmatized. When they said where they’re from — Homewood — they were stigmatized.”

“I was working with (these young people) for several years, and to see them shake off those assumptions and get to work, it was just stunning. To watch how they persevered in the face of that was a privilege. It was very powerful for me.”

A lot of social workers think of clinical and macro work as being separate, Teixeira said, but issues affect casework.

“If you work with a client one-on-one, then send them out into an unclean environment, there’s an effect,” she said. “Research over and over supports the fact that neighborhoods matter for everyone, particularly for young people. It affects physical health and mental health.”

Teixeira had been working with child welfare clients after earning her bachelor’s, and “kept observing that all the cases were from the same neighborhoods with the same types of housing where there were also poverty and public health issues.”

When beginning her master’s work, Teixeira focused on macro social work.

“I understood the things I was seeing fell under the umbrella of social justice issues,” she said.

From the neighborhood level, like the Junior Green Corps project, to larger national or global levels, social workers play a role in helping develop sustainable communities and empowering people and their communities to help address their needs, said Lawrence Palinkas, a co-lead for one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work: “Create social responses to a changing environment.”

From the February 2017 NASW News. Read the full story here.