NASW offers training to help social workers, others, understand teen brain development

Aug 13, 2020

Clever girl thinking with a machine head illustrationWhy are adolescents sometimes more impulsive or make poor decisions, such as drinking, hanging with wrong crowd or dropping out of school?

The reason could be because of brain development. Many people do not know the brains of youth do not fully develop until they are in their mid twenties, which is why they may behave in ways that bewilder adults.

The National Association of Social Workers, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has developed training resources that will give child welfare workers, social workers, foster parents and others who work with older youth critical information about how the adolescent brain develops. The know-how these professionals gain through NASW’s Integrating Adolescent Brain Development into Child Welfare Practice with Older Youth curriculum will help older youth – especially those in foster care or involved in the child welfare system – get the life skills they need to overcome past trauma and become successful adults.

Youth in foster care or those about to age out of the foster care system especially need this support. Many have a spotty school attendance record and lack support from birth families. There are greater odds that they will end up in jail, a single parent, or have trouble getting a stable job. Even those who aspire to earn a college degree end up dropping out.

Such training can be used by more than just social workers employed by schools are in the child welfare system. Foster parents, health care and mental health care providers who serve youth, and people employed in juvenile justice facilities can benefit from the training.

“The period of brain development in adolescents provides a critical opportunity to help young people grow through learning experiences and heal from trauma they may have experienced,” said Joan Levy Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW, Director Emerita NASW Social Work Policy Institute. “That is why this curriculum and the accompanying resources are so important and we hope is shared as widely as possible.”

Professionals who are interested in the training should join a NASW Integrating Adolescent Brain Development webinar on August 25 at 2 p.m. ET. Don’t worry if you miss it. It will be available on demand.