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Karen Pollett Successfully Defends PhD

Karen Pollett

Karen Pollett Successfully Defends PhD

Congratulations to Karen Pollett who successfully defended her dissertation on April 25, 2008, titled: Social Work Knowledge, Values and Skills: Improving Services to Parental Caregivers of Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

The Examination Committee chaired by Dr. Charles Malsbury (Professor, Dept. of Psychology, MUN) included Dr. Carol Baines (Professor Emeritus, Ryerson University); Dr. Michelle Sullivan (Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, MUN); Dr. William Kennedy (Professor, retired, Faculty of Education, MUN).

The Supervisory Committee chaired by Dr. Janet Fitzpatrick (Associate Professor, School of Social Work, MUN); Dr. Frank Hawkins (Professor, retired, School of Social Work, MUN); Dr. Adje van de Sande (Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Carlton University).

Social workers can play an important role in the lives of parental caregivers and their children who have developmental disabilities. However, these individuals often do not experience meaningful social work services. This qualitative study focused on meaningful social work services that can assist in the provision of parental care and caregiving to children with developmental disabilities. The question under review was: “From the perspective of caregivers, what knowledge, values, and skills are necessary for social workers to provide meaningful services to them in caring for their daughters and sons who have developmental disabilities?” A fundamental assumption of the study was the recognition of caregivers as the experts with respect to their needs. A purposive, convenience sample of 15 caregivers was developed in St. John’s, NL., where they each participated in nonscheduled, standardized interviews. Interviews involved an open-ended interviewing technique that emphasized personal experiences and participants’ viewpoints using probes to ensure in-depth coverage of broad topic areas. The study’s findings were obtained through a synthesis of the audio tape-recorded interviews, documented through written summaries, and approved by the respective study participants. A feminist theoretical lens was used to interpret the findings and enhance the discussion. The findings lent support to a number of significant contentions. First, parental caregiving of children with developmental disabilities is a women’s issue. Second, this caregiving often results in oppressive life circumstances for caregivers. Third, caregiving, while typically viewed as a private issue, is intricately linked to public structural issues and social policy. Fourth, social workers who use a feminist practice lens have an ability to provide life enhancing service to caregivers. Fifth, caregivers are the experts in their lives. They provided valuable information pertaining to the appropriate combination of knowledge, values, and skills that social workers need to best serve them. The study’s results are discussed in consideration of social work practice, social work education, and social service agency opportunities to make a positive difference in eradicating oppression for caregivers by addressing their needs as defined by them.