West Chester University    


News from the Graduate Social Work Department 

"Be the change you want to see in the world." Mahatma Gandhi 

Mark your Calendar




Start of Winter Term    

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


No classes: Martin Luther King, Jr.  Day

Monday, January 16, 2012


Last Class of Winter Term  

Friday, January 20, 2012






MSW  Field Practicum Resumes   

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Classes Begin 

 Monday, January 23, 2012 


Spring Break

Friday, March 9, 2012- Monday, March 19, 2012  


Last Day of Classes

Friday, May 4, 2012


Student Research Presentations

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

8:30 am- 4:30 pm

Graduate Business Center 


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

10:30 am-1:30 pm  

Graduate Business Center 


Field Instructors Appreciation Breakfast

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

8:30 am-10:00 am

Graduate Business Center  


Graduate Commencement  

Monday, May 14th, 2012

7:00 pm  

Hollinger Field House 






Suicide Prevention & Safety Planning 

Friday, February 10, 2012 

9 am-12 pm 

Graduate Business Center 


3 CEU's,  Presented by:

Rick Hohner, MSW   


Ethical Considerations in Trauma Work

Friday, March 23, 2012

9 am-12 pm

Graduate Business Center


3CEU's, Presented by:  

Nadine Bean, MSSA, LCSW, PhD  





Job Fair 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 


Co-Sponsored by the Graduate & Undergraduate Social Work Departments and the Twardowski Career Development Center, the job fair focuses on jobs in the Human Services Sector.  





NASW-PA License Prep Course
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Location TBD



Student Trip to Harrisburg

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Concentration year students enrolled in SWG 542, Social Policy and Change, will attend NASW Legislative Lobby Day in Harrisburg to participate directly in the policy-making process.  


PSCSW Awards for Clinical Excellence 
Call for paper submissions!
The Pennsylvania Society of Clinical Social Workers (PSCSW) invites second year graduate students to submit clinical papers.  Graduating social work students who wish to pursue this opportunity can visit the PSCSW's website to learn more. 
Submissions should be a case-related clinical paper.  All submissions are due no later than April 2, 2012.  Cash prizes of $500 will be awarded for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place. 

Happy New Year to all West Chester University students, faculty, and alumni!  May the new year be filled with joy and peace.

Student Led Initiatives -
Jamie Kohn MSW'13

Jamie Kohn is a first year, full time student who is changing peoples' lives for the better. While completing her practicum at Child and Family Focus, Inc. in Wraparound Behavioral Health and Rehabilitation Services, Jamie met a client who expressed concerns about her ability to purchase gifts and food for the holiday season.  Jamie felt compelled to do something.

Jamie quickly realized that many clients had similar concerns, especially during the holidays. She approached her supervisor at Child and Family Focus about the possibility of spearheading a project within her apartment complex to collect food for the Thanksgiving holiday. Jamie, along with the property manager and office staff at her apartment complex in West Chester, created a "Thanksgiving Drive."  Together they established a fifteen day food drive. Through Jamie's efforts, along with others in her apartment complex, enough food was gathered to provide meals for over thirty families! The success of the "Thanksgiving Drive" prompted Jamie to organize a "Holiday Drive" for the December holiday season. 



This project brings attention to the issue of "Hunger in America".  In the United States, 48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households in 2010.  For more information on hunger and poverty, please refer to http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts/hunger-and-poverty-statistics.aspx.


The Graduate Social Work Department commends Jamie's commitment to social justice and her leadership in addressing hunger and poverty.
Student Spotlight- Michelle Paige MSW'12 


When Michelle Paige graduated from WCU's sociology program in May 2010, she felt she had a good understanding of the question "What's wrong with the world?", yet she questioned how she could best enact change and address the issues of poverty and social inequity. Michelle chose to pursue an MSW degree at West Chester because of the program's focus on both community and individual based social work.  According to Michelle, the program best embodied her goals in learning about different ways of advocating for change.  She feels MSW professors have fostered her commitment to excellence and success in working in mental health as well as the community environment.
In her second year field placement, Michelle works individually with children at a behavioral health facility. She plans to continue working with individuals following graduation and also hopes to become licensed and work toward her clinical license (LCSW).  Future plans include the possibility of working on the community level in program development and/or evaluation or non-profit administration. 

Alumni Recognition
Cathy Plaisted, WCU MSW'11 
Cathy Plaisted (WCU'11) enrolled in the MSW program with a background in child welfare. However, when Cathy met Season's Hospice workers during her first field placement at Wilmington Hospital, she was immediately impressed by how they empowered individuals and families in making choices. This experience contributed to Cathy's interest in hospice and her second year field placement as a hospice worker at the Coatesville VA. 
When Season's Hospice opened a new, open access inpatient hospice unit in Phoenixville Hospital in December, 2011, Cathy accepted a new position and is currently working as a Hospice Social Worker on the unit.  
"On so many levels, I felt prepared for my new position from day one.  Working with the multi-discliplinary team, understanding the ethical considerations, and offering hope to people is the heart of social work. My field placements and course work gave me a strong knowledge base and fostered confidence in my abilities," says Cathy.  


Cathy plans on taking her licensing exam (LSW) in January and working toward her clinical exam (LCSW) in the near future. 

Congratulations Cathy!


"Parents, teachers can't ignore child sex abuse": 
by Leigh Ann Mertz, MSW, LSW 
Adjunct faculty at WCU


After taking several days to digest the disturbing and heinous news coming out of the scandal at Penn State University and reading through the Grand Jury report several times, I feel compelled to speak out and utilize this case as an opportunity to address the issue of sexual abuse of children.  While much of the media attention and controversary has centered around the actions (or inactions) of Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Mike McQueary, and others, I would like to speak directly to the alleged acts of Jerry Sandusky.  Let me preface my words by saying that by no means do I intend to undermine the culpability of the University, the administrators, and others involved in this shocking story, as I truly believe in the quote by English philosopher, Edmund Burke - "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."  I think it is evident in this case that evil was allowed to roam freely on that campus and in that community for many years despite quite a few "good men" who had the power and the knowledge to stop it. 

 However, I'd like to set aside for a moment, the layers of inaction, denial, and cover-up that make this story so much deeper and more disturbing than if it were only about the depravity of one man.  Rather, I'd like to take this opportunity to address the lessons to be learned about child sexual abuse here.  Reading through the Grand Jury report, I'm struck by the nature of this case.  Jerry Sandusky (assuming all the allegations against him are with merit) truly epitomizes the quintessential sexual perpetrator. 


Leigh Ann Mertz

Leigh Ann Mertz, MSW, LSW

Adjunct faculty in Graduate Social Work Department at WCU


For those of you who do not know, I am the Program Director of the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) agency here in Delaware County.  Our agency trains volunteers to be advocates for child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.  Through my many years as a social worker, the far too numerous cases of children traumatized by sexual abuse that I have encountered, and a vast amount of research and reading on the topic, there are a few remarkably consistent aspects of child sexual abuse that I have come to learn. 

First, the abuser is almost always someone known to the child and who has legitimate access to the child.  This is typically a relative, a neighbor, a baby-sitter, a  coach, a mentor, a religious official, etc.  This is not to imply, by any means, that most coaches are sexual predators.  But, we do know that most sexual abusers purposefully put themselves in positions where they have legitimate and unmonitored interactions with significant numbers of children.  While there are certainly incidents of abuse by strangers, the man who lures kids into his van or the guy who jumps out from an alley are not the most common threat.  It is those individuals to whom we give our implicit nod of approval that most frequently take advantage of that bestowed trust to victimize a child.  I think there's no question that Jerry Sandusky actively put himself in situations in which he was able to gain access to children by virtue of his status.  For goodness sake, the man started an organization geared towards vulnerable children! 

Secondly, we know that the majority of sexual abusers have multiple victims.  The rate of recidivism among sexual predators is one of the highest of any crime. In the case of Jerry Sandusky, we know of nine accusers to date.  It is my guess that we will hear of more in the days and weeks to come. 

Thirdly, sexual abusers utilize a "grooming" process to test the vulnerability of different children and choose their victims accordingly.  The sexual abuse often proceeds gradually over a period of weeks, months, or even years.  According to the Grand Jury report, Jerry Sandusky's victims' stories were remarkably similar.  He often knew the children for a period of time before initiating any physical contact.  He would earn their trust by taking them on special outings and giving them gifts.  He then typically accelerated his grooming by placing his hand on the child's leg while in the car, "horseplay" and "wrestling" matches when no one else was around, tickling, showering in close proximity to each other, etc.  Depending on the children's reactions, these encounters would eventually proceed to fondling and oral and anal sex. 

Finally, sexual abusers typically don't resort to the use of physical force with their victims and many stop if a child says no.  Per the Grand Jury report, although it doesn't make his actions any less heinous or depraved, Sandusky was not particularly violent in his abuse of these children.  He didn't hold a gun to their heads or a knife to their throats.  The typical abuser instead relies of psychological persuasion of his victims.  While according to some reports, he would become "needy" and "clingy" with each victim and occasionally get into shouting matches with kids he was "mentoring," there were numerous victims who testified to the Grand Jury reporting that the physical contact did not proceed past the initial grooming stages, as they separated themselves from the situations, refused to be alone with Mr. Sandusky, and would not take his phone calls.  In these instances, Mr. Sandusky reportedly did not show up at their homes and aggressively force himself on these kids.  Rather, he moved on to a more accessible victim.  Most sexual abusers are looking for easy targets.  It appears based on the Grand Jury testimony, that Mr. Sandusky slowly groomed these children over time, testing their responses, and, I believe, purposefully chose the most vulnerable to be his victims. 

The testimony of the victims to the Grand Jury is truly heartbreaking to read as each of them states that they were uncomfortable with the contact and didn't want Mr. Sandusky to touch them, but didn't know what to do about it.  Several stated that now, as adults, they know what happened to them was wrong, but they had no idea what to do at the time.  As parents and as a society, I think we need to do more to arm our kids against people who wish to hurt them.  While we focus on "stranger danger" and teaching them that no one is allowed to touch their private parts, we don't tell them what to do if someone does.  We don't create an environment in which kids know that they can openly talk about sexual abuse.  We don't teach them how to respond to an inappropriate touch, especially when the individual is someone they know and trust.  We need to teach kids that they have the right to say "No!" to any touch that makes them uncomfortable.  We need to teach them to run away and tell someone, and keep telling until someone listens.  Children need to know that sexual abuse is okay to talk about and should never be a secret.  That begins with parents  and other influential adults being willing to openly discuss this issue with kids. 

It's time that we as parents and as a society, start talking to kids about sexual abuse and teaching them how to protect themselves against sexual predators.  This is no longer an issue that we can ignore and pretend that  it cannot and does not happen.  Sexual abuse is not something that happens to "some kids."  It can happen to any child, despite our best attempts to shelter and protect them from the evil in the world.  Surely we don't want to raise our kids to be fearful of everyone and everything around them.  However, if the scandal at Penn State is any example, we clearly cannot trust our institutions, leaders in power, or our prestigous icons, to protect our children, even if they know of abuse that has occurred.  It is up to each of us to protect children and to teach them how to keep themselves safe.  We need to stop sending kids off on camping trips or leaving them with a baby-sitter saying "Be good.  Listen to Mr. Smith and do everything he tells you do."  We need to start talking about sexual abuse as a real concern and safety risk in our society.  We need to teach kids to stay away from a hot stove, look both ways before crossing the street, and say "No!  That is not okay." to people who try to touch them inappropriately.  Failure to do so in an attempt to shelter our kids from this very real danger in the world, only serves to make them the most vulnerable of prey to those who wish to do them harm. 


Diane Greenwood, MSW (WCU'07), LCSW

West Chester University Graduate Social Work Department

610-738-0339; 610-738-0375 (fax); 610-608-8053 (cell)




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