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School of Social Work  |  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
July 2014 Strengthening Vulnerable Families  
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Study Shows Learning to "Just Say No" is Not a Panacea for Minorities with Alcohol, Drug Problems
Teaching youth to "just say no" has long been viewed as the first line of defense in the war on drugs. And several studies have provided compelling evidence that refusal skills training, which teaches participants strategies for resisting social pressure, can be successful at preventing youth from trying drugs and alcohol. However, a new study by scholars at the University of Illinois offers sobering evidence that refusal skills training may not be the best approach for African-American adolescents who are trying to stay sober after being treated for alcohol or drug abuse.

The solution that will improve outcomes for minorities with substance use problems likely needs to be more sophisticated and comprehensive than simply teaching them to resist social pressure, said Douglas C. Smith, Assistant Professor and lead author of the study.

"Based on this study, it seems that there is no compelling evidence to support refusal skills training as a required component of treatment for African-American youth. African-American adolescents that did not engage in the training did not have significantly worse outcomes than their African-American or white peers that did. What did make a difference, though, was participants' overall treatment exposure - the longer they were in treatment, the more services they received, the more likely they were to be abstinent at follow-up. One implication of this study may be that all youth, regardless of race, should receive as many treatment procedures as possible to enhance their chances of staying sober."

According to Smith, their study underscores the importance of not looking for a simple solution that will improve treatment for minority youth. Assistant Professor Karen Tabb Dina, School Student Affairs Coordinator Darnell Fisher, and doctoral student Leah Cleeland were co-authors of the study. 

The paper, "Drug Refusal Skills Training Does Not Enhance the Outcomes of African-American Adolescents with Substance Use Problems," appeared recently in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment

Read the full article. 

View the complete study online.

Attention Bloomington/Normal Area Alumni
Join the School for a family friendly event!

Alumni Tailgate Party
Friday, August 22, 2014
6:00 p.m.
The Corn Crib
1000 West Raab Road
Normal, IL 61761

Your ticket includes a box seat for the Normal CornBelters vs. Traverse City Beach Bums game and pre-game tailgate party for School of Social Work alumni and friends including an all-you-can-eat menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, potato chips, soda, bottled water, and more! Tickets are just $5 per person.

Register online: or call (217) 244-1064 by August 1, 2014.

Be sure to wear your orange and post pics from the game on Instagram! #ILLINOISsocialwork
PhD Candidate Appointed to CSWE Council
Megan Paceley, LSW, MSW 2009, and PhD candidate, has been appointed to the CSWE Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (CSOGE). This Council, in concert with the Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice, advises the CSWE Board of Directors on policy and programmatic matters related to gender expression and sexual orientation. Her 3-year term began July 1, 2014.
Newly Redesigned Poverty Simulation More Specific to Champaign County
Champaign County Poverty Simulation
July 23, 2014
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
School of Social Work
1010 W Nevada Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Room 2019

Participate in the Champaign County Poverty Simulation and experience what it is like to be in a low-income family trying to survive in the Champaign community. This event will inform you on the challenges low-income families face and the resources available in Champaign County - all of which will enhance your capabilities as a practitioner and an advocate for vulnerable families.

This year's Poverty Simulation is a product of the efforts of two Social Work graduate students, Aliya Prescott and Lenore Matthew. Both students are currently completing their MSW field placement with the United Way of Champaign County. One of their main assignments was to redesign the Poverty Simulation to make it more reflective of the Champaign area community. This simulation is unique, in that it is tailored to Champaign County. The demographics, social services, and circumstances of poverty discussed in this simulation reflect the experiences that low-income families in our county face every day.

By participating in this Poverty Simulation, participants will gain the following: 
  • An understanding of what it is like to be in a low-income family in this community
  • An overview of the real-life services available to low-income families in our community, and how those services function
  • The real-life opportunity to network with community partners and practitioners who will participate in the event
  • For new Social Work students, the opportunity to ask MSW and PhD students questions regarding their social work field placement

This event is open to the community. Lunch will be provided with RSVP. Please RSVP to by July 18, 2014.


Presented by United Way of Champaign County and the School of Social Work
MSW Student Studies Abroad, Helps Victims of Torture
Picture provided by Noelle Bruce of the Center for the Care of Survivors of Torture
MSW student, Noelle Bruce, has been working 32 hours a week with a local Irish agency SPIRASI, during a study abroad internship in Dublin, Ireland. SPIRASI and the Center for the Care of Survivors of Torture, "aim to protect, rehabilitate, and integrate survivors of torture and other vulnerable people."

Noelle has been spending the majority of her time working on a research project where she is helping assess the needs of survivors of torture who have been in the "Asylum Seeker" status for years. The survivors are not allowed to work, and while their food and living accommodations are taken care of, they are given very little money per week for anything else they may need, including prescription medications. While these survivors are covered by a medical card, they still have to pay a small sum for each medication. The costs of each medication can add up quickly considering the long lasting effects of torture.

While the survivors' living accommodations are also provided, they are generally hostels which can be even more damaging to survivors of torture. Some people are physically assaulted, their belongings are stolen, and some can be living in the hostels for several years. Through Noelle's research project, she and the Center for the Care of Survivors of Torture are conducting a focus group to improve their services and see how they can better meet the needs of these survivors after they have been through the asylum seeking process, and now either have citizenship or have refugee status. 
Picture provided by Noelle Bruce of Howth, a peninsula 45 minutes outside of Dublin.
Bowling Event Helps Students Get Social
On Wednesday, June 25, 2014, the School of Social Work held their first Bowling Social for students at the Illini Union Bowling Alley. In the midst of the summer heat and compressed coursework, the social provided current students an opportunity to relax, laugh, and get to know their fellow classmates.

Darnell Fisher, the Student Affairs Coordinator for the School, said, "The first Bowling Social had a great turn out and was highlighted by 'turkeys' all around! Now we will simply have to wait for Thanksgiving to indulge in any more turkey!"

NTU Students Visit School
Yi-Nuo (Enoch) Lu and Yi-Ting (Joyce) Wu are both BSW students from National Taiwan University (NTU) completing practicum experiences through the School of Social Work's Student Exchange Program with NTU. Enoch is completing a 6 week experience at the Circle of Friends Adult Daycare and Joyce is completing a 6 week experience at Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club. The goal of the students' experience is to assist them in the development of generalist practice skills, as well as exposing them to social work practice in the United States. When the students complete the program on August 8th, they will be traveling to other areas of the U.S. for sightseeing.
The Column is Here
Spring 2014

The latest edition of the School of Social Work's quarterly newsletter, The Column, will be hitting household mailboxes very soon. This quarter's topic is child advocacy.

Check out the online version on the School's website!

No Simple Solution for Minority Youth Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation
Bloomington Area Tailgate Party
PhD Candidate Appointed to CSWE Council
Newly Redesigned Poverty Simulation More Specific to Champaign County
MSW Student Studies Abroad, Helps Victims of Torture
First Student Bowling Social
NTU Students Visit School
The Column is Here

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