As of July 2014, there were an estimated 55 million Hispanics in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Latino population is the fastest growing minority group in America, so it is imperative that there be specially trained social workers who understand and are sensitive to Hispanic cultures.
“One of the biggest needs in social work is the availability of social workers with the ability to work with Hispanic populations, who are culturally sensitive and, in some cases, bilingual,” said Raymond Sanchez Mayers, associate professor at Rutgers University School of Social Work.
To meet this need, the School of Social Work is launching Latino/a Initiatives for Service, Training, and Assessment (LISTA). Starting this fall, LISTA is a new SSW area of emphasis focused on training social work students to serve Latino/a communities and clients.
LISTA will offer students courses in social work practice specific to Latino/a populations to increase cultural competency, as well as optional courses for social workers on the professional use of Spanish, and study abroad opportunities in Mexico, Puerto Rico and/or Costa Rica, said Professor Sanchez, who is directing the initiative.
To provide Masters in Social Work students with real-world experience, the SSW is seeking agencies that would offer field placements and stipends for MSW students who have special training in working with Hispanic populations, and who may be bilingual, he said.
Professor Sanchez noted that New Jersey is among the top 10 states in the country with the highest Hispanic populations, and LISTA will serve to enhance understanding of this segment of society.
“While all social workers are taught to be culturally sensitive, working with Hispanic populations is different because a large number of them are immigrants who may not speak English and have different values and concerns. Having someone understand these factors will be helpful to Hispanic clients.”
Any interested student, or agency looking to sponsor a LISTA student, can contact Professor Sanchez at rsmayers @ssw.rutgers.edu or at 848-932-5369.