The Reframing Initiative in the Context of Social Work

In early 2017, shortly after I began collaborating with NCEA and the FrameWorks Institute on the Reframing Elder Abuse initiative, I was asked whether I had experience with framing. Since that time, I’ve realized how congruent the initiative is with the social work profession I represent on the Reframing Elder Abuse Committee and the NCEA Advisory Board. Effective communication is the goal of the reframing initiative: How can advocates communicate about elder abuse in a way that builds public support for effective solutions? Similarly, communication is at the heart of social work. On a micro level, social workers facilitate and enhance communication not only among individual clients, families, and groups, but also between clients and service providers. On the mezzo and macro levels, social workers educate program administrators, community planners, and policymakers about individual and community needs and resources.

The connection between framing and social work extends to the Reframing Elder Abuse communications strategy in particular.

• The reframing strategy centers on the value of justice: the concept that every person deserves to live free from abuse. Similarly, the core values of social work, as articulated in the NASW Code of Ethics, include respect for the dignity and worth of every person and advocacy for social justice.

• The reframing strategy emphasizes that elder abuse is a multifaceted problem with causes and implications far beyond the individuals directly involved. Drawing on a person-in-environment framework, social workers help clients, service providers, and policymakers to reframe seemingly individual problems as complex challenges influenced by systemic factors.

• The reframing strategy stresses collective responsibility for preventing and addressing elder abuse. Social workers recognize that any problem affecting an individual affects the entire family and vice versa. Likewise, any challenge faced by families and groups weakens entire communities, just as community difficulties affect families and groups. This ecological framework makes clear that creating and maintaining a strong social fabric is a societal responsibility.

• The reframing strategy highlights the strength of communities to prevent and address elder abuse. With its strengths-based perspective, social workers help people to identify, access, and mobilize the individual, family, and community resources that are available to address challenges.

• The reframing strategy focuses on strengthening systems of support to reduce and address elder abuse. In a similar manner, social workers identify and implement micro-, mezzo, and macro-level interventions that enhance supports available to individuals, families, groups, and communities.

Over the past year, NASW has undertaken multiple activities to educate social workers and other professionals about the Reframing Elder Abuse initiative. The association is striving to incorporate the reframing strategy in its observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and in its other activities related to elder justice, such as revision of an NASW policy statement addressing family violence. Spurred by the enthusiastic reception to a plenary presentation on the reframing initiative during its 2017 virtual conference, Aging Through the Social Work Lens, NASW is excited to welcome NCEA Director Dr. Laura Mosqueda and FrameWorks Institute Director of Research Dr. Drew Volmert for a three-hour reframing workshop preceding the 2018 NASW national conference, Shaping Tomorrow Together. This workshop will also introduce participants to other work done by NCEA. May our collective efforts make real the goal of justice as we all age.


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Special Thanks to Judith D. Tamkin

We are sincerely appreciative to Judith D. Tamkin for her gift to help establish the USC Center on Elder Mistreatment’s website. Her deep and personal commitment to eradicating elder abuse is helping to reshape our understanding of elder abuse and ultimately save innumerable older adults from abuse and neglect.