I asked Mit (Never Call Me Mildred) Joyner to be this issue's guest editor because she has a tremendous wealth of knowledge
about the John A. Hartford grant and gerontological issues generally. It became obvious as we worked together that her efforts
emanate from a larger vision of social work education and practice. What follows is a portion of her wit and wisdom about
the Hartford initiatives, gerontology and a variety of issues facing the profession today. - Ed.
Pedagogy: Mit, you've certainly become one of the nation's strongest advocates for social work educators to teach about work
with older adults. Did you ever practice with the elderly yourself?
Joyner: No. Actually, my practice area was child welfare. But now that I think of it, when I was a child welfare worker I
did have several cases with grandparents parenting grandchildren - but in those days they did not call it kinship care.
That demonstrates that every aspect of social work involves working with older adults, doesn't it? I got on board with aging
because I had a couple of skills BPD needed at the moment the Hartford Initiative was beginning. I had an academic and research
background in organizational change from Howard, and I happened to be the president of BPD at the right time. I believe I
came at the aging issue with a different perspective, as an organizational opportunity for social work organizations to unite
around a common theme.
Pedagogy: How did you get involved in the Hartford Grant? What is the history of the funding itself?
Joyner: BPD's involvement started out in about 1999 when Esther Langston told me she had information that there were gerontology
dollars for Master's programs through the John A. Hartford Foundation. The natural question was "why couldn't undergraduate
education get involved, too?" Thanks to a meeting set up by Joan Levy-Zlotnik, we met with Laura Robbins, the former
foundation administrator and liaison for social work education, at the APM in New York City. Laura told us that BSW programs
were not appropriate recipients for the foundation's funds because our focus was generalist practice. I remember the conversation:
we educated her about generalist social work practice, told her of the many roles and placements BSW students already had
in aging. BSW social workers were excellent discharge planners and case managers for older adults, and performed many other
roles in aging settings. Most importantly, all BSW social workers dealt with the aging population in some way. I believe
Esther and I convinced Laura that evening that BSW programs deserved a place at the table. Later she asked if I would take
a leadership role and help identify ways in which BSW programs could participate. I naturally agreed. So, we convinced her
to include BSW educators as stakeholders and suddenly found ourselves with BSW education's first large foundation grant opportunity.
At that meeting Laura Robbins told us the story of how she got involved in developing more funding initiatives for social
work education. You know, the John A. Hartford Foundation is solely dedicated to improving services for older adults, and
had funded physicians and nurses for quite a while before finding social work. While Laura was helping her own parents navigate
the health care system she became convinced that social work was the profession most able to advocate for older adults in
the complicated world of health care options. She began to explore social work education and the many doors one could enter
to start a funding initiative. She wandered into the CSWE and the NADD door, and we helped her find the BPD door.
Pedagogy: What would you say is the most important contribution to come out of the Hartford grant?
There are a couple of important contributions. Functionally, it provided the means to help every social work educator and
student prepare for the demographic shift that is already occurring in this country. It put gerontology front and center
on the curriculum of many programs, and will have the ripple effect of touching every program and practitioner in social work.
Equally important, and as I said before, it provided an opportunity for unification of social work education and practice
around a common research and education issue. As a result of this initiative social work leaders are working out a simpler
model of universal cooperation among all social work entities. Remember, Laura Robins approached social work in the late
1990s and saw many doors to enter. In the future we need to, and must, provide major funders with a single door for entry
to the profession. This is critical if we are to move from a kind of developmental adolescence to maturity as a profession.
I might also add that I see it as critical for our survival as a profession.