For this Discussion, select a case study in this week’s Readings. Review the case study, focusing on the social or economic justice issues at play in the situation described. Post a description of a social or economic justice issue that is evident in the case. Suggest two strategies the social worker might employ to address the issue.
Working With Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Trauma: The Case of Brenna
Brenna is an 18-year-old, heterosexual, African American female. She is pregnant, residing in a homeless shelter, and has no income source. Brenna was raised by her biological mother in a one-bedroom apartment in an urban neighborhood. When Brenna was 15 years old, her mother began dating a new man. This man sexually assaulted Brenna while they were home alone one evening. She immediately disclosed the sexual assault to her mother who called her a liar and told her to move out. Brenna then lived in a variety of situations, sometimes residing with friends for short periods and sometimes living in a youth shelter. During this period she attended high school intermittently but did not graduate.
After her 18th birthday, Brenna moved in with her boyfriend, Cameron. Also living in the household were Cameron’s mother, his 16-year-old sister, and a 7-year-old brother. Shortly after moving in with Cameron, Brenna became pregnant with his child. Prior to the pregnancy, Cameron would often abuse her physically, verbally, and emotionally. When Brenna announced the pregnancy, Cameron became even more violent, accused her of sleeping with other men, and denied paternity of the baby. When Brenna was 4 months pregnant, Cameron attempted to strangle her, so Brenna moved to a shelter. Although the shelter was willing to house Brenna and her newborn temporarily, their policy required Brenna to secure new living arrangements prior to giving birth.
I was assigned to be Brenna’s social work case manager at this shelter. Brenna and I worked together to set manageable goals during her stay at the shelter and also developed a plan for ongoing mental health support. Utilizing individual case manage- ment sessions, I worked with Brenna to prioritize goals regarding financial stability, permanent housing, and medical care. Brenna had difficulty reading and writing, so we worked together to complete the applications for Medicaid; General Assistance; the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and a local subsidized apartment complex. Brenna often became frustrated throughout this process, struggling to locate all required documents as a result of her frequent moves and changes in residency. I advocated for Brenna to receive medical care at the local hospital’s prenatal clinic while waiting for Medicaid approval, utilizing her completed Medicaid applica- tion to support the request. The hospital also agreed to enroll Brenna in prenatal support and education groups that met on a weekly basis. Difficulty with reading and writing made it challenging to apply for jobs to list on her application for General Assistance, so I gathered information for Brenna on available educational and self-help centers in the community. She enrolled in a group at a local agency that provided free General Educational Development (GED) training, and she was able to enhance her reading skills during her stay at the shelter. By attending a group at the agency, Brenna met several single mothers in the area and built a new support network in the community. Throughout this process, Brenna struggled with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, loneliness, and powerlessness. I worked with her to validate and process these feelings and assisted her in contacting a local therapist with experience working with survivors of dating abuse and domestic violence. Although she was initially hesitant to engage in a therapeutic relationship, I assisted Brenna in making an informed decision to do so. She attended weekly therapy sessions throughout the duration of her stay at the shelter.
Brenna’s resiliency, self-sufficiency, and dedication to providing a healthy life for her unborn child gave her the motivation to set difficult goals, and she used her time at the shelter to attain them. One month prior to giving birth, Brenna’s housing application was accepted and she moved into a small two-bedroom apartment. Working with Social Services, she was granted a voucher and was able to furnish her apartment. I accompanied Brenna to the super- market and assisted her in planning a monthly food budget with
her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC funds. Through work with her therapist, Brenna cut off all contact with Cameron, choosing to raise her child on her own. She said she felt like a new person when she established a new phone number and address without informing Cameron, and when she left the shelter, although nervous, she expressed a sense of confi- dence in her ability to move forward with her new baby.
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