At the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis, especially during the first stages if the pandemic, social workers in various settings faced the challenge of providing social support to the most disadvantages populations, within uncertain and often time high-risk situations (Dominelli et al., 2020). Crisis intervention models have a special place among social work theories and are often instrumental in solving specific situations through short and concise actions (Payne, 2014). During the pandemic, social workers had to rely on existing models of crisis intervention, while at the same time were called to derive new sustainable crisis management strategies. The fragile equilibrium of the pre-pandemic status-quo, already loaded with the burden of social inequality, has been disrupted by a threatening reality, highly difficult to manage. We can find a significant degree of stress and disorder in the entire societal system, having as epicentre the health sector. The crisis dismantled the comfort zones of social service systems and forced public institutions, agencies, professionals and social work beneficiaries alike to build resilience and new coping behaviours. Often, when a major crisis emerges, the organizations are ill prepared with resilience procedures, each component of the system being forced to independently find solutions, without having the chance to communicate and align (Duan, Gang, 2020). As a result of the missing synergy, we experience higher levels of stress and longer recovery periods.
As this pandemic forces social arrangements and mechanisms to change, in this transitory phase we are vulnerable in finding coping strategies and we need well defined roles and responsibilities in order to be effective in our social interventions. Social workers have to show creativity as well as a good knowledge of crisis management theories in finding ways to help the people in need and we already have good examples of successful interventions using technology and virtual communication tools. On the other hand, we have to consider also the opportunities this crisis provides – the chance to see reality in a different manner, to value more the simple things we are surrounded by, to change obsolete procedures and approaches, to reinvent ourselves and the systems we are working in. There is a need for social workers to imagine solutions to fight against the loneliness and social isolation of social work beneficiaries, considering the fact that they are usually the most vulnerable of the population (Berg-Weger, Morley, 2020).
Face to face interventions and direct contact have been replaced with phone calls and virtual communication platforms, technology becoming an important part of the social dynamics. We witnessed how social work practice changed fast and radically, integrating a strange mix of measures and procedures, such as social distancing, protection equipment, communication devices, preventive education and food delivery to the isolated people.
The current issue proposes articles strongly linked to the reality we face, from different social work fields: education, probation and health. The authors – specialists, practitioners and students, present thorough analyses of pressing social issues amplified by the pandemic and interesting facets of how social work strives to overcome the crisis.
The article of Daniel Arpinte presents the main results of the evaluation of the pilot nutritional program for children from pre-primary up to secondary public schools which has commenced in 2016 in 50 schools and was extended to 150 schools from the school year 2019–2020 but suspended during the 2020-2021 school year because of pandemic restrictions. Although the program is based solely on the educational component, aiming at reducing school abandonment and increasing school participation, the evaluation aimed at investigating the impact of the program on all other relevant areas, particularly on children’ health and social inclusion.
The pandemic has amplified the vulnerability of many social groups. Alina-Cristina Ionescu and Emanuel-Adrian Sârbu focus our attention to a social group whose difficulties are only marginally addressed by society, although strongly affected by the pandemic: young people visually impaired. The results of the qualitative research conducted by the authors point to the need to acknowledge and further explore the social needs of visually impaired young people affected by social self-isolation and to derive effective social interventions for them.
Nina Mihaela Mihalache’s article analyses the complexities of family issues during the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic period, through the restrictions on mobility, social distancing measures, increased stress and loss of family members or friends produced psychosocial effects at the level of micro and macro groups. The article presents one research that showed a poor training of the population in collecting and interpreting messages of general interest, an increase in delinquency, domestic violence, disease and mental instability but also the mortality rate. All these phenomena and social problems unfolding in a very short period, made it difficult to intervene, prevent and reduce the interrelated effects. The conclusion of the research suggests a more detailed analysis of the micro and macro family space to identify all the new aspects that appeared during the pandemic. These would be necessary for all areas to optimize interventions and obtain good practice models.
Monica Luminiţa Alexandru writes about the challenges faced by persons living with disability. The SARS-COV2 virus has brought with it other problems for this vulnerable category: difficulties in accessing medical services, especially medical recovery services; difficulties in accessing public transport; insulation; the fear; difficulties due to reduced/lost income and specialized support. Access to education has become impossible for many children with disabilities, who have failed to cope with communication in the virtual environment. Virtually any form of education remained in the responsibility of the family. The author highlights that, to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities during this period, information campaigns should be intensified, access to medical care (especially medical rehabilitation services), social services, psychological counselling, and the means of transport necessary for travel should also be facilitated.
Ana-Maria Tarană presents a study on the coping strategies of the families in which a disability of a child emerges. The research uncovered certain deficiencies in the level of social services provided to people with disabilities, observed even by the clients. Each family is unique and adopts both adaptive and maladaptive strategies. The author stresses that, with the help of social work services and targeted interventions, by providing assisted resilience, the maladaptive strategies can be reverted.
Roxana Mirescu directs our attention to the educational system, also seriously challenged during this COVID-19 pandemic. The author summarizes the findings of a research on the role and responsibility of school counsellors in keeping the education process alive. The study draws attention to the shortage of counsellors and the negative effects on the Romanian educational system.
The next article of the issue focuses on the Romanian probation system. Rebeca Popescu presents a qualitative analysis of the perception of the offenders regarding the probation period, community work and interventions program. The author concludes that the interventions taking place during the probation period are generally well received and considered to have beneficial effects of the offenders.
The article of Adina-Iuliana Soltuz represents an analysis of how adolescents are using the Internet. Relying on the shared experiences of teenagers and their parents, the author captures the various aspects of internet use and analyses the different facets of the time spent online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loredana Marcela Trancă and Clara-Mihaela Lobonţ talk about the approaches to social work practice in detention units during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on the West part of Romania. Using a descriptive research design with semi-structured individual and group interviews, the study explores the strategies for adapting the activity of social workers from detention facilities during the pandemic.
Anca Weidensdorfer proposes a new crisis intervention model, based on her professional experience from Germany, and describes how the day centres can prevent and solve some of the youth’s problems. The main topic of this article is the promotion of centres for children and young adults, aged between 6 and 27, as well-being promoters of any society affected by the pandemic and seeks a comparison between the youth clubs in Germany - centres with open doors for all those interested in promoting this field of activity and those in Romania, in their current form of operation.
The articles of this issue of the Social Work Review represent invitations to re-thinking the new social context and the challenges emerged as a first step in finding ideas, approaches and solutions to overcome the crisis. The wide segment of topics covered by the articles can be a good starting point for future social studies and researches.
Duan, L., Gang, Z. (2020). Psychological interventions for people affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7, 4, 300–302. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30073-0
Dominelli, L., Harrikari, T., Mooney, J., Vesna Leskošek, V., Kennedy Tsunoda, E. (Eds.) (2020). COVID-19 and Social Work: A Collection of Country Reports. Available at https://www.iassw-aiets.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/IASSW-COVID-19-and-Social-Work-Country-Reports-Final-1.pdf (accessed on November 1st, 2021).
Berg-Weger, M., Morley, J. E. (2020). Loneliness and Social Isolation in Older Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications for Gerontological Social Work. J Nutr Health Aging, 24, 456-458. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-020-1366-8
Payne, M. (2014). Modern social work theory (4th ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.