Dispatches from the Field is a monthly feature at Innovate@BCSW designed to showcase the school’s commitment to field education, and to fostering fruitful relationships with organizations, both in Boston and around the world, who are providing critical services to those living at the margins of society.
Agency partner: Geoffrey Cushner (MSW ’05)
Organization: CENTRO, Worcester
Services: Initially founded in 1977 to serve the growing Puerto Rican population of Worcester, Massachusetts, CENTRO (formerly Centro Las Americas) provides the point of contact for the growing population of refugees in the central parts of the Commonwealth. CENTRO, which employs more than 100 social workers full-time, serves a budding Latino community, but also, immigrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, many of whom are fleeing poverty, violence, and war in their home countries.
Included in CENTRO’s services are two food pantries, Latino Elder Program, developmentally disabled, community support, Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative and Adult Family Care. Cushner oversees contracted services with the Department of Children & Families to provide parental, youth, and intensive family support to families referred to CENTRO by DCF. The families may be struggling with a combination of domestic violence, substance abuse, school attendance issues, parental/youth mental health, homeless, families new to this country, and/or a number of other issues requiring education and support.
“The needs of our families can be more extensive than DCF might be equipped to manage without support,” explains Cushner. “Issues of violence and substance abuse, for example, can further compound the realities of being new to a country. Our staff seeks to help these new U.S. residents throughout the acculturation that they encounter, towards giving them the tools to raise their families successfully in their new homes.”
Interns at CENTRO represent an important part of its team (there are currently 10 actively working there in some capacity), and they provide various counseling and administrative services under the aforementioned programs.
Relationship with BCSSW: A 2005 graduate of the Boston College School of Social Work, Cushner is delighted to be able to give back to his alma mater. This year marks the first that CENTRO has hired an intern from BCSSW, and Cushner says that he is not the least bit surprised with the caliber of this particular student. “This individual is very smart and self-motivated, and has that unique macro/micro perspective that is indicative of a BC Social Work education,” he explains. “I find that we’ve had some very rich conversations…. It’s been a rewarding, and powerful, experience to help train the next generation of social workers to effectively work with families.”