Advanced Standing MSW, Jamaican, Caribbean Woman, Focus on NYC

A Jamaican woman, born and raised in New York City, I hold a BSW Degree and now hope to be selected to earn the MSW Degree at XXXX University. Among the issues that I am most concerned with are racial disparities in maternal/child mortality and the way that they are both again on the rise in some parts of the USA. I am especially concerned with my own community, NYC. Despite a century of steady improvements in the science behind maternal care, pregnancy-related deaths are again on the rise in NYC, especially with respect to minorities generally speaking but most dramatically in the case of black women who suffer severe maternal morbidity (SMM)—life-threatening complications during delivery—in vastly disproportionate numbers. While the national conversation on maternal health has focused on maternal mortality, it has not sufficiently explored either the root causes or the full range of consequences. This is especially true with respect to how maternal morbidity tends to occur along racial lines in NYC (New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2016).

My professional identity and research interests are informed by the fact that my mother is an immigrant to the USA from Jamaica where we left my father behind; and the fact that I am a black woman from the Caribbean, yet not a Latina. I faced a lot of challenges growing up as a result of these factors, which have helped to make me strong as well as curious, with a sense of social justice, and a keen desire to serve my community, especially vulnerable women who are also pregnant.

Untold numbers of black mothers, struggle to receive proper prenatal and postnatal care in NYC. Disparities along racial or ethnic lines are especially glaring between black and white women who are not Latina. Black, non-Latina women have the highest SMM rates in NYC, three times that of the white non-Latina. There are many reasons for this, of course, pre-conception health status, prevalence of obesity and other co-morbidities, in addition to lower levels of access.

Thus, I will have my work cut out for me if accepted to your Advanced Standing MSW Program and given the opportunity to tackle such a complex issue under your expert guidance. Clearly, the issues go well beyond educational level, since black mothers with a college degree still have higher rates of maternal mortality than white women who dropped out of high school. Neither is it primarily a question of diet, physical condition, or body size, since black women with a normal weight index still have a higher probability of dying as a result of pregnancy/childbirth or losing their child, than do women of any other race. Black women who live in wealthy neighborhoods have less successful pregnancy outcomes than other races living in poorer neighborhoods.

I seek a full immersion experience in the study of emotional and psychological trauma, on both the individual and family level, from a Social Work perspective. I want to delve into the long-term and even multi-generational cost of the loss of a mother – psychologically, economically, in terms of education and well-being across generations - for the community as well as the surviving children and the families that they themselves go on to create. How do grief, depression, and a sense of social isolation result from insufficient attention to women’s health, at what cost, especially when we factor in the increase in the numbers of single-parent households and children placed in foster care (Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2016). I long for expertise in how and why some families are able to access adequate food, shelter and health care, while others are not. Women’s health should be given greater priority, addressed in every arena from politics to the school system. Programs that promote the emotional and physical wellbeing of the mother and baby need to be designed and implemented, building on what has already been accomplished in this area. Medicaid could cover doulas services which would be of enormous support and assistance since doulas have extensive training in childbirth and are able to provide critical emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth.

The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience (” Studies have documented the reality of improved birth outcomes when a doula was present during the birth. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to have pain-relief medications administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience.” Studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, and the use of oxytocin by 40%. Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor as well as postpartum, continuing to assist with lactation support and recovery. I hope to live to see the day that all pregnant women in NYC have access to the support of a doula.

It was an enormous privilege to complete the BSW program at Medgar Evers College, a distinguished and critically important historically African-American university, I became strengthened and empowered as an individual, progressively, throughout the course of this program. The BSW program introduced me to a broad variety of intellectual perspectives that are invaluable for the social work investigator on both local and national levels. I can now stand back and look at stereotypes and analyze them without buying into them. I can see the bigger picture, and the depths to which historical humanity sunk in the name of greed, in the construction of systemic oppression against which we shall continue to struggle for many generations to come.

I could not be more fully committed to the codes of professional ethics embraced by the Social Work profession.

Always being as compassionate as possible in all of my dealings with my clients is central to my sense of professional integrity. As a volunteer in at the service of a variety of different underserved populations, especially with WIN (Women in Need) helping out in the shelter, I have learned that I have both the heart and the stamina for social work. My finest hours have been spent distributing food to families at the shelter, helping with events such as Christmas and back-to-school giveaways. With the 4H, I mentored undeserved children; and I am currently working at a non-profit agency serving adults with diagnoses of a mental health disorder. I do home visits daily, keeping notes and drafting service plans. Even when one of my clients has a crisis, I still manage to turn in my work on time. My coworkers commend me for always keeping my composure in the face of what quite frequently results from the chronic mental health disorders of my clients. I constantly advocate for my clients in an attempt to get them the care and support that they need. I even go to pharmacies to lobby on their behalf to fill a prescription. My clients appreciate my dedication to their needs and they show it, which inspires and empowers me further.

My central professional goal is to obtain my clinical license. Further along in my career, I hope to open my own non-for-profit agency focusing the implementation of cutting-edge therapeutic approaches to helping children with social and emotional challenges. I want to contribute to giving voice to those who have never had one; and I want to contribute to a progressive impact on our educational and health care systems in particular.

I want to continue to practice and enhance my ability to make clients feel comfortable and be able to express their thoughts without feeling like they are being judged. I see my greatest potential for contributing to society as helping to change the structure of our school systems in low income neighborhoods to make them more inclusive and empowering for all children. I believe every school should have a social worker so that students have someone to advocate for them. I am troubled by the fact that black students in NYC are nearly four times as likely to be suspended than their white counterparts. I dream of helping to build an organization that serves children with social and emotional behavioral issues, providing these children and their families with therapeutic support and resources. I am also very engaged with documentary film which I hope to utilize in the future as well, in the service of social justice as well as social work. As a graduate student in Social Work with a focus on NYC, I hope to have the opportunity to prepare myself for a lifetime of study of and engagement in issues of maternal health and racial disparity with a focus on the way that these issues manifest themselves in my city and the surrounding area. Much of it, of course, has to do with poverty, and the fact that ethnic minorities tend statistically to be overrepresented among those mired in poverty.

I want to study in depth the way that living in poverty limits healthy lifestyle choices and can make it quite difficult to access healthcare resources – in the context of NYC, broken down by region of the city. According to NYC Community Health profiles, for example, in East Flatbush, one in six residents live below the Federal poverty line. In Brownsville, the situation is still much worse, with three in seven residents living in poverty. In fact, Brownsville is the most impoverished neighborhood in Brooklyn and the seventh most impoverished neighborhood in NYC. In East Flatbush, the rate of preterm births, a key driver of infant death, is the highest in the city, with Brownsville coming in second. In Brownsville, almost one in five adults have no health insurance, and roughly one in ten goes without badly-needed medical care. In East Flatbush, one in four adults have no health insurance and one in seven live without access to medical care. My concern focuses on the way in which receiving little to no care at all during pregnancy results in East Flatbush having the second highest rate of infant mortality in the city. Brownsville ranks 4th in infant mortality, still eight times the rate of the Upper East Side. I very much look forward to writing a Master’s Thesis which explores topics pertaining to maternal mortality among black, non-Latino, women-mothers and their babies. In particular, following the investigations of Villarose and others, I seek to clarify why it is that African-American mothers and babies in the United States are dying at more than double the national rate of white mothers and their babies (Villarose, 2018). I seek to do this in order to help clarify ways that might help us to successfully address this issue as a society.

Thank you for considering my application,

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