Each month, we’ll be sharing the research and global adventures of one of our faculty members and/or students who have conducted research in his/her field of study, in our Global Research Blog Series.
For Social Work faculty, Chayeng Xiong and Cher Teng (Bee) Yang, an opportunity to present their research in Hue, Vietnam, was akin to returning back to their homeland. After all, both are originally from Laos, which is just across the way from the historic city of Hue.
However, this trip for was not for leisure – but rather for educational purposes. From June 14-16, the duo were invited to present a training workshop at the 2017 Advancing Social Work Practice Skills in Health and Social Care Conference, held at Hue University of Sciences. Their workshop “Child Well-Being Assessment and Intervention” focused primarily on child welfare practices, programs and policies, particularly in the U.S.
“Since we are originally from Southeast Asia, organizers thought it would be a good thing if we went back and helped out,” said Yang, a lecturer in the Title IV-E Child Welfare program at Fresno State.
Although child welfare policy and protection is widely developed in the U.S., it is still a relatively new concept for those in Southeast Asian countries – why is why it was essential for Xiong and Yang to present their workshop and discuss this new concept of social work practice. The idea was not to enforce or implement the ideas in the region, but to simply provide education on the topic.
“We originally developed our training specifically regarding child welfare, with the goal to teach them about child welfare policy, procedure and programs used in the U.S.,” said Xiong, also a lecturer in the Title IV-E Child Welfare program at Fresno State. “We also planned to teach them about intervention and how to assess child well-being and child abuse or neglect in the U.S. That was the original thinking on how we developed the course.”
However, once they arrived, they realized their presentation would change, due to Vietnam’s affiliation as a communist country. They said that did not serve as a setback, but rather a broader opportunity to learn from participants, who were comprised of social work students and faculty, community organizers, faith-based entities, government agencies and social welfare organizations.
This was the first workshop of its kind held at the University and the first time educators from the U.S. have come to the country to present specifically on child welfare policy, particularly in that region. In addition to Fresno State, three to four other U.S.-based universities participated, as well as neighboring universities from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
According to Xiong, the training proved to be a reciprocal process, with he and Yang gaining as much knowledge as they were in teaching it.
“As we gained feedback from the audience and researched the country, we learned that Vietnam has very strong child protection laws, including 62 articles specifically for children,” Xiong said. “However there is no teeth to enforce these laws because the federal government does not have the funding to provide the county, state or province the power to enforce them.”
In addition, they learned that in Myanmar and Thailand, there are only five individuals with a Master of Social Work degree, and in other Southeast Asian countries, the social work profession does not even exist.
“You compare it to the U.S., where there are plenty of social services, in each state. It makes you wonder how a whole country can provide social services with just five social workers,” Yang said. “Social work in those countries are not well-established in role or profession.”
Both Xiong and Yang said they will carry the experience they had in Vietnam into the classroom at Fresno State, tying in important elements of cultural competency.
“In America, we characterize child abuse into four areas: physical, sexual, emotional and neglect – but in Southeast Asia, that is a very new concept for them,” Yang said. “In this country, we have a very clear definition of physical abuse, but over there it is considered discipline. It is the cultural norm.”
“For me to go back to Southeast Asia and learn about the government and policy there and implement that ideology into my classroom – that’s huge a thing to discuss. Future social workers need to be aware of what happens in the international platform. It will also be eye-opening for them to realize that they are in the best place to learn to social work, here in the U.S., but there are also opportunities for them to work outside of the U.S. as well.”
The two noted they received high level of interest and positive feedback from participants – and have been asked to return to conduct further training, possibly in the area of human trafficking.