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NASW Social Work Pioneers®

 

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Frances Coyle Brennan, LCSW, ACSW

 

Pioneering Contributions
Frances Brennan's specific Pioneer contributions are twofold. First, she has brought a much needed focus on the importance of social work supervision in services to older adults and their families. From the start of her career she envisaged the role of the social work supervisor as both teacher and leader demonstrated by her own extensive experience at Jewish Home Lifecare and Mary Manning Walsh in New York City. Based on this experience she co-authored two texts addressing gerontological social work supervision. Most recently, she served as coordinator for the successful New York City based gerontological supervisory training program and is now the New York City coordinator in the national rollout of this program - "Supervisory Leaders in Aging" sponsored by NASW and funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation.

Brennan's second specific pioneering contribution has been her role as a leading advocate over the years on behalf of older adults in need of long term care and their families. This role was played out in the workplace where she advocated for resident and family rights, in the leadership she has demonstrated in professional organizations such as the Society of Social Work Leadership in Health Care, and in peer reviewed publications and presentations listed in the attached curriculum vitae.

Career Highlights
A graduate of the Columbia School of Social Work, her career goes back to the early 1970's when she joined the social work staff of the Jewish Home and Hospital the Aged in New York and served as a field instructor for social work interns. At JHHA, now Jewish Home Lifecare, she rose to become Director of Social Work and guided her staff, residents, and families through the often tumultuous transitions and changes in the field of long term care. More recently she served as Director of Social Service at the Mary Manning Walsh Home in New York. Since her retirement in 2011 she has remained active in several professional social work organizations including NASW and is employed part time as NYC coordinator of the NASW "Supervisory Leaders in Aging" program.

An outstanding feature of Brennan's career has been her dedication to the highest standards of social work practice on its various levels. She remained close to skilled clinical practice with older adults and their families as she rose through management positions. She defined the role of social work director in long term care facilities as manager, leader, and teacher; a model emulated by others in the field of aging services. As a manager, she led the way in inter-disciplinary collaboration, and was invaluable to her organization in helping to maintain quality services through multiple crises and diminishing resources. She collaborated directly with administrators and other department heads guiding them to effective interventions with distressed residents and/or families.

Brennan provided exemplary leadership to her staff and interns in bearing witness to the challenges facing elderly clients and their families. With other social work health care directors she alerted the profession and the public to the ever present potential for physical and mental abuse of frail and vulnerable elders and labored with others to help restore professional social work services in hospital and long term care facilities. She saw the director of social work as the person representing the agency to the community and was active in community meetings where she offered expertise on appropriate and necessary long term care. Her leadership and advocacy skills were also evident in the professional organizations in which she was a member. (Described in detail at end of the narrative.)

As a teacher, Brennan encouraged continuing education among her social work staff and viewed their work on the front lines of practice as teaching opportunities. She emphasized the important of a skilled psychosocial assessment as the basis for social work interventions and effective interdisciplinary collaboration. This involved disabusing assumptions that social workers should make residents and families behave, collect money for the agency, or be responsible for things that no one else wants to handle.

Throughout her long career Brennan served as a field instructor for social work interns and/or oversaw the supervision of interns by members of her staff. She lectured at the Columbia and Hunter College Schools of Social Work. As noted, her mastery of supervisory skills was translated into two highly regarded texts on supervision written with her colleague, Dr. Ann Burack-Weiss.

Biographical Data
Brennan was born on November 26, 1944 in Philadelphia, PA. She attended Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia receiving a BA in English in 1966 and the Columbia School of Social Work where she received her MS in 1971 as a group work major. Her hobbies are sailing, gym, reading, movies, theater, and traveling. Her religion is Roman Catholic.

Significant Achievements and Awards
Brennan has been a member of the Society of Social Work Leadership in Health Care for the past 20 years. Once a powerful group open only to social work directors in hospital settings, other practitioners joined their ranks when the movement to disband social work departments in hospitals began. As part of a dwindling and despairing group, Brennan and her cohorts were able to assess the situation of the profession, reach out to colleagues and put together programs to attract an ever increasing number of interested practitioners. The group currently has a strong and active membership and has a large turnout for their regular programs.

She also held leadership roles leadership in the New York Association of Services and Homes for the Aged, Social Work Council, a group that advocated for standards in long term care. Brennan was co-chair of the downstate Council for two years and chair for four years. She was responsible for identifying issues which limited social workers' ability to enhance the life of nursing home residents and worked with the Association to advocate for legislative changes to address the Council's concerns.

In addition to continuing her affiliation with the Social Work Leaders in Health Care, Brennan has been active on the Board of Directors of the Helen Rehr Center for Social Work Practice, founded in 2009. She recently served as its Treasurer.

Significant Publications
Brennan shared her expertise and experiences in long term care widely through peer-reviewed journals and presentations at professional organizations like the Gerontological Society of America. The subjects she addressed reflected her own experiences and observations and included the needs of family caregivers, resident's rights, ethical dilemmas in long term care, cultural factors in nursing home placement and the social work role in palliative and hospice care.

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