NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Frances Coyle Brennan, LCSW, ACSW
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.
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.
Significant Achievements and Awards
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.