Our UMaine School of Social Work part-time faculty members are a multi-faceted group. Nancy Webster, MSW, MPA is an example of a teacher with multiple connecting interests as both a social worker and sheep breeder. In 1989 Nancy left Boston, Massachusetts for life on a small farm in rural Maine. Nancy has been teaching at the School of Social Work since 1997. She has been a longstanding instructor in our Weekend MSW program and teaches social policy in the BSW program in Orono. Along with teaching several courses a year and maintaining a private practice in work with children and families, Nancy has also been raising sheep. Her interest in raising sheep extends back 40 years, and she is particularly committed to raising “heritage breeds” – including the Navajo Churro which were nearly extinct in 1990. At that time, Nancy got involved with the University of Utah Sheep Preservation Project, called Sheep is Life, in efforts to bring back the breed. At this time, the Navajo Churro sheep are on the endangered species list as “threatened” with approximately 3700 in the United States – primarily on Navajo reservations. Nancy is currently raising 22 Navajo sheep and with lambing in March that number will rise to close to 35. Nancy is deeply committed to this breed that was brought close to extinction by the genocide committed on the Navajo people. Several of Nancy’s Navajo Churro ewes have been part of the egg donation project at the Center for Heritage Breeds in Rhode Island. Over the past couple of years, Nancy has also gotten involved with the politics of the sheep industry. She is currently the Secretary of the Maine Sheep Breeders Association and was recently appointed to the American Sheep Industry Board. As a board member, Nancy will spend two weeks in May working on farm bills and farm policy that impacts the nation and Maine. Learn more about the Navajo Churro Sheep.
Channel 2 (WLBZ), Channel 7 (WVII) and the Bangor Daily News reported on the Feb. 12 swearing in ceremony held in Hermon for the new five-member Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which includes University of Maine School of Social Work Director Dr. Gail Werrbach. Over the next 27 months, the Commission will work “to uncover and acknowledge the truth, creating opportunities to heal and learn from the truth, and collaborate to operate the best child welfare system possible for Wabanaki children.” In the 1800’s children were forcibly removed from their Native families and communities and placed in boarding schools where they were not allowed to use their Native language, customs or practices. In the 1950’s the Child Welfare League of American began the Indian Adoption Project, an initiative created to “save” American Indian children by placing them into white American households. Justification for removing Indian children from their families was based on poverty – the ultimate result of the US Government’s racist and colonization policies against Native AmericanTribes. This “experiment” was proved wrong. In fact, the Native children were victimized by the loss of connection to family, community, culture, identity, and a sense of belonging. The Commission is seeking to uncover the lost truths of the past “creating a common understanding of what happened.” This will be done in a community-based, supportive, healing environment for those who were affected. The TRC will issue a final report that is also a means for the Wabanaki Tribal Governments, and most importantly the Maine government, to reflect and improve upon the child welfare process in the state to ensure American Indian children are never placed in the same position again. For more information see the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Dr. Jennifer Middleton and Dr. Lenard Kaye are providing research and evaluation expertise to the Penquis Regional Linking Project – a partnership of the Bangor-based Families And Children Together (F.A.C.T.), the University of Maine School of Social Work, and a coalition of community organizations and agencies.In Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, children ages 5 and under whose families are struggling with substance abuse will have improved well-being and safety, and a better chance of staying in or returning to their own homes rather than remaining in foster care under a five-year, $3.9 million project led by the Bangor-based Families And Children Together (F.A.C.T.), the University of Maine School of Social Work, and a coalition of community organizations and agencies.
The Penquis Regional Linking Project: Building Quality Services for Rural and Frontier Communities will receive $797,405 annually for five years from the Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau’s Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. The effort will involve at least 25 area service agencies, led by F.A.C.T. and Beverly Daniels, the executive director of F.A.C.T. Jennifer Middleton, a UMaine assistant professor of social work, is the lead researcher on the project and co-director of evaluation.
“I am especially excited about this project because it is an exciting step toward establishing important community-university partnerships and addressing an issue of paramount importance to our region of the state,” says Middleton, who joined the UMaine School of Social Work faculty in 2011. More: Penquis Regional Linking Project and in the Bangor Daily News.