Aimee Albino’s Story – What Jubilarians Talk About (Response to an email interview sent by Ma. Corazon J. Veneracion)

What do Jubilarians talk about when they see each other fifty years after receiving their ABSW degree? I’m guessing that they usually ask the following, especially if they had not seen each other for years: Are you still working? Or are you retired now? What work did you do? Did you always work in the field of social work? What do you do now? Do you have grandchildren?

MCJV: “How have you put to use your university education? What was your practice like?”

I hope I can answer what I think Jubilarians talk about and what you are asking with the following:

MY SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE:
My university education (ABSW ‘62; MSW‘79 from UP; Certificate in Social Development in National Development Planning, University College of Swansea, Wales ‘75) was my passport to the work world. My full time jobs had always been in social work. My part-time jobs were mainly in teaching. I practiced social work both in the Philippines and in the United States. It is interesting to note that my first and last jobs were in Psychiatric/Clinical Social Work (the current nomenclature is Clinical Social Work). In between, I held the following jobs:

In the Philippines: School Social Worker at Manila Department of Social Welfare; Social Welfare Analyst in Family and Child Welfare at the Department of Social Welfare and Development; Social Welfare Specialist/Head of Planning and Evaluation Division, Department of Social Welfare and Development; Social Work Lecturer at Maryknoll College.

In the United States: Counselor in Remedial Education for Social Welfare Clients, at Economic and Social Opportunity, Inc.; Counselor for Pre-and Post Training Program for Refugees, at Economic and Social Opportunities, Inc; Manager, Pre- and Post Training Program for Refugees, at Economic and Social Opportunities, Inc.; Employment Analyst, at Department of Social Services, County of Santa Clara; Clinical Social Worker, at Agnews Developmental Center, Department of Developmental Services, State of California; Lecturer/Coordinator of Pilipino Emphasis, Bilingual Special Education Program, at College of Education, San Jose State University.

My first job after receiving my ABSW degree in 1962 was as Psychiatric Social Worker at the Department of Neuropsychiatry of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital. This was a teaching hospital. I worked as a member of an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, psychologists, and occupational therapists. Part of my job was to give a lecture to Medical Clerks and Medical Interns being assigned to the Neuropsychiatry Department about the role of the Psychiatric Social Worker in the treatment of psychiatric patients. As a young social work practitioner, explaining to the world the role of a social worker in the treatment of the mentally ill was a daunting task. I had to ask myself: What distinguishes the social work profession from all the other professions that are involved in this particular setting?

In the various social work jobs that I held in the years that followed, I realized that it was very important as a social work practitioner, that I always explain what a social worker does, separate and distinct from what the other professionals do. My last job, which I held for 19 years, was as Clinical Social Worker at Agnews Developmental Center, a state hospital for individuals with developmental disabilities. The interdisciplinary team could be very big, depending on the complexity of the needs of the client. The team usually includes a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, nutritionist/dietician, individual program coordinator, physical/occupational therapist, recreation therapist, art therapist, teacher, residence manager, parent/family/conservator/legal guardian.

I retired in 2009, but I do volunteer work up to the present. I also do church work nowadays and I find that my social work skills can come in handy here as well. I remain actively involved in my professional social work group here—and I take continuing education classes!

RECOGNITIONS RECEIVED DURING MY PRACTICE:
The Consumer’s Research Council of America, an independent research company based in Washington, DC that evaluates professional services throughout America, included me among America‘s top mental health professionals in its 2006 Edition of “Guide to America’s Top Mental Health Professionals”. No fees, sponsorships, donations or advertising are accepted from psychologists, therapists, social workers or medical treatment facilities to insure an unbiased selection.

For eleven years, 1987-1998, while working full-time as a social worker, I was teaching part-time in the Graduate Program of the College of Education at San Jose State University. I was Lecturer/Coordinator of the Pilipino Emphasis Bilingual Special Education Program for teachers pursuing their Master‘s degree in Special Education. I developed the details of the Pilipino Emphasis Bilingual Special Education curriculum. One of the courses I developed, which had a very strong social work feature, was Counseling Parents of Pilipino-American Special Education Students. I believed that teachers in Special Education must acquire the skill to counsel parents because parent involvement is especially important in the education of a child with special needs. As the title of the program indicates—Pilipino Emphasis—I developed every course for the teacher to learn the Pilipino culture in particular and use this knowledge in teaching the Pilipino-American student in a culturally relevant manner. In the same light, the subject on Counseling Parents emphasized the need for the teacher to understand the Pilipino culture and to use that knowledge when counseling the Pilipino-American parent. In addition to classroom teaching, I also served as Thesis Adviser and Member of the Panel for the Oral Examination.

When there was a nationwide evaluation of all Special Education Bilingual Programs for teachers in the different universities, I found out that at that time, the Pilipino Emphasis Bilingual Special Education Program at San Jose State University was the only one of its kind in the entire United States!

I am stating all of these not out of pride, but in humility. I give credit first to the Lord God Almighty who makes all things possible, and second to UP for providing me a firm educational foundation for my chosen profession.

MY MSW DEGREE FROM UP EQUIVALENT TO AN MSW DEGREE IN AN ACCREDITED SCHOOL IN THE UNITED STATES:

I’ll repeat—that I am very grateful for the education I received from UP. ( I follow the advice of St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Develop an attitude of gratitude”). I’ll tell you why in concrete terms.

When I came to California, I decided that I should take the State Board Examination to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, which is considered here as the highest level of social work practice. An MSW degree from an accredited US school of social work is required before one can apply to take the State Board Examination. Since my MSW degree was obtained outside the United States, I was required to have it evaluated by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) for equivalency to an MSW from an accredited US university. (While preparing to submit the required papers for the equivalency evaluation, I found out that in some US universities, a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work is not a prerequisite to enter into the MSW program).

Because of my UP education, I believed then, and still believe now, that the foundation in social work in the bachelor’s degree program is important before one enters the master’s degree program. So, I deemed it then that to show the extent of my social work education, it was best for me to submit both my ABSW/MSW diplomas and transcripts from UP, plus my Certificate in Social Development in National Development Planning from the University College of Swansea, Wales. With these, CSWE determined that my MSW was equivalent to an MSW from an accredited US university. With the equivalency, I prepared and took the board exam. With blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of prayers (as what we used to say especially during our first year at UP, the adjustment year), I passed the State Board Examination composed of two separate parts: first, a written exam and after passing the written exam, an oral exam.

The same MSW equivalency requirement was needed for my regular membership in the National Association of Social Workers here in the US. I maintain my NASW membership even now that I’m retired. I am a member both at the national level and at the state level (California Chapter). The Pilipino American Social Workers’ Association (PASWA), of which I was a founding member, is a Council of the NASW California Chapter. I am the present Secretary of the PASWA Council . Currently, I am also a member of the California Chapter’s Political Action Committee.

Not every non-US MSW graduate who applies for equivalency at CSWE receives an equivalency status. It is not uncommon for MSW graduates of non-US universities to attend school here in order to get an MSW degree from the US because of the non-equivalency problem. Now, you can see why I am very grateful that I received my ABSW and MSW degrees from our Alma Mater, the University of Philippines! By the way, they are the same degrees that qualified me to teach at the Graduate School level at San Jose State University.

MCJV: “Did you find the curriculum then, relevant, in some respects, to Philippine Social Work or social development practice or social welfare? Was education then irrelevant in some aspects?

In one of my first social work classes, we were asked to individually write a paper why we chose to major in social work, right there in class. I don’t exactly remember the details of what I wrote, but in essence, I believe I wrote that I chose to major in social work because it is a very noble profession in the service of others. Every class in social work that I took reinforced this idealism I held for the profession, thanks to the dedication of the UP Social Work faculty. I am grateful for the strong Liberal Arts foundation of the bachelor’s degree in Social Work at UP. It gave a wide perspective of understanding life—mine and of the people I serve, and of those I work with. After graduation, as I faced the real world and its many challenges, I realized the need to return to the university and learn more in order to be a better social worker. I pursued a Master‘s degree in Social Work.

As in my elementary and high school, except for the Pilipino and Spanish classes, all the books we used in the other classes were basically American books. Therefore, you learn from an American perspective. Looking back, and having worked here in the US, I can say that our curriculum then, was very American-oriented in theory. As a student, I found nothing wrong with that. I loved to learn from as many perspectives as possible.

During my fieldwork placement, however, translating and applying an American theory to the realities of the Philippine setting was difficult. But this earlier difficulty, in my actual practice when I worked later on, helped me to become adaptable and creative in dealing with particular situations. I always reminded myself on how to apply theory to practice with questions or guides such as: According to the book, if this is the hypothetical problem, then this is the corresponding possible solution (s). Now, with an actual problem, what would be the best corresponding workable solution or solutions, given the resources I have?

When I became Head of Planning and Evaluation at DSWD, the biggest challenge was social welfare planning at the national level. I did not have that learning experience when I was taking my MSW at UP. My additional education in social development in national development planning at the University College of Swansea, where the program was really geared for developing countries, helped me a lot in my work in planning especially at the national level. But as I had mentioned earlier, one has to be creative and adaptable in translating a theory into actual practice. Every developing country has its own social development challenges. I do not know if social development (local and national) was part of the Community Development curriculum at CSWCD. Is it? Or if the new MSW curriculum at UP has developed a subject in social development in national development after I had graduated from my MSW program.

MCJV: “What happened to your batchmates; What became of them?”

First, I want to say hello to everyone in Class’62 who will be there for the Jubilee celebration. I can’t make it to the jubilee celebration but I am there with you in spirit!

After 50 years, this is what I remember. Please forgive me, dear classmates, if the memory is not accurate. If you are there in the celebration, please provide the correct information:

Cora de Leon, who was our President of UP Social Service Society in our undergraduate years, became Secretary of DSWD. With other UP/DSWD colleagues, we had a get-together in San Francisco some years ago.

Lita Flores migrated and worked in the US and Canada as a social worker and for a while was working in the UN program for refugees in the Philippines.

Juliet Orzal migrated to the US and lives in Washington, DC. She is now retired. She practiced social work, and before retirement, was long-time director of the organization that provides meals to the underprivileged in Washington, DC. Hillary Clinton, I understand, would volunteer there when she was First Lady. Juliet and I had not seen each other in person, but we remain in contact by phone and greeting cards.

Jovita Ramos. I last met her a few years after we graduated in a get-together of fellow UP grads. At that time, she was not practicing social work. She was raising a family. Her husband, who is a lawyer, was then actively involved in YWCA where Juliet Orzal was the then Executive Secretary.

Manolita Santos migrated to the US and became a nurse. She came to visit me at my home a few years ago.

Remedios Vicente became a principal in high school in Mindanao after she got married. That was a few years after we got our ABSW degree. Her husband is from Mindanao.

Ernesto Pulido became a journalist in radio/tv(?) in his home province. We met at DSWD way back when, at the funeral of the DSWD Auditor who happened to be his province mate.

Have a wonderful celebration with my fellow Jubilarians!

God bless us all—
Aimee

College of Social Work and Community Development