What is missing, on the one hand, are those who are willing and able to do the in-depth, comprehensive and interdisciplinary assessments and post-mortems of these failures. On the other hand, we need those who are willing and able to educate the public and key decision-makers about the possibilities of long-term systemic and evidence-based services that have been designed to prevent, intervene early and even rehabilitate those who now can be shown to be at risk for any of the many types of personal and societal disintegration; disintegrations from unemployment, social ostracism, bullying, severe mental illness, homelessness, child abuse and neglect, and other forms of violence and victimization.
While personal acts of kindness over the holiday season, and at all times, are always needed and appreciated, they cannot stand by themselves. They must be supplemented by the compassionate and ongoing services of professionals from a variety of disciplines — social workers, psychologists, doctors and educators — who are willing to use their imaginations to integrate the best available evidence from a wide range of academic disciplines to achieve a pragmatic and in-depth understanding of each individual, group and environment at risk. If not, all the kind acts of the holiday season may serve only to soothe our consciences — and likely suffer the same fate as our New Year’s resolutions.
Christopher G. Hudson, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Social Work at Salem State University and president-elect of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.