Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot

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Liz Lightfoot is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Doctoral Program at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Her main research interests are in the area of disability policy and services, and the intersections of disability with child welfare, aging, violence prevention and health. She currently has several research projects underway exploring parental supports for parents with disabilities. She also has recently been involved in several community based participatory research projects related to refugee health. Liz is very interested in international social work, and spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Namibia in 2008 where she has ongoing collaborations, and is involved in developing the SSW's new International Specialization. Finally, she has been interested in how people and professionals have adopted new technologies into their lives and work, and is particularly interested in how technology has been used for broader social change both locally and internationally. The courses she teachers regularly include social policy and research courses in the PhD program, and community practice, community organizing, policy, management and new technology courses in the MSW program. She also advises a number of doctoral students.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 16 of 16
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    Caregiving in Times of Uncertainty: Helping Adult Children of Aging Parents Find Support during the COVID-19 Outbreak
    (Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 2020) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Moone, Rajean
    The COVID-19 pandemic, which is especially dangerous to older people, has disrupted the lives of older people and their family caregivers. This commentary outlines the adaptive and emerging practices in formal supportive services for family caregivers, the changing types of support that family caregivers are providing to their older relatives, and the ways family caregivers are seeking informal caregiving support during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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    Preparing for the Academic Job Market: A Guide for Social Work Doctoral Students and Their Mentors
    (Journal of Social Work Education, 2019) Lightfoot, Elizabeth
    While the academic job market continues to be strong for social work doctoral graduates, there has been relatively little guidance for students and their mentors on how to prepare for and obtain these positions. Research in doctoral education across disciplines shows that students need help transitioning from their role as doctoral student to navigating the academic job market. This article describes the academic job search process specifically tailored to the social work job market, which is unique both in its chronic undersupply of candidates and in its emphasis on practice. Topics covered include early preparation for the job search, preparing job application materials, the selection process, negotiating offers, and finding the “right” faculty position. The need for the development of career services in doctoral pedagogy to help students prepare for the academic job market is also discussed.
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    Parent Centered Planning: A new practice model for working with parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities
    (Children and Youth Services Review, 2020) Lightfoot, Elizabeth
    This article discusses the need for more models and interventions that focus on the broader support systems of parents with disabilities. Parent centered planning is introduced as a potential model for helping parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities to begin to build the formal and informal parental supports needed for parenting their children. This model builds on the person centered planning model, but focuses on planning in regards to an individual’s parenting role, including an individual’s parenting desires and goals, along with the needs of the parent’s child. The article discusses the potential uses of this model, including as a standalone planning process, a part of the ongoing provision of supports, or as a support for referral from child protection services.
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    Consumer Activism for Social Change.
    (Social Work, 2019) Lightfoot, Elizabeth
    Consumer activism, or activism through participating in the market such as through boycotts or ethical shopping, is the most common form of political action in the United States aside from voting. While consumer activism was a popular macro practice social work intervention by social work pioneers and has been an important part of many social change movements, it is rarely discussed formally in the field of social work today. This article provides an overview of consumer activism as a social work intervention, describes historical and twenty-first century examples of consumer activism, discusses the effectiveness of consumer activism, and discusses the strengths and challenges of consumer activism for social workers who engage in it either professionally or personally.
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    The GADE Guide: A Program Guide to Doctoral Study in Social Work
    (Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work, 2016) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Beltran, Raiza
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    A comprehensive alcohol and drug testing policy in the workplace as an intervention in the mining sector
    (Journal of Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences., 2016) Maretha, Maree; Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Ananias, Janetta
    The abuse of alcohol and drugs can negatively affect the workplace. The testing of workers for substances is a sensitive, yet effective intervention to minimise the percentage of workers who test positively for substance abuse. Little research has been conducted to assess the impact of alcohol and drug testing on the workplace. Thus, this qualitative study, carried out in the mining industry in Namibia, investigates how a comprehensive workplace policy on alcohol and drug abuse can reduce substance abuse among workers during working hours. Data was gathered by means of six focus group discussions and 16 in-depth interviews, incorporating workers from all job grades, as well as community members in a closed mining town. The findings show that the comprehensive alcohol and drug testing policy had a positive impact on reducing the occurrence of substance abuse in the workplace. Since the introduction of both random drug and alcohol tests and fit-for-work testing, fewer workers were testing positively for the presence of substances, and participants noted how workers restricted their substance use specifically because of the testing. A central feature of this particular alcohol and drug testing policy is its provision of substance abuse treatment to workers who tested positively for the presence of substances and the involvement of a social worker hired by the mine, rather than simply a punitive approach. However, findings also show that treatment programs need to be followed up with standard aftercare procedures, such as support groups and training on policies and procedures around alcohol and drug testing, in order to improve worker perceptions and acceptance of policies. Furthermore, prevention efforts were regarded as more cost-effective and proactive than the treatment of substance abuse, and holistic substance abuse training was seen as improving awareness among workers. This paper is dedicated to Maretha Maree – she was a teacher/lecturer, mentor and colleague. Maretha was a lecturer in the Department of Social Work for almost 30 years until her death in November 2013. Over all the years at UNAM, she taught many courses amongst others community work, palliative care, and social work management. The late Maretha will also be remembered for her expertise in substance abuse in Namibia, as chairperson of Namibia’s Drug Awareness Group, she was instrumental in the facilitation and establishment the Teenagers Against Drug Abuse (TADA) groups through Namibia. This paper is also amongst the many scientifi c contributions made by the late Maretha Maree towards substance abuse in Namibia.
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    The Inclusion of Disability as a Condition for Termination of Parental Rights
    (Child Abuse & Neglect, 2010) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Hill, Katharine; LaLiberte, Traci
    The number of families headed by a parent with a disability has increased substantially during the past century, particularly those headed by parents with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (Tymchuck, Llewellyn, & Feldman, 1999). However, many state statutes still include parents’ disabilities as grounds for termination of parental rights (TPR). This study searched the state codes of the fifty states and the District of Columbia relating to TPR. The majority of states include parents’ disabilities in their codes as grounds for TPR if a disability impacts a parent’s ability to care for his or her child or as a condition to take into consideration when determining whether a person is unfit to parent. As of August 2005, 37 states included disability-related grounds for TPR while 14 states did not include disability language as grounds for termination. From this study, it appears many states include disability inappropriately in their TPR statutes, including using inappropriate, outdated terminology to refer to a person’s disability; and using imprecise definitions of disability. The use of disability language in TPR statutes can put an undue focus on the condition of having a disability rather than their parenting behavior.
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    Exploring the relationship between HIV and alcohol use in a remote Namibian mining community
    (African Journal of AIDS Research, 2009-09) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Maree, Maretha; Ananias, Janet
    In southern Africa, the use of alcohol is increasingly seen as creating a context of risk for HIV transmission. This qualitative study investigates the links between alcohol use and higher-risk sexual behaviours in a remote southern Namibian mining-town community. Using data from six focus groups and 16 in-depth interviews conducted in 2008, the researchers investigated knowledge of the link between alcohol consumption and HIV risk, focusing on the specific mechanisms related to drinking and higher-risk sexual behaviours. Although knowledge regarding HIV and alcohol was high among the mineworkers and other community members, the social structure of a remote mining town appears to lead to high levels of alcohol use and higher-risk sexual behaviours. The heavy use of alcohol acts as an accelerant to these behaviours, including as a source of fortitude for those with an intention to engage in casual sexual partnerships or multiple concurrent partnerships, and as a cause for those behaviours for people who may otherwise intend to avoid them. The findings suggest a need for HIV-prevention programmes that focus more holistically on HIV and AIDS and alcohol use, as well as the need for structural changes to mining-town communities in order to reduce the likelihood of both heavy alcohol use as well as a high prevalence of higher-risk sexual behaviours.
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    Disentangling over-representation of parents with disabilities in the child welfare system: Exploring child maltreatment risk factors of parents with disabilities
    (Children and Youth Services Review, 2014-12) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Slayter, Elspeth
    The study explores the risk factors for child maltreatment and self-reported child maltreatment among a population-based sample of parents with disabilities. Drawing on a nationally-representative, population-based data file that oversampled people of color, income-adjusted odds ratio tests were conducted to establish population differences among parents with and without limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs). Results suggest that parents with disabilities were more likely to report many of the risk factors associated with child maltreatment than parents without disabilities, including witnessing interpersonal violence as a child; experiencing violence, neglect or a foster care stay as a child; mood or substance use disorders; and engaging in or receiving interpersonal violence as an adult. Before controlling for income, parents with disabilities had only a negligibly higher rate of engaging in violence against their children. After controlling for income, parents with disabilities were 2.5 times more likely to engage in violence against their children. Parents with disabilities who did engage in violence against their children had greater amounts of some of the child maltreatment risk factors in comparison to parents with disabilities who did not engage in violence, particularly their own childhood experiences of maltreatment, witnessing of interpersonal violence as a child, childhood stays in foster care, and experiences with interpersonal violence as an adult. Findings add to the understanding of the risk factors for child maltreatment that are related to the collateral effects of having a disability, and through the use of income-adjusted data, help disentangle why parents with disabilities are over-represented in the child welfare system. The findings highlight the need for the child welfare system to increase its disability competence in working with both children and parents with disabilities.
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    Cultural Beliefs Regarding People with Disabilities in Namibia: Implications for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities
    (International Journal of Special Education, 2010) Haihambo, Cynthy; Lightfoot, Elizabeth
    Namibia is a southern African country with national level policies promoting community inclusion and inclusive education. Despite these policies, people with disabilities are often excluded from schools and community life. This study explores the nuanced cultural beliefs about the causes of disability in Namibia, and the impacts of such beliefs on the implementation of disability policy. Eight themes emerged from this study regarding specific myths about the causes of disability and appropriate community responses to people with disabilities. This study finds that many Namibians believe in supernatural causes of disability, such as witchcraft, and/or in the role of improper relationships of family members as causes of disability; and that community responses to Namibians with disabilities are often negative. However, many people, particularly parents with disabilities, often have strong positive views of disability as well, reflecting the complex and changing nature of cultural beliefs. This study suggests that the implementation of disability inclusion policies is more likely to be successful if it builds upon positive aspects of cultural beliefs about disability.
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    Understanding the health beliefs and practices of East African refugees
    (American Journal of Health Behavior, 2013-03) Simmelink, Jennifer; Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Dube, Amano; Blevins, Jennifer; Y Lum, Terry
    Objectives: This study explores East African refugees’ perceptions, ideas and beliefs about health and health care, as well as the ways in which health information is shared within their communities. Methods: This study consisted of two focus groups with a total of 15 participants, including East African community leaders and health professionals. Results: East African refugees in the US have strong cultural, religious and traditional health practices that shape their health behavior and influence their interactions with Western health care systems. Conclusions: Health care providers who understand refugees’ beliefs about health may achieve more compliance with refugee patients.
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    Approaches to Child Protection Case Management for Cases Involving People with Disabilities
    (Child Abuse and Neglect, 2006-04) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; LaLiberte, Traci
    Objectives: This exploratory study examines the delivery of child protection services by county child protection agencies involving cases with a family member with a disability. Method: Telephone surveys were conducted with the directors or their designees of 89% of the child protection agencies in a Midwestern state. Respondents were asked about the policies and/or procedures for approaching cases involving a person with a disability and the barriers and strengths agencies have in serving people with disabilities. Results: Only 6.7% of respondents reported their agency had a written policy related to serving persons with a disability. There were 18 different approaches to serving clients with a disability within child protection, with the most common being informally teaming for information, dual case assignment, and teaming with an outside consultant. Five counties had specialty workers who were experts in both child protection and disability. Barriers reported varied between rural and non-rural counties, with the most important barriers being lack of resources, lack of knowledge regarding disabilities, systems conflicts, and rural issues, such as lack of providers and lack of transportation. Strengths included accessing and coordinating services, individualizing services, good collaboration and creativity. Conclusion: While few county agencies had any written policies, both formal and informal collaboration is happening at the individual level. The lack of standardization in providing services indicates a need for more attention to issues regarding disability within child protection, including more training for workers, the development of models of collaborative case management and the removal of systemic barriers.
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    The intersection of disability, domestic violence and diversity: Results of national focus groups
    (Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, 2009-02) Elizabeth, Lightfoot; Williams, Oliver J.
    Using data from two national focus groups of nineteen key informants, this article explores the unique issues faced by people with physical and sensory disabilities in accessing help for domestic violence, with a particular emphasis on the experiences of people of color with disabilities. In addition, this study explores the programmatic preferences of people of color with disabilities in seeking help in regards to domestic violence, and assesses the cultural competence, disability awareness and domestic violence awareness of domestic violence service providers and disability organizations.
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    Critical issues in researching domestic violence among people of color with disabilities
    (Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, 2009-01) Elizabeth, Lightfoot; Williams, Oliver J.
    While there are a number of programs emerging providing services to people of color with disabilities who experience domestic violence, there is little research on the needs of this population. Using data collected from two national focus groups of nineteen expert informants, this article outlines key areas of research needed for providing better services to people of color who are Deaf or have disabilities, and appropriate research methods for collecting data with this population. Respondents indicated that a research agenda should include investigating the scope of the problem, in-depth needs of domestic violence survivors, cost-effectiveness of culturally and disability specific programs, and development of best practices through in-depth evaluations of existing programs.
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    Prevalence of Children with Disabilities in the Child Welfare System: An Examination of Administrative Records
    (Children and Youth Services Review, 2011-11) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; Hill, Katharine M.; LaLiberte, Traci
    This article explores the prevalence and characteristics of children with disabilities within the child welfare system using administrative data from the State of Minnesota. This study finds that more than a fifth (22%) of children with substantiated maltreatment are labeled in administrative records as having a disability, and more than one quarter of children (27.9%) over age five. The most common type of disability among children with substantiated maltreatment was emotional disturbance, while other common disabilities included intellectual and developmental disabilities and learning disabilities. Using logistic regression, this study finds that children with substantiated maltreatment with disabilities were about two times more likely to be in out of home placement than children with substantiated maltreatment without disabilities.
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    Parental Supports for Parents with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
    (Intellectual and Developmental disabilities, 2011) Lightfoot, Elizabeth; LaLiberte, Traci