SSW News

Alumni On the Frontlines of COVID-19

June 5, 2020    |  

Dolly Clayton HeadshotDolly Huffman Clayton, MSW ‘00
Director of Social Services for Stanly County and
Assistant Health and Human Services Director, Albemarle, NC

Dolly Clayton currently serves as the Stanly County Director of Social Services, and the Assistant Health and Human Services Director in Albemarle, North Carolina. With a staff of 95, which most are considered essential workers, as they provide economic eligibility, child support, and adult and child welfare services. Ms. Clayton continues to go to the office each day to provide support to her employees, along with working to secure personal protective equipment for the social work staff who must continue to conduct home visits to ensure the safety of children and disabled adults.

“Fortunately, my husband is working from home, so he is a huge support to me and our children. We have five children, ages 16, 13, 10, 6, & 5, and homeschooling has been challenging, but we are fortunate to have the older ones to help the younger ones. I am currently pursuing a second Master's degree in public administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill through their online program. My home and work life are incredibly hectic, but I balance all these responsibilities with the help of my husband. He is my anchor, cheerleader, and coach. We also plan fun time together as a family with family game night and cooking together.”

“My advice for others during this time, is to take the time to appreciate the extra time you get to spend with your partner and children. Try not to worry about the clutter or the mess made by the kids as they laugh and play. Spend time together, cook together, and eat together. If you're juggling lots of balls in the air like me, remember that it's ok to put one of them down, and to set it aside for a while. Plan and prioritize your tasks, so that you don't drop one of the balls that you're juggling. If you're juggling online school and home/work, give yourself permission to communicate with the professor to ask for a reasonable extension for an assignment. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, give yourself a time out and just concentrate on your breathing, listen to music, or enjoy reading a book. If you have belief in a higher power, call on that faith and pray/meditate.”

“This experience is unlike any we have ever experienced in our lifetime. It requires us to adjust our expectations to this new reality, and to think out of the box for new and innovative ways of addressing those societal issues for which we, as social workers, are trained to advocate, assess, and provide interventions. While we cannot solve the societal issues on our own, we can advocate for ourselves and others, and offer hope during this time of uncertainty. As with the Mr. Rogers quote, "Look for the helpers." Social workers are those helpers. We convey hope to individuals, to help them imagine a better world, and assure them that we all are going to see the other side of this experience. We can provide a real world experience of hope to individuals and families as we offer our calm, empathetic voice to them, and assure them that we are doing everything we can to connect them to the services they need as we work to ensure the safety of clients and ourselves while we maneuver this new normal. We can normalize their fears by being honest that this experience has many unknowns, but that we are partnering with them to navigate those resources available during this time of much stress and uncertainty.”

“I am amazed by the resilience and dedication of my adult and child welfare social workers. They are hidden heroes in this COVID-19 pandemic as they work with our most vulnerable community members.

They are carefully navigating the course to ensure the safety of the families with whom they work, and for themselves as it relates to this highly contagious disease. While for the most part, they have transitioned from working in the office to working from home, they continue to do the very hard adult and child welfare work that puts them at risk every day that they must go out into the field to conduct face to face interactions. Many of them worry about the risk of bringing home this illness to their families. My other staff, eligibility workers, are coming into the office each day to process applications for Medicaid and food and nutrition services (food stamps) and are also hidden heroes as we've seen a dramatic rise in the number of applications for those services too. While we have closed the office to the public, and have moved to telephone interview processing in lieu of face to face, the increased demand for these services has also presented challenges. Our other staff, including child support and administrative professionals are also providing needed services to the public and for the agency. I am so proud of these dedicated staff, and honored to lead this agency.”

Thanks for the opportunity to highlight my work as a UM SSW alumni, Class of 2000. - Dolly


Allison Deitz HeadshotAllison Deitz, LMSW, MSW '18
Social Worker
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Allison Deitz is an alumna of the School of Social Work and a social worker for a UMB School of Medicine/University of Maryland Medical Center outpatient clinic providing treatment for Substance Use Disorders.

“Shortly after the CARES Act was signed, a physician at our clinic initiated conversation about how we could help as many of our patients as possible receive their stimulus checks. The barriers we anticipated encountering for our client population included access to personal cell phones that could regularly receive text messages and phone calls, email addresses, and safe mailing addresses if they did not have bank accounts or direct deposit cards.

The first page of the “Stimulus Check Screening Form & Needs Assessment” contains both a table of contents and a list of stimulus check-specific web resources from the IRS, CASH Campaign of Maryland, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is our hope that other staff at our clinic and the wider community of human services providers might be able to use the “Stimulus Check Screening Form & Needs Assessment” to provide structure for their initial assessments of clients’ circumstances. While the formatting of the document, reflects my own method of trying to bring order to chaos, it is not meant to be prescriptive; rather, as we figure this out together, I hope that you all (especially if you are like me and balk at the idea of trying to understand the enigmatic bureaucracy of the IRS) might be able to use this tool to give you as much support as you need from it.

Thank you for the opportunity to engage with this amazing community.” – Allison Deitz


Greensfelder HeadshotAmy Greensfelder, MSW '17
Executive Director
Pro Bono Counseling Project

As the Executive Director of Pro Bono Counseling, Amy’s time is limited but she continues to find the time to serve her community. Amy is leading efforts surrounding a COVID-19 initiative called Baltimore Neighbors Network, which is coordinating volunteers to do well-being calls to older adults who are isolating due to COVID-19 throughout the city.

In this uncertain time, I am proud to be a social worker—I am seeing social workers jump into action to make sure that every member of our community is supported throughout this crisis. Together, social workers are organizing macro responses and applying clinical skills, all in an effort to make sure that the needs of all are attended to.” - Amy


Mckinney & JohnsonRobin McKinney, MSW '01 (left) and
Sara Johnson, MSW '02 (right)
Co-founders of the CASH Campaign of Maryland

CASH is a statewide nonprofit that promotes economic advancement for low-to-moderate income individuals and families. CASH accomplishes its mission through operating a portfolio of direct service programs, building organizational and field capacity, and leading policy and advocacy initiatives to strengthen family economic stability. CASH is known for its free tax preparation, financial education services. In response to the COVID -19 pandemic, CASH has expanded financial education classes through its CASH Academy™platform to ensure that more people have access to the support they need to build their financial skills and receive guidance to manage complex financial challenges that arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CASH Academy is a statewide financial education system that markets free, fact-based classes taught by CASH staff and its local partners and connects residents to free financial coaching. CASH encourages everyone to check out their free resources at

Social workers are uniquely trained to help people navigate through this difficult time. Those with training in Financial Social Work are also positioned to guide people through the emotional side of money and financial decision making in times of stress and change that we are seeing now with the economic downturn due to COVID. CASH is ready to support individuals and families in these challenge times.” – Sara Johnson


Kendra HeadshotKendra Van de Water, LSW, MSW '16
Co-Founder, Youth Empowerment for Advancement Hangout

Kendra Van de Water is bringing transformational changes to communities and organizations in the city of Philadelphia.

As the co-founder of Youth Empowerment for Advancement Hangout (YEAH) Kendra is changing the lives of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable youth, particular ones who have witnessed or engaged in violence. YEAH is a program that prioritizes working with teens after school and in the evenings, focusing on community engagement, conflict resolution, and workshops that are applicable to the lives of Philadelphia teens. In 2019, Kendra was honored for her work by being named Outstanding Recent Graduate by the UMSSW Alumni Association.

“When it comes to responding to homicides and violence, working with communities and challenging the status quo does not stop because societal circumstances have changed. On the front lines we are partnering with law enforcement, responding to homicide scenes, and implementing policies and procedures to improve systems for those impacted by violence.

This time is difficult for everyone, and we must remember that certain groups of people and their needs have been under-served and ignored since before Covid-19. Continuing to make sure the most vulnerable people are heard and elevated, while making sustainable changes on a macro level is as important as ever. As social workers, we must remind ourselves that we are powerful and the work that we do not only impacts individuals, but entire communities, cities, states, and nations. We are essential and we will always be essential; before, during, and after the Coronavirus.” – Kendra Van de Water


We salute and support our alumni on the frontlines!