Outside the classroom, social work professor Eileen Mayers Pasztor attempts to make a difference in the lives of kinship care families.
Now, Pasztor has received the Barbara Wasson “Making a Difference Award” for her work with Grandparents as Parents (GAP), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that serves families needing kinship care services.
According to Pasztor, “kinship care” refers to a relative — such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, godparent or sibling — raising younger family members.
GAP created the “Making a Difference” award this year in honor of Barbara Wasson, a founding member of the non-profit who advocated tirelessly for kinship families, according to Madelyn Gordon, GAP executive director.
The award was created to recognize a person who has made a difference in the lives of many families across the country, according to Gordon. She said Pasztor was one of the first to be considered for the award
“She’s an incredible woman,” Gordon said. “She has a unique way of expressing and connecting with people.”
With GAP, Pasztor created training programs to educate social workers and spread awareness about the challenges that kinship families face. Gordon said that Pasztor’s programs are impactful and simple, and that they make a difference.
“When they called me regarding the Barbara Wasson award, I was deeply touched,” Pasztor said. “It’s a privilege to have people allow us into their lives, so we can walk with them in their journeys and support them.”
Before coming to Cal State Long Beach about 20 years ago, Pasztor worked as a staff director for the National Commission on Family Foster Care at the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), a nonprofit advocacy group for at-risk children.
While at CWLA, Pasztor said, she learned that the number of abused and neglected children living with relatives instead of foster parents was increasing.
“It’s not about the individual professor being recognized,” Pasztor said. “It’s about shining a light on an issue and for people who don’t get to come out in the sunshine too often.”
Gordon said that currently at least half of the 17,000 children in the custody of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are being raised by their kin.
One of the training programs Pasztor created with GAP is a training curriculum for social workers.
“Our current curriculum trains social workers and their supervisors how to collaborate with kinship caregivers and help them with children’s behaviors, school problems, legal and financial issues and so much more,” Pasztor said.
According to Pasztor, the original research for the curriculum was done in collaboration with CSULB social work professors Marilyn Potts and Cathy Goodman.
The curriculum is now being published by the CWLA and is available through the California Social Work Education Center Resource Library on campus, according to Pasztor.
Pasztor said that GAP allows her to fulfill her multiple responsibilities as a professor.
“Professors have three parts to our work: teaching, researching or publishing, and service to our school and community,” Pasztor said. “GAP and kinship care are perfect for that, because it all fits together.”
Pasztor said that she brings her experience and research with GAP into the classroom so that students can learn from it.
“You realize that you’re doing this work for the children, families and for students — our next generation of social workers,” Pasztor said.