Carla Washburn

Carla Washburn

You have been referred the case of Carla Washburn, a 74-year-old Black woman, whose sister has called your agency, which provides services to older adults, on her behalf. Widowed twenty years ago, Ms. Washburn recently lost her 25-year-old grandson, whom she raised from childhood, when he was killed in the line of duty during a U.S. military operation. A few months ago, Mrs. Washburn fell off a ladder at home and has been in great pain ever since. She refuses to see a doctor and has even stopped answering many of her sister’s phone calls. Your challenge will be to engage collaboratively with Mrs. Washburn, assess her strengths and needs, and construct a shared intervention plan that can improve her quality of life. Evaluation of your practice efforts will aid your ongoing adjustments, as you work alongside this proud older woman to achieve her goals.

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For Instructors

The Case of Carla Washburn

While Mrs. Washburn is the identified client, as is the case in all social work practice, there are other stakeholders and systems whose perspectives and contributions will inform your assessment and shape your interventions. Ultimately, only Mrs. Washburn can fully articulate the true scope of her assets and challenges. However, students should be helped to identify some key dimensions of the case and apply this learning to other social work endeavors. In addition to the rich individual practice exemplar posed by Mrs. Washburn, there are important system dynamics and key insights about risk and protective factors and how they can be leveraged to improve individual functioning and community well-being. Your students will get to know not only Mrs. Washburn but also people who play integral roles in her past, present, and future—all of whom can be part of the social worker’s approach to partnership with the client

My Goals For This Case



Meet Carla Washburn. Learn how effective social work practice can make huge differences to clients dealing with loss, grief, and health issues. Explore the tremendous strengths that have helped Mrs. Washburn manage multiple challenges in her life and consider how these strengths may play a role in her future, as well.



Learn how the larger social environment, culture, social policy, and social forces have impacted her life. Particularly given Mrs. Washburn’s identities as a Black woman, this should include consideration of the roles of racism and sexism in influencing her experiences with key systems and her life outcomes, and how anti-racist approaches should figure into your practice.



Develop your empathic response, critical assessment, and problem-solving skills through a four-phase helping process: Engage, Assess, Intervene, and Evaluate.