Seen and Heard: School of Social Work alum collaborates with Metro Detroit children and families with risks

Beverly Weathington, who earned a Master of Social Work from Wayne State University (WSU) in 2004, has been extremely busy and productive since graduation supporting Metro Detroit children and families. Having served in various roles at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development (MPSI), she was named Coordinator of the Healthier Urban Families Community Engagement (HUF) program in 2010, working with families, support professionals, and research faculty. The program promotes the development, health and well-being of infants, children, youth, and their families, particularly in Detroit, through knowledge discovery, education and community engagement.  

“My work can range from creating and presenting professional development trainings and curricula for social workers, teachers, and paraprofessionals, to producing a newsletter for parents and caregivers. I also work with MPSI faculty members and students on recruiting, implementing, and evaluating research projects,” Weathington said. 

Rebecca L. Wheeler, Bev Weathington and Carla Barron
From left: WSU Social Work alum and Clinician at the Social Work Early Childhood Support Clinic Rebecca L. Wheeler, LMSW, IMH-E®; Bev Weathington; and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute IMH Program Clinical Coordinator and Assistant Professor - Research Carla Caringi Barron, PhD, LMSW, IMH-E® enjoying a weekend in Caseville, MI 

MPSI, a WSU organization, has been promoting the development, health, and well-being of infants, children, and their families through research, education, and community engagement for more than 100 years. The HUF outreach program connects MPSI to the community through trainings for social workers and educators, and workshops for parents, grandparents, and students. 

Weathington calls her position at MPSI “a social worker’s dream.” 

Recently, she began a new position in addition to her work at MPSI, at WSU’s Early Childhood Support Clinic. 

“Initiated by the School of Social Work, in partnership with Wayne Pediatrics, this burgeoning university collaborative now includes MPSI. Our goal is to create a model of integrated pediatric and social work care for caregivers of children aged newborn to six years old with a special focus on mothers challenged with Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Wayne Pediatrics was established in 2020 under the leadership of Herman Gray, MD, MBA, who is Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at WSU. Wayne Pediatrics offers general and specialized pediatric care to infants through age 26. Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and MPSI have a long history of developing and providing high quality, evidence-based support to families so this three-way collaboration is ideal! Each unit brings a unique specialization and passion, but all share a mission in serving children and families in Detroit,” Weathington said. 

She said she’d like to see a shift from “at-risk families” to “families with risks.” 

“Risks, particularly for urban families, are often based on inequities and systemic racism and can be minimized or eliminated. I’d like us, as social workers, to extend the idea behind person first language to families. One of the best ways that I can help is to play a role in establishing platforms for families with risks to be seen, heard, and true collaborators in research and service efforts. We can all do our part by examining our biases and the role of privilege in determining policies, practices and programs that impact families,” she said. 

“The School of Social Work, MPSI, and Wayne Pediatrics all have similar goals that align closely, and we hope to create synergy to help Metro Detroit children.” 

Bev with her grandson Samual Godwin
Beverly Weathington and her grandson Samual Godwin

Upon reflection of her time at WSU, she recalls her very first semester in the MSW program, nearly 24 years ago.  

“I had a class called ‘Introduction to U.S. Social Welfare.’ That was my first experience hearing an instructor talk passionately about inequities and social justice. He talked about the role of privilege before it was a thing to talk about. An electrifying tension was created that made the class question long held beliefs,” she said. 

Weathington has led and contributed to many community projects over the years. 

“I have had the privilege of working with incredible faculty and community agencies on issues impacting urban families. One that stands out for me is The Hearts and Minds on Babies (HMB) project with Principal Investigator Ann Stacks, PhD. HMB is a project based on the Infant Mental Health Model and is aimed at increasing caregiver reflective capacity, or helping caregivers better understand and meet the needs of young children. This project was very intentional in thinking about layers of support and developed culturally relevant curriculums specifically for parents, teachers and administrators,” she recalled. 

Although she originally started her career path in the field of psychology, having earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from WSU, she’s always been interested in human behavior and family functioning. 

“I was honored to be selected as one of the first fellows in The Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC). This was my first exposure to concepts such as evidence-based, and research informed that bridge between research and service. I was intrigued and have not deviated from that path,” she said. 

SisterFriends Detroit recently recognized Weathington as an “Ambassador of Light for Detroit Mothers and Babies.” SisterFriends Detroit is a volunteer effort to support healthier women and their babies. They work to improve birth outcomes and infant mortality rates in Detroit by connecting caring and compassionate volunteer mentors to women who are pregnant or recently had a baby to gain access to services and resources while creating a circle of caring around Detroit Families. 

Outside of work, Weathington enjoys reading, biking, traveling, and eating. 

Author: Laura Hipshire and Editor: Betsy Vanderstelt 

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