April 4, 2016

Lana Wells: 'A remarkable advocate for creating social change'

Professor honoured by Alberta College of Social Workers for commitment to preventing family violence
Lana Wells of the Faculty of Social Work is making incredible strides towards the prevention of family violence.

Lana Wells is making incredible strides towards the prevention of family violence.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The Faculty of Social Work’s Lana Wells is the definition of tireless advocacy and hard work. The associate professor has many titles, including Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence, 2015 Peak Scholar, mother, wife and, most recently, the recipient of the 2016 John Hutton Memorial award presented by the Alberta College of Social Workers on April 1.

The award is given annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession of social work and the community through social action. Nominated by Jackie Sieppert, dean of Social Work, Wells is well deserving of this award for her work in the social work field.

“Lana’s achievements will have a lasting impact for all,” says Sieppert. “She has been, and continues to be, a remarkable advocate for creating social change.”

Creating a positive father involvement strategy

Wells and her team at Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence have created and implemented innovative strategies for prevention of family and domestic violence. They are currently working on completing a positive father involvement strategy with the Government of Alberta to be part of the provincial prevention of family violence framework.

“We have developed many strategies to support policy-makers to make evidence-informed decisions in the human services sector to change practices when advancing prevention solutions,” says Wells. “In addition, we have developed a graduate certificate program in partnership with the Werklund School of Education that trains teachers, nurses and social workers to help create school and community climates that are safe and caring, and that reinforce healthy relationship skills with youth.”

Include men and boys in violence prevention 

Over the past five years, the team’s focus has been on the inclusion of men and boys in preventing violence against women, a concept that is slowly being embraced by policy-makers and the domestic violence sector.

“Our project is about trying to create and support healthy relationships at the individual, family, community and societal levels. My call to governments is that they need to include and support healthy men and boys to become allies, leaders and violence disrupters as part of the solution to preventing violence against women,” Wells says.

This is the subject that Wells brought to the UN Human Rights Council as a panelist in November 2015, and will be presenting again this June in Geneva, Switzerland.

There are not currently any comprehensive long-term plans that include men and boys in domestic violence prevention in any country or state in the world, but Wells and her Shift team hope to change this.

'We need everybody working together'

“Family violence, domestic violence and violence against women is a major social issue, and one that is very complex,” says Wells. “There is no panacea. We really need everybody working together towards a violence-free society. We need governments, community leaders and organizations, human services and school systems leading and investing in primary prevention to stop the violence before it starts. When someone experiences family or domestic violence, it keeps them from living to their full potential in a safe and loving way.”

Wells was also awarded the Alberta Human Services Inspire award for Leadership in Family Violence Prevention in 2015.

“I could not have done this without my team and key leaders throughout Alberta,” emphasizes Wells. “We have had so many amazing researchers and partners that are very committed to stopping and preventing the violence. They are inspiring.”