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    North Carolina’s Second Primary, How Power Plays Cost the State $9 Million




    On June 7, 2016, North Carolina held its second primary of the year, costing the state an estimated $9.5 million and attracting only about 10 percent voter turnout. On the ballot, all of the state’s 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and a N.C. Supreme Court Justice.

    This costly second primary is notable for a reason, it only happened because the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly made, not one, but two unconstitutional power plays in recent years.

    The state’s first primary was held March 15, and included the Presidential Primaries. However, U.S. Congressional primaries and the N.C. Supreme Court Justice primary had to be postponed because of two different court rulings. The postponement resulted in the second primary being held on June 7.

    First, the U.S. Congressional primaries had to be moved to June 7, instead of occurring with the other primaries in March, because five years ago the General Assembly approved district maps gerrymandered along racial lines. The district maps were rightfully challenged by the NAACP and others, and the N.C. Supreme Court twice upheld them in rulings split 4-3 along party lines. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where two congressional districts, the 1st and 3rd, were thrown out in a February 2016 ruling finding them to be gerrymandered along racial lines and therefore unconstitutional. Of course this ruling came down just weeks before the March 15 primaries, and forbade the state from holding any U.S. House elections until new, approved district maps were in place. So, thanks to the poor decisions by the Republican-led 2011-2012 General Assembly, those primaries were postponed until June.

    Second, the primary for a N.C. Supreme Court Justice seat was late because the current General Assembly attempted to enact a new law requiring sitting justices to seek re-election in what is called a retention election, a law that was struck down because it clearly violated the State Constitution.

    A retention election means that for a justice to be re-elected, he or she will run on the ballot unopposed in a “yes” or “no” simple majority vote. In this case, known Republican and conservative, Justice Robert Edmund, would have been alone on the ballot. If he had received at least 50 percent “yes” votes, he would have remained on the bench. If he did not, he would have lost his seat, however, the Governor of N.C. would have appointed a replacement, who would have held the seat for two years until the next election. In other words, the Republican-held General Assembly passed a bill that would have kept a current Republican Justice on the bench or replaced him with another Justice who would have been appointed by the Republican Governor. The Republican Governor signed that bill into law. The law was challenged and struck down as unconstitutional. So, that primary was added to the June 7th ballot.

    The second N.C. primary was a disaster by all measures. Cost estimates are still being tallied as county board of elections report in, but are estimated at over $9 million. Due to the extra costs, the primary was woefully under-publicized in most counties. Add to that the fact the primary wasn’t accompanied by the presidential primaries, and turnout was abysmally low across the state at somewhere between 7 and 10 percent.

    This is a disaster because thousands of N.C. voters were essentially disenfranchised by a confusing and mostly unpublicized election. Had the primaries been held with the rest in March, the results might have been quite different.

    The primary with the highest stakes was the State Supreme Court race. The N.C. Supreme Court is split 3-4 along party lines with Republican Justices in the majority. The Supreme Court should stand as a check on the power of the General Assembly and the Governor, however it has served more as a rubber stamp of approval for both in recent years. It is no wonder that the General Assembly and Republican Governor attempted to make it an unopposed race.

    In the end, four people ran, with the top two vote getters moving on to November’s elections. The conservative Republican Bob Edmund, and Democrat Mike Morgan beat out Independent challenger Sabra Jean Faires and the relatively unknown Daniel Robertson. Edmund and Morgan will face-off in November.

    The June 7th primary was necessary to correct two wrongs carried out by power-hungry law makers. Without it, thousands of racial-minority voters would have continued to be silenced by racially-motivated gerrymandering, and the entire electorate’s choice in Supreme Court Justices would have been snatched away. And yet, the unusual nature of the special primary and lack of public knowledge about it, may have just disenfranchised many more voters who did not even know about the elections. One thing is certain, had Republican law-makers, not once, but twice, attempted to take actions that were clearly aimed at holding political power and that were clearly unconstitutional, this never would have happened.

    In social work, politics matter. They matter because they directly impact policy, and policy impacts clients. Here is a case where politicians attempted to hold power by disenfranchising voters, which is a social injustice. The resulting primary cost tax payers more than $9 million which could have gone to social programs; another injustice. Social workers have an ethical obligation to challenge social injustice and that is why we must remember the reasons for North Carolina’s second primary when we go to the polls in November.


    Adair Hill is a social worker and freelance writer focused on politics, public policy, criminal justice, and mental health. She obtained her B.A. in Literature from Duke University and her Master of Science in Social Service Administration (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University’s Jack Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Science. She lives and works in greater Charlotte, NC and currently serves as Marketing and Communications Associate at The Center for Community Transitions.


    How Social Workers Can Practice Trauma-Informed Care



    Sponsored Article by Adelphi University

    Over the past few decades, there has been increasing recognition of the widespread and profound impact of trauma on individuals and communities. The results of an international mental health survey suggest that traumatic events have affected over 70 percent of the population, and can lead to prolonged physical and psychological harm.

    These findings have transformed the field of social work, shifting the focus of education and training onto practices that recognize, support, and empower survivors of trauma. Referred to as “trauma-informed care,” this framework is especially important for social work professionals who have a high likelihood of encountering people with a history of trauma in practice settings.

    Expanding the Definition of Trauma

    Trauma-informed care starts with an understanding of the intricacies of trauma, and how it impacts individuals and communities. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”

    For most people, the concept of trauma conjures up images of soldiers who have survived violent combat. Others may think about people who have been exposed to physical abuse, sexual assault or natural disasters. While these are some of the most distressing experiences that an individual can endure, trauma isn’t defined by an extreme event—it’s what the event means to the individual.

    Trauma-informed social workers must take the time to understand a person’s unique perception and response to an event, taking into account the complex layers of identity, power, and oppression that contribute to trauma. Adopting this framework, researchers have expanded the definition of trauma to include the following categories:

    • Complex trauma: The result of being exposed to repeated, ongoing, or simultaneous traumatic events, such as chronic neglect from a caregiver or long-term exposure to war conflict.
    • Intergenerational trauma: This type of trauma is passed from those who directly experience trauma onto subsequent generations.
    • Historical trauma: A type of intergenerational trauma that is experienced by specific racial, ethnic or cultural groups that accumulates across generations. Some experiences most commonly associated with historical trauma include the colonization and forced migration of Native Americans and the enslavement of African Americans.
    • Institutional trauma: This is a type of trauma that occurs when institutions take actions that worsen the impact of traumatic experiences; for example, when a university covers up a sexual assault violation.
    • Secondary trauma: Many helping professionals experience this type of indirect trauma, through hearing or witnessing the aftermath of a traumatic event experienced by a survivor. In addition to expanding the definition of trauma, the social work field has begun to outline some essential components of trauma-informed care.

    Promoting a Sense of Safety

    Trauma-informed social workers recognize that clients may have a history of trauma and prioritize creating an environment that feels physically and psychologically safe. Physical safety can be ensured by keeping areas well lit, monitoring who is entering and exiting the building and providing clear access to exits. Psychological safety involves a client’s feelings of trust in their relationship with the social worker, and can be ensured by modeling respect, consistency, acceptance and transparency.

    Acknowledging and Reinforcing Patients’ Strengths

    Many social service and healthcare professionals focus on diagnoses and interventions, framing symptoms as problems or weaknesses. Trauma-informed social workers, on the other hand, recognize that these symptoms are coping strategies in response to trauma. These practitioners highlight resilience and acknowledge strengths, cultivating hope for recovery and change.

    Creating Opportunities for Choice

    Trauma survivors often feel a sense of powerlessness, resulting from a loss of control and predictability in their experience of trauma. Trauma-informed social workers attempt to return the client’s sense of control by offering them choices and actively involving them in goal-setting and decision-making. As clients practice making decisions in the social work setting, they develop coping strategies and self-advocacy skills that support their functioning in the outside world.

    Applying Your Knowledge

    To maximize your impact as a social work professional, you need an extensive understanding of the latest theoretical perspectives, including trauma-informed care. An online master of social work program can help you acquire the conceptual knowledge and hands-on field instruction that you can apply to improve clients’ lives and achieve your professional objectives.

    The Adelphi University Online Master of Social Work program brings decades of expertise and a legacy as a leading social work school to a flexible curriculum designed for working professionals. As a graduate student in the program, you’ll have the opportunity to engage with faculty members at the forefront of research on trauma-informed practices. Our graduates complete the program prepared to become Licensed Master Social Workers and fill the need for a skilled trauma workforce.

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    In A New World, Social Work Leads the Way



    This is a sponsored article by California State University at Northridge

    How Cal State Northridge is doing its part.

    The pandemic, if nothing else, exacerbated the unequal distribution of resources in society. For millions of people, access to food, shelter, and health care is now more uncertain than ever.

    What’s emerging is a new, somewhat dire need for experienced social workers – professionals able to compassionately address a disparate and evolving set of issues. Not only here in Los Angeles, but all over the world.

    For much of the pandemic, the field has championed relief efforts, such as the rent moratorium. This provided a necessary, if temporary, reprieve from the daily fear of eviction. Outside of California, however, this moratorium is over. As are federal unemployment benefits.

    And the impact is tragically visible. In California alone, the homeless population is over 151,000, with 41,000 of that in Los Angeles. And that’s just according to official estimates. The true number, allege some experts, may be much higher.

    This is the sad, beautiful truth of social work. No matter where a client is, whether it’s in the classroom, at home, or on the streets, the field will be there.

    But the field itself is evolving, too.

    Following the death of George Floyd, social workers are increasingly involved in policing, augmenting first responders with a new option: one aiming to mitigate crisis and, as importantly, prevent the use of force.

    As cities and states consider policing alternatives, social workers can help to ensure each community’s voice is heard, especially communities of color. Gaining popularity, the idea is to offer a more compassionate approach to law enforcement. Rather than responding with aggression, an arriving unit could instead respond with care, assessing the situation from a mental health standpoint, not one of criminality.

    Likewise, opportunity youth – sometimes referred to as “at-risk” – now face many new challenges (among them, a skills gap from a year of remote learning). On top of food scarcity and uncertain housing, there’s also the real risk of contracting COVID. And for these youth, who often lack access to health care, this can be especially dangerous.

    In all these cases, a humane approach is needed. Many social work programs incorporate hands-on experience, giving students access to the communities they’ll serve. One such program is the Master of Social Work (MSW) at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

    Unlike many social work programs, CSUN’s MSW expands participants’ career possibilities by offering a generalist approach. This enables graduates to work at ALL levels of the field: individual/family (micro); group/community (mezzo); and societal/policy (macro).

    The program is offered fully online in two- and three-year formats. The two-year option is a full-time program with an intensive curriculum designed to help students complete their degrees and enter the field in as little time as possible. The three-year option, on the other hand, is an excellent choice for those who would prefer the same curriculum at a less intensive pace.

    The master’s degree, which is often ranked among the best in the country, promotes the well-being of urban communities. Through its curriculum, participants learn how to assess a community’s needs from the inside, in large part through active listening.

    As the field continues to evolve, those who comprise it must evolve too. That begins with knowledge of the new world, but ends, as it always has, with the people who need us most – the ones for whom we care.

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    Technology and Entrepreneurship in Social Work



    After helplessly watching her sister try to navigate the international adoption process, Felicia Curcuru launched Binti in an effort to reinvent foster care and adoption. Since the launch of the company in 2017, Binti has expanded its network to over 190 agencies across 26 states in the U.S. The software Binti creates helps social workers and others who work in foster care to effectively approve 80% more families and decrease their administrative burden by up to 40%.

    Jimmy Chen, a Stanford graduate and the son of struggling immigrants from China, created Propel in 2014 after noticing that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients needed to call a 16-digit phone number to check their balance. In order to check their balances, some of the recipients would resort to strategies such as buying cheap items such as bananas. Currently, the Propel app helps 5 million households who are eligible for SNAP benefits to manage their finances!

    Besides using technology and entrepreneurship to transform human service systems, what do these companies have in common? They were not started by social workers.

    Technology and Entrepreneurship in Social Work

    Technology and entrepreneurship have and will continue to transform our profession. But social workers have stayed on the sidelines of this creative process for too long. If we are to be successful in effectively disseminating our incredible values and pushing forth the mission of social work, social workers must play a more direct role in embracing the movements of technology and entrepreneurship.

    This is not a new concept. Research articles on technology and entrepreneurship in social work have been published for years, and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has published reports on technology in social work. Furthermore, universities such as Columbia University in New York have embraced the movement, and have created a minor for social workers called “Emerging Technology, Media, and Society,” which trains social workers to understand the latest developments in the world of technology. Finally, thousands of social workers operate their own private practices and embrace the benefits of entrepreneurial practices.

    This slow, yet continuous shift towards technology and entrepreneurship is important, but it must be accelerated. The question still remains: how do we enable social workers to embrace the power behind technology and entrepreneurship? Here are some ideas:

    Enabling Social Workers to Embrace Technology and Entrepreneurship

    First and foremost, social work curricula must embrace technology and entrepreneurship. The curricula must incorporate mandatory courses on technology and entrepreneurship, and these courses should be taught by experts in these fields.

    Social work departments must enable field placements for social workers in technology or startup environments. By being a part of successful organizations in these spaces, social work students can be exposed to this type of thinking and be inspired by the possibilities!

    Social workers themselves must take time to explore and learn about these fields. Although it is difficult enough to maintain our mental health while managing our caseloads, we can utilize the time we spend on webinars or Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to take classes in technology and entrepreneurship.

    Social workers can become intrapreneurs, or employees that create new projects from within organizations and businesses. For example, during my time at a community mental health organization, I helped launch a social media channel for the organization’s therapists, which allowed us to feel more connected, share resources, and learn from one another.

    Moving Forward

    As social workers, we uphold an ethical code that enables us to represent the most marginalized members of our society. But we can only do this effectively by embracing the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and social work. Although there is no silver-bullet answer, we can help social workers gain entrepreneurial and technological skills by broadening the education available to social work students and ourselves so that we can all better understand the possibilities that are out there.

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