The VMAs Spotlights Suicide Prevention Anthem 1-800-273-8255

MTV – VMAs

National Suicide Prevention Month begins on September 1st, and MTV officially kicked off suicide awareness with a performance of “1-800-273-8255” by Logic along with Khalid and Alessia Cara at the VMAs. The song’s title just happens to be the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and the performance also included a group of suicide attempt survivors who came on stage wearing shirts with the number to the suicide helpline.

The song begins from the perspective of someone who wants to die and feels there is no one there to care about what happens to them. The opening hook for the song states, “I don’t want to be alive, I just want to die today, I just want to die.” Some may take an issue with the beginning of the song, but it can not be understated the importance of identifying those feelings in order to seek help.

A recent study which included 32 children’s hospital across the United States revealed an alarming increase in self-harm and suicidality in children and teens ranges from ages 5 to 17 over the past decade. Also, the School of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Birmingham released a recent study stating, “Children and young people under-25 who become victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.”

The second hook starts with “I want you to be alive, You don’t gotta die today, You don’t gotta die.” The song moves from a place of darkness to a place of support. When someone expresses suicidal thoughts, it is critical to not dismiss their feelings or minimize the weight of the issues preventing them from wanting to live. The Center for Disease control list death by suicide as the number 1 cause of death in the 15-19 age group. According to the National Data on Campus Suicides, “1 in 12 college students have written down a suicide plan as a result of stresses related to school, work, relationships, social life, and still developing as a young adult.”

John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in an interview talked about the impact the song is already having. During his CNN interview, Draper stated, “The impact has been pretty extraordinary. On the day the song was released, we had the second-highest call volume in the history of our service. Overall, calls to the hotline are up roughly 33% from this time last year.”

“I finally want to be alive, I don’t want to die today, I don’t want to die” are the lyrics and the tone in which the songs end. Then, it leads into an incredibly woke statement by Logic, and here is a sample:

“I am here to fight for your equality because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally and that is why we must fight!” – Logic VMAs

The trend for suicide deaths is on an upward climb. A 2015 study by the Center for Disease Control state there were twice as many suicides than homicides in the United States. It’s time we end the stigma and myths surrounding suicide attempt survivors “doing it for the attention.” Suicidal thoughts may be an ongoing struggle instead of a one-off event to prevent. In this case, we need to arm loved ones and at-risk individuals with information as well as tools and resource to manage their mental health status.

Suicide Warning Signs

Another useful resource is the Crisis Text Line in which users can send a text to a trained counselor and typically receive a response within 5 minutes. Texters can begin by texting “START to 741741” to get connected.

Mental Health providers and practitioners are always looking for ways to connect and reach those most at risk for suicidal and self-harming behaviors, and pop culture often has a direct connection to those who are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, a recent study identified a link between 13 Reasons Why and suicidal thoughts in which it found “queries about suicide and how to commit suicide spiked in the show’s wake.”

Unlike Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why”, this song is already showing the opposite effect by increasing queries and online searches about the National Suicide Prevention Hotline versus queries on how to commit suicide. If you have not seen this powerful VMA performance, I urge you to check it out.

How the #CloseRikers Campaign is Achieving the Impossible

Glenn E. Martin leading the Close Riker’s Campaign – Photo Credit: Twitter @glennEmartin

After the 2015 suicide of Kalief Browder elevated the injustices of Rikers Island to a national conversation, calls to close Rikers Island by grassroots organizations intensified. On June 22, 2017, New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio’s office released a 51-page report outlining a credible path to closing Rikers Island jail complex.

As a minor, Browder was arrested on suspicion of stealing a book bag and was sent to Rikers Island after his family could not afford to pay the $3000 bond as a condition for his release. Kalief Browder spent almost two years in solitary confinement at Rikers Island where he attempted suicide at least five times after being denied healthcare services.

In 2016, the #CloseRikers campaign lead by JustLeadershipUSA in partnership with many other organizations was created to “break the political gridlock and achieve real solutions that are guided by directly impacted communities”, according to its website.

The campaign called for:

“New Yorkers to boldly reimagine the city’s failed criminal justice system and become a national leader in ending mass incarceration”

When I first heard of the #CloseRikers campaign, I believed the campaign was a good idea in theory and would be effective in helping to raise awareness, but it seemed the jail complex was too massive to sustain any real change. My first thoughts were, “Is this a reasonable ask?”

This tweet opened a dialogue with Glenn E. Martin, the visionary leader, who believed in the impossible long before Mayor de Blasio backed the Rikers Island Commission’s recommendation to close the facility. I was reminded of when I first saw Glenn E. Martin which was during a livestream forum hosted on Twitter by the Columbia University Center for Justice back in early 2015 before periscope. During the forum, he said something to the effect that many people enter public service to change the system when in fact the system will change you long before you change it.

As someone who has worked in corrections at a Supermax, in law enforcement as a patrol officer, and in social work as a Child Protection Investigator, this statement really resonated with me. Although my heart is dedicated to serving others, I just could not conform to those environments which is why I created Social Work Helper. Now, I have the freedom to advocate, help create awareness and hold institutions accountable all of which has the tendency to get you fired in a public service job.

Glenn was gracious enough to grant me an interview to discuss his organization’s efforts to advance criminal justice reform, and you can read our conversation below:

SWH:  Tell us about your organization JustLeadershipUSA, and how you are using it to influence criminal justice reform.

Glenn E. Martin – Founder at JustLeadershipUSA

GEM:  I spent six years in state prison and met some of this country’s best and brightest while I was there.  It taught me that, in criminal justice reform, those closest to the problem are closest to the solution but furthest from resources and power.

The people most harmed by mass incarceration are the people who can lead us out of that crisis, but only if we have a seat at decision-making tables.  That’s the principle on which I founded JLUSA.  Our bold goal is to cut the correctional population in half by 2030, and we have a three-pronged approach for accomplishing that.

Through our national leadership training we empower formerly incarcerated people to lead criminal justice reform efforts around the country.  Through membership in JLUSA we engage thousands of people across the country concerned about criminal justice issues and mobilize them to create change.  Through advocacy we build campaigns and influence criminal justice policy on the local, state, and federal levels.  By building a strong base of formerly incarcerated leaders and other supporters across the country, we effectively push for policy changes that will create a decarcerated America.

SWH:  What do you believe are the major barriers and challenges preventing forward movement towards a more equitable criminal justice system?

GEM:  JLUSA believes that America’s most challenging barrier to expansive, systemic criminal and juvenile justice reform is the absence of clear and consistent leadership by those who have been directly affected by our failed criminal justice policies.  People who are directly impacted have big, bold ideas for changing the system that often are dismissed as unrealistic by traditional stakeholders.  That’s why the foundation of our organization is equipping formerly incarcerated people who are already leaders to access the power and resources necessary to make their ideas a reality.

SWH:  When you developed the #CLOSErikers campaign, what were your goals and expected outcomes?

GEM:  The #CLOSErikers campaign was developed with an ambitious goal of totally reimagining what criminal justice looks like in New York City.  Closing Rikers requires the City to reevaluate how each phase of its system operates: policing, setting bail, prosecution, sentencing, incarceration, and reentry.  Closing Rikers requires a significant reduction in the jail population of New York City.  And the shuttering of the penal colony is only one piece of the campaign.  The equally important part is to invest in and build the communities – poor black and brown neighborhoods – that have been devastated by Rikers Island for decades.

SWH:  What advice would you give to someone who dares to achieve the impossible?

GEM:  I’m proof of the talent that this country locks up and throws away every day.  There are thousands, if not millions, of people just like me who have the solutions to some of our most pressing issues but never get to have their voices heard.  My advice to other people like me is to hold onto what you know is right and don’t allow others to tell you that your ideas are impossible or unrealistic.  That’s what I was told when I first started talking about closing Rikers, but now it’s the official policy of New York City.  Build relationships with people who are willing to invest in you and your vision.

SWH:  How can our readers learn more about your projects and how to support them?

GEM:  Visit the JustLeadershipUSA website and the #CLOSErikers website for ways to get involved.  You can become a JLUSA member for only $1 per month ($12 per year), and there is an opportunity to donate memberships to people currently incarcerated.

Where are the Social Workers, and Why Are They Missing from the Global Conversation?

ifsw_85303-6

Human rights, economic inequality, access to clean water, and improving educational outcomes are consistent narratives mentioned in the media on a daily basis. Where are the social workers, and why are we missing from the national conversation?

Media outlets are constantly reporting on the challenges and barriers facing teachers, nurses, and law enforcement. However, the social work community appears to be invisible. There is no doubt in my mind that Social Workers are the restorative power and profession of hope, but this power must be manifested into united action. The current structure of our profession promotes fragmentation and isolation of social workers with different focuses into smaller groups.

Social Workers are the single factor that permeates through every spectrum affecting the human condition. Social workers are in hospitals, schools, social service agencies, care facilities, prisons, and police departments. Although we may not use the title, social workers can be found holding positions in the government, private sector, nonprofits, and even in Congress.

I believe that removing barriers preventing intra-communication, collaboration, and sharing of ideas and resources within our profession is the single most important factor in solving issues facing our communities as well as uniting our profession. With the austerity cuts to public agencies, we must be even more innovative in pooling our resources and responding by not being invisible anymore.

Uniting Social Workers with different areas of focus would be the most powerful force needed to address the important issues facing society today. Our different focuses are not our weaknesses, but our strongest attributes collectively. But, we must first elevate our profession’s presence on the global stage.

We must double our public relation efforts in showing our contributions around the world and in our local communities. As social work month starts on March 1st, it’s the best opportunity for us to elevate our profession in the global conversations on poverty, inequality, and human rights.

World Social Work Day 2016

On March 15, 2016, please help @SWHelpercom make the #socialwork trend world-wide on March 15, 2016, on our most important global day of the year. I am asking everyone to tweet out your thoughts, social work resources, research, articles, or just say Hello World using the hashtag #SocialWork all day long. You can utilize Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule tweets throughout the day if you are extremely busy.

Social Work allies and organizations who have social workers working within them, join us on this day by tweeting out articles, resources, information, and research to share with our profession.

Children’s rights/advocacy groups and family advocacy groups, we want to hear from you too. Share your thoughts, articles, information, and/or resources social workers should be familiar with.

Let’s see if we make Twitter History on this upcoming World Social Work Day!

North Carolina Women United Fighting to Improve Outcomes for Women

NCWU

Failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, erasing the State’s earned income tax credits for low wage working, eliminating tax deductions for contributing to your child’s college funds, and cuts to public education are just a few examples of how women and children are being impacted by the 2014 election.

While many middle class and low-income families are paying more in taxes, the wealthiest North Carolinians received a $10,000.00 per year tax break. Programs such as Meals on Wheels and other in-home care programs for seniors have also been cut in addition to increasing their tax burden because the medical expense deduction was also removed.

Republicans also introduced House Bill 465 which seeks to ban abortion training in medical schools across the state. Both activists and medical professionals agree this legislation will not only affect access to reproductive services, but it will also comprise the training of medical students and residents throughout the state.

In an interview with Tara Romano, President of North Carolina Women United (NCWU),  I had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges specifically impacting women in our state.

SWH: Tell us about North Carolina Women United (NCWU) and your work to improve outcomes for women.

Tara: North Carolina Women United (NCWU) is a coalition of progressive organizations and individuals working to achieve the full political, social, and economic equality of all women across North Carolina. Since the late 1980’s, NCWU’s goal has been to bring women’s voices to the policy table. With women still making up less than 25% of elected and appointed public officials, lawmakers need to hear from women about their experiences and concerns to inform policies that will benefit women and families across NC. We see our role as bringing a gender lens to state policies, and also looking at how multiple issues intersect to affect women, bringing those intersections to policy decisions. For example, it is critical to adequately fund domestic violence crisis services, but regressive tax cuts that leave the state short on revenue will impact that funding; also, without adequate safety net programs in place – such as affordable housing and health/child care, access to paid family leave, and jobs that pay living wages – many domestic violence victims may stay with their abusers because they can’t afford to leave.

NCWU is a non-partisan, all volunteer, nonprofit that includes members and supporters from across the state. Our focus is on educating women on how to be effective citizen advocates; this includes issues education as well as education on how to be fully engaged in our democratic process, from the importance of voting to the role citizens play in creating government policies. Our members provide us with our issues expertise, and we cover four main issue areas: violence against women, access to health care, civic participation and equality, and economic self-sufficiency. It’s a large umbrella, and we are always looking for new partners and supporters who can let us know what other issues may be important to women and that we need to consider.

SWH: What legislative and policy issues do NCWU Support, and what actions are you taking to effect change in North Carolina?

Tara: We advocate for the full equality of all women across North Carolina and take a progressive approach to the policy solutions we look for. We believe that women still face barriers in society because we are women, and we look for policy solutions to remove those barriers. As caretakers, breadwinners, mothers, educators, workers, and partners, women fill multiple diverse roles in NC in 2015, and we need policies that recognize those realities; affordable child care and housing; protection from discrimination on the job; access to affordable, quality, comprehensive health care; pay equity; increased protections from sexual and domestic violence; and an accessible way to bring our voices to our democracy are just a few ways we can support women to achieve our highest potential. We also believe women face additional barriers due to race, ethnicity, immigrant status, sexuality, age, and disability status; we are committed to an agenda that is anti-racist and anti-oppression as the means to lift up the status of all women across North Carolina.

Our member organizations provide us with the expertise on specific policy issues to help us develop our agenda every other year during the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) long session. Our members are service organizations, advocacy groups, and member organizations that use research and constituency feedback to develop positions on proposed and anticipated legislation coming from the NCGA. On Women’s Advocacy Day (WAD), women from across the state come to Raleigh for a day of issue education, advocacy training, networking, and the opportunity to bring our voices to the policy table. Also on WAD, we will be discussing our 2015 legislative agenda and top priorities. Whether you are a regular at the NCGA, or are speaking to your lawmakers for the first time, WAD is an engaging and impactful day.

SWH: What are some of the challenges and barriers NCWU faces in connecting with North Carolina women?

Tara: As an all-volunteer and somewhat “virtual” organization, a big challenge for NCWU is getting our information out to women across the state. With our members’ expertise, we are able to provide informative and useful documents and tools for advocacy, but it’s not as easy for us to get it out to women. Also, women face numerous barriers and issues across the state, and we know there are issues that we do not have deep expertise on, and therefore aren’t highlighting them as much as we may need to. We are always looking for new members and partners, which is why we officially joined the HKonJ coalition (the organization behind the Moral Mondays movement). It can also be a challenge, as we join with other coalitions, to keep certain issues considered “women’s issues” – like child care – on the overall movement agenda.

SWH: How can women and other allies both in and outside of North Carolina support and engage with NCWU?

Tara: As an all-volunteer organization, we try to do a lot on limited resources, and we feel the women of North Carolina (and our allies) are our biggest resource. There are many ways to be involved with our work, including joining us on the board or on our committees, donating to our work, supporting us financially with donations, amplifying our message on social media, coming out to our members’ events, or bringing your voice with us to the General Assembly. Join us for Women’s Advocacy Day at the North Carolina Legislative Building on April 21, 2015.

You can also watch the interview with President Tara Romano, Directors of Policy Emma Akpan, and Felicia Willems for all you need to know about WAD including more on how we put together our agenda and what to expect during the day.

When Someone Asks #YSocialWork Does It Feel Like An Insult

Social Work is a tough profession even under the best of circumstances, but the impact social workers have on the lives we touch can influence the trajectory of a life over its lifespan. Many of us choose this profession for a variety of reasons. However, if you surveyed a huge sample of social workers, many would say the profession chose them.

From birth to hospice, Social Workers enter the lives of people when they are in crisis throughout the spectrum of life. Social Workers are the first responders for social issues and family intervention because we are called in when problems begin to show up on the radar. From domestic violence and suicide prevention to cancer awareness, social workers provide intervention and advocacy on many issues because we directly impact our clients and their ability to heal.

March is National Social Work month and every third Tuesday in March is World Social Work Day. Social work month is the one time of year social workers celebrate our profession and each other. It’s the one time of year, social workers feel allowed to pat themselves on the back and say good job or well done even if no one else does.

Unfortunately, the magnitude of our impact is often compromised by having access to limited resources and funding, worker burnout, depression, outdated systems and processes to increase efficiency, and a host of other issues that are too long to list in this article. As a result, social workers become the faces of the failed systems in which we work. So, when someone outside the profession, family, or friends asks why social work, does it not sometimes feel like they are insulting your choice of profession?

#YSocialWork

According to Twitter, the very first #YSocialWork tweet came from a Master of Public Administration student who simply tweeted #YSocialWork

When Shauntia White, the event organizer for Social Work Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, began planning a #YSocialWork campaign for the event on March 17th, I felt Social Work Month would be the perfect opportunity for social workers to explain #YSocialWork is important to us and potential future social workers. Sometimes, it can be a bit frustrating always having to defend your chosen profession or having to explain why social work matters, but we are our best brand advocates. Our profession often falls victim to a majority of negative articles or comments when something bad happens. However, this is an opportunity for us to flood social media with positive messages about why social work matters.

To help celebrate social work month, I invite you to participate in the #YSocialWork social media campaign. Social Work Helper is launching the #YSocialWork campaign in conjunction with Congresswoman Barbara Lee chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work Policy (CRISP), Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work, and Catholic University of America (CUA).

How to Participate in #YSocialWork

Print out the attached campaign sign below, write your message of empowerment, and create a picture or video holding the #YSocialWork campaign sign below. You can post your #YSocialWork message to Twitter, Tumblr, Linkedin, Facebook, and/or Instagram. Also, you must include the #YSocialWork hashtag in your post to share your message with other social workers. Will you participate and also share this experience with others to help celebrate Social Work Month with us?

Twitter Example:

Facebook Example:

 

Also, if you tag Social Work Helper in your tweet using @swhelpercom, on instagram @socialworkhelper, on Tumblr, or Facebook at facebook.com/swhelper, I will be resharing tags to Social Work Helper on all SWH social media outlets including Pinterest and Google Plus. Social Work Helper has a combined social media reach of 110,000 people.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share with the social work community at large your message of empowerment, an issue you care about locally, or why you chose social work as your profession. I look forward to sharing your messages.

Happy Social Work Month!

Overcoming Emotional Trauma: Life Beyond Survival Mode

Motivational speaker Travis Lloyd’s Overcoming Emotional Trauma: Life Beyond Survival Mode is a fresh fusion of autobiography and practical advice for professionals and those who are experiencing or have experienced trauma.

Dealing with trauma is never an easy task, but Travis takes a topic that is normally excruciating to think or write about and makes it approachable. Oftentimes funny, always down-to-earth, and full of great insight, this book will be a comfort to those who are going through a tough time.

Download Overcoming Emotional Trauma
Download Overcoming Emotional Trauma

Overcoming Emotional Trauma follows a balanced format of each chapter beginning with Travis talking about his life and in the latter half of the chapter devoting itself to more general advice based on the issues raised in the earlier part of the chapter.

For example, when Travis focuses on how he was acting in “survival mode,” the end of that chapter suggests ways you can begin to get out of survival mode yourself.

The “Roadmap to Success” chapter later in the book, where Travis compares the timeline of his own life to Ryan, another individual who grew up in the foster care system, is where light bulbs will light up in your head if they haven’t already.

Seeing the vastly different experiences of two people at the same age with very similar childhoods emphasizes the point that everyone responds to trauma differently and that you always have the choice to change your life for the better.

Dr. Gregory Keck’s chapter about the “two screens” of perception in traumatized individuals is also particularly interesting, and it’s a surprisingly light read given the heavy subject matter. Travis shares his experiences with abuse, drugs, and high-risk behaviors, and he never seems self-pitying while always emphasizing the power of personal choice in making life changes.

Rather than listening to a dispassionate expert give you dry information on how to repair your damaged psyche, Travis makes you feel like you aren’t so alone in whatever it is you’re going through by sharing his own struggles. It is one thing to be told what to do to overcome trauma, it is quite another to feel like there is someone out there who “gets it,” who truly understands what you’re going through. Travis takes experiences that could seem maudlin and trite, but instead infuses them with a sense of humor and compassion.

As a motivational speaker, author, health care professional, and hip hop artist, Travis uses his multiple talents to reach youth in different mediums. Travis’ goal with this book is to help empower its readers to get out of survival mode and start to make changes in their own life.

Whether you are looking to overcome your own personal trauma or you are a professional looking to better serve yourself and your clients/patients, Overcoming Emotional Trauma has useful advice and is a just plain enjoyable read. For more about Travis Lloyd, visit his website http://travislloyd.net/.

Top 5 Reasons Social Work is Failing

Airing live on CSPAN, Dr. Steve Perry gave a searing speech on the “The Role of A Social Worker” at the Clark Atlanta University Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the founder and principal of a Connecticut school which only accepts first generation, low-income, and minority students.

Dr. Perry received his Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Pennsylvania and has since become a leading expert in education, a motivational speaker, accomplished author, and a reality tv host.

Dr. Perry was adamant that social workers are the key to solving societal problems because we are the first responders for social issues.

However, he also pointed out that social workers are not unionized, tend to be politically inactive, and do not engage in social conversations in the public sphere.

Dr. Perry asserts that our jobs are the first to be cut because we are silent, and taxpayer dollars are being diverted to education budgets for programs social workers should be implementing.

I have listened to Dr. Perry’s speech twice already, and there were many pearls of wisdom that he dropped on the ears of those in attendance and viewing the broadcast. For the most part, I agreed with 95 percent of what Dr. Perry said which is a very high percentage for me.

Now, I am going to share with you my top 5 reasons why I believe social work is failing:

1. Title Protection

First, it made me beam with joy when Dr. Perry referred to himself as a social worker despite his celebrity status. Most individuals with social work degrees who work in social work settings often refer to themselves as researchers, professors, therapists, or psychoanalysts. The people most vocal about title protection and licensure don’t actually call themselves social workers as if the title is relegated only to frontline staff.

I feel that over time title protection has been convoluted to mean licensed social worker and not a worker with a social work degree. I go in more detail on my thoughts regarding licensure in a prior article entitled, “Licensed Social Workers Don’t Mean More Qualified”. In my opinion, current policies and advocacy by professional associations and social work organizations have fractured the social work community into its current state.

We hail Jane Addams as the founder and pioneer of social work when in fact a story like Jane Addams’ would not be possible today. Jane Addams did not have a social work degree nor did she need a license to advocate, help people organize, or connect them with community resources. As a matter of fact, in today’s society Jane Addams would probably major in gender studies, political science, public policy, business or law.

Social work degree programs have begun dissociating themselves with “casework” connecting community members to resources, and they actually steer students away from these types of jobs. If we are going to pursue title protection, we also need to create second degree and accelerated programs to pull experienced professionals and other degree holders into the social work profession instead of excluding them.

2. Macro vs Micro

For the past couple of decades, social work has slowly moved towards and is now currently skewed toward being a clinical degree while marketing itself as a mental health profession. Over time, the profession has done a poor job in recruiting and connecting with individuals who are interested in working with the poor, politics, grassroots organizing, and other social justice issues.

Individuals who once flocked to social work to do community and social justice work are now seeking out other disciplines instead. Many social workers who want to be politically active and social justice focused are forced to do so under the banner of a women’s organization or other social justice nonprofit due to lack of our own. Students who decided to seek a macro social work degree often feel alienated and unsupported both in school and later with lack of employment opportunities.

3. Professionals Associations Represent Themselves and Not Us

Social Work organizations and associations have been pushing licensing for the past couple of decades which happens to also correlate with the same time frame they tripled the amount of unpaid internship hours required to complete your social work degree.

Recently, the Australian Association of Social Workers conducted a study which found university social work students were skipping meals and could not pay for basic necessities in order to pay for educational materials. American social work students who receive no stipends or any type of assistance are being forced to quit paying jobs in order to work unpaid internships, and they have no one fighting for them. In fact, most social work leaders argue that if you can’t shoulder the hardship this is not the profession for you. Many social workers struggle with supporting the fight for $15 dollars per hour for minimum wage jobs because they have master’s degrees making less than $15 dollars per hour.

You can’t talk to a social worker about anything without hearing the word “licensing”. From the time you start orientation, licensing is being forced feed to you as the solution that will solve all of social work’s problems. You are told licensing is going lead to better pay, better professionalism, better outcomes for clients, and better recognition to name a few. Minimum education and training standards are important, but requiring a medical model for all areas of practice in social work is not the answer. Social Work Licensing advocates often compare social work licensing with that of nurses, doctor, or lawyers.

In my opinion, social work licensing gives social workers all the liability and responsibilities without any of the rights. In states where licensing is required, social work licensing advocates did not advocate for employers to assume the cost of the additional training. The cost of continuing education credits have been passed on to the employee who is already in a low paying job, and the employer may opt to pay for them if they choose.

Here are a few things that licensing actually does:

  • Who can pass the licensure exam without having to pay for test prep materials or a workshop in which your professional association happens to sell to you at a “discount” if you are a member.
  • People are taking the licensure exam sometimes at $500 each time for four to five times. Where is this money going?
  • Once you pass the licensure exam, you are going to need liability insurance in which they also happen to sell.
  • To keep your social work license, you will have to maintain a certain amount of continuing education unit (CEU) hours yearly. They just happen to own and provide the majority of these CEU online companies and workshops for you as well.
  • Then, you have to pay renewal fees yearly and fines to your state board of licensure which goes to sustain their jobs.

Licensing is currently in all 50 states and US territories, and it seems to benefit the people who created the policies more than it does the social worker and the communities we serve. Licensure makes money, and social justice issues just aren’t income generators. For social workers who are already struggling, how does all the above fees and costs affect their career mobility in one of the lowest paid professions with one of the highest student loan income/debt ratios? Without a union for social workers, who will advocate on our behalf and for our clients to get the resources we need to serve them?

4. Lack of Diversity in Social Work Leadership and Academia 

Through Social Work Helper, I have had the opportunity to be a part of conversations with various factions of social work leadership over the past couple of years. Often times, I was the only person a part of the conversation that didn’t have a doctorate or at least in the process of earning one.  Additionally, I noticed that very few were minority voices if any other than me who were a part of these conversations. At first, I was intimidated because they had more education and  higher positions than me.

However, the more I listened and paid attention, I realized they are not better than me rather they had access to more opportunities than me. The ignorance and insensitivity displayed towards communities of color and the plight of social workers who are struggling in this profession was unbelievable.

Diversity in leadership brings different perspectives and point of views to be added to the conversation. Why didn’t more social work organizations and schools of social work support last night’s speech by Dr. Perry hosted at a Historically Black College? How often is the topic of social work front and center in a televised public forum?

According Social Work Synergy,

“At times this will mean sharing power and leadership in deeper ways, and taking proactive steps to undo oppression and racism. The use of community organizing principles and skills are essential” (p.19) to this effort. Read Full Article

5. Lack of Support and Silence

Social work organizations and associations are forever holding conferences that the majority of social workers can’t afford to attend. Many social workers don’t have the luxury of having their university foot the bill for them to attend every social work conference each year. This very dynamic adds to the failures listed in 1 thru 4. In addition, it highlights another point made by Dr. Perry when he stated, “Social Workers will talk to each other, but they won’t engage in the public sphere”.

I have contacted both the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) asking them to waive certain expenses, so I can cover their conferences in order to engage social workers via social media who can’t afford to attend. I can get press access to a White House event, but not to a social work conference. It’s like a country club that you can’t be a part of unless you can afford it.

Watch for free on CSPAN: The Role of Social Workers

 

Looking at Labeling and Diversity: Interview with Philip Patston

Recently, I had to the opportunity to catch up with Philip Patston who is a phenomenal speaker, advocate, and expert on diversity and labeling. Philip is also one of Social Work Helper’s expert columnists who offer readers a global perspective hailing from Auckland, New Zealand. Although he is located on the other side of the world, Philip helped me to realize through his writing and speaking the symmetry we all (human kind) share versus focusing on our differences.

Philip has traveled an interesting path and has seen the world from different lenses such as a counselor, comedian, and advocate to name a few. After viewing his Ted Talk with over 30,000 views, I wanted to learn more about Philip. We had an interesting conversation, and now I am going to share it with you.

SWH: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you into the field of social work?
Philip Patston at Tedx Auckland
Philip Patston at Tedx Auckland

I began a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Psychology and Sociology aged 18, but hated the University environment, so I quit early in my second year. I then trained to be a phone counsellor and ended up counselling by phone for nine years. I had also been a member of a youth group since my mid-teens and had been “dropped” into leadership roles (e.g. turning up at youth work meetings and being told to get up and speak about the youth group). So I did a lot of youth development work in my late teens and early 20s as well.

Then in 1990, when I was 22, I was accepted onto a two-year Social Work programme which gave me a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work and a Diploma in Applied Social Studies. The programme was known to be quite radical. There were only 40 students per year, half of whom were Maori (the indigenous people of NZ or Tangata Whenua, literally “people of the land”), a quarter Pacific people, and a quarter “other” (known as Pakeha in the Maori language).

It was an immersive bi-cultural programme, deliberately making Maori culture dominant. There were huge conflicts, particularly among the Pakeha group, who felt aggrieved by many processes in which they were not the majority. Being gay and disabled, I was fairly used to not being in the majority, so I was quite comfortable and amused by some of my colleagues’ inability to step outside of the process and learn from the experience of the tables being turned.

During my first year, I did a placement in a government care and protection agency and realised it wasn’t my thing. My second year placement was doing social research on the needs of disabled people for the Auckland Health Board. That turned into a two or three year job. After that I worked for the Human Rights Commission for four years, after which I became self-employed, raising awareness of diversity and doing comedy professionally.

So, I never really got to actually be a social worker! But the Diploma programme gave me a great grounding in radical social theory and direct action. If anything, I was an activist. Running awareness workshops as well as doing comedy, which led me to have a very high profile in New Zealand through television in the 1990s and 2000s, were a great combination of vehicles to create change.

SWH: Would you identify your work as being macro and/or mezzo focused, and what advice would you give other social workers who would like to do the work you are doing?

People have likened me to Nietzsche over the years so, yes, I do work in the macro/mezzo realms, I guess! I think it’s a hard place to feel effective because like any leadership or social change activity, it’s a long game and hard to see any tangible evidence of success. My suggestions for others working in similar spaces? Find like minds and check in regularly. Drink wine. Celebrate any success however small and, every now and then, pretend you’ve had a huge success and celebrate that! Finally, read Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed — the best book on social entrepreneurship and social change ever written.

SWH: Who are some of your biggest influencers in how you filter, provide and give information/advice to others?

Some of my favourite thinkers in the work I do are the authors of Getting to Maybe, Sir Ken Robinson, Brene Brown, Peter Block, Kathryn Schulz, and Adam Kahane. I also love Onora O’Neill’s definition of trust. Another fave is Prof. Brian Cox – he’s a cute, English educational physicist and I’ve used his layperson explanations of entropy and physics to explain diversity and relationship dynamics to school students. Finally, Sue Davidoff and Allan Kaplan, from The Proteus Initiative in South Africa. I’ve worked with them on living social practice twice now and they’ve had a profound influence on the way I work with people about diversity.

SWH: Your Tedx Talk on Labeling was a huge success. What was that experience like and what has life been like after your Tedx Talk?

It was surprisingly intimidating and nerve-wracking. Being a regular viewer of TED Talks, it really felt like I was wheeling into a TED video! Those big red letters and the round red carpet are quite iconic. I had refused to rehearse because as a comedian I would only ever rehearse mentally, so the guys running it (who hadn’t seen me perform) were a bit nervous and told my PA, Wai, who was backstage. Wai said, “Nah. he’ll be fine,” and halfway through they apparently said, “He’s killing.” Wai: “Told you so!”

Probably the most significant thing though was being able to present what I would call my soul work to 2,000 people live, in a funny, entertaining way, and have it videoed and put online under the TED brand so that it’s had over 30,000 views. That’s a great privilege.

Life after TED? Well, I did a conference call with the Diversity Group of IBM in California, which was a bit of a fizzer, and I’ve had a few speaking and facilitation jobs as a result. Not life-changing on the big scale of things, but definitely a highlight

SWH: Are you further developing your work on labeling, and do you have any other projects you are working on or have recently finished?

I recently made a music video about labelling that I’ve used a lot in diversity workshops. Music is a powerful way to simplify topics that can be quite complex, in order to have a conversation about the complexity. I was really lucky to work with an extremely talented musician, Arli Liberman, who put my words to music; and then some friends who run a superb creative agency, Borderless Productions, came up with the concept and produced the video. I’ve also recently finished some work on diversity in the media and co-wrote and published a children’s book.

Right now, I’m in an interesting space of limbo. Apart from running a leadership programme, which I love and is in its fourth year, a lot of my projects have either come to an end or have lost funding (we’re in an election year in NZ so Government funders have become super risk averse, unfortunately). So I’m in a space of seeing where I will be taken next. I’d love to make some more music videos, but they’re quite expensive and hard to get funded, even via crowdsourcing. I funded the first one myself, which meant I had a complete creative license and no accountability — that was extremely liberating!

So what’s next on the bucket list…oh and I started writing a book earlier this year and I am stuck big time. I need to give myself a good talking to and hopefully, I’ll get back into that soon too!

Big Win for Richard Sherman and the Sherman Family Foundation

After finding himself at the center of controversy for an epic trashing talking rant against San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks went on to win Super Bowl 48 in epic proportions over the Denver Broncos. After a hail of racial epithets being hurled at him, Richard Sherman stated that a man should be judged for his activities off the field and whether he is an active member of his community.

rsherman1Raised by a social worker mother and a father who spent 30 years in public works, Beverly and Kevin Sherman from Compton, California instilled the value of giving back into their star athlete son. On July 2, 2013, Richard Sherman announced via Twitter the formation of the Sherman Family Foundation. Did I also mention that he is a Stanford graduate with a degree in communications?

According to the Seattle Seahawks blog,

With the help of his close family and friends, cornerback Richard Sherman has announced the launch of “Blanket Coverage – The Richard Sherman Family Foundation.” The All-Pro, Stanford graduate says the foundation will “channel it’s resources to ensure that as many children as possible are provided with proper school supplies and adequate clothing.” Read Full Article 

Prior to the formation of the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, Richard had already developed a reputation with his fans and the community as a charitable giver and philanthropist. He once organized an event for the Help A Hero Foundation which was attended by 7,500 people in order to help raise funds to purchase a home for an injured soldier.

The morning after a victory against the Arizona Cardinals, Richard Sherman went to Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington to speak with students about bullying and being a good citizen. He was also armed with school supplies and new cleats for the football team.

Despite Richard Sherman’s charitable actions and awesome play on the field, it was unfortunate that he and his family felt the need to defend their honor after the word “thug” was used to describe him over 48 times in the media after the win over the 49ers. Buzzfeed decided to take the time to re-introduce Richard Sherman and the Sherman Family Foundation in their ode to him entitled 23 Reasons Richard Sherman is Actually One of the Most Likeable Player in the NFL.

According to Buzzfeed,

Blanket Coverage, The Richard Sherman Family Foundation, provides kids with school supplies and clothes. Since Sherman’s charity was founded this past July, they’ve brought goods to four schools and nine community centers. Sherman’s stated goal isn’t “charity,” but leveling the playing field for kids who don’t have the things most people take for granted. Students sign a contract with him: In return for improving their grades, making good attendance, and being good citizens, he’ll continue to help them with clothes and supplies. The foundation also recently visited the Rescue Mission in Tacoma, Wash., and donated socks, blankets, shoes, board games, and books to 160 families who are homeless or trying to get their lives back on track after suffering from addiction. Read Full Article

I suppose Richard Sherman could use this Super Bowl win as vindication against the racial hate endured as a result of his rant against Michael Crabtree or maybe a possible I told you so could be in order. However, I think he will take the high road instead of taking a victory lap on his detractors. Richard Sherman had every opportunity to paint Michael Crabtree as a villain who at the time was being investigated for sexual assault, and the media never mentioned it while seeking an explanation from him about his on camera rant. Even, I was unaware until one of our writers wrote an article on sex and football.

Although Richard Sherman is still under a rookie contract, you wouldn’t know it from the amount he gives to charity. View the video below to see what the Richard Sherman Family Foundation has been up to in the midst of football season, and you can also connect with Richard on Twitter or on Facebook.

Photo Credits: Richard Sherman’s Instagram and Facebook

Hackney Child – An Interview with Jenny Molloy

Hackney Child
Hackney Child

Hackney Child is a riveting book about the challenges a child encounters growing up in the care system. The book is based on the true life events of author Jenny Malloy who uses the pen name Hope Daniels and written with Morag Livingstone.

I had the opportunity to interview Jenny in order to get a first hand account of how writing this book has transformed her life. Jenny tells a tale of resilience and courage, but also one of the system failures and needed programs to help families function better.

According to the Hackney Child’s website,

“Hackney Child is a shocking reminder of what some children are subjected to as they grow up. The scars can last a lifetime and there is no certainty they will ever heal. The best way is always to fight back. Hope Daniels has done this and displayed great courage in reliving the events of her childhood through this manuscript. I wish her all the success in the world’ Hackney Child offers a supportive Advice and Training role which will remind Social Workers why they chose the vocation of Social Work, and why Looked After Children are so special.

SWH: Tell us about your thought processes and decision to write Hackney Child, and how did you go about the process?

JM: This is such a big question! My thoughts on writing Hackney Child was that I was very very scared about being judged. I was adamant that I would remain anonymous, and this is why I have a pen name, Hope Daniels. I was absolutely paranoid that my mum would hate me for doing this but decided to write it with Morag and decided we would go ahead at the end.

I went through a massive rollercoaster of emotions and feelings throughout – and had to take a couple of months off at one point, as you see, when writing Hackney Child, I was totally transported back in a way that I had never experienced before. I found myself reflecting on my childhood, and my experience in Care, and whilst it was cathartic, it was also extremely painful. Myself and Morag had 1-1 interviews, I sent writing, we used my SS Files, and Morag interviewed 1 person who had applied to foster me. We spent much time sending writing between us until we got the story right.

SWH: As a result of your book and experiences, have you been engaged with the thought leaders within the social care UK system to implement changes or improvements for children who are cared for?

JM: Yes, in so many ways, and continue to do so. I was influential in producing the Care Leavers Charter, endorsed and implemented through the Care Leavers Foundation, Care Leavers, and the Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson. I am currently working alongside OFSTED, Martin Narey – Government TSAR on LAC, The Chief Social Worker, and many thought leaders in Scotland, including the Scottish Government.

I have also devised a training programme based on my own recovery from my childhood and addiction, and have been sharing with Local Authorities. It has received a response which I didn’t expect, one of enthusiasm, passion to carry the learning’s through to direct work, and an understanding of what it is really like to live through an abusive childhood, a life in care, and then life as a care leaver.

My time working with frontline social workers, Care Leavers and kids currently in the system is what drives me to work within the policy world. I have met huge number of inspirational kids and professionals, that when the going gets tough, and my frustrations at changes not happening quick enough, motivate me to stick at it.

SWH: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in doing outreach to practitioners/providers and children who are in long term care?

JM: Accepting the flaws in the system, and accepting that I cannot rescue the kids.

SWH: What is your mission and vision for Hackney’s Child, and what do you hope to ultimately accomplish?

JM: My mission is to make the UK Care System a place where LAC are loved, protected and successful.

There will always be a need for safe secure and loving places for some children to be cared for away from their birth families; to enable this Hackney Child strives to:

  • Ensure all children in care are safe and protected by those who care for them
  • Every child in care is expected to succeed, and receives the emotional and practical support to do so.
  • All children in care receive equal opportunity to recover from trauma experienced.
  • Those acting as corporate parents understand and take personal responsibility for developing and safeguarding the children they care for.

My ultimate goal is for the shocking statistics around Care Leavers, homelessness, drug addiction, offending, revolving door prisoner sentences and repeating, at times, the cycle of Care for their children to be seen as a failure, of the system, that served to rescue them, and the fire in your belly anger that should be aroused at these statistics by the policy makers raises itself, and changes happen.

It’s too easy to blame front line staff, who, in my personal view, are passionate, caring, skilled people who have an inner vocation to change children’s lives

SWH: Most importantly, what is your life like now, and have you found a sense of peace through your work and writing?

JM: My life is beautiful. I had no idea who I was, how I could ever have a life away from the pain, shame and guilt that I had carried for so many years, which I have discovered through Hackney Child and my direct work with the “Care System’, wasn’t mine to carry. I was a child.

I have worked through strategies on dealing with the sorrow that comes over me at times, together with the flashbacks of my childhood, some which are forever new and haven’t come to me in years, and now use these strategies with the children and young people that I work with.

I have 2 wonderful kids, now grown up, a husband who helped me to accept my character assets, and a beautiful, content granddaughter, who will never have to experience a mother with the pain that her grandmother had.

I’m now proud to say that I was raised in the Care System, and not ashamed to say that my family consists of people who were my social workers and care home staff. I love them and they love me. My family is now free from my past.

Social Justice Seeker Nelson Mandela Dies at Age 95

Nelson-Mandela
Nelson Mandela

On December 5, 2013, former South African President and social justice seeker, Nelson Mandela passed away at age 95. As a result of his political activism, Nelson Mandela endured several arrests and eventually served 27 years in prison for treason and governmental sabotage because of his opposition to apartheid.

During his trial in 1958, Nelson Mandela married social worker, Winnie Madikizela, and the union produced two daughters before they divorced in 1996. At his final trial, while facing the death penalty, he eloquently stated to the court, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal that I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

After being imprisoned for nearly three decades, Nelson Mandela become South Africa’s first black President in the government’s first democratic election where both blacks and whites were allowed to vote. In his acceptance speech, Nelson Mandela stated, “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,”.

According to BBC News,

Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela – who is known affectionately by his clan name, Madiba – had died shortly before 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT). He said he would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast.

Crowds have gathered outside the house where Mr Mandela died, some flying South African flags and wearing the shirts of the governing African National Congress, which Mr Mandela once led.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.

He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa.  Read Full Article

The  Nelson Mandela Foundation was created in 1995 as a vehicle to continue his legacy and work as a social justice seeker for human rights and the fight against oppression. The foundation is a coalition of networks and partnerships working collectively towards social justice. In his retirement video below, Nelson Mandela outlines the mission and vision for the launch of his charity.

You Know That We Can Hear You Right: Interview with Don Yelton

Don Yelton

Once again, comedians have accidentally exposed extremists within the Republican party. In this case, the Daily Show interviewed Don Yelton who is the current North Carolina GOP leader for the Buncombe County precinct, or at least until this interview aired. This video captures the essence of the current state of American politics. If you were ever concerned that voter restriction laws were being used to disenfranchise minorities, this video confirms that you were wrong.

The North Carolina Republican led legislature recently passed one of the most restrictive voter id laws in the country. Many civil rights advocates believe the implementation of these laws across Red States are designed to prevent vulnerable populations from voting. However, Don Yelton makes it very clear that voter id laws were not designed to eliminate voters based on race, creed, color, age, sex, or religion. The real reason voter id laws were created is to deter all Democrats from voting.

After this interview aired, it went viral which led to the GOP asking for Yelton’s resignation. According to Business Insiders,

A North Carolina county precinct GOP chair resigned on Thursday after an offensive interview that aired on “The Daily Show” Wednesday, in which he said “lazy black people” want “the government to give them everything.”

“Yes, he has resigned,” said Nathan West, a spokesman for the Buncombe County Republican Party. The party had asked for Don Yelton’s resignation in direct response to the interview, West said.

The interview, conducted by correspondent Aasif Mandvi, was on the topic of North Carolina’s new voter ID law, over which the Justice Department has sued the state. On “The Daily Show,” Yelton argued that the law wasn’t racist, though he added that he’s “been called a bigot before.” Read more

This is an example of the GOP leading our government, and it will also serve as good evidence when the US Department of Justice takes North Carolina to court over its restrictive voter id laws.

Children From Adversity: Interview with Travis Lloyd

Travislloydfb

Children from adversity is a term often used to describe children who have experienced childhood traumas, abuse, and/or stressful conditions which could dwarf their emotional and physical growth. When we think of children from adversity, we tend to imagine children heading down the wrong path towards prison, and we often hear the horror stories of the foster care system going wrong.

What about the successes, and those who defy the odds of escaping their circumstances? Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Travis Lloyd, an artist, and motivational speaker, who had to navigate his way through many foster homes and group homes in order to get where he is today.

The experience and knowledge of a child from adversity is a valuable resource helping professionals should be utilizing more often as a source of expertise. Are we adequately measuring, identifying, and using as resources children from adversity who have escaped their childhood circumstances in order to determine what’s working and what’s not?

Children from adversity who are able to flourish despite their environment often display resiliency and survival skills many researchers still can not predict. Fortunately, Travis is using the skill sets he has developed in order to help others. I ran across Travis on Twitter when I viewed a YouTube video someone tweeted me, and I had to share his story with you.

SWH: Tell us a bit about your background, and what lead to your current role as a motivational speaker.

Travis: I have a story of Achieving Success Against All Odds, which is the mantra that I’ve built my speaking platform on.  This stems from beating the odds of the negative statistics related to foster care.  As far as my young mind could tell, I had a fairly normal life as a child. All of that changed when my parents divorced around the age of 9.  My parents had a rough divorce, as far too many people can relate to.  My father ended up in county jail due to the physical altercations and my mother wasn’t quite able to hold things together so she ended up hospitalized for her emotional instability.  My sister is six years older than me and struggled to cope as a teen.  She ended up running the streets and doing drugs so she went to drug treatment.

I ended up in two foster homes for a couple of months before my mother, sister and I relocated to Iowa, where my mother’s family is from.  Middle school was a struggle between a constantly unstable home life and bouncing in and out of a few group homes.  My aunt and uncle made a difference in my life by taking me out of that environment and giving me a permanent home to live in when I was about 14.  I stabled out in high school, but still struggled with some identity issues when I went away to college.  I started as a business major, but switched to nursing to have a guaranteed good income upon graduating.  I started a career as an ER nurse at the same time as taking custody of my 9 year old nephew.  I wasn’t satisfied working long hours in a high stress environment so I sought other ways to spend my time.  I ended up volunteering for a foster care empowerment program where after only 3 weeks I became the regional program facilitator.  Soon after that, I realized there was a need for people to speak and inspire foster youth and launched my first website.

SWH: When you are sharing your story, what is the reoccurring narrative or feedback you receive from your audiences?

Travis: People often share comments like “your message was very inspiring and encouraged me to stay true to my dreams. I really feel like you touched the hearts of every single person in the room.” I always get a few people who said that they started crying.  Most of these people are the ones who can relate to the childhood struggles or have a close friend or family member who has been through similar things.  They love seeing that “its possible” to overcome and succeed.

SWH: What do you believe are some of the biggest barriers and challenges facing our youth?

Travis: A lack of inspiration for dreaming and a lack of encouragement from the adults in their lives.  There’s a difference between being supportive through providing basic needs versus providing all of the unconditional love and compassion that encourages someone to never see a glass ceiling.  The majority of our youth haven’t had the basics of how to be successfully demonstrated to them.  It’s hard to do something that you’ve never seen before.  And if you don’t have a dream, or feel like your dreams are unrealistic, then what’s the point in staying on the grind?

SWH: How do you feel hip-hop helps you to reach youth who have difficulty opening up to adults?

Travis: I see how drastic of a difference there is with the varied approaches to youth on a regular basis.  I actually still work part time as a mental health crisis worker.  I do psychiatric evaluations for people who are suicidal, homicidal, psychotic, or otherwise in emotional distress.  Sometimes I run into teens who won’t talk to the police officers or any of their friends or family.  When I am able to take off my “professional” hat and talk in their language they almost always start to open up to me.  Sometimes I’ll even spit something a-cappella or encourage them to share something creative of their own.  It is pretty simple.  People open up to people they can relate to. Being able to relate to people from different ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds is key.

SWH: What future aspiration do you have, and where do you hope this path leads you?

I plan to expand the reach of the message “Achieving Success Against All Odds” into books, audiobooks, hophop CD’s, and training videos.  I recently released my first ever music video for the song “Take Me Away” and plan to produce several more music videos with inspirational messages related to topics that are relevant to youth, social service, child welfare, and mental health advocacy.  As this brand grows, I will expand my company Changing Lives Entertainment to hold hip hop events that make a difference and have a speaker’s bureau for speakers in various markets with similar goals.  Sometime down the road, I will go back to grad school and potentially pursue a doctoral program.  I also have a dream of being the next Dr. Phil.

You can learn more about Travis Lloyd by visiting www.travislloyd.net or visit him on Twitter at @travislloyd

Jindal Says Wendy Davis Bid for Texas Governor Will End in Defeat

If you are not familiar with who Wendy Davis is, you should be! Wendy Davis was a single mom on government assistance who worked her way from a trailer park to a Harvard Law School degree, but she didn’t stop there. Social Work Helper did a story on Wendy Davis earlier this year for her heroic efforts to stand for women’s reproductive rights.

Wendy DavisWendy Davis, a state Senator representing Texas’ 10th district, made national news for her 11 hour filibuster of the Republican backed restrictive reproductive health bill that the Texas legislature’s leadership was attempting to railroad through the state senate. The bill Wendy said would have a “devastating impact” by enacting a 20 week abortion ban, and effectively closing almost all of the health clinics that provide abortive services, among other vital health services for women, across the state.  Read Full Article

Wendy Davis made her announcement at the high school where she received her education, and she stated:

“We love Texas not only for how good it is, but for how great we know it can be,” she said. “We want every child, no matter where they start in Texas, to receive a world-class education, an education that can take them anywhere they want to go.”

In my opinion, Wendy Davis represents the epitome of the American Dream, and the hope we have for our children to triumph under difficult circumstances. In the history of Texas Governors, only two women have been elected to hold high office. The last to achieve this accomplishment was Ann Richards the mother of the current President of Planned Parenthood, Cecil Richards. If there is a slim chance for a third female governor, Wendy Davis is the right choice.

Bobby Jindal, Republican Governor from Louisiana and Chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, stated that Wendy Davis will be good for fundraising, but she does not stand a chance of winning against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. This statement came in the wake of yesterday’s announcement by Wendy Davis to run for Governor of the Lone Star State.

 

Reflecting on the March on Washington 50 Years Later

Johnson and McCrae Iconic Photo

A series of events commenced on August 24, 2013, to commemorate and honor the 1963 March on Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic “I have a Dream” speech. The National Action Network (NAN) led by Reverend Al Sharpton hosted the first celebratory March on Washington event this past Saturday, and the last event honoring the historic gathering ended on August 28th with a speech by President Barack Obama.

As an observer of this moment in our history, I must admit it was a lot to take in. There was a long list of speakers including Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP;  Congressman John Lewis, the only living speaker from the 1963 March; Reverend Jesse Jackson, Attorney General Eric Holding, and Nancy Pelosi to name a few.

There was also a host of leaders from civil rights organizations and labor unions who gave speeches at Saturday’s event as well. As we reflected on the organizers and the intent of the 1963 March on Washington, a recurring thread that I heard was whether “The Dream” had been realized.

For me, Reverend Al Sharpton gave the best speech of the day. It was a speech that not only explained the essence of the day, but it helped to relay the barriers and challenges moving forward for the future. As an African-American woman, I believe my generation has been named beneficiaries by those who gave their lives during the Civil Rights Movement.

As a result of the movement, legislation was passed and governmental programs implemented which helped to narrow the gap between black and white America. The African-American community experienced a season of prosperity to the point where many of the most gifted and well-off African-Americans feel civil rights protections are no longer needed. In this regard, Dr. King’s dream did come true.

However, when those who opposed racial equality realized these interventions were working, they adapted and set in motion new policies to lessen the effectiveness of civil rights legislation. These new policies are Right to Work legislation, Stand Your Ground Laws, outsourcing, voting map redistricting, defunding social welfare programs, and voter restriction laws. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of the removal of black Americans’ fear of death for speaking their political beliefs and advocating for their communities has been realized.

We must adapt and renew a dream for the advancement of vulnerable populations and minorities. The Civil Rights Movement broke open opportunities previously denied to African-Americans such as the right to vote, equal housing, education, and equal access to the same resources as white Americans.

The second leg of the Civil Rights movement should not be focused only on what the government needs to do rather than focusing on advancing unification through mentorship and reinvestment within our communities.

Currently, it’s not the government that divides us, but it’s our treatment of each other. Our government is only taking advantage of the division.

Social Work Action Network (SWAN) London UK: Interview with Dan Morton

In the wake of austerity, there appears to be a resurgence of a social work movement to address the increasing inequities being forced upon vulnerable populations. Social Workers around the globe are revisiting and taking notes from generations passed in how they responded to the onset of the civil rights movement.

Recently, I interviewed Dan Morton who is on the steering committee for the Social Work Action Network (SWAN) in London, United Kingdom. We discussed how austerity policies by global governments are causing social workers to become more involved in politics. Here is our discussion:

SWH: What is SWAN, and What types of issues do SWAN focus on?

DAN: The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) is a radical campaigning social work organisation which was formed in the UK in 2004, and it sees itself in the tradition of 60’s/70’s radical social work movement and the magazine ‘Case Con’.

What makes SWAN different from those days, is that we are a partnership of practitioners, service users, educators and students. While SWAN still has a large membership in the UK and rotates its national conferences here, it has a strong international focus – there are SWAN groups or similar organisations elsewhere in Europe, America, Asia and Australia.

SWAN sees the value in both collective practice and good relationship based individual social work, but understands that social workers must analyse and act upon the social problems they encounter with a close eye on structural and cultural influences on people’s lives. In the present international context, that means understanding austerity as a project of neoliberalism and opposing its levers in social policy – managerialisation, marketisation and privatisation. We understand the links between capitalism, crisis and the inequality and social devastation it causes. Instead we are broadly in favour of a model of human rights and partnership based practice, radical community work and a comprehensive, progressive social security system. The notion of linking ‘private troubles to public issues’ is a touchstone for SWAN.

SWH:  What is the mission and vision for SWAN in the wake of Global Austerity?

DAN: SWAN has strong links to progressive global social movements, for instance Occupy and the wider anti-capitalist movement. We are keen to support those involved in social action such as colleagues in Greece and more recently Turkey. We also have also run defence campaigns when social workers are attacked or vilified, such as Norbert Ferencz a Hungarian social worker who was arrested for speaking out against a law to criminalise rough sleepers. Likewise, in the wake of the Baby Peter tragedy in the UK some years ago, SWAN defended practitioners against the British tabloid The Sun‘s witch hunt against social workers, by highlighting unbearably high case loads, lack of resources and support experienced by many practitioners.

SWAN has often reconfigured the anti-capitalist phrase ‘another world is possible’ to ‘another social work is possible’ – we live out our methods for practice while we work towards that world through respectful alliances between practitioners, trade unions, grassroots movements, user lead organisations and pressure groups.

SWH: What are SWAN’s highest priorities?

DAN: At present to continue to build our networks and encourage practitioners and those who use services to work collectively against inequality and oppression. This means working with trade unions and service user movements to avoid divide and rule. While imperfect, we need to defend what system of social support we have left while envisaging something better. While we are under a sustained attack in the UK which is resulting in a marked increase in poverty, in Greece we have seen people turning their children into social services, as they have no way to buy the necessities of life for them.SWAN has a network of regional groups in the UK and in Eire and they will have their own particular priorities.

At the moment anti-racist social work is especially important in the wake of increased far-right activity in the UK (the rise of the English Defence League and Islamophobia in the UK, the brutal attacks on Roma in Eastern Europe). We must continue to work with disabled people to refute attacks dividing them as either ‘lazy scroungers’ or ‘worthy strivers’.

SWH: If someone wants to become more familiar or collaborate with SWAN, where would they find you on the web, and what key points do you want them to know?

DAN: SWAN has an English language website – www.socialworkfuture.org – and a Facebook site. Our twitter handle is @swansocialwork. We gladly welcome written contributions on radical practice both in the UK and internationally- email swansocialwork@gmail.com. We would also be delighted to have more folk in the US and Canada link up with us, though we do have connections already in some cities and states. In terms of key points, we would ask practitioners to look at the global neoliberal project over the last 30 years and the attendant rise in inequality and social problems. What do you feel the priorities of a social worker should be?

What’s the Difference between Social Justice and Social Work

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice  (SCSJ) is a nonprofit dedicated to the expansion of civil rights located in Durham, North Carolina, and I have been watching their activities for a long time. They are truly on a mission to reform the criminal justice system, protect voting rights, racial profiling, and immigration reform.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Shoshannah Sayers, the Deputy Director at SCSJ. Although mostly composed of lawyers, they also have community organizers who assist with outreach to help aid vulnerable populations. Before we get into the interview, I want to share several reasons why I believe collective collaboration with various fields is needed in order to impact today’s societal problems.

social justiceOften, I talk about my work as a social worker, but I have never really discussed what fuels my passion and desire for systematic change. When I got out of college, my first job was at a Youth Correctional facility until I was transferred to the Super Max facility which housed the worst of the worst inmates in the State of North Carolina.

It was a 24 hour lock-down supervision facility, and once I entered, I was locked-down with them too. To transfer an inmate, they had to be strapped down like Hannibal Lecter, and this is no joke. Then, I went into law enforcement as a patrol officer because I thought I could do more prevention, but this proved to be problematic for me too because of the systematic flexibility.

After I finally started working in the field in which I was educated, social work, the realization hit me that these systems are not designed to do prevention.

As a third generation teen parent, I may not have a PhD behind my name, yet I feel uniquely qualified in understanding how education, social services, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system aids oppression and retards vulnerable populations’ ability to rise above their circumstance. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is not possible without opportunities and a support system. These systems can not be reformed from within because one must either conform, leave voluntarily, or against their will.

My hope is that macro-practice social work and organizations such as SCSJ will begin to collaborate and share resources by realizing you are working to uplift the same demographics.  Here is the Q&A with SCSJ on their mission and vision for the future. Spoiler Alert…They will have their first MSW Macro intern starting in the fall.

SWH: Tell me a bit about the mission and goals of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, when it was formed, and your role there.

SS: The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, or SCSJ, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in August 2007 in Durham, North Carolina, and I was privileged to be part of it. We were a multidisciplinary group, predominantly people of color, who believed that families and communities engaged in social justice struggles need a wide variety of tools to be successful in overcoming structural racism. We saw the need for a team of lawyers, social scientists, community organizers, and media specialists to support them in their efforts to dismantle structural racism and oppression.

Most importantly, this diverse group of experts needed to be willing to listen to what each community wanted instead of “parachuting in” and telling a community how we experts thought the problem should be addressed. SCSJ was born from this deep passion for listening to communities first and foremost. We do give advice and provide multiple options, but in the end, it is the community that decides how their issue will be addressed and our commitment is to provide the highest quality tools available to execute the community’s plan of action.

I was a board member from the organization’s founding in 2007 until early 2013, when I resigned from the board in order to pursue a staff position with SCSJ. I am currently the Deputy Director, and quite honestly it’s my dream job – I get to help people and support our mission every single day. I also get to work with some of the most dedicated, passionate social justice advocates I have ever met.

SWH: What kind of tools and research do you guys use in helping to support the cases and projects that you take on?

SS: Because our staff includes a variety of experts, we are able to bring many tools to the table. We have a policy analyst/researcher who uses GIS maps to give visible representations of inequality in the system. For example, he was able to create maps showing where marijuana arrests take place and then lay that over a map of where high concentrations of African American communities were. The result is a clear visual depiction of the practice of targeting African American neighborhoods for marijuana arrests. Being able to see this on a map is so much more powerful than reading statistics in a report.

Other tools include our legal team, which engages in social justice litigation ranging from voting rights to environmental justice to criminal justice reform. And our bilingual community organizer is able to mobilize local communities on issues from immigration reform to job opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.

SWH: Social Workers were originally the staples in the social justice movement, and now social justice advocate positions tend to be held by attorneys. In what ways have you guys engaged macro community practice social workers or would like to engage for collaboration or partnerships?

SS: This is an exciting area that we are just beginning to explore. Our first macro social work student will begin her practicum with us in the Fall 2013 semester, and we are excited about the new tools she will bring to the table. Her work will largely be around helping formerly incarcerated people organize and gain the tools they need to successfully reintegrate into society. Based on her experiences, we plan to create a plan to more widely integrate macro social work into our efforts.

SWH: What are two of the highest advocacy priorities of the coalition at this time?

SS: Right now our two highest priorities include one litigation strategy around voting rights issues and one community organizing effort around empowering formerly incarcerated people. We have been involved in redistricting litigation since 2011, where our goal is to get over 40 North Carolina voting precincts redrawn in a more fair and equitable way. In our opinion, the current redistricting plan attempts to dilute the vote of African Americans by cramming them all into a few districts and leaving their voice unheard in many other districts. We had a trial on part of this case during the week of June 10, 2013, and we hope to hear back on the success of that effort very soon.

Our second effort is around solutions to the epidemic of unnecessary drug arrests in communities of color. The general population of North Carolina is 68.5% white, 21.5% black, and 8.4% Latino, while the state’s prison population for drug-related offenses is 28.5% white, 53.2% black, and 17.6% Latino. Communities of color are obviously disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, which makes these communities more likely to face the harsh, sometimes lifelong collateral consequences triggered by a criminal conviction. Last year we supported a bill in the general assembly that would have gotten rid of criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, replacing these with civil penalties and fines that did not involve a criminal conviction. In the current political climate, this bill died in committee.

As we regroup and wait to see what the legislature will look like in the next long session, we need to find more immediate remedies. Our first community organizing effort was a successful Ban the Box pilot in Durham, NC. Ban the Box campaigns ask local government employers to remove the check-box question, “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” from their employment applications. This gives formerly incarcerated people the chance to get a job interview where they can explain, in person, the nature of their record rather than being automatically excluded without ever getting an interview. Once we were able to pass Ban the Box in Durham, it was taken up by other communities across the state and we now have 6 municipalities participating. SCSJ continues to organize communities to expand Ban the Box.

Building on this success, our new community organizing project is to make marijuana possession a “lowest law enforcement priority.” This means that the police would be seeking out people committing more serious offenses rather than seeking out marijuana possession. We plan to use the same community organizing model (and probably work with many of the same communities) for the LLEP initiative as we have used for the Ban the Box initiative. Together, this type of community organizing can make important strides in reducing the collateral consequences of incarceration while we await a General Assembly that may be more interested in these issues.

SWH: What vision does the coalition have for the future?

SS: Our vision is simple: Communities will succeed in realizing their own goals and people will know from experience that they can make a difference on issues that matter to them. I think of it like this: once a community works with SCSJ and has a victory, they will know that THEY hold the power to make real chance. They will go forward, either with our help or on their own, to make more and more positive social change.

SWH: If readers want to follow your activities and projects, how do they find you on the web?

SS: I encourage people to visit our website at www.southerncoalition.org. We are also available on Facebook at www.facebook.com/southerncoalition and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/scsj. Readers are also invited to join our LinkedIn Group at http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Southern-Coalition-Social-Justice-5021808

Daryl spent 40 months in an Alabama Prison before getting his associate’s, bachelor’s, and law degrees. Listen to his story and plea for change:

Samuel L. Jackson Will Host the Fifth Annual Shooting Stars Gala to Benefit the Alzheimer’s Association

Former social worker and Django Unchained actor, Samuel L. Jackson, has announced that he will be hosting for five years running the Fifth Annual Shooting Stars Gala 2013 with this year’s donations benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association. Mr. Jackson’s decision to continue hosting the event each year in its five year existence shows his commitment to lending his celebrity to promoting worthy causes. The Samuel L. Jackson Foundation is responsible for organizing the event in order to raise donations for various worthy causes.

This year’s event is especially important to Mr. Jackson due to the tragic loss of his mother in 2012 after a long battle with the disease. The goal of the Samuel L. Jackson Foundation is to raise money that will be put towards research for Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mr. Jackson makes a passionate plea to help him raise donations and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association.

There are only 12 days left to make a donation before the event, and Mr. Jackson is asking for donations of $3.00 or more. Let’s show this fellow social worker turned celebrity that we got his back on this, and you can make a donation using this link.  I guess that I should mention that a $3 dollar donation will also enter you to win tickets and a plane trip to the UK to attend the event. For more information on the shooting stars event, you can visit http://www.shootingstarsbenefit.com

Affinity Real Estate was chosen to be the event’s primary sponsor, and it will be held on June 14th and 15th at The Grove luxury resort in London, United Kingdom. The Shooting Star’s event is a charity golf tournament packed with other compassionate celebrities willing to lend their personas to help raise awareness for important causes. Here is an excerpt from the Alzheimer’s Association website to help you become familiar with the good work they do in fighting this incurable disease:

The Association is the leading voice for Alzheimer’s disease advocacy, fighting for critical Alzheimer’s research, prevention and care initiatives at the state and federal level.  We diligently work to make Alzheimer’s a national priority.  Join our effort.

  • We develop policy resources, including Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures and Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s Disease, to educate decision makers on the economic and emotional toll that Alzheimer’s takes on families and the nation.
  • Our advocates engage elected officials at all levels of government and participate in our annual Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum, a march on Capitol Hill to meet with elected representatives.
  • With our chapters, we work to pass legislation at the federal, state and local level.  Learn More

 

Photo Credit: Freedom Bay St. Lucia

The American Dream Doesn’t Exist for the Poor

20140227_MayorEmanuel_Clip4_1920x1080

Once again, the poor are being asked to help balance the budget. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been a strong supporter of the proposed school closures to assist with government budgetary shortfalls. However, he has been met with resistance every step of the way by the Chicago Public Schools Teachers Union. The Chicago Board of Education is scheduled today to vote on the proposal that will close 53 elementary schools and one high school in predominately African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods. Massive protests have erupted in the streets of Chicago in an effort for parents, teachers, and students to show solidarity in having their voices heard.

Chicago already has one of the highest murder rates for young people in the country. With all the slated school closures in lower-income neighborhoods, this will increase young students’ travel times to school as well as increase their risk of becoming a victim of gun violence. It will also present additional challenges and barriers for parents working in low-income service jobs to get their elementary age children to schools outside of their neighborhoods. Parents, who are already struggling, will have additional barriers placed on their ability to be active in school in addition to existing barriers such as lack of transportation, lack of money for public transportation, and long bus rides.

As a Child Protective Service Worker, one of the complaints that I often heard from teachers is that parent(s) weren’t involved, are often unreachable by phone, or are always late picking up their child. As a Social Worker, my job was not to judge the symptoms but rather than find out what barriers the parent(s) are facing in order to help them overcome those challenges. Chicago is supposed to be looking at how to reduce gun violence and adding more social workers to help with family support would be a step in the right direction. However, these school closures will have an equal or greater opposite effect, and it will be detrimental to the youth and families in these communities. The longer a child has to spend traveling to and from school, it dramatically increases his/her risk of pregnancy, prison, or death.

The American Dream is no longer the rule for the poor in this country. It’s an anomaly or a lottery for someone who is lucky enough to escape their income class. Instead of the “home for the free”, it’s the land of for profit prisons. It is my belief that a lot of social policies and increased burdens placed on the poor are intentionally instituted in an effort to increase instability and poverty in minority communities which leads to increased teen pregnancies, drug addiction, and violent crimes. Since slavery is no longer legal, there is a culture and a group of people who wants a slave class because it is profitable. This country was built on slavery and economic challenges of minorities because without income disparities we move closer to a society of equality.

Currently, corporations are making work agreements with for profit prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, and detention centers for free labor. The for profit prisons are getting paid by the government and corporations to abuse an inmate population that is predominantly minority with the added bonus of having no voice and no right to vote. There is no department of labor or laws to protect them from being abused and taking away their humanity. Slavery has successfully been privatized. Now, these prisons and those who profit from them want to use our communities to groom future inmates for their prisons.

In 2011, two judges were sentenced for selling and trading children to for profit prisons. Here is an excerpt from the Huffington Post:

Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes. The judge remained defiant after his arrest, insisting the payments were legal and denying he incarcerated youths for money.

As long as for profits prisons exist, those who profit will lobby against protective factors such as education, family planning, wage increases, and more social workers because these factors have proven successful in preventing children from the prison pipeline. Public School closures in minority neighborhoods are not just happening in Chicago. It’s happening all over the country. For those who actually make it to their 18th birthday, the second wave of attacks to insure the poor can’t get ahead is making a college education unaffordable.

The third wave, if you are fortunate enough to obtain a degree, is the extremely high interest rates for students loans given to financial need students and the debt you will incur for the bulk of your adult life. The finally attack happens in the employment arena where Right to Work laws and criminal histories being used against you forever contribute to the high unemployment rates and discriminatory practices against minorities. The policies being implemented are not designed to create graduates. They are designed to produce inmates. The American Dream does not exist for the poor.

What happens in the school board meeting today will affect those children”s life for the rest of their lives. Let’s fast forward 20 years in the future to see what these children’s lives may look like.

Interview with Social Work Professor Barbara Zelter Arrested for Protesting with NAACP Against Bad NC Policies

I had the opportunity to catch up with Social Work Professor Barbara Zelter after she escaped the clutches of the Wake County Detention Center due to being arrested for protesting with NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) against the terrible policies of the North Carolina Legislature. Barbara teaches social work policy at North Carolina State University, and her class has been following legislation being enacted by North Carolina’s new super majority Republican led state legislature which means they control the majority in the house and senate with a Republican Governor. Here is some of our conversation:

SWH:  Tell us a bit about your background, and what fuels you to fight for vulnerable populations?

Barbara: It seems to me that some people are born with a kind of radar that makes them notice social unfairness.  Even as a child, I noticed things like rich and poor neighborhoods, and I seemed drawn to those living nontraditional lives on the edges.  I grew up in a middle-class family in Rochester, New York, the daughter of a Jewish Dad and Episcopal-turned Catholic Mom.  We had international visitors, and this opened my eyes to various cultures and traditions as enriching and fascinating. Religion was always compelling to me for its mysteries and the social gospel.  In 2008, I returned to hometown of Rochester after 40 years to get a master’s in theology at the seminary across the street from our childhood home.

Barbara Zelter Social Work Professor NCSUMy Masters of Social Work was from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), in 1991 (I get a degree every 20 years: college 1971, MSW 1991, MA in Theology 2011–we’ll see about 2031).  When starting with the MSW program in 1988 we had three children in elementary school.  Before that, I had been an employment counselor, an editor, a refugee sponsor, a crisis counselor volunteer for Hopeline, and other things.  I went to social work school wanting to be a therapist, like most students.  But graduate school can be wonderfully transformative if we allow it to be.

I was solicited to move into the Administration and Policy track at UNC and never looked back. The next 20 years involved community organizing for health care equity, living wages, campaign finance reform, against the death penalty, in support of families on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), etc.  The pay was terrible, but the people doing the organizing inspired me.  A graduate school internship opened my world to the layer of community agitators for social justice all over the state.  I knew I had found a home with them.

Ten years were with the North Carolina Council of Churches; for five of those years, two others–Kathy Putnam (MSW, with the NC Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition) and Micheline Ridley Malson (my first Social Work MSW teacher and a consultant now)–and I ran a statewide nonprofit called JUBILEE, around welfare reform.  It was a project of the NC Council of Churches and emphasized getting the voices of the families in the welfare system into the new welfare reform plans, and also involving trained teams in religious congregations to partner with families who would be losing benefits.  We had a third area of work, called Public Samaritan, that spoke for economic justice–jobs that paid enough, health care for all, etc.  We believed that you must combine community support with policy advocacy.

After that, I worked with the Council from 2003-2007 as their statewide organizer around peace and economic justice.  Then came seminary–I finished there in December of 2010 not wanting to be ordained and having exactly zero clue what might be next. I landed unexpectedly at NC State, opening field internships in advocacy organizations and then teaching.  It was a close friend from my MSW program, Dr. Jodi K. Hall, now the Field Director at the Department of Social Work at North Carolina State University (NCSU), who invited me to come to NCSU.  As she says:  “Don’t burn any bridges!”  You never know which of your classmates, teachers, field people, or others may open a door for you one day.  I am in debt to Dr. Hall; I dearly love working with students at this stage of my life.

SWH: I have heard many social workers say that social work is not political. What is your response to this statement?

Barbara: You know, we are at a time in history that greatly dishonors the proud foundation of social work in the settlement houses. A tradition that blended solidarity with immigrants and the poor emphasized a strong critique of the social systems that neglected whole segments of the population.  We live in a time where the Mary Richmond casework model of professional casework and the subsequent intrapsychic (focus on the psychology of the individual) tradition has almost completely taken over the professional social work field. I have a lot of opinions on this subject!

Serving individuals and families is a great social work task–relieving pain, finding resources, helping people find their ways to health, and community support is the area in which most social work jobs can now be found.  I do not blame students for following the areas where they actually can make a livelihood around caring and empowering people.  This is good work.  However, the alternate path of community organizing, policy focus, and political advocacy simply does not offer the same range of paid job opportunities.  There was more funding for these things a generation ago.

Teaching social policy and social welfare history, I find that students DO care about unfair policies, programs, and systems, but are simply not sure what to do to make a difference in the beyond-agency world of policy and politics. A world clearly driven and controlled by moneyed interests.  As they learn who actually represents them in the government, and which groups are out there to advocate on issues they care about, they DO jump in with fervor.

I think that at this time, it is best to acknowledge that social work jobs are mostly in the personal healing world but to challenge all service providers to always see individual situations in the analytical context of broad sociopolitical structures.  Service-provider social workers should be attuned to ways they can best advocate at the local, state, and national levels for funding, programs, and policies best for the common good.

Some will be called to serve at the next level, direct action, and civil disobedience, in the classic civil rights tradition of nonviolent resistance.  To me, we are at a historical moment that demands far more than polite letters to legislators.  Our bodies must be on the line.  Arrests and jail must be part of our social work advocacy options.

SWH: Social workers have largely been absent from the national conversation on discussing the social safety net that we implement. How did this happen, and what needs to be done to get back into the conversation?

Barbara: Schools of Social Work need to emphasize social justice, political economy, where the dollars come from for programs people like, and our Code of Ethics mandate around civic voice and participation.  I love the fact that NCSU’s Department of Social Work has this clear focus.  Additionally, individual social workers need to simply put in the time it takes to stay connected with local, state, and national advocacy groups that speak out on these social safety net policy issues while they are busy day to day in the trenches.

Unfortunately, we live in a time of debt bondage, just like it was described in biblical times.  Students carry an impossible load of debt, so of course, they think mainly about how to get a job that pays well.  The debt forgiveness movement around student debt is a hopeful sign.  If Wall Street gets a bailout for bad decisions and risky investments for the gain of the few, why does our country not “bail out” students who will be the leaders of our next generation?  When individual social workers are not heavily involved in the national social safety net conversation, we need to look clearly at the fiscal and political systems that keep the whole “caring community” in dire financial straits.  When we do not have national health insurance, a national care plan for the elderly, etc., the entire social services public and private sectors run like hamsters on a wheel to serve the millions of desperate Americans.  Unless we get our heads out of the trenches of service and deal with the large systems, the future for social workers and those we serve is bleak, I believe.

SWH: Many journalists and other disciplines become experts on social welfare policy because of their writing. What can be done in social work education to encourage more students to use technology and journalism to advocate for vulnerable populations?

Great question. I am mightily encouraged by the young generation’s use of social media, visual arts, and nontraditional communication methods to gain attention to issues, raise funds, tell stories, attract support, and move people to political action.  This is an exciting time, and social workers can be part of this transition from classic and sometimes punitive social service systems to creative, crowd-sourced means of rebuilding communities of support and equity.

SWH: What is next for you, and how should others get involved and become aware of the rights being rolled back in North Carolina?

Barbara: I am a member of the NAACP, and as one of the first group of arrestees during this North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) session, I will remain involved in the continuing witness on each of the “Moral Mondays” coming up at the legislature until they close this summer.  Much credit goes to the North Carolina Chapter of the  NAACP for catalyzing a “movement, not a moment” at this time.  Scholars, medical professionals, students, clergy, and others are coming together in a bold way to speak loudly against drastic racist and anti-poor legislation.

We all are naming the culture flip in North Carolina back to the ways of the Old South.  We are becoming an apartheid state once again, and this is serious. The Voter ID bill, for instance, is a blatant attempt to block the Black vote, which was so active in the 2012 election. We are basically at a time when the white old guard is pressing back against the new multicultural majority, resisting the browning of America. This of course is not the language of the discourse, which is around debt and budgets, not cultural change. I hope to encourage more social workers to join in this effort of public witness and resistance.  As Rev. Barber says:  These legislators may do what they do, but it will not be in the dark!  We are watching, and naming the violation of moral, religious, and social work ethics.

NAACP has produced a string of videos with the statements of all protesters who were arrested. I have attached the video statement of Barbara Zelter, and the others can be viewed on Rev. William Barber’s Youtube Channel.

Exit mobile version