Trigger Warning: A Chinese Father Saved More Than 300 People at Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge

“I understand these people. I know they are tired of living here. They have had difficulties. They have no one to help them.” – Chen Si

Since the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge was first built in 1968, an estimated 2,000 people have died from suicide involving the bridge. According to data from 1995-99, in China’s first national survey in 2002, death from suicide accounted for 3.6 percent of the country’s total deaths. During that period of time, 287,000 Chinese people died from suicide every year, putting the average suicide rate at 23 per 100,000 people.

Chen Si, also known as The Angel of Nanjing, has been patrolling this bridge every Saturday for more than 20 years and has managed to save more than 300 people from death by suicide. He is a 52-year-old father from Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province of the People’s Republic of China. Following the loss of a close relative to suicide, Chen Si has taken up this cause because someone needs to.

A Long History

The relationship between mental illness and suicide is controversial in China. Those who follow traditional Chinese philosophy are not encouraged to express their feelings, nor are they encouraged to expect their environment to change to suit their needs. Therefore, intense misery and feelings of despair may go unrecognized, and suicidal symptoms are not easily detected by Chinese medical professionals. In fact, many doctors working in rural areas do not understand the symptoms of depression and often receive low salaries, which discourages more doctors from entering the mental-health field.

Gender Differences

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, China’s suicide rate in the 1990s was 20 per 100,000 people. In the 1990s, female suicides were higher than male suicides by a factor of three. While China remains one of the few countries with a higher suicide rate among women than men, recent data shows that these disparities have evened out. In 2016, suicide rates among Chinese men and women came up almost even at 9.1 per 100,000 men and 10.3 per 100,000 women. Overall, China’s suicide rate in 2016 was 9.7 per 100,000 people, which was among the lowest globally.

A 2002 survey also revealed that 88 percent of females who died from suicide used agricultural pesticides or rat poison. Although China initially eliminated highly toxic pesticides to improve the safety of its farm produce, the elimination also had a substantial impact on the reduction of deaths from suicide among women. Research shows that men tend to attempt suicide through violent means such as hanging, whereas women tend to attempt suicide with medication. Overall, most studies indicate a decline in suicide rates among all gender and regional categories in China. The studies also recommended targeted suicide prevention programs, particularly for people in rural areas.

Shifting Tide

Women’s freedom, urbanization, and decreased access to toxic pesticides are key reasons behind the decline in suicide rates. According to Jing Jun, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, “female independence has saved a lot of women.” The founding of New China in 1949 in combination with the opening-up policy in the late 1970s and the continuous growth of China’s economy has led to more equitable opportunities for women. Additionally, urbanization removed certain social constraints leading to more freedom for women. For instance, escaping an abusive partner or household may be easier in a city than in a small village.

Despite a decline in death by suicide rates in China, this is an area that we should pay more attention to. Chen Si acts as an angel, but he cannot do this work alone. He hopes that officials consider building a net across the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge to prevent deaths by suicide. 

Resources Available

The Crisis Intervention Centre, the first of its kind in China, was established by Nanjing Brain Hospital to provide psychological advice and support to Chinese people. The Centre also has a hotline, which can be reached at 862583712977.

The Lifeline Shanghai at (400) 821 1215 is a free, confidential, and anonymous support service that is open 365 days a year from 10am-10pm GMT+8. 

Facebook and other social media platforms also offer many virtual support groups for individuals experiencing hardship. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 is a 27/4, free and confidential resource to support people in distress, prevention, or in an active crisis. Users should utilize the translate function on these web pages to adjust for language barriers, if necessary.

A 10-Year-Old Girl in Kenya Learns Coding in Milwaukee–Virtually.

The pandemic and a year of virtual schooling had an unexpected benefit for a little girl in Kenya who connected with Girls Who Code at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I use the computer for school, and I wanted to understand more about how they work,” said Elsie Maingi, who is 10 years old and lives in Nairobi.

However, computer classes in Kenya were geared to high school students and business people and were usually quite expensive, said her mother, Lilian Wangechi.

So in the fall of 2020, they turned to Google and found the free Girls Who Code program at UWM. Because of the time difference, Elsie got up at 2 a.m. for every class during that semester and the spring 2021 semester.

Encouraging young women

The national Girls Who Code program encourages young women of middle and high school age to get involved with computer sciences, according to Christine Cheng, an associate professor of computer science who launched UWM’s program in 2016.

“When we knew we were going to be online in the fall of 2020, it was a blessing in disguise because it allowed many people who were not living near UWM to attend classes,” she said, “but Elsie was the only one from a different country.”

Sammie Omranian, a graduate student and teaching assistant who manages UWM’s program, said she was amazed at Elsie’s persistence. “It was so surprising for me. I knew that she was from Kenya, but never thought about the time difference until her teacher, Anahita, told me.”

Anahita Qashqai, a graduate student who is one of the program’s teachers, also encouraged Elsie to overcome her shyness about using her English. Qashqai told her that English was also her second language since she grew up speaking Farsi. Another student piped up that her first language was Spanish. By the next class, Elsie had turned on the camera, unmuted, and was chatting away with her new friends and classmates from across the world.

“After that she felt more involved and engaged,” Omranian said. After falling a little behind for the first session because of the language concerns, Elsie quickly caught up. “Elsie was the only student who completed everything 100%,” Omranian said.

‘Awe for the amazing opportunity’

When the second class finished in the spring of 2021, Omranian sent Elsie the certificate and tote bag that all the students received. It took a few months to get to Kenya, but Elsie and her mom were so excited to get it that they sent a photo and a thank-you note.

“Today Elsie received her certificate from GWC and I can tell that it’s one of her best days,” Wangechi wrote in an email to Omranian. “I look back at the year 2020 and am at awe for the amazing opportunity my daughter got at your program. She had always wanted to understand how computers work and her dream came true.”

The UWM program was the perfect answer to their needs, she added, with the only requirements being an internet connection and the ability to go to class early in the morning.

“The program has opened a new frontier for Elsie that is boundless and she knows that her wildest dreams can come true. This is an experience as a parent that I could never have replicated,” Wangechi wrote. “We say AHSANTE (THANK YOU) to everyone who made this possible – the tutors, program coordinators and the donors.”

What is Girls Who Code?

Girls Who Code is a national program designed to encourage young women to enter computer sciences and other STEM fields.

In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%, according to Christine Cheng, an associate professor of computer science who launched UWM’s Girls Who Code program in 2016. The percentage will continue to decline if we do nothing, she told NPR station WUWM in an interview. “We know that the biggest drop-off of girls in computer science is between the ages of 13 and 17.”

UWM’s program attracts between 50 to 60 girls each semester, and offers three levels, depending on the students’ previous experience. The program is open to young women in middle and high school, though the majority are middle school age.

Graduate students in computer science and engineering are the teachers, along with some volunteers. Several young women who have competed the program have returned as volunteers, Cheng said.

While the program hasn’t had the resources to do a formal assessment of its impact, organizers do hear success stories from former students and their families. Makenzie Johnson completed the program in 2019, taking classes from the middle of her sophomore year to high school graduation.

Her mother, Tanika Davis, saw the national founder of Girls Who Code on MSNBC several years ago, but there were no chapters in Wisconsin at the time. She kept checking and eventually found UWM and Marquette had started chapters.

“Makenzie has autism and ADHD, but she was always good with computers and I knew that coding would expose her to see if that was something she was interested in and would do well in. It worked out really well,” Davis said.

Makenzie is now studying IT and software development at Milwaukee Area Technical College, with an eventual goal of becoming a graphic designer. She is also part of a program called Islands of Brilliance that helps people with developmental disabilities.

“Her mentors at Girls Who Code were great and really helped her thrive,” Davis said. “She felt like she was one of the gang. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience with a diverse group of girls.”

Emma Maertz, a former student who is coming back as a volunteer in the program, said Girls Who Code is where she explored her love for coding and the program gave her the confidence to learn more elsewhere.

“I learned the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and dove in a little deeper into Python. Girls Who Code taught me to not give up and to debug instead – problem-solve before you abandon hope. I will forever remember my GWC experiences and am planning on volunteering this year to help out the next generation of young girls who code,” Maertz said.

For this coming fall, Cheng and Omranian have decided to offer a combination of online and in-person classes.

Easy Strategies and Accommodations for Behavioral and Mental Health Needs in Learning Enviorments

The numerous accommodations and modifications that teachers make for students often amount to a lengthy list. These adjustments can involve altering not only instruction but also lesson materials, which tend to exhaust much of a teacher’s planning time. While circumstances, symptoms, and needs vary from student to student, there are some of the best “universal” practices that teachers can employ when a student is impacted by a medical condition, without causing a disproportional amount of stress to the teacher.

Symptom: Inattentiveness

Strategies Considerations
  • Verbal/non-verbal prompting or cueing
  • Checklists or sticky notes for work completion; a checkmark or small sticky on the desk indicating strong/prolonged focus
  • Offer preferential seating
  • Proximity while giving instructions/directions
  • Brain breaks for lengthy texts or multi-step tasks
  • Brisk transitions between tasks/activities to build attentive momentum
  • Prompting and cueing could be as subtle as tapping on the desk to regain focus, and could be as direct as asking which number the student is on and encouraging further progress
  • Checklists or sticky notes would typically be paired with a weekly/monthly incentive to track student’s attention goal (504/IEP)
  • Preferential seating doesn’t necessarily mean in the front of the classroom; this could mean near the teacher’s desk, away from the window or hallway, or in the quieter back corner of the room

Symptom: Vision issues

Strategies Considerations
  • Offer preferential seating
  • Provide larger text/font size on handouts
  • Limit screen time or allow frequent breaks during prolonged screen use
  • Provide highlighted and/or condensed teacher notes
  • Suggest colored overlays for students whose vision issues are exacerbated by bright white paper (often seen with PANDAS)
  • Highlighted/condensed teacher notes allow students to follow along with notes/outlines without straining their eyes to copy from the board
  • Notes also ensure that only vital information is visually presented, avoiding extraneous details
  • Colored overlays are inexpensive plastic sheets that students can lay over a textbook, worksheet, or even computer screen to dull the brightness of the white background

Symptom: Working memory/memory processing difficulties

Strategies Considerations
  • Allow extended time for assessments and lengthier assignments, including a reduced workload when necessary
  • Provide wordbanks, multiple-choice options, and true/false for exam questions that involve more memory recall or fact-based knowledge
  • Allow use of a calculator for math assessments not hinging on mental math skills
  • Provide sentence starters or transition wordbanks for essays or timed writing tasks
  • Extended time should account for the fact that the student likely required twice as much time to review and memorize info prior to the assessment
  • When possible, reduce the exam questions to account for mastery of the skill, not the number of questions answered
  • Quiz and test modifications, such as word banks, assist students with recall by providing examples
  • True/false questions still assess the student’s knowledge of the concept but reduce unnecessary memorization
  • If a math quiz is not based solely on the student’s knowledge of multiplication/division facts, the use of a calculator removes the mental math and memorization barrier

Symptom: Executive functioning difficulties

Strategies Considerations
  • Give checklists for multi-step assignments or complex tasks, making sure to model how to order multiple tasks and check off to-dos as students finish sections
  • Maintain consistent routines
  • Provide approximate, suggested lengths of time for homework and/or classwork
  • Provide brisk transitions between tasks/activities to build attentive momentum
  • Model organizational strategies
  • Check in frequently
  • Simplify written instructions and verbally review instructions for clarity
  • Review daily and/or weekly agenda; highlight due dates
  • Allow students to write directly on assessments; avoid bubble sheets
  • Consistent routines ensure that students know the basic procedural expectations and can execute them independently
  • Students may need to be explicitly shown how to place papers in organized sections of a binder
  • Students may need extra time at the end of class to organize papers, materials, etc. in designated places to maintain organization
  • Allowing students to respond directly on test booklets avoids the confusion of bubble sheets and/or the likelihood of them losing their place or skipping questions.

Symptom: Fine motor issues

Strategies Considerations
  • Enable use of a word processor for written assignments
  • Provide teacher notes; modified note-taking
  • Utilize multiple-choice, true/false, matching, or short answer opportunities to allow students to demonstrate mastery
  • Provide the student with a larger or slanted work surface
  • Use larger lines, boxes, or spaces for written responses
  • Allow the student to use bulleted responses when appropriate
  • Encourage the use of a mouse instead of a touchpad
  • Utilize speech to text technology if available, or a human scribe if not
  • Offer pencil grips for writing and wrist supports for typing
  • Allow verbal responses
  • If providing teacher notes, encourage students to participate by highlighting or starring essential material; have them include labels or symbols while following along.
  • For lengthy assignments, consider other methods for demonstrating understanding:
    • Put story events in order using event cards instead of writing a summary
    • Match pictured steps/photo cards of a science lab to written steps, then put them in order
    • Use Scrabble letters or alphabet cards to take a spelling quiz, instead of writing out the list

Symptom: Behavioral issues

Strategies Considerations
  • Utilize verbal/non-verbal prompting or cueing
  • Use positive reinforcement when procedures/behavioral expectations are followed
  • Offer preferential seating
  • Give instructions/directions in closer proximity to the student
  • Allow frequent breaks for lengthy texts or multi-step tasks
  • Utilize brisk transitions between tasks/activities to deter off-task behavior
  • Use data tracking sheets and hold a weekly conference with the student, possibly providing incentives
  • Utilize the 2 X 10 strategy to build positive relationships between adults and students. In this technique, teachers engage a student in a meaningful, genuine, 2-minute conversation, unrelated to academics, over a span of 10 days.
  • Prompting and cueing could be as subtle as tapping on the desk to deter off-task behavior.
  • Prompting could also be as direct as reminding a student of behavioral expectations
  • Checklists or sticky notes would typically be paired with a weekly/monthly incentive to track a student’s behavior goal (504/IEP)
  • Preferential seating doesn’t necessarily mean in the front of the classroom; this could mean near the teacher’s desk, away from the window or hallway, or in the quieter back corner of the room.
  • Moving closer (proximity) or sustaining eye contact can often deter misbehavior.
  • The 2 X 10 strategy is proven to build rapport in difficult classrooms. It encourages a positive outlook regarding school and adults in schools.

The classroom environment is filled with a countless array of personalities, abilities, and levels of motivation. Add to that the various medical considerations or chronic illnesses that students might experience and teachers no doubt feel stressed about making sure every learner receives what he or she needs in order to be academically successful. To ensure that students’ accommodations are met, every student must be provided with differentiated, personalized learning experiences to foster intrinsic motivation and appropriate levels of challenge.

Pain or Pleasure: What do You Feel When You Go to Work

Maybe I am a hopeless romantic, but I believe that workplace environments are akin in many ways to romantic relationships. If we spend the majority of our time in a certain place, doing certain things, we should love it, just as we should love a romantic partner.  Both need some degree of give and take and require mutual effort in order to thrive.

Relationship Between Work Environment & Job Satisfaction in an Organization for Employee Turnover by David Ingram defined work environment as follows.

“A work environment is made up of a range of factors, including company culture, management styles, hierarchies and human resources policies.”

Here are four smart questions to help you to determine the quality of your work environment.

Do I feel safe, stable, and secure?

Consider the physical environment of the workplace. Building maintenance and upkeep impacts the feeling of safety. Is the building constructed of strong materials? Is it constructed in a way that limits damage during inclement weather? Does the ventilation system provide adequate fresh breathing air? Does the heating and cooling system provide protection from the temperature fluctuations? Are structural problems repaired immediately? Is the office space clean and pest free?

This question addresses the basic human need for safety. The location, type, and maintenance of the workplace all impact one’s feeling of safety when at work.  Many social workers practice in areas of great need. The buildings are often in financially impoverished areas. Some offices are located in places labeled as high crime areas.  Many social workers travel to their clients, so the “office” is where the client happens to be at any moment. We meet clients under bridges, in wooded areas, or in homes. The actual location may not be as important as the measures to maintain as much safety as possible for both workers and clients.

Another aspect of safety involves the stability of the employer. This addresses whether the agency or organization is financially sound with strong support, as well as if the leadership has a vision for the work and communicates the vision clearly. The organization’s actions and behaviors toward clients and employees should align with the stated mission, and employees should be assured that they will have longevity in their employment. The sense of security is reinforced when employees receive adequate benefits and paychecks are distributed as scheduled.

Can I be my true self?

This question goes beyond individual personalities. It requires an in-depth assessment of style, mode of operation, as well as personality, on an individual and corporate level.  Every workplace environment has its own collective personality. Think about where you currently work. Do you feel as if you fit? Some work environments have suit-and-tie, serious personalities. Others have a looser and more playful character. These descriptions depict opposite ends of the continuum, but most work environments fall somewhere in the middle. Your comfort level plays a role in your effectiveness at work. Comfort promotes confidence.

Think about your interactions with co-workers and colleagues. Do those interactions cause you to feel welcome and important related to the organization’s mission? Are disagreements handled with reasonable discourse and discussion? Does the supervisory team focus on the mission of the organization or on their own professional rise in the organization? Do employees work as a unified team?

Can I realize the full extent of my skills, abilities, and interests?

Before answering this question, social workers should have a clear understanding of their skills, abilities, and interests. We become frustrated when we cannot use or expand upon these aspects of self. A lack of challenge causes boredom and complacency as we resign ourselves to accept the droll of stagnant repetition.

Workplace environments that encourage employee growth cultivate loyalty.   Some social workers may only think about how their skills, abilities, or interests enable them to meet the requirements of their jobs. They should, however, think about the impact these qualities have on their capacity to meet and exceed the mission of the organization. Insightful leaders in an organization will understand and use all available resources to meet the organization’s mission. This includes allowing staff members to do what they do best.

Are we working toward the same outcome?

Do you share the vision and mission of your organization? Does the result you are working towards match the result your organization expects? These are crucial questions for social workers who have been on the job for at least five years. You have worked in the organization long enough to know whether your goals align. If you are or have been in a committed relationship, think about the dissonance that occurs when the individuals disagree on joint goals and desires. No one is happy and the relationship suffers.  Employment is not very different. You will commit to the organization’s stated outcome and method for achieving it when you work in your ideal work environment.

From Homelessness to Giving Back – A Student’s Journey

On August 12, 2020, Gordon Wayne began a 16 day, 550-mile trek from Virginia to Boston College, all on foot. At first glance, Gordon may appear to be an average, middle-class college student. However, last year, Gordon was facing very different circumstances. Despite working extremely long hours and attending community college, Gordon was experiencing homelessness. With his car as his only means of shelter, Gordon applied to Boston College and was accepted with a full financial aid package which included housing. Months after, during a pandemic that caused a rise in foreclosure and evictions, Gordon took to the streets – literally – to create awareness and raise money for homelessness.

Gordon is far from alone in his experience of homeless – in Virginia alone, there are almost 6,000 people experiencing homelessness every night. Throughout the United States, the number increases to over 550,000, with about 68,000 of those individuals being college students. In fact, a recent study showed that 60% of college students had experienced food insecurity or housing insecurity within the last 30 days. The current COVID-19 pandemic has put an increased strain on the available resources for students who were already struggling. The time spent residing on campus during the semester was often a safe space for these students, who may now have to find alternate arrangements.

With many colleges now going remote, some students are left with no place to go to finish their semester. Some schools regularly have programs to address homelessness among students; for example, Kennesaw State University’s Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment (CARE) Services is a program that offers assistance with housing, food insecurity, and supportive services. A growing number of schools host campus food pantries, which have grown in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. While other schools may not have ongoing dedicated programs like KSU, many are able to provide guidance to students about local resources.

Depending on the area they live in, people experiencing homelessness can face harsh weather conditions if they are unsheltered and struggle to access basic necessities like food, water, and bathrooms. Without access to bathrooms or similar facilities, it can be near-impossible to maintain a socially acceptable presence, making it even harder to find a job. On top of all of this, many people experiencing homelessness encounter high levels of violence and do not have access to adequate healthcare. The inability to access healthcare can leave many physical and mental problems untreated.

One of the most effective programs to reduce homelessness is the federal housing assistance program. While it can take time to access due to waiting lists, this is a stable solution to housing insecurity. Recent years have seen a push for a new approach using the Housing First model. Housing First means that while housing is the top priority, services are available to help in other aspects of life as well, while taking the whole person into account. Housing First takes away many of the traditional barriers to accessing housing and offers it to those who want it, not just those who have proven they are “ready” for housing by maintaining sobriety or meeting other prerequisites.

Gordon’s journey was an incredible display of both human resilience and generosity. A few strangers brought Gordon supplies during his walk and even more donated to his fundraising site. Since starting his walk, Gordon has raised over $160,000 to benefit the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

https://twitter.com/Time4Homes/status/1325801599793500167

This year, the week of November 15-22 was National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Every year the National Coalition for the Homeless works with the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness to raise money and awareness for individuals struggling with food and housing insecurity. To make a contribution to National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, click here. For those in need of assistance with food, here is a list of food pantries.

With winter approaching and many unknowns still surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the stressors each individual is facing are constantly changing. Until December 31, 2020, there is a national eviction moratorium, meaning you cannot be evicted from your apartment due to the nonpayment of rent or fees. In order to be protected under this moratorium, you must submit a form to your landlord. If you are in need of help with rent, there are COVID-19 rental assistance programs throughout the country. You can also find local resources by calling 211 or visiting the 211 website here.

How are We Listening to Our Clients in Times of Crisis?

Who (or what) comes to your mind when you think about active listening?

For me, I think about my girlfriend Jo. She gives her complete attention to my stories, her sole intention to understand. She does not interrupt while I narrate, excepting necessary clarifications. The energy steers me to confide in her. She is my definition of active listening.

As Carl R Rogers, an American psychologist and founder of the person-centered approach asserted:

“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”

Social work, without an iota of doubt, involves a lot of listening as we engage with our clients. Hence, the approaches we employ to listen, especially while COVID-19 is taking a negative toll on various aspects of our well-being, can determine the effectiveness of our services.

In order to actively listen, we often must make an effort to be aware of our prejudices and preferences within personal and professional realms. Hence, our commitment to our ethical responsibilities to our clients by respecting their human dignity, worth, and self-determination to make decisions for themselves. This awareness is possible when one is cognizant of different ways of interacting and listening.

For instance, in Collaborating with the Enemy, Kahane mentions the following 4 types of listening techniques: downloading, debating, dialoguing, and presenting.

  • In downloading mode, the person thinks their story is the ultimate truth and ignores or suppresses other narratives out of anger, fear, or arrogance. In this phase, the person only listens to their own stories and agrees to perspectives they are comfortable with. The author points out this is usually a behavior expressed by dictators or experts.
  • While in the debating approach, the space for the various views of expression, some ideas win while others lose. In this mode, people are aware of their perspectives are not absolute, so outward listening can occur.
  • Through dialoguing technique, one person listens empathetically and subjectively to another. This is self-reflective and listening happens from inside them. Kahane reminds this style promotes new possibilities to emerge.
  • Finally, in presenting mode, people listen without any agenda and are open to conversations without boundaries. The individual is fully present and pays attention to not just a specific idea or person but considers the system as a whole.

Because the nature of our job grants us the freedom to perform a wide variety of functions at various levels and capacities (such as facilitating, coaching, counseling, educating, developing resources, writing and researching, advocating, managing, leading, negotiating, building communities, and more) the significance of listening with empathy and patience cannot be underestimated. This will not only enable us to understand their changing needs but also influences our efficiency and capacity to serve our clients well.

What Options Do Furloughed Workers Have?

The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the United States caused a serious disruption in the daily lives of most American workers. Although many people are able to work from home, or are still working under “essential employee” status, others have been laid off or furloughed. 

The Healthcare Sector

In the healthcare industry, doctors and nurses, radiologists and anesthesiologists, receptionists, and other healthcare staff are facing furloughs in the millions. As the rise of COVID-19 leads to the restriction of all unnecessary or elective procedures, private doctors’ offices, and specialty clinics such as endoscopy centers, plastic surgery facilities, and out-patient/day surgery centers are out of work across the country. 

In fact, reports this past April cited that nearly 1.9 million Americans were employed at family medicine offices which closed because of the virus. While doctors may still be able to “see” patients through teledoc-type systems, many of the nurses, medical assistants, receptionists, and janitorial staff have either been laid off, are experiencing severely reduced hours, or have been furloughed.

A furlough means workers are suspended without pay but, typically, they do still receive health benefits and are eligible for re-hire once the company reopens. In fact, government workers still retain employment rights that prevent them from being fired during a furlough without the typical process. As helpful as these benefits are, furloughed employees still need a source of income while waiting for the virus to run its course. There is an abundance of uncertainty surrounding how quickly businesses will re-open and when they will get back to full capacity.

Other Employment

While some businesses are shuttered, others may be hiring. In most cases, if a furloughed worker is interested in doing so, they are free to seek other employment. Similar to seeking employment while working, the employer cannot retaliate against an employee for finding another job while they are on furlough. This can be full-time, part-time, permanent, seasonal, or temporary work. 

If a furloughed employee does not want to find another job permanently, they usually have the option of seeking other employment during the length of the furlough. However, employers are able to create policies against furloughed workers having simultaneous employment during the furlough in situations where it may jeopardize the safety and security of the company. This can include trade secrets, protected company information, customer/client sources, and other company property. Employees should check with their individual employers to discuss their options of seeking short term employment until the company is able to bring them back on board. 

Unfortunately, many of the frontline healthcare workers who were battling the virus every day have been furloughed and quarantined due to exposure to, or worse, contraction of the virus. Hundreds of healthcare workers, especially those in states significantly impacted by the virus, have been infected, and countless more have gotten sick in states which have not kept track of their case count. If a healthcare worker is unable to work, unable to seek other employment, and unable to seek temporary employment, what can they do? 

Unemployment Benefits

Thankfully, most furloughed employees are able to receive unemployment benefits. Employees must be careful about unemployment because if upon returning to work, they get back-pay from their employer, the employee will have to repay any benefits they received. However, with new, federal, temporary rules set in place to combat the financial consequences of the virus, many furloughed workers can find help. In addition to receiving $600 each week on top of the state’s maximum amount until July 31st, applicants will also be able to receive benefits for two or three times longer than normal. Also, contractors and self-employed individuals are now eligible for benefits. The waiting period to apply for benefits, the regular check-ins, and the ongoing job search requirements have been waived. With a record 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment in April and rates still disproportionately high now, this relief couldn’t come soon enough.  

Answering the Call

With COVID-19 still going strong, these furloughed healthcare workers have answered the call to help. In New York, a cry for help yielded over 80,000 healthcare volunteers to relieve those nurses and medical staff run ragged in New York hospitals. With the number of COVID cases rising nationwide, the more doctors there are, the more people treated and, hopefully, the more who recover. 

Many states are loosening licensing requirements in order to meet demand. A simple Google search will lead you to page after page of hospitals asking for volunteers to help with the crisis. Doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers are coming out of retirement to help. Nurses are relocating to other states to provide assistance. Doctors, unable to practice as they regularly would due to the shutdowns, are going back to the basics to help treat the virus.

For those with experience outside of the healthcare industry, there are still many companies that are hiring during the pandemic. All essential companies, including grocery stores, gas stations, many retail stores, and restaurants may have reduced hours in some locations but are “business as usual” otherwise. Companies like 7-Eleven, ACE Hardware, CVS Pharmacy, Dominos, and UPS, to name a few, are experienced a rise in demand due to the virus and are hiring at various locations.

Companies with remote positions are also hiring. This includes positions in the technology field, social media forums, and tech support positions for internet and cable companies. The virtual meeting platform Zoom is experiencing much higher demand since the shutdowns began and is looking for employees, as are internet/television companies like Spectrum. 

Every American has been affected by the spread of COVID-19, in one aspect or another. Whether struggling with the insanity of working a healthcare or retail job, the nuances of working from home, or the financial consequences of a layoff or furlough, most of us are eagerly awaiting the day society returns to normalcy. For those who have been furloughed, the situation is all the more difficult to navigate. Whether you choose to seek new or temporary employment with one of the companies that are still hiring or you decide to take advantage of the current assistance available through unemployment, there is help available. 

What We Could Learn From The Sierra Club’s Self-Reckoning

The Sierra Club did something very difficult: it admitted it had a problem. The long-standing conservation organization released a statement acknowledging the prejudices of its founder and environmental icon, John Muir, along with its problematic beginnings and harmful impacts to Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing and the ensuing protests, there has been reenergized conversation around reckoning with the past in order to create a better future. The Sierra Club’s honest acknowledgment of its origins and its commitment to transparent improvement should be a model for how institutions can recognize their past without invalidating the positive work they have done. A problem can only be fixed once it is acknowledged and deemed worthy of action. Our country should take note.

The Sierra Club is one of the nation’s largest and most influential environmental organizations. Since its founding in 1892, the club has worked to preserve and create new public parks, lobbied for the adoption of renewable energy and the protection of clean water, campaigned against the use of coal, and promoted youth environmental education. It’s co-founder and first president, John Muir, inspired many with his writings and assisted in creating the movement that would become the National Park System, earning him the moniker “Father of the National Parks.”

Despite his achievements, the organization recently issued a public apology for Muir’s harmful writings and beliefs. It noted his derogatory comments and characterizations of Black and Indigenous people that played on racist stereotypes, saying, “As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color.”

The Sierra Club screened out potential members based on race, limiting the historical environmental engagement of people of color. Beyond the club’s membership, Muir’s views and statements were emblematic of many of the early conservation movement’s problems. The very lands that were being protected had been taken by white settlers who drove out its indigenous populations. Muir’s ideal state of conservation seemed to be “the lone white man at one with nature.” This exclusionary view has had lasting effects, including a disproportionately low number of people of color visiting national parks, with 25% of Black and Hispanic people seeing national parks as unsafe.

A founding father who inspired a movement spanning generations but begun on land only considered “free” once its indigenous populations were driven out. An icon whose prejudices ran counter to his overarching positive message, creating a vision he and his generation couldn’t, and frankly didn’t desire to, uphold. A monumental figure who moved the world in a positive direction, while not only excluding but damaging communities of color, creating systemic and generational harm. Sounds familiar.

With its statement, the Sierra Club has already taken a larger step than many in the United States. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that while 59% of Americans believe Black people face discrimination, only 44% believe that it is systemic and perpetuated by policy and institutions – throwing the burden of racism from our largest institution, our country, to a few “bad apples.”

While there is a bit of optimism in this poll that shows 51% supporting the removal of confederate statues, an ABC/Washington Post poll finds that such support was not able to gain the majority. Their polling showed that only 43% of Americans supported removing statues honoring Confederate generals and 42% supported renaming military bases named after Confederate generals. Whichever poll one chooses to believe, the message is still that barely or less than half of Americans believe we should remove statues and names of the military leaders who fought to preserve the ownership and selling of humans.

Admitting a problem is the first step to recovery. It is not saying that we are rotten to the core, have never done good, or are irredeemable, but it is acknowledging that we have done damage to ourselves and to those to whom we have a responsibility. Sometimes it takes an intervention, but it can go no further without self-acceptance. If we are to celebrate the glory of our beginnings, we must also recognize our horrors, and those horrors’ lasting effects. The Sierra Club has begun the work – we should too.

How to Deal with Case-Overload as a Social Worker and Carer

If you are a social worker, you probably know better than anyone just how much pressure has been put on professionals since the Covid-19 crisis began. It appears that more than 70% of children’s social workers are struggling with caseloads since the pandemic outbreak according to recent data.

Only 4% said their workload was ‘comfortably manageable’, whilst 24% said it was ‘mostly manageable’.
These statistics make it clear that to the vast majority, the work given to social workers is unmanageable and unrealistic. On top of this, workers are met with additional hardships such as minimal PPE (personal protective equipment) and a lack of clarity from governments about guidelines for safe practice during the outbreak.

Has the Rise in Social Workers Made it Easier?

Believe it or not, according to government data, September 2019 saw the highest record of children’s social workers in the UK. The number of agency workers also grew by 10% over this period. You would think with this surge in employment, there would be an ease on the caseloads given to professionals. However, recent feedback says otherwise.

With more and more investment going into the social work field, influential figures are beginning to realize the vital role they play in supporting both young people and families throughout the pandemic.

So, why then does it continue to be such a stressful area with both high turnovers and increasing amounts of staff going off sick due to burnout?

Common Threats to Social Workers

After finishing the arduous and complex training to become a fully qualified social worker, many are unprepared for the level of exhaustion and work expected of them. This is ironic, as the last thing you want is to make helping others such a priority that your own mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing takes the hit.

This leads to what many call burnout, which unfortunately is a commonly used phrase for those in social work.

What is burnout exactly? It’s the process of struggling to operate, becoming more closed from input, increasingly resigned, irritable, and acquiring a tendency to become angry easily. Sadly, when a social worker reaches this stage, they may have to take extensive time off, or even worse are forced to resign or get fired.

On top of this, the high expectations required alongside poor supervision or mentorship given to social workers makes it difficult to withhold the demanding role and the emotional exhaustion it brings.

Moreover, self-care is a substantial element to burnout prevention and should be taken seriously by all those working in areas that can be emotionally and mentally draining.

Ways to Prioritize Self-care as a Social Worker

To avoid overload and burnout completely, researchers have found that it is particularly helpful to prevent things such as compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and secondary traumatic stress.

By taking self-care seriously, professionals can assess their own needs and ensure they are being met without feeling guilty. From finding supportive mentors, a positive peer group, pursuing personal goals and hobbies to relaxation, there’s plenty social workers can do to increase their wellbeing. Here are some ideas:

Prioritize your comfort in and out of work

Try to eat lunch at your desk as little as possible, invest in a comfortable chair, fill your office or desk with your favorite plants that refresh your spirits. If it helps to play relaxing music that puts your mind at ease while you type up reports, then that is what you need to do.

Get into healthy routines

Conditioning your mind and body to carry out habitual activities that ground and center you are a crucial part of self-care. Before reaching the office for example, can you find one hour to go to the gym? Are you a church-goer who finds peace from worship? If so maybe you can schedule a time to visit after your day is finished. It depends on what self-care strategies work for you personally. Finding these and sticking to them will help prevent burnout.

Seek support

Within the workplace, there should be access to mentorship or advice you can seek out. Also, ensure you surround yourself with a peer group that you feel comfortable opening up to. Learn to check in with each other and personally debrief after an intense case to process what happened and figure out your next steps.

As we can see, social work is never easy, and unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before things become balanced for the majority of professionals. However, taking personal ownership over your self-care is fundamental if you want to avoid burnout and continue serving your community as a successful social worker.

Why Housing Affordability Needs To Be Reevaluated

Traditionally, academics and policymakers have determined whether an individual or family can afford to live somewhere by simply dividing their housing costs by their income. If at least 30 percent of a person’s or family’s income goes to housing and related expenses like utilities, then their household is said to be “cost burdened.” The ratio is not determined by economic or social analysis; rather, it is simply the number Congress chose in 1981, which has not been changed nor updated since. Although this approach is easy to understand, it falls short of accurately reflecting the financial burdens people actually experience. This is a problem because many federal housing programs rely on this 30 percent measure to determine rent.

Measuring Housing Affordability

This ratio-based approach breaks down for Americans with extremely low incomes. If wages decline, a middle-class family could potentially downsize its home or related expenses. When people live below the poverty line, however, they must spend above a minimum just to reside in a home that meets the local building codes and meets basic human needs.

“Shelter poverty” analysis provides an alternative to the traditional approach. Shelter poverty is a concept that was first developed by Michael Stone, a professor of community planning, in the 1970s. In this analysis, instead of comparing housing costs to income, housing costs are evaluated in the broader context of the household’s other basic needs, including food, clothing, and transportation. If housing costs are high enough that household’s residents cannot cover these basics from their income, then they are said to be experiencing shelter poverty. The challenge for this method lies in determining how much money must be spent to meet other needs, especially because the federal government no longer publishes such estimates for non-housing necessities.

The Self-Sufficiency Standard, created by University of Washington senior lecturer Diana Pearce in the 1990s, addresses this issue by compiling estimates of basic expenditures from various public and private sources, based on the county of residence, the number of persons in the household, and the age(s) of any children present. This information can be combined with anonymized responses to the American Community Survey, a nationally representative survey conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau. The combined data make it possible to determine whether each household in the sample is experiencing shelter poverty. This method also helps determine if, and by how much, households fall short in covering their expenses. That is called the “affordability gap.” Using estimates developed in this way, analysts can extrapolate out to the general U.S. population.

Housing Affordability in Ohio and South Carolina

A shelter poverty analysis was conducted for Ohio renters who responded to the American Community Survey, and for sampled South Carolina renters and homeowners (including both mortgage holders and those who own a home free and clear). In both states, the shelter poverty method generates substantially different results than a basic cost burden analysis. Although overall rates of economic distress are generally similar using the two different measures, the total affordability gap using the shelter poverty measure is substantially larger. Among Ohio renters, it would take over $3 billion annually to address cost burdens using the 30 percent metric, but nearly $15 billion per year to mitigate shelter poverty entirely. The disparity is somewhat narrower in South Carolina, but a similar gap exists.

There are differences in the areas of need as well. In both Ohio and South Carolina, the prevalence of a cost burden measured by the ratio system is higher than the burden of shelter poverty in suburban areas with the highest median household incomes. In economically distressed urban and rural areas in both states, far more households experience shelter poverty than excessive ratio cost burdens. In other words, it appears that current standards of housing affordability overstate the needs of families who are most able to pay and understate burdens for those least able to do so.

Improving Housing Affordability

Overall, experts may not be accurately describing the magnitude and nature of housing affordability challenges in the United States. Those experiencing shelter poverty are found in nearly every community nationwide. In South Carolina, which is not by national standards a particularly expensive state to live in, households experiencing shelter poverty (nearly one-third of all individuals and families statewide) have an average affordability gap of $14,330 per year, or about $275 per week.

Meanwhile, the geographic distribution of shelter poverty suggests that the 30 percent measure distorts the landscape of housing affordability. That distortion happens because there are households that choose to spend more than 30 percent of their income voluntarily and are thus inappropriately categorized as cost burdened. Meanwhile, others spend less than 30 percent on housing costs but still find they do not have enough to make ends meet. Taken together, failure to consider these issues leads decision-makers to understate the level of economic inequality among U.S. households.

It is worth noting that affordability gaps are not only measures of deprivation experienced by less fortunate Americans. These gaps also reflect economic activity that is lost due to the inability of many households to meet basic needs. Ohio renters have about $15 billion less to spend each year as consumers in the state’s economy because they lack access to affordable housing.

Although housing costs have become more politically salient in recent years, the scope and scale of the problem have not been fully articulated. Housing is the single largest expense for most individuals and families, and it is typically regulated at the county and municipal level through zoning codes and related ordinances. Local policymakers must consider whether their policies are harming the welfare of residents and businesses alike by artificially restricting housing supply or preventing construction of subsidized housing.

All Americans have a stake in better measurements of housing affordability – and better solutions to the shortfalls many people face in this vital area. A shortage of affordable homes can have numerous downstream effects. Employers may face high rates of labor turnover if employees cannot find places to live in the vicinity. Longer commuting distances increase the amount of traffic and contribute to urban sprawl, which has a variety of negative environmental, social, and economic consequences.

To find solutions, local officials must engage with homeowners, renters, business owners, and nonprofit groups, as well as housing policy experts in the public and private sectors. To ensure communities across the country have a path toward a prosperous and sustainable future, everyone must be able to find a suitably located and affordable place to call home.

Opinions expressed in this brief are those of the author alone, not the State of South Carolina or any other entity.

Read more in Bryan P. Grady, “Shelter Poverty in Ohio: An Alternative Analysis of Rental Housing Affordability,” Housing Policy Debate 29, no. 6 (November 2019): 977-989.

Why Countries With Women Leaders are Beating Coronavirus

When it comes to Covid-19, unlike manliness, different approaches can be measured objectively by numbers of cases and deaths. By that measure, the heads of state who imposed isolation measures early, relying on medical experts, clearly saved lives in places such as New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan. Those countries’ leaders are female and have drawn attention. But, another factor is this: being women, those leaders do not carry the baggage of worrying about their manliness.  They are free to respond to a major problem dispassionately, based on “sober judgment” and without regard to bravado. 

It can take more strength to tell people not to act than to encourage their aggressiveness. The leaders who imposed swift quarantines showed such strength. The adverse economic impacts of curbing movement and commerce were easy to anticipate, but the upside was not clear: what if the quarantines did not prove effective in reducing virus transmission and death?  

“Cover Your Face in Public,” a large highway sign instructs drivers entering Manhattan. “We are NY Tough,” reads the next digital panel.

Nice try, communications team, but when President Trump consistently derides mask-wearing as “weak,” equating it with toughness is a hard sell.  Yet the sign-writers evidently believed that to counter the “weak” narrative, only “tough” would do. 

Are they really talking about masks?  Or are they talking about manliness? Given the history of our nation’s conversation about “manliness,” it’s a valid question.  

Sociologist Michael Kimmel has written that “the story of America [is] a story of proving and testing manhood.” In the late 1890’s, for example, when President William McKinley sought to avoid war with Spain over its brutal treatment of Cubans, Theodore Roosevelt, then a Navy bureaucrat, accused McKinley of having “no more backbone than a chocolate éclair.” Jingoist newspapers agreed, calling McKinley a “goody-goody man”—or no man at all. The New York Journal published a cartoon depicting McKinley as an elderly woman pushing a broom against the will of Congress and “The People,” represented as menacing ocean waves. The caption read “Another Old Woman Tries to Sweep Back the Sea.”

Roosevelt and other hawks declared that war against Spain would strengthen American men, who had become too “soft” in their view. If men were stronger, the argument went, women would give up their quest for the vote and focus on being wives and mothers, satisfied that the nation was in good, manly hands. War did take place in summer 1898, and the quick trouncing of Spain ushered in a hyper-aggressive standard of masculinity that still holds sway with many—though women hardly forsook the vote and participation in public life.

In the face of the threats we’re confronting today, including a pandemic, it is important to remember that even in the 1890s a large number of men did not support a martial definition of manliness.   

Senator David Hill of New York, for example, asserted that whether to fight Spain was not “simply a question as to whether we were a brave enough people to enter upon the experiment.” As historian Kristin Hoganson writes, Hill “and like-minded leaders regarded the Cuban issue not as a crusade but as a policy issue to be settled by sober statement and foreign policy authorities. In effect, they contended that the kind of manhood that should govern foreign policy debate was…that of the dispassionate, educated expert, someone who exercised restraint and sober judgment.”

That sounds a lot like the debates over how to respond to Covid-19: medical expertise and the virtues of compassion and restraint versus assertions of individual “freedom” to do as one pleases. 

Today, few officials would argue that a course of action is right because it is “manly.” A statement such as ”I want American manhood asserted” (Sen. William M. Stewart, R, Nev., speaking in 1897) would be considered as retrograde in 2020 as “men working” signs.

But concerns with manliness still influence our politics. They are more coded, especially in the language of President Trump, who has resurrected Roosevelt’s least estimable traits by portraying life as a struggle between the strong and the weak. Jeff Sessions was “very weak” and not “being a man” when he decided to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is “that woman from Michigan.” Amid the current wave of protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, he is pushing for governors to “get tough” and telling them, “most of you are weak.”

Trump is not the only male leader to insert coded manliness concerns into the Covid-12 debate. When Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was willing to die to save the economy, that also echoed Roosevelt. Faced with an enemy unbeatable through physical force, Patrick turned to dying for his country as a supposedly heroic option.

Yet Covid-19 teaches that strength is not the same as physical power, nor is strength male or female. Those who insist on characterizing Covid-19 as an enemy in a war must accept that in this war, the men and women who made us stand back may have shown the strength we most need. 

Wake-Up Call for Human Devastation of Natural World

COVID-19 has proven to be a worldwide tragedy. Four billion people are now under orders to stay at home. As of this writing, nearly two million individuals have tested positive worldwide for COVID-19 and there are over 100,000 deaths. The United States is now leading the world in confirmed cases with over 500,000 cases identified.

Reports vary, but scientists believe that the COVID-19 outbreak originated in a bat or pangolin, in a wet animal market in Wuhan, China. Pangolins are believed to be the most trafficked animal in the world and are used for traditional medicine in China and Vietnam. The “wet” animal markets in China are notorious for lack of hygiene with crates of live and dead animals stacked on top of each other with animals being slaughtered on the spot. This has led to decades of deadly viruses emerging from these markets, including MERS, SARS and Bird Flus (H5N1 and H7N9).

The trade in exotic animals has risen in recent years to accommodate the wealthier population in China who believe that consuming exotic animals, such as civet cats, can produce increased virility among other benefits. The Chinese government has supported the farming of exotic animals in attempt to provide rural farmers with the ability to earn money, but the rise of an elite class in China has driven the increased demand for these animals. Related to this, the demand for horns from rhinos and tusks from elephants in China and Vietnam for traditional medicine is pushing these species to the brink of extinction. Sadly, due to decreased tourism due to COVID-19, poaching of rhinos has reportedly increased in South Africa and Botswana.

Until recently, China had no animal welfare laws and had promoted the belief that wild animals are to be thought of solely for their benefit of humans. Even now, China has promoted the use of bear bile as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Extracting bear bile utilizes a cruel technique of draining bile from a live bear’s gallbladder, as a bear may be kept in a cage for this purpose for many years, and there have even been cases of bears paws being cut off as they are kept alive in cages only for the purpose of producing bile.

China, however, is not alone in promoting animal cruelty as we have to look no further than the popular Netflix documentary Tiger King to see how tigers are exploited nationwide for personal profit. Astonishingly, captive tigers in the United States actually outnumber tigers in the wild. Undercover footage by the Humane Society of the United States details the abysmal conditions that the tigers in Tiger King were forced to live under, in an endless cycle of breeding and mishandling that led to early death of many of the cubs. The tragic consequences of private ownership of exotic animals was most sadly highlighted in the incident in which an individual in Zanesville, Ohio released 49 exotic animals he privately owned and then killed himself. The majority of the escaped animals were killed by police for the safety of the public.

The United States is also no leader in matters related to humane slaughter of animals, but merely puts it largely out of the eye of public view in the form of large-scale factory farms. Most factory farmed animals are kept in barren cages so confining that they cannot move and live a short life of suffering. Only just this month, a bird flu emerged from a poultry processing plant in South Carolina.

Overconsumption, exploitation, and degradation of the natural world is pushing animal species to the brink of extinction with polar bears invading Russian cities in search of food; a reported decline of 100,000 orangutans due to expansion of the palm oil industry in Indonesia; and frequent violent exchanges between villagers and elephants throughout India as elephants no longer have places to go as human development encroaches into animal territory. There are estimates that one billion animals died Australia’s devastating wildfires last year.

Continued exploitation and disregard for the environment is also leading to displacement of human populations resulting in climate refugees, which has been seen largely due to changing weather patterns as a result of global warming. This has led to more deadly storms, increasing sea levels and greater desertification. Many climate refugees are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, but also in the United States as recently seen by the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico. Likewise, human conflict surrounding natural resources such as water and minerals is becoming more exacerbated as resources become more scarce. Pope Francis has even gone as far as to state that perhaps COVID-19 is nature’s response to the current ecological crisis.

During our current worldwide shut-down communities have noted the positive impact it has had on the environment, with individuals reporting seeing the Himalayan mountain range for the first time in decades, less pollution in cities worldwide, less noise in cities, and with the earth itself shaking less due to fewer cars and trains moving on the earth’s surface. People are even doing searches asking if birds have gotten louder, seemingly hearing them better with less noise.

There is hope moving forward—Shenzhen, China just banned the consumption of dogs and cats, which was followed by guidance from the Chinese federal government banning the farming of dogs for consumption, signaling a possible nationwide ban. Recently, there have been worldwide calls for the ban of wet markets.

COVID-19 presents us with a unique opportunity to reassess our relationship with the animals and the environment around us and to examine how we can more peacefully co-exist. If we cannot do this, it will affect our ability to improve the world around us.

Making Your Mental Health a Priority in 2020

As we begin a new decade, 2020 is testing the mental health of humanity. After the world mourned the loss of Kobe Bryant to start the new year,  we are now in the midst of a global corona virus pandemic with looming public health and economic consequences so severe experts are unable to quantify its impact. With social distancing, stay at home orders, and a host of economic challenges, humanity’s resolve is being stretched past our normal limits. Maybe you made a list of resolutions or life changes you wanted to make in 2020. But, one the is for sure, collectively we must be more diligent in protecting our mental health and develop coping mechanisms to help us endure these turbulent times. 

Based on surveying individuals, it was estimated that, in 2018, 19.1 percent of Americans 18 years old and up had a mental illness in the last year. Maybe you have a mental illness, maybe you don’t. Either way, your mental health is important. So what are some practical things you can work on?

Get sufficient sleep.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conveys that a person might have an elevated likelihood of poor mental health, some physical health problems, and dying prematurely if the person regularly doesn’t sleep for sufficient time. They indicate that it is advised for individuals ages 18 to 60 to sleep at least 7 hours a night.

If you’re not making enough time for sleep, now is the time to start. As hard as it may be, tell yourself you’ll finish that television show or those household chores tomorrow.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are things you can try. Commit yourself to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends). Don’t drink too much caffeine, especially later in the day. Stop using devices that produce blue light (like your smartphone, laptop, and television) at least an hour before bed. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises.

Exercise.

One of the many reasons to exercise is that it might improve your mental health. Try to find something that you’ll enjoy, so you’ll actually stick with exercising. You might decide to start regularly playing a sport with friends, going to a fitness class, or enthusiastically dancing to some of your favorite music. 

If you have any health conditions that might be made worse by exercising, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider first. Together you can develop a plan that is right for you.

Plan ways to reduce stress.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conveys that being stressed long-term could be detrimental: it might play a part in mental and physical illnesses, for instance anxiety, heart disease, and depression. Some things that stress us out are beyond our control. A family member might fall ill or a car might suddenly break down. However, some stressful situations can be avoided with better planning. 

If you find it stressful to do all of your household cleaning on Saturday, make time to do a little bit at a time during the week. If you are stressed as soon as you start reading those class syllabi, sit down with a planner and figure out when you will allot time to work on each thing you need to do (maybe you can start working on that final paper a little earlier so you then have time to focus on studying for exams). Yes, it takes some upfront time investment to plan, and it takes commitment to stick to the plan. However, it might help you feel less stressed (and maybe you’ll do better on those exams too!).

Another important thing to plan? Time to do things that you enjoy. Maybe its hiking or crafting or reading. Determine when you are going to do these things, whether it’s planning to do a specific activity or simply planning to do something enjoyable. Make sure it’s a plan that’s reasonable for your life, and then stick to it.

What about those things that are out of your control, or times when you’re working on what is in your control but still stressed? Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness, might be helpful for you. Research how to do these things, and practice them when you are not feeling stressed.

Take care of your physical health.

Mental health and physical health are connected. Physical health conditions can affect a person’s mental health. For instance, hypothyroidism might make a person feel depressed, and hyperthyroidism might make a person feel anxious. Low vitamin D levels could contribute to feeling depressed.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a healthcare provider for a physical, schedule one now. Even if you feel good physically and mentally, a healthcare provider might detect a health concern before it starts causing issues, and some conditions are easily treatable.

Assess your substance use.

For persons who don’t consume alcohol, beginning is not advised by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. If a person is going to drink and is old enough to do so legally, for men they advise two drinks or less a day and for women they advise one drink or less a day.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provides limits for “low-risk” drinking. Low-risk drinking is drinking 7 or fewer drinks in a week as well as drinking 3 or fewer in a day for women. For men, it’s drinking 14 or fewer drinks in a week as well as 4 or fewer in a day. It is recommended that men older than 65 do not exceed 7 drinks a week and 3 a day. For some individuals, it is recommended to not drink at all.

If you are drinking more than these limits, it’s time to reduce how much you drink or quit drinking entirely. However, NIAAA conveys that you shouldn’t try to quit drinking on your own if you might have a dependence on alcohol, as withdrawal could be deadly. Talk with a healthcare provider if you think you might be dependent.

If you are using any illegal substances or misusing any medications, talk with a healthcare provider. It’s important to stop using/misusing these, but stopping without supervision may be dangerous, depending on the substance and other factors.

Seek help.

If you think you might have a mental illness, reach out for help. You can talk with your primary care provider or schedule an appointment with a mental healthcare provider, such as a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner.

A healthcare provider can talk to you about your symptoms and work with you to develop a plan. Therapy and/or medication might be beneficial for you. 

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Racializing the Corona Virus Disease is Not Helpful

Over the past week, President Trump has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.” The virus, first reported in China in November, has now spread to every continent. Today, most reported cases are outside of China.

Mr. Trump has denied accusations of racism. Instead, he claims he is countering a disinformation campaign promoted by Chinese officials that the U.S. military was the source of the outbreak, but this assertion has not been confirmed.

Key Trump allies, including Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, have begun spreading the discredited hypothesis that the virus may have originated from a Chinese government laboratory.

When statements like these, coming from top government officials, get uncritically reproduced in some media outlets, they fuel the narrative that a single ethnic group, the Chinese, are to blame for this unfortunate pandemic.

In doing so, they fan the flames of ethnic hatred. Mainstream news outlets have documented multiple reports of individuals of Asian descent being harassed and attacked as likely carriers of the virus. In addition, small Chinese businesses saw their number of customers plummet even before social distancing rules were established in the U.S.

Blaming immigrants and ethnic minorities for health outbreaks is an age-old trope. Medical historian Howard Merkel has described how tuberculosis, bubonic plague, trachoma, typhus, cholera, and AIDS were all attributed to specific immigrant groups.

The scapegoats have changed over time. While the Chinese were accused of spreading bubonic plague in the early 1900’s, Eastern Europeans were blamed for trachoma, a dreaded eye infection that continues to rob millions of people of their sight each year. More recently, AIDS was initially considered a “Haitian” import.

On the basis of these misguided views, officials came up with ethnic-based public policies that harmed these communities and often made things worse. Some Eastern European immigrants contracted trachoma at the hands of the very U.S. health officials in Ellis Island in charge of examining them.

Similarly, when a Chinese immigrant came down with bubonic plague in 1900, the city of San Francisco quarantined its Chinatown. Since the plague was considered a “Chinese” disease, Whites were able to enter or leave. Authorities inspected every building in Chinatown and burned property suspected of harboring filth. Some concerned Chinese residents reacted by hiding sick residents. These measures were not only discriminatory, but they also failed to contain the disease.

It’s important that we recognize and keep this history in mind as we respond to the novel coronavirus. As history has shown time and again, microbes are quite egalitarian in their mode of attack. Rather than accentuating ethnic cleavages, what we need are community-wide solutions.

In my own research, I document the power that political elites, like Mr. Trump, have via their public statements to shape how the general public reacts to immigrants. I found that exposure to Mr. Trump’s derogatory statements about immigrants hardened the expressed immigration views of respondents, particularly among Republicans and individuals without college degrees. Though the effect of these statements was short-lived, Mr. Trump is known for doubling-down on his divisive rhetoric to keep his base excited.

Major health outbreaks require a global, unified response. Instead of exacerbating social divisions, as Mr. Trump is currently doing, our leaders should try to bring people together behind sound public health solutions like social distancing. Many lives may depend on it.

The Untold Migration Story – How Improved Policies Can Benefit Both Receiving And Sending Societies

From the U.S. travel ban to the rise of anti-immigrant populists in Europe, politicians often decry migration in times of moral and economic crisis. Controversies can easily preclude a balanced understanding of what migration means – not only for immigrants and their new societies, but also for the places migrants leave behind.

Recent waves of migration from Africa and the Middle East are related not only to civil wars but also to unprecedented changes in climate and the environments where people live. Migrants often risk their lives when they step into a boat or take their first step into a desert in search of opportunity. Their stories spark heated debates in the media and in the public arena about who these people are and what the future holds for them. Politicians use them as bargaining chips in domestic negotiations and international collaborations. But for every immigrant who makes it to the Mediterranean Sea or to the tightening borders of Europe, there are hundreds who do not make it and will stay behind. Their stories are never told, and their struggles are often forgotten amid discussions about those who actually can migrate.

Migration and Climate Change

When people migrate as respond to climate change, it is generally assumed that things go even worse for the people who stay behind. In most cases this is true. People who stay behind face major changes in their livelihood — when agricultural yields go down, sea-levels go up, and severe weather threatens the life and health of all those who cannot afford to leave.

Sometimes, however, there are delightful twists to this doomsday scenario. When climate changes, skilled and educated people are usually the ones who can afford to migrate. The economies they leave behind are in increasingly dire need of skilled labor. In my research, I show that migration can actually help those remaining behind by creating strong incentives for them to develop skills. Unfortunately, this narrative is often left out of the immigration debate. Migration may not only be beneficial for those who leave, but more so for those who stay behind.

When more fortunate people leave a community to migrate in search of opportunities, others often look up to them in search of better life – for their children, even if they cannot afford it for themselves.

Modeling Migration

To study the impact of climate change on migration and population dynamics, I develop an overlapping generations model that considers two economic sectors: agriculture and industry. I also model two types of individuals: high skilled and low skilled. This allows me to study the impact of climate change not only on each sector but also on the parental decisions about the number of children to have and the quality of education provided to them. My results shed light on several aspects of climate change migration that are usually overlooked in migration debates and academic studies:

  • High-skilled labor migration can create greater demand for higher education in the origin society.
  • High-skilled labor migration can induce a rise in low-skilled wages and therefore help close the inequality gap in communities that remain.
  • To maximize benefits at both ends of a migration stream, merit-based policies on the receiving end that favor skilled immigrants should be coupled with improved educational program at the sending end.

Migration is a powerful adaptation mechanism but it has its limitations. The impacts of climate change on the origin country can be only moderately alleviated – not abolished – when people choose to leave. Therefore, migration policies need to be carefully designed to bring most benefits for both sending and receiving countries.

Toward Improved Migration Policies in an Era of Climate Change

My work shows that migration has possible benefits for migrants’ origin countries, including by encouraging more people to strive for education. But motivations alone are not enough to break the “trap” and free local communities from suffering the severe impact of climate change. The international community, and host countries in particular, have moral obligations to climate-affected communities where many people will remain who cannot afford to migrate.

  • Migration policies should be eased for skilled and educated immigrants – for instance, with more student visas and work permits. But even when it becomes easier for skilled people to migrate, only a small fraction of those who could migrate will actually do so. Of course, sending communities can face problems even when just a fraction of their most skilled people leave. But at the same time, those communities can gain by encouraging education and drawing new people into jobs that require knowledge and skill.
  • The perspective I offer here implies that migration policies should be discussed and coordinated between sending and receiving countries. Unilateral polices do not work; often, for example, restrictions at the receiving end simply lead to the rise of human smuggling networks. Receiving societies could do better by facilitating the migration of qualified applicants – and at the same time working with the sending countries to improve investments in education and economic wellbeing for those who do not migrate.

Read more in Soheil Shayegh, “Outward Migration May Alter Population Dynamics and Income Inequality” Nature Climate Change 7 (October 2017): 828–832

Who Wants to Make a Macro Contribution to the United Nations?

Now is the time to contribute to one of the largest platforms on earth in order to implement changes that benefit all. For the first time, the 68th Annual UN Civil Society Conference is leaving United Nations Headquarters in New York City and heading to Salt Lake City, Utah August 26-28, 2019.

For those in the business of helping others, this is great news for travel affordability. This event has a history of heavy youth participation which promotes the intergenerational implementation of proposals and policy for sustainability.

If you’d simply like to attend, you can do so free of charge. Registration can happen at this link while spaces are still available.

To propose a workshop, please make sure the following criteria are included (there is a flat $300 fee for the venue/ room/ tech cost):

Inclusive, Safe, Resilient, Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG11) and one of the following subjects:

  • Economic Development
  • Climate Change
  • Peaceful Societies
  • Youth Empowerment
  • Infrastructure
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Women and Girls
  • Media and Communication Methods
  • Interfaith Dialogue

Workshop Application Criteria (please be sure that your workshop meets all the guidelines and requirements below):

  • Workshops should be action-oriented with a focus on learning and innovation
  • Each workshop will be 75 minutes long, with an additional 30 minutes for setup
  • Workshops should highlight the work of/and include speakers from at least two or three organisations and demonstrate partnership
  • Ensure that the session is interactive and includes the audience in the discussion
  • It is suggested that the panel does not include more than 3 speakers and a moderator to ensure participation from the audience

Priority will be given to applications submitted by civil society organisations (CSOs) formally associated with the UN Department of Global Communications (DGC) and SLC/Utah-based CSOs

Proposals must be submitted in English: https://outreach.un.org/ngorelations/content/68th-un-civil-society-conference-call-workshops-applications-submit-proposal-17-may-2019

Scotland’s Vulnerable Witnesses Bill Unanimously Passes in Parliament – Victim Support Scotland reacts

Today (10 May 2019) legislation was passed in the Scottish Parliament to ensure more child witnesses are able to pre-record evidence ahead of a jury trial, preventing the traumatic experience of presenting in court.

The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill aims to improve the quality of evidence given for the most serious offences.

In response, Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, commented:

“We welcome the passing of this Bill, which we believe is a crucial step forward in protecting and supporting children and families who have been involved in serious crime. It is well known – as we have seen through our own Witness Services from throughout Scotland – that the process of giving evidence in criminal trials can have adverse mental, physical and psychological effects on child witnesses.

“Victim Support Scotland agrees moving to pre-recorded evidence for child witnesses is one way of avoiding such trauma. Further to this, we believe that this should elicit better evidence from victims and witnesses of crime and outcomes for everyone involved in the justice sector.

“We are also heartened by the £2 million funding which the Scottish Government has committed to enabling the creation of a specialist evidence suite for children and vulnerable witnesses in Glasgow, as well as upgrades to support facilities in Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Victim Support Scotland is looking forward to supporting this initiative on the ground as part of putting victims and witnesses first in Scotland’s criminal justice system.”

About Victim Support Scotland

Victim Support Scotland is an independent charity providing support and information services to around 200,000 victims and witnesses of crime in Scotland each year.

We manage a national helpline and community-based services in courts and every local authority area in Scotland. We also provide specialised training programmes and work to raise awareness of the impact of crime on individuals, communities and society.

We have around 130 paid staff and around 500 active volunteers, working from our 30 offices as well as 40 courts across the country. Our expenditure in 2017/18 was £4.5m with the majority of our funding coming from the Scottish Government and local authorities.

Under Pressure to Hide Your True Self

As it turns out, the behaviour of people around us is contagious. This is truer the closer these relationships are – we are much more influenced by the attitudes of friends and family than we are by those of strangers.

We often think of peer pressure as a bad thing we should resist, but it can also be a powerful influencer in terms of shifting social attitudes for the better as well.

I recently read an interesting article in Scientific American about the power of social pressure and how it can influence our behaviour.  For example, one 2003 study found:

  • If a person gains weight, the likelihood their friend would also gain weight is 171%
  • When smokers quit, their friends are 36% more likely to also quit
  • Having happy friends increased the likelihood of an individual being happy by 8%

It’s also true that fitting in feels good.  We all want to feel a sense of connection and belonging and these things are hugely important to our personal wellbeing.  The difficulty is, of course, when fitting in means feeling pressured to change parts of ourselves in ways we are not comfortable with.  And feeling under pressure to force yourself to be something you’re not can cause a huge amount of psychological distress.

It’s a no-win situation – we either change (or pretend to change) for the sake of fitting into the group – and feel awful and uncomfortable about not being able to be who we really are – or we stay courageous about our convictions, but experience ostracisation and pay another kind of emotional price for that, too.

So what’s the answer?  I’m really not sure, to be honest. When I was younger, I felt huge amounts of pressure to hide my nerdy and academic interests because they didn’t seem to be shared by the people around me.  I didn’t talk about my love for sci-fi, comic books, and video games with anyone. I share the shows I loved or my love for attending classes and soaking up knowledge anywhere I could. I simply never seemed to have any friends who had the same interests.

But through my 20s, I became a lot more comfortable in my own skin and more confident that being different in some way was okay.  Just the other day a colleague pointed out a nice, but expensive piece of jewelry online.  She asked, “Wouldn’t you like to own that?”  I replied, “Actually, I’d rather have a new Xbox!”  We laughed about it.  I didn’t feel like an outcast.  I felt like I was being genuine and appreciated for that.

And maybe this is the key.  Sometimes a lot of the pressure to conform is external, but I wonder how much of it is internal as well.  I wonder if my friends in my younger years would have accepted me for who I was if I had given them the chance to.

Or maybe my hard-won comfort with who I am helps other people to feel more comfortable being themselves around me, too.  We’ve removed that pressure, together.

But I’m curious – how affected (or unaffected) do you feel by social pressure?

How Should Social Work Respond To The United States Leaving The Paris Agreement?

“Logic clearly dictates the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” – Dr. Spock (Star Trek)

This quote is at the heart of a complex political debate; Dr. Spock doesn’t think it’s that complex.  Social justice is one of the tenants of social work practice. This often places social work on the wrong side of Dr. Spocks quote.

Frequently, social workers are providing for or advocating for the needs of the few. Dr. Spock had some help in posing this quote. The question originates from the philosophy of Utilitarianism. John Stewart Mill argued that society is a collection of individuals and that what was good for individuals would make society happy.

You can see this gets messy… and quick. This philosophy was recently put to the test with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. A 195 country agreement to reduce carbon emissions and offer assistance to developing nations to do so as well. Mr. Trump makes a case for economic justice that our involvement in the Paris Accord forces us to over-regulate businesses. He also argues it places an unfair burden on The United States contribution to developing nations. Trump asserts both factors create undue pressure on some of the most economically vulnerable areas in the country. Taking a strict stance stating he “Does not represent Paris…I represent Pittsburgh”. He believes the needs of local Americans outweigh the need to cost-share climate change with the globe.

Should the United States share in the cost of global warming at the cost of our local economies? The economic impact is up for significant debate. The best analysis of this complex issue is provided by FactCheck.org. I’ll let you read it but the economic rationale for leaving the Paris Accord seems questionable. The report he cited on the economic impact ignores many factors including the growth in the renewable sector.

From the social work perspective, this creates an interesting dilemma. The virtues of Globalism versus the “America First” Populism will remain a challenge. How do the local needs of the “Rust Belt” and “coal country” interact with the global energy economy impacted the Paris Accords?

The issue of Global Warming challenges social work to think about where our “systems thinking” begins and ends. Is our profession concerned for the global good or just the area’s they serve? In a recent speech, the UN Secretary-General argued the poor and vulnerable will be hit by climate change first.

Also, what is not in question is the economic impact in the Rust Belt and Coal Country of the United States. This also depends on where you are placing “The needs of the many”. The loss of manufacturing and energy jobs has had a significant impact on services in these areas.  These voters were activated by a hope of a potential change in their economic future. These parts of the country who rely on manufacturing and energy have been economically depressed. There is fear further government regulation and lack of money in these areas will make this worse.

Even if the move out of the Paris Climate Accords does fix local economies, it creates another complex systemic problem. Again thinking about where does our “systems” thinking end? I touched on this in my post about Facebook’s global vision for the world. The debate on globalism is a complex one, but The United States leadership on climate change is not.  Have we put ourselves at disadvantage by not being a leader willing to partner in climate change?

Are countries going to want to “make a deal” with us about innovation and technology in the energy sector? How will the impact on the global economy affect our local economy? Seems like this blog post has more questions than answers.

To attempt to answer this, I again consult the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics.  Section 6.04 in social action says…

(c) Social workers should promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally. Social workers should promote policies and practices that demonstrate respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights of and confirm equity and social justice for all people.

No easy answers when thinking about dedicating United States funds which may help globally but detract from the local action. This also brings about thoughts of our core value of competence. That whatever we do to help the most vulnerable citizens in the Rust Belt, I hope it based on sound evidence.

Those policies are based on science and evidence-based practices to try to help these local economies. Whatever we do globally it places the people we serve in the healthiest and most prosperous situation.  It’s not just social workers who are thinking about the impact but physicians are weighing in as well …

How a Maori Model of Improving Care Experience Has Been Transformative for a Family in Glasgow

Most of us have been there – you look in your diary, see that you have a review case conference for a particular family in a few days and your heart sinks. Two boys who have been on the child protection register for two years. Neglect is the primary risk indicator. Mum came along to each core group and conference for the first year. She would nod her head and promise that things would change. But they didn’t, and the social workers became more worried about the boys.

For a while after that, mum still came to meetings but disagreed with most of what was being said. She would become distressed and angry, and verbally abuse workers before storming out whilst the workers continued to worry. Then mum stopped coming along altogether.

The mood in the conference was flat. Deflated. The core group team had been working really hard to help mum provide better quality care. But the rent arrears continued to accumulate and eviction was imminent. The boys weren’t at school as often as they should be and, when they were there, weren’t ready to learn. The older boy had withdrawn into himself and had taken to seeking refuge in a cupboard. The younger boy had a chronic cough and toothache, which went untreated. They often looked grubby and unkempt.

The discussion amongst the workers was full and frank. They expressed genuine concern and care for the family. Each member was fully committed and driven to affect change, despite the hostility and resistance they were encountering.

The group worked really well together. Simple things like using group e-mail to communicate so that everyone was updated and arranging meetings at the end of the day to enable the boys’ teachers to attend made a difference. This united team supported each other, and their frustration at the lack of progress was understandable.

Family Group Decision Making

It was agreed that, given the harm already caused and the continuing high risk of further harm, it was likely that we would have to seek to remove the boys from their mother’s care. The involvement and protective ability of the extended family was unclear, as mum blocked attempts to engage them. It was therefore agreed that a referral would be made to our Family Group Decision Making service (FGDM).

FGDM was brand new to Glasgow at that time. Evidence from elsewhere had suggested that using this model can really turn things around for family relationships, so we decided to put this into practice. It’s a model that originates from New Zealand, where Maori children were over-represented in the care system with little consultation with or involvement of their extended families. In Scotland, it was pioneered by Children 1st in 1998 and set up in Edinburgh initially. The aim is to enable the family to develop their own support plan which meets the children’s needs and keeps them safe.

The model had been chosen by Glasgow as it fits with the priorities of empowering families and communities, reducing the number of children being removed from their families, and identifying family contacts and placements for children already in local authority care. It was being piloted in North-East Glasgow, with considerable support from the well-established service in Edinburgh, and included an extended family network search function, using the Registrars of birth, marriages, and deaths at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow records to explore fully the family tree.

Each family is assigned a Family Group Co-ordinator, who manages the process and facilitates the family conference. She contacted and prepared the boys, mum and extended family. During this period, mum and the boys were evicted and went to live with the maternal grandmother which forced a closeness that had been missing for some time. The Family Group Co-ordinator organised the family meeting.

The family was given the parameters of what their support plan needed to cover. They were then given private time to produce their plan, which included concrete activities such as the boys getting to school/medical appointments, being available physically and emotionally for the boys, and organising social activities. One of the crucial events here was mum revealing previous trauma to her mother, sisters and workers, which no-one had known, and the subsequent rebuilding of the relationships between mum and her mother and siblings.

No sinking heart and transformative change

Fast forward four months. I looked in my diary and I saw the next review case conference for the family. No sinking heart this time. Instead, a feeling of optimism and hope, tempered with some skepticism about how the reported progress would hold up under the scrutiny of a case conference. The boys chose not to come but had their views represented by their workers. Mum was there, supported by several family members.

Her presentation was transformed – she was smiling and joking, she participated fully in the conference (even the hard bits), was honest, and nearly brought a tear to everyone’s eyes. The family members made valuable contributions and reassured me the situation would never be the same again. I had no hesitation in removing the boys’ names from the register. Five months later, a children’s panel felt able to terminate the supervision orders.

On that day, mum gave the social worker a hug and a plant to say ‘thank you’. I like to contrast that image with the previous one I had, where she chased him out the house and down the street.

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