Michelle Obama’s Appearance at the Oscars Infuriated the Right Wing

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Michelle Obama

First Lady, Michelle Obama with some assistance from Jack Nicholas announced the winner for Best Picture at the Academy Awards 2013. At the end of all the suspense, Argo directed by Ben Affleck snagged the Academy’s top award after not being nominated for Best Director. Although this was a major upset with Lincoln being the favorite to win, this Oscar moment triggered lots of angry tweets by right wingers at Michelle Obama’s Oscar appearance.

The New Civil Rights Movement was one of the first to report on this massive upset, and they also took the initiative to create a storify archive of all the tweets. Here is an except from their article:

“It’s through cinema,” Mrs. Obama added, that “our children learn to open their imagination and dream just a little bigger and to strive every day to reach those dreams.”

But the First Lady also delivered a shout-out to the LGBT community, concluding, “These lessons apply to all of us no matter who we are or what we look like or where we come from or who we love.”

Cue. Right. Wing. Freak. Out. Now… Read More

photo credit: Pete Souza/White House

Social Workers in Politics: Interview with Tanya Roberts

It seems social workers fulfilling their thirst for politics, community organizing, and activism on social issues are back on the rise. I recently had the opportunity to interview Tanya Roberts, one of North Carolina’s own rising stars, in order to learn more about her activities in politics. According to the National Association of Social Workers- North Carolina Chapter’s (NASW-NC) website, Tanya served as President on their  Board of Directors until she was recently appointed to the association’s Political Action for Candidate Elections (PACE) Board of Trustees at the national level. In addition to her service with the NASW, Tanya also sits on the Board of Directors for Craven County Department of Social Services in New Bern, North Carolina.

As a policy wonk and political junkie myself, it was a pleasure to interview Tanya who I can definitely see holding public office on the state or federal level. As of a result of the past election, North Carolina’s State legislature is now being controlled by a Republican super-majority which means both the House and Senate has a Republican majority along with a Republican Governor. Currently, Republicans have nothing standing in way of passing their legislative agenda. Tanya and I discussed a range of topics from her background to entitlement reform and medicaid expansion.

SWH:  Could you tell us about your background and what attracted you into the field of social work?

Tanya: My Dad has his MSW and served in the Air Force working with service members, families, and children. Since I grew up in this world while traveling the world, I assumed this was my goal as well. Once I earned my MSW from East Carolina University, I quickly realized that my area of expertise was NOT in the clinical arena and began to explore other ways to bring social work into other parts of our community. For about seven years, I owned a private agency providing mentors to work with adults and children with developmental disabilities and/or mental health issues. This was an incredible opportunity to learn about my community and to bring my social work interests to others. Now I am coordinating NC Operation Medicine Cabinet and coordinating the NC PACCs (Partnerships, Alliances, Coalitions and Collaboratives) working on substance abuse prevention issues. This allows me the opportunity to address issues relevant to the world of prevention with a social work view.

SWH: With your recent appointment to the NASW (PACE), could you explain what the committee does and what kind of impact it wants to have in politics?

Tanya: The NASW PACE makes decisions about which candidates to endorse for national offices and how much to contribute. Candidates must support NASW’s policy agenda. Due to the requirements, PACE hopes to encourage those running for federal offices to be aware of our agenda, advocate for what we as social workers so strongly support and to back this up by making a financial contribution to their campaign. It is a public endorsement to highlight our national position as well as to participate in the election process as an Association.

SWH: Have or will NASW considered doing any collaborations with organizations like Emily’s List that help identify women interested in politics to run for public office?

Tanya: I don’t know if National has any plans to, or has in the past made plans to, collaborate with organizations like Emily’s List. I am certainly interested in helping to facilitate any such work; getting women (especially women social workers) involved in the political process is a goal of mine. On a statewide level, there is not only an interest, but some initial dialogues going on to do just this. We hope to find the best way to engage women social workers in public policy, especially in North Carolina.

SWH:  Also, as a board member of a North Carolina Social Service Agency, are there any concerns about how Entitlement Reforms may impact human service agency’s ability to provide quality services to vulnerable populations with all the demands for budget cuts?

Tanya: I am especially concerned about our most vulnerable populations while maintaining the integrity of the system. We try to ensure that those who need services get the services they need, and those who are fraudulently accessing services are prosecuted. Also, I really want to see social workers more engaged in developing innovative ways to work with individuals and families to move them from public assistance to self-supporting means. This may well take longer than we would like given the economic situation, but it can and must be a focus of all social workers and all public assistance agencies.

SWH: With the implementation of Medicaid Expansion and North Carolina’s recent decision to refuse the additionally funding, what is your take on what this could mean for North Carolinians?

Tanya: I personally advocated to our new Governor, Pat McCrory, as well as to my local representatives to please allow for the expansion of Medicaid. In these difficult times, we cannot afford to cut off people in need. I would like to see our leaders work to gain a better understanding of what the poverty level is, how people work multiple jobs to support families, and the challenges of accepting public assistance because you don’t earn enough to pay your own way. People have tremendous pride and many receiving services want nothing more than to be self-sufficient. It is these people we must reach out to and help to provide supports for transition. But, this can only be done with the availability of appropriate paying jobs, opportunity to access and endeavor to succeed in such jobs and willingness of our leaders to work with the agencies to effect significant policy change.

SWH: With your resume and activism in politics, have you considered or will you consider making a run for federal office at some point in your future?

Tanya: Now that I have run for a county office, I am certainly more interested in the campaign process. I am a Fellow of the Institute for Political Leadership (IOPL) and a graduate of the NC Center for Women in Public Service, Women in Office training. These opportunities provided tremendous education, resources, contacts and encouragement! At this point, I am not sure if actually being the candidate is using my skills best or supporting another candidate. Either way, I will be very involved in politics and working to bring in social workers and women to the process.

NASW encourages social workers to run for office because social workers are a profession of trained communicators with concrete ideas about how to empower communities. Social workers understand social problems and know human relations, and the commitment to improving the quality of life brings a vital perspective to public decision-making. NASW

Child Welfare: Make it or Break it

By Nikki Truax

Today Child Welfare remains to have key components being argued in Washington, D.C., and while there are so many topics that factor into child welfare, the Republicans and Democrats are on separate spectrums when it comes to the passing of the healthcare reform known as the Affordable Care Act.  In 2010, President Obama fulfilled a promise that the Democrats had for almost a century strived to make happen, and that was to make healthcare readily available to Americans.

The Democrats argued that by passing the law, The Affordable Care Act, it would ensure that by, “2014 this health reform will be able to eliminate all discrimination for pre-existing conditions, start the process of expanding health insurance coverage for an additional 32 million Americans, and provide the largest middle-class tax cut for healthcare in history.”    However, the Republicans countered this claim, by renaming this law as “Obamacare”, and were outraged and used the media to show their disapproving nature.  For example, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli went on Twitter, and tweeted, “This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law”.  So, is this the only thing that they differ on when it comes to child welfare?

When discussing families and children, both parties agree on the need for a strong family core, and the enforcement of the law in regards to child neglect, child support, and child abuse.  However, the Republican views do shift in regards to “families”.  For instance, the Republicans support abstinence and fatherhood; therefore, they propose replacing “family planning” programs for teens, with funding “abstinence education” instead.  Also, Republican says the caseloads need to be decreased, and the accountability in the child protection system needs to be increased. Furthermore, the government should work with faith-based adoption agencies, to help encourage adoptions, because Republicans are pro-life.  Finally, Republicans call to action for local efforts to help children of prisoners.

However, Democrats believe in a sound, evidence- based partnership with faith-based and non-profit organizations that help the people in need, and advance those with shared interest.  The Democrats platform talks a lot about “helping the middle-class”, and the try to achieve that by raising the minimum wage, and the Earned Income Credit (EIC).  Also, the Democrats want to extend the Child Credit so parents that are working Full-Time, are not still raising their child in poverty.  Their goal is to have healthcare and transportation more readily available to everyone.  And, as with the Republicans, the Democrats feel the child support should be enforced, and promote responsible fatherhood together with religious and civic organizations in the community.

Therefore, with the changes taking place, the government looks to extend expanded tax cuts for the lower-income families, and to put Americans back to work through growth and creating jobs. With reforming child welfare in particular, this administration has included a budget of 2.5 billion over the next 10 years.  This will include new mandatory funding for incentive payment to states that demonstrate real and meaningful improvements on the handling of child abuse and neglect.  This incentive would help states finance services and continue to improve child welfare services.


“HealthCare”. (nd). Retrieved from www.democrats.org/issues/healthcare.htm

On the Issue. “Democratic Party on Welfare and Poverty”. (nd). Retrieved from www.celeb/democratic_party_welfare+_poverty.htm

On the Issue. “Republican Views on Families and Children”. (nd).  Retrieved from www.ontheissue.org/celeb/republican_party_families_+_children.htm

Walden, K. (2012, June). “The Eight Stages of Conservative Grief”. Retrieved from www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/2012/06/repulican.htm

How Does Lack of Child Care Impact Escaping Poverty

By any account, the current state of subsidized child care funding is in crisis. Too many people need services, too few dollars are allocated to these programs to cover the influx of new potential recipients, or even to maintain those already on the roster. Historically, providing funding at the federal level for child care subsidy programs was a challenge. This was due to cultural beliefs that to a certain extent, this program should not be needed; a parent should be in the home to provide care for preschool aged children. It took the cultural shift of seeing women in the role of wage-earning individuals, as well as a financial shift where her work outside the home was becoming increasingly important to the financial viability of the family.

child careIn 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (AKA, 1996 Welfare Reform Act) restructured the support system for poor families and individuals in the United States. The main objective of this reform legislation was to encourage people away from government support (welfare) toward gainful employment.

There is a large focus on time limits to receive benefits, participation in work related activities and some allowance for education to provide better chance of gaining full time employment. The federal Act set a base level of standards but allowed the states leeway to reduce the time constraints further. Prior to this legislation, federal support of child care was an entitlement for poor families, and any family participating in Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) qualified for this assistance.

The block grant reduced the budget for such assistance, even when combined with the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). It also tightened the requirements for obtaining such assistance, though more people were expected to need help, due to the increased work/work activity requirement The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated a funding shortfall of $1.8 billion. This legislation did allow states flexibility to reassign some funds from one program to another to better fit the needs of their citizens. It also allowed participants to select their own care provider. The challenge in this is the legislation did little to support quality improvements for out-of -home child care facilities. A small percentage  “up to 4″ of a states’ child care funding can be used for this cause.

As a result of the recession in the late 2000’s, a new wave of challenges to the federal government’s ability to provide financial assistance for child care was experienced. A portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided additional funds for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) TANF, to support the increase participation in that program. In 2010, the CCDBG provided child care payment assistance to approximately 1.7 million children. This covered only one of every six children that were eligible for the program during the time period studied.

According to a recent report by the National Women’s Law Center, in 27 states, less funding was provided to child care subsidies in 2012 than in 2011. The situation improved for families in 17 states. This is only the second year in a row that conditions improved in fewer states than they deteriorated.The continued economic struggles of this country will make federal and state funding of these programs an ongoing challenge. It can be argued, that making funding of child care a priority will help to stabilize the economy. This ideology will be discussed further in the next post.

By any account, the current state of subsidized child care funding is in crisis. Too many people need services, too few dollars are allocated to these programs to cover the influx of new potential recipients, or even to maintain those already on the roster. Historically, providing funding at the federal level for child care subsidy programs was a challenge. This was due to cultural beliefs that to a certain extent, this program should not be needed; a parent should be in the home to provide care for preschool aged children. It took the cultural shift of seeing women in the role of wage-earning individual, as well as a financial shift where her work outside the home was becoming increasingly important to the financial viability of the family, for funding to become supportable in the long term.

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (AKA, 1996 Welfare Reform Act) restructured the support system for poor families and individuals in the United States. The main objective of this reform legislation was to encourage people away from government support (welfare) toward gainful employment. There is a large focus on time limits to receive benefits, participation in work related activities and some allowance for education to provide better chance of gaining full time employment. The federal Act set a base level of standards but allowed the states leeway to reduce the time constraints further.

Prior to this legislation, federal support of child care were available for poor families. Any family participating in Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) qualified for this assistance. The block grant reduced the budget for such assistance, even when combined with the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). It also tightened the requirements for obtaining such assistance, though more people were expected to need help, due to the increased work/work activity requirement The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated a funding shortfall of $1.8 billion.This legislation did allow states flexibility to reassign some funds from one program to another to better fit the needs of their citizens. It also allowed participants to select their own care provider.

The challenge in this is the legislation did little to support quality improvements in outside the home care. A small “up to” 4 percent of a states’ child care funding can be used for this cause. This legislation did allow states flexibility to reassign some funds from one program to another to better fit the needs of their citizens. It also allowed participants to select their own care provider. The challenge in this is the legislation did little to support quality improvements in outside the home care. A small “up to” 4 percent of a states’ child care funding can be used for this cause.

As a result of the recession in the late 2000’s, a new wave of challenges to the federal government’s ability to provide financial assistance for child care was experienced. A portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided additional funds for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) TANF, to support the increase participation in that program. In 2010, the CCDBG provided child care payment assistance to approximately 1.7 million children. This covered only one of every six children that were eligible for the program during the time period studied. According to a recent report by the National Women’s Law Center, in 27 states, less funding was provided to child care subsidies in 2012 than in 2011. The situation improved for families in 17 states, but this is only the second year in a row that conditions improved in fewer states than they deteriorated. The continued economic struggles of this country will make federal and state funding of these programs an ongoing challenge.

For Further Reading

NASW Legislation Summary
Sourcewatch – 1996 Welfare Reform
DHHS Fact Sheet – TANF
Policy Almanac – Child Care
Parents and the High Cost of Child Care

Photo credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara | Child care providers, parents, children and others gather for a rally at the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge, to protest Suffolk County’s cuts to child care subsidies. (Aug. 30, 2012)

Child Care Subsidies: Why Is This A Federal Program

childcarehistoryThe federal government has supports in place intended to assist low income families to obtain the necessary child care, so the parent or parents may join or remain in the workforce.  This support comes in the form of child care subsidies or vouchers, and the programs are implemented in varying ways in each state. In many families with children, the household budget sheet requires both parents to work in order to sustain the family.  The expenditure for childcare as a percentage of household income can exceed the cost of housing for median income families.  In low income households, this creates and untenable situation where salaries from work do not cover monthly obligations.

The federal government has been assisting needy families with child care expenses since the nineteen thirties during the Great Depression. During this era, a need was recognized for there to be a safe place for poverty-stricken children to go during the day.  A place to serve as a relief to their own situation that would provide food, structure, and instruction; that would also serve to benefit the parents by allowing them time to work, search for work, or learn skills that might improve their lot in life.  These nursery school programs were developed by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and provided services to participants in home relief, the predecessor to Aid to Families with Dependent Children.  Once the acute need of the Great Depression dissipated, so did the interest in funding for the program.  The FERA was created in 1932 and was replaced in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

World War II brought a renewed interest in providing out of home care to children.  This time as a means to allow women to join the workforce to provide much needed labor in war related industry.  This was funded in two ways.  First by the Lanham Act, which was directed mostly to areas of California where there was a high density of war related industry.  The remainder of the Works Progress Administration still in place from the Depression, was again set in motion to provide care centers for use by any working mother, not just those of low economic means as in previous use.  Once again, once the overwhelming cause of the need declined with the end of the war, funding to these programs ended.  In later decades, studies of what is most beneficial to children, simple care and supervision or actual structured lessons were conducted.  They discovered that preschool-aged children benefit from structured lessons with educational goals.  As a part of President Johnson’s Great Society legislation, a new program was initiated that would merge the qualities of childcare with education.  The program was called Head Start.  Other funding for childcare was provided for families participating in AFDC.

The Federal government has provided funding for child care subsidies since the time of Johnson, but popularity of these programs has often been a source of conflict among legislators due to its expense.   In 1971, President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act.  This Act would have provided federal funding to make available child care to all children, regardless of income, as an intrinsic right.  Though Nixon backed the idea of child care supports from the Federal government, he decided that it was not the time for the government to make such a sizeable commitment.  1974’s Title XX provided funding for a number of programs, including child care subsidy.  These funds were to be used at the discretion of the state and by the early 80’s most funds were being directed to more urgent needs. During the seventies and eighties, there was a cultural shift.  Where once it was expected that one parent stay home to provide family care, now it was becoming the expectation that both parents work to financially support the family.  This shift in ideology prompted a shift in federal child care policy, which will be discussed in the next installment.

For further reading:

A Brief History of Federal Financing of Child Care in the United States
Office of Child Care
Protecting the Safety Net in Tough Times: Lessons from the States
Child Care Subsidies

Finding the Consumer in the Midst of Medicare

The consumer is often caught in the middle when it comes to a provider presenting a reasonably priced product while striving to stay out of the red.  The American government is no different when it comes to Medicare and its beneficiaries.  The Medicare program provided assistance to over 49,000,000 people in 2012,1 and this number is expected to continue to increase as Baby Boomers become eligible for the federal program.  Our government is currently struggling with how to assess this growing demand with limited financial resources.  In all the budget and deficit debates, it can be easy to forget the most important part of the equation which is the medicare beneficiaries.

Medicare recipients currently pay different premiums for each of the four parts of Medicare.  Most individuals do not pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A if they or their spouse have paid into the Medicare system via payroll taxes.  Individuals that do not meet this criteria can purchase Part A for $441 per month.

Many people pay the standard premium of $104.90 per month for Part B, but some individual’s will have to pay more if their income from the previous two years is above $85,000.2  Premiums for Parts C and D differ depending on the individual plan that a consumer decides to purchase.  The four parts are designed to offer beneficiaries the most comprehensive insurance program that they can afford.

What if you can’t afford Medicare premiums and deductibles?  Federal assistance, in the form of Medicaid, is available for low-income individuals.  Medicare also has an Extra Help program available to assist with prescription drugs.  Some states also help their Medicare beneficiaries by means of two state programs:  the Medicare Savings Programs pays Part A and Part B deductibles while the State Pharmacy Assistance Program provides financial assistance for prescription drugs.3

Both federal and state governments have options available for Medicare beneficiaries who are limited by their financial resources.  However, the state programs are not offered in every state and some lower-income seniors may still find themselves receiving few health care options while individuals with more money have the ability to pick and choose an insurance plan that best fits their medical needs.  The federal plan that was originally created to help all seniors and other eligible citizens does not help all recipients equally.

Regardless of any underlying inequalities, Medicare is still a more affordable and efficient health insurance provider than many private companies.  In fact, Medicare is viewed quite favorably among the general public.  While more than half of Americans agree that the federal deficit should be corrected with a combination of increased taxes and decreased spending, 58% oppose any spending cuts to Medicare or Social Security.  Three quarters said the deficit could be cut without any major reductions to Medicare.4

The overall general approval of this welfare policy ensures, to a certain degree, that the program will continue to assist the elderly and the disabled in the struggle to have affordable health care.  General opinion also encourages politicians and policy makers to take a more unique approach when considering how to make the program easier on the government’s wallet without directly cutting funds.

Many different ideas are being tossed around in Congress when it comes to making Medicare more affordable.  Some propose adjusting the age requirement from 65 to 67.  Others argue that Medicare should be a means-tested program with higher income individuals testing out.  Some also argue that spending cuts can be removed from the equation all together if the issue of Medicare fraud is thoroughly corrected.  Consumers should expect to hear more about major changes to the Medicare program within the next few months but should not expect to see a decrease in their premiums or deductibles.

Medicare is a complex federal program and this complexity sheds some light onto how challenging it can be for consumers to afford health care in America.  This leads to an interesting debate on how to more effectively serve American citizens.  Should the focus be on reducing Medicare costs or on reducing the cost of health care as a whole?

There is a growing opinion that health care is an overall wasteful, inefficient, and poor quality institution that is in need of reform.  Such a reform could have huge implications for eligible Medicare beneficiaries and other Americans.  Unfortunately, it is much easier for politicians and Congress to discuss how to change Medicare rather than how to improve the entire American health care system.  In the meantime, consumers continue to get caught in the crossfire between the debate over Medicare coverage and Medicare cost.

Photo Credit: Medicare Prospective Payment System

1The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2013). Total number of Medicare beneficiaries, 2012. Retrieved from

2Social Security Administration. Social Security Administration, (2012). Medicare premiums: rules for higher-income beneficiaries (SSA Publication No.05-10536). Retrieved from Social Security Administration website:

3Medicare Resource Center. (n.d.). Frequently-asked medicare questions. Retrieved from

4Wessel, D. (2013, January 24). Whose budget fix is more popular?. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

The Evolution and Implementation of Medicare

Since Medicare was created over 45 years ago, it has continuously evolved to meet the changing needs of society.  This has resulted in a system that strives to be more efficient, but in the process has become somewhat complicated if you are unfamiliar with the program.  The program is currently funded by a portion of payroll taxes, monthly premium deductions from Social Security checks, and Congress.  It is divided into four parts:

MedicarePart A: Hospital insurance – helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, some home health care and hospice care.

Part BMedical insurance – helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies that are not covered by hospital insurance

Part CMedicare Advantage – people with Parts A and B can choose to join a Medicare Advantage plan as offered by private companies and approved by Medicare.  You may have to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Advantage because of the extra benefits it offers.

Part DPrescription drug coverage – helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment.1

The Medicare system that is in place today is not the same as it was in 1965.  As additional needs and concerns have become evident, the government has modified the social welfare policy to better fit the needs of the targeted population.  Originally, the program was only created to serve adults 65 and older with health insurance.  In 1972, the policy was expanded to include individuals younger than 65 with long-term disabilities and end-stage renal disease.

Medicare Part C was not implemented until 1997 under the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) and Part D was not legalized until 2003 under The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act.2  The program also originally paid for the entire costs of services as determined by the individual physician.  As Medicare costs began to grow, Congress decided to change the reimbursement system to provide fixed-rate paybacks for services.

Another prominent way in which Medicare has changed throughout the years is in regards to its cost to the consumer.  Medicare Part A and B have seen changes in the deductibles and premiums that individuals are responsible for paying.   Since Medicare’s creation, the deductible for Part A has increased from $40/year to $1,184/year in 2013.  The premium for Part B has increased from $3/month to $104.90/month for individuals with a yearly income of less than $85,000 in 2011.3 The rise in Medicare costs sheds some insight into how Medicare has had to evolve as medical costs increase and as the need for health insurance among the elderly and the disabled has increased.

As Medicare has changed over time, one thing remains constant. The program was established to help all eligible beneficiaries as a universal welfare policy.  An eligible individual can receive benefits regardless of which state they live in because Medicare is a federally operated program and the states are not involved in the program’s administration.4  However, there are some differences in how states approach Medigap services. Medigap, also known as Medicare supplemental insurance, refers to various private supplemental health insurance plans that are designed to assist Medicare beneficiaries with health care costs that are not covered by Medicare.

Insurance companies can only sell you standardized Medigap policies as they are regulated by federal and state laws.  In all but three states – Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – there are 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans.  The three states that offer slightly different coverage had their own standardized Medigap plans prior to the enactment of the federal standardized regulations.5  For the most part, however, these three states offer Medigap plans that are very similar to those offered by other states.

Other social welfare policies, such as Medicaid, can differ dramatically from state to state because the federal government gives the states the freedom to distribute the money as they see fit.  As a federally operated program, Medicare exists to serve beneficiaries universally.  While the program has been expanded to cover more individuals, it has consistently covered individuals equally across state lines.

1US Social Security Administration. (2013, January 25).Medicare benefits. Retrieved from

2The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2010). Medicare: a timeline of key developments. Retrieved from

3Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, (2012). 2013 Medicare costs (Product No. 11579). Retrieved from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website:

4Health Assistance Partnership. (2012). Overview of the medicare program. Retrieved from

5Rapaport, C. Congressional Research Service, (2012).Medigap: a primer (Report No. R42745). Retrieved from Congressional Research Service website:

Housing in Blue, Homeless in Red


Today public housing continues to exist, but eligibility and aid depends on one’s location. While the federal government has developed nation-wide programs, states and local agencies provide the actual housing to their citizens. A state must follow the federal guidelines but can determine how much aid it receives, and each state can set some of its own guidelines in terms of preferential treatment and eligibility. All this means that one’s state of choice, particularly the choice between a red or blue state, will determine his or her level of aid in terms of public housing.

Before looking at the differences at state level though, let’s cover today’s policies. The basic principles of public housing today have stayed consistent with the policies beginning in the 1960’s when civil rights were first being incorporated. In 1974, Nixon created the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program, which is still very much alive today. The program provides rental certificates for low-income families to use to pay a portion of their rent on privately owned units. This was a change from the past policies because it allowed low-income families to break away from large public housing facilities and instead lease private units. At the time, families were expected to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities and then HUD, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, would cover the rest as long as it was under the maximum aid level. It seemed that the 1960’s brought positive changes, but in the 1980’s housing programs were dramatically cut. The 1990’s saw a huge increase in the need for homeless shelters due to the lack of public housing. Today, while subsidizing of housing projects has continued to decline, more rent vouchers and Section 8 certificates are being handed out each year.

But how have the changes come about in different states? Massachusetts is viewed as the prime example of a blue state and has one of the best public housing programs in the country. This is generally because Massachusetts applies for and accepts a great deal of federal funding. In addition, the state has low qualifications in terms of who can receive public housing assistance. For example, in order to qualify for the Section 8 Rental Assistance Voucher, one must simply show records of being a good tenant in the past and take in 80% or less than the median income in their community. Statewide, the income limit to qualify as a single person is $45,100 annually.

Texas, on the other hand, is viewed as a strong red state and is not highly prized for its public housing program. In fact, the state accepts much less federal aid and therefore has a much smaller public housing budget than Massachusetts, despite having a population four times the size of MA. Additionally, a single person must take in $33,650 annually or less in Texas to qualify for public housing aid. While the eligibility is calculated based upon the state’s median income; there are large gaps in terms of eligibility between states. In addition, the private sector in Texas has refused to aid low-income families in terms of housing. This means that citizens must rely solely on public sector housing, much of which is in poor condition as, in general, it has not been updated since the 1930s.

While in many eyes the Texas system is flawed, those in opposition to public housing would support Texas over Massachusetts. Many believe that public housing gives people a crutch and allows them to take unearned money. Others argue that public housing should have a time limit so that people have an incentive to work hard and get off the aid. While one can hope that one day public housing programs will no longer be needed, it should be not out of lack of funding or desire, but instead because it is no longer needed.  Until that day though, housing is a basic need that needs to be met regardless of race or income.

While public housing is a federally supported program, it is run by the local public housing authorities. It is up to the PHAs to determine how their public housing system will be run. The federal government applies a base funding to all, but when more funds are available, states can apply for more money. This often means, out of each state’s own choice and differences in opinions about public aid, that blue states will have larger public housing budgets than red states. Therefore, it is clear that a low-income family is much better off living in a blue state.

The right to a quality home should not, however, depend on one’s exact location within the United States. As a social worker, it shall be one’s duty to advocate for adequate housing for all, as shelter is a basic human need. For, as Cohn said, “this country has room for different approaches to policy. It doesn’t have room for different standards of human decency.”


Cohn, J. (2012, October 25). Blue states are from Scandinavia, red states are from Guatemala: a theory

of a divided nation. The New Republic. Retrieved from http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/magazine/108185/blue-states-are-scandinavia-red-states-are-guatemala#

HUD. (n.d.). Housing choice vouchers fact sheet. Retrieved from

Mass Resources. (n.d.). Public housing. Retrieved from http://www.massresources.org/public-housing.html

Texas Housing. (n.d.). Public housing in Texas. Retrieved from

Photo Credit:

Medicare: How It All Got Started

Medicare is a federally regulated social welfare policy that is funded from income taxes, monthly premiums deducted from Social Security, and Congress.  This policy specifically targets all individuals 65 and older, as well as persons with disabilities or permanent kidney failure.  It is estimated that there were roughly 50 million Medicare beneficiaries in the United States between 2010 and 2011, approximately 16% of the total US population.  Of those 50 million, 83% were eligible for Medicare because they were 65 or older.1   In fact, aging adults and their access to health care were the original motives behind creating Medicare.

francisperkinsConcerns for the aging and their health started to become a national and political concern during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  During this time, elderly adults and their families were presented with an interesting dilemma.  Historically, children were responsible for the care of their aging parents.  Given the financial despair of this time period, however, individuals had fewer and fewer financial resources with which to support themselves and their aging family members.  Medical costs were consistently the main issue for the elderly and a conversation began to form on how the United States government could provide assistance in the face of this growing concern.2

The economic changes that occurred during the Great Depression also led to a shift in how social welfare was viewed.  As more people struggled against the weight of financial depression, more people became open to the idea of government intervention.  The establishment of the Social Security Act of 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought about the creation of many social welfare policies.  This major piece of legislation also brought a new group of professionals to the political table: social workers.  Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins, and Whitney Young were some of the major players involved in the creation of the Social Security Act, and their knowledge and experiences as social workers enabled them to help the president properly address the concerns of American citizens in need.   In fact, the ideals of equality took the United States by storm in the 1950s and 1960s as issues of civil rights took storm.  The general opinion of the public during this time favored a more liberal perspective with Democrats becoming the majority party, and it was this more liberal ideal that helped support President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision to make Medicare apart of America’s social welfare system in 1965.

Several conservatives during the 1960s felt that Medicare – and the other welfare policies bundled within the revamped Social Security Amendments of 1965 – was a shift toward socialism and that it was not the place of our government to interfere in personal matters, such as health care and medical insurance.  Ronald Reagan produced a record titled “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine” in which he warns that Medicare will encourage other federal programs that “will invade every area of freedom we have known in this country.”3  Reagan also encouraged listeners to write to Congress or else “we will wake to find that we have socialism.”3  Physicians were also among the people opposed to Medicare, and they argued that Medicare would inevitably lead to a deterioration of care.  This argument supported the idea that the government had no place telling educated professionals of medicine how to best provide and execute health care.4  Despite the opposition and accusations of socialism, Medicare became a policy in 1965 and more than 19 million individuals aged 65 and older were enrolled in the program just a year later.

It can be easy to dismiss the history of Medicare because it is a program that most people have heard mentioned all of their lives.  Given the general public popularity of the program today, it can also be difficult to comprehend a time when Medicare was fought against and defined as socialized medicine.  The history of the program is important to consider because it gives us a better idea of the general framework of the program, and it also helps us to better understand how the policy and opinions of the policy may have changed over time.


1The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2012, September 7). United States: Medicare enrollment. Retrieved from http://www.statehealthfacts.org/profileind.jsp?sub=74&rgn=1&cat=6

2The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (Producer) (2012, December 17). The story of Medicare: A timeline. [Video ]. Retrieved from http://www.kff.org/medicare/medicare-timeline2.cfm

3Reagan, Ronald.  Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine. Operation Coffee Cup Campaign.  American Medical Association, 1961, Phonograph Record. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRdLpem-AAs

4Kristof, N. (2009, November 18). The wrong side of history. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/19/opinion/19kristof.html?_r=0

How Many Dead Will It Take

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Another mass shooting occurred today in Newtown, Connecticut taking the lives of 20 children and 8 adults including the principal, but how many dead will it take before better gun control measures are put in place? Details are still developing, and the identification of the shooter is still sketchy. It is currently being reported that the shooter’s mother worked at the school, and it is currently being reported that the majority of fatalities occurred in her class.

Under our current gun laws, 40% of all guns sales do not require any background checks which can also be purchased online via the internet. Many second amendment defenders argue that guns don’t kill people, and they insist that people kill people. Yet, most victims who are murdered or commit suicide utilize guns as their weapon of choice. As Americans, we need to closely examine the motives of those who oppose reasonable gun control measures. The National Rifle Association (NRA) should not have more power over our elected officials than the will of the American people.  It is disheartening to see the pain and aftermath as the types of events unfold on a weekly basis. I fear that mass shooting are becoming normalized in our society. I fear that our society will implement more responsive actions like active school shooter drills and more law enforcement special response teams instead of implementing stricter gun control laws.

My prayers go out to the families, first responders, medical and mental health personnel who are involved with this tragedy. Photo: State police personnel led children from the school following a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Dec. 14, 2012. (Shannon Hicks/The Newtown Bee)

View the President’s address to the Nation on this horrific tragedy earlier today:


“Christmas Gift” to the Ugandans

Not long ago, less than a year, was when the anti-homosexuality bill was opposed in Uganda and withdrawn by the Parliament discourse. Uganda is now reconsidering the bill as a “Christmas gift” to the Ugandans!! Rebecca Kadaga, Ugandan Parliament speaker, is convinced that the whole nation wants that Bill to pass and become effective by the end of 2012, which is a month away.

“Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we’ll give them that gift,” quoted as said by Ms Kadaga.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but with this Bill, homosexual acts are now banned!! Severe penalties will apply to the “criminals”, or in other words people who are homosexual, including life sentences for gay men!!!

Additionally, death penalty will be applied for people found guilty for “AGGRAVATED HOMOSEXUALITY”!!!!! Who even knows what that means!!! “Aggravated homosexuality”!! Is it an epidemic now?? So that heterosexuality is the cure? Within the Bill, they define the term as when one is a minor, HIV positive, or disabled.

It is very hard for me as an individual with personal and professional beliefs values, who absolutely supports human rights and the well being of the systems, to verbalize or put in a paper or a blog my exact thoughts, and do it delicately!

I recently met with a previous colleague of mine, whose youngest brother is gay and lives in Uganda currently. My colleague’s concerns about the situation were over the ceiling. One could tell how upset he was, because his brother has been born HIV positive, and is still a minor right now. Quoting him, “I cannot stand the idea that something might happen to M….”. I can only imagine the stress this former colleague might be feeling at the moment and the emotional wreck he feels like.

If there is even one social worker, who acknowledges and respects the values and principles of the profession and science, and who does not understand the unfairness of the policy making right now in Uganda, then this is the wrong profession for that person. I have personally lived in Uganda, in 2007, for a short time, and have a few friends there, some of them gay. I am devastated every time I talk to them and they tell me all those upsetting stories about how they are bullied by the government because of their sexual orientation.

Homosexuality is not an identity that opposes other identities a nation has, or does not conflict with cultural values. It is only a bid of “normality” among other bids!

Signing Petition:

MTV Fighting Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

MTV Exit Live in Myanmar is a collaborative production with leading humanitarian foundations around the world who are fighting to end human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Myanmar also known as Burma is a small country in Southeast Asia that has been under military rule since 1962 until it began to transition into democracy last year.

On December 16, 2012, Jason Mraz will be the first international artist to perform at an open-air concert in front of the 2,600 year old Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. President Obama and Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton, also made history today because no sitting United States President has ever visited the country.

The President has lifted some economic penalties that have been levied against the country which is now allowing for new opportunities such as MTV Exit Live in Myanmar. The President has pledge to support Myanmar in their efforts towards democracy as well as an appointing an Ambassador. However, some human rights groups feel the country has done enough to warrant a presidential visit because of the hundreds of political prisoners being held and ethnic violence.

Simple Plan - This Song Saved My Life (Simple Plan + MTV Exit)

***Update View Archived Chat***#SWUnited Live Twitter Chat-Voter ID Laws and Implications 11/5/12 8PM EST


View archived discussion on Voter ID laws and implications at SWHelpercom-chat-on-2012-11-12.

Join us for a Live Twitter Chat on Voter ID laws and Implications with guest Johanna Fields, MSW Candidate and NASW-NC Intern, on Presidential Election Eve. Johanna wrote an article in the NASW-NC Blog  identifying the issues on both sides of the Voter ID Laws Debate. @SWHelpercom will be the moderator using the hashtag #SWUnited. NASW-NC stands for the National Association of Social Workers-North Carolina State Chapter.

Johanna  is in her last year of the MSW program at VCU in Richmond, VA. She has direct practice experience by working with children through group home and intensive in-home settings and with adults with Developmental Disabilities through in home services. She has focused her education on Macro Social Work and has experience working with the general assembly in VA, volunteering on a Presidential political campaign, and through her current internship where she is gaining a wide variety of macro experience. Her career goals are in the macro arena, but specifically in policy analysis. You can visit her Twitter at @wilwarin712 and/or Linkedin johannafield) for more details.

Here is an excerpt of her article:

The requirement of showing photo identification when voting has become a major point of contention, not only in our state, but across the nation. Last legislative session, North Carolina passed a bill requiring all voters to show photo identification in order to vote. Governor Bev Purdue, however, vetoed it before it became law and legislators were not able to reverse this veto. This is still an important issue as it may return in the 2013 legislative session. It is an issue that divides us along party lines with amazingly few exceptions. The passion from both sides is palpable (and understandable), but perhaps we can set aside the mud-slinging for now and look at this issue through a bi-partisan lens.

While voter integrity and involvement are important and valid issues, there is little concrete evidence of fraud in the current system. This issue is likened to speeding, however, in that a tiny fraction of those who engage in this illegal activity are actually caught. Requiring photo ID is just a piece of the puzzle, as it only stops one form of potential fraud and there are contradictory arguments as to how easy impersonating someone at the polls really is. On the other hand, this law would keep over 460,000 North Carolinians from being able to vote (and those are just the ones who are already registered and have been active in exercising this right in the past) (source: Democracy NC ). This data shows that the law would disproportionately affect minorities and those aged 65 and older.

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Social Workers Protesting in the Street: Tarheel Edition

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Social Workers marching in the streets are not exclusively happening overseas. Social Workers in the US are anxious to get back to our social justice roots in effort to protect past and future civil rights issues. This is especially true for a group of Social Workers coming together in the Tarheel State from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Marty Weems, a clinical instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Katie Maxwell, a graduate of the MSW Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, created an organization called Social Workers Unite in order to champion human rights.

Photos SWUnite FB Fan Page

On October 1, 2012, Social Workers Unite marched in the streets of Durham, North Carolina to support and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ folks in the Tarheel State. There was a strong showing of solidarity despite the march occurring the pouring rain. Also, support and advocacy for equality was strong in this highly polarized Tarheel State especially after the passage of  Amendment 1. On May 28, 2012, North Carolinians passed Amendment 1 which  limited the definition of recognizable domestic partnerships. The Republican led legislature wanted  to further restrict domestic unions despite already having laws on the books defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

This is a Social Worker and Tarheel led advocacy organization working to get us back to our social justice roots. You can like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SocialWorkersUnite.

Social Workers Protesting in the Street? Where in the World….UK Edition

Photos by Community Care UK

The National Association of Social Workers’ website called “Social Workers Speak”  recently did an article on the uproar of British Social Workers caused by the soap opera “EastEnders”.  The article further states that British Social Workers are protesting the use of public funds to finance a television show that is providing misinformation and oppressive practices by a Social Worker on the show.

However, this is not the only issue that has angered British Social Workers. On October 20, 2012, Austerity measures instituted by the British Government has Social Workers and other public sector workers protesting in the street as result of cuts to public services.

The British Association of Social Workers issued a statement on its support and participation in the rally against the government’s failed economic policies which led to massive spending cuts to public services. Also, the British Social Work Action Network worked in concert to help organize Social Workers for a strong showing of solidarity.

According to the United Kingdom’s Community Care Social Work Blog, these massive cuts and the confusion on proposed cuts are affecting worker’s ability to staff their units as well as provide services to those in need.  Governments in Spain and Greece also utilized austerity economic plans which have also retarded growth of their economies.

The United States was the only government in recession to opt for an economic stimulus plan which protected public sector jobs and services. Although many argue that the stimulus plan did not work, the United States has not seen a regression in the economy like other world governments instead has experienced growth.

However, the Romney/Ryan budget is an austerity economic plan that will slash public sector jobs and services with its proposed spending cuts. As Social Workers, we pride ourselves on using evidence-based models to assess what is working and what’s not working in order to provide efficient delivery of services.

How many government workers in modernize countries utilizing austerity economic policies will it take to make us think twice about the devastation a Romney/Ryan ticket will do to this country and our profession?

What It’s Like Living in a Battleground State

In person Early Voting officially started on October 18th here in the Tarheel State also known as North Carolina. Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to exercise my civic duty by casting my ballot. For those who like sporting the “I Voted” sticker like I do, you will notice that this year they are about three times as big as the usual size. Not only will people know you voted, but you instantly become a walking “Get Out The Vote” advertisement. Also, I had to stand in line and wait before I could summon the powers of my voting rights. I get excited to vote because it is the one moment in time where nobody is more important than me. I live in a battleground state, and my vote really really counts.

Apparently, other people are feeling the same way because it appears that folks are coming out to vote with a vengeance. Normally during the early voting period, you go early to avoid the long lines. However, this year seems different from in the past. The atmosphere relayed that North Carolinians are proud to be one of the only two States that actually vetoed Voter ID Laws out of the 12 Battleground States.

Living in a battleground state, you are courted with flowers and candy all year long by the candidates. It seems like the President, First Lady, or the Vice President is here every other week notwithstanding the visits by the Challenger and his camp. Also, this year seemed extra special to North Carolinians because we hosted the Democratic National Convention despite serving as a Model Right to Work State eager to rid the world of unions and worker’s rights. Many on the message boards called us a backward State, but we are proud to say that at least we are much more progressive than South Carolina.

The downside is the bombardment of political ads. Satellite and cable tv at least gives you an option to escape the television ads. However, the internet and Youtube is fair game. You can’t look at anything on the internet without seeing a political ad. As of yesterday, North Carolina has been awarded to Mitt Romney’s win column according to the political Oracle.  However, Public Policy Polling (PPP) located here in the Triangle Area is calling it a dead tie which basically means the climate is so polarized nobody really knows whether North Carolina will be blue or red. Racial tension is high and party lines are pretty much divided between white men and everybody else. However, I predict that when people enter that voting booth, although they may not admit it, they will be voting for President Obama because they know what is at stake.

Social Workers Protesting in the Street? Where in the World…..and Why?

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Today, when one envisions the role of a Social Worker, let’s face it being a social activist is not one of them. The time when Social Workers’ primary role was being politically active appears to have been lost on the pages of history. There was a time when one desired to be politically active, social work was the chosen pathway to affect social change.

For instance, Social Worker Francis Perkins not only advised President Roosevelt in developing his New Deal Policies, she played a key role in writing New Deal legislation. Social Worker Whitney M. Young aided President Lyndon B. Johnson in developing legislation that created Medicaid and Medicare.

In 1939, Social Worker Abbott Grace helped draft the Social Security Act. Every fiber that weaves together today’s social safety net for our most vulnerable populations included Social Workers in the development of those historic legislative pieces.

Present day, when social issues are being discussed, Social Workers appear to be missing from the national conversation. This is not the case in Madrid, Spain were Social Workers are marching to protest cuts in social services. The General Council of Social Work is one out of its 900 member Social Summit that convened the march according to their website.

The General Council of Social Work also states on its website that the government has cut funding to social services by 42% in recent budgets resulting in the collapse of human services and resources for the poor.  The website further states that Social Workers can not stand by and watch the devastation caused by these cuts that are wreaking havoc on the most vulnerable populations. They argue that everyone suffers when basic human dignity is not given to all.

When I read about the plight of our Social Workers across the sea, it provided a foreshadow for what’s to come in America. If American Social Workers continue to operate with blinders on, the proposed Romney/Ryan budget will devastate our profession and those who we are charged to serve and protect. Do we really need to wait until after it happens to try and reverse the damage?

Also View:

African American Social Worker Pioneers Response to Need by Dr. Iris Carlton-LaNey  
Neighborhood Organizing: The Importance of Historical Context

Venting about Politics by Stephanie Cianfriglia

by Stephanie Cianfriglia and a recent BSW graduate from Keuka College 

Things that have been in the news lately have had me feeling very frustrated.

I am getting tired of seeing all of the shootings and nothing getting done. The media, our government, come out together to talk about “the tragedy of” (pick one: the Sikh temple, Aurora, in Washington DC at the FRC) but nothing gets done. Legislation never changes as our Congress remains in partisan blocks. Our government maintains that having 2nd amendment rights, and upholding them, seem to be more important than saving lives or preventing deadly weapons from ending up in the hands of the mentally ill. (And the fact that guns policy is argued over with so much more fervor than mental health policy is also disheartening.) Then the NEXT shooting happens and it happens all over again.

And then, I cannot even BEGIN to wrap my head around what Missouri Rep. Todd Akin was thinking when he made his remarks about pregnancy and “legitimate rape.” Meanwhile, our new potential VP, Paul Ryan, and his party in the Senate are seeking to change rape abortion laws so that only victims of “forcible” rape can receive abortions if pregnant. This would officially exclude cases of incest rape, MR/DD women who could not consent to sex, statutory rape, etc. Although most have condemned him for his remarks, there are some other outspoken right-wingers who are defending him with a similar reckless sexism. Just look at this from Twitter:

@BrianFischer: What Akin meant by “legitimate rape:” actual forcible rape, not consensual sex that later gets called rape. Come on, people.

(Fischer recently condoned the kidnapping of children of gay parents, calling it an “Underground Railroad.”)

Where does it end? If women are doubted after being raped, what does that leave men who are? I have a good friend, a MALE friend, who experienced two violent sexual assaults. Seeing this dismissive attitude against rape makes me think we will keep on going backwards. If women lie about rape, than men just do not get raped at all.

But what frustrates me the most is the word association that seems to be occurring in our vitriol-fueled political atmosphere. Our titles make us enemies. I am liberal, therefore I am “a sissy,” is what is sometimes expressed. “Conservative men are REAL men.” “Liberals lack common sense.” “Liberals are against freedom.” I feel as if being a proud social worker becomes a good laugh, I’m another one of “those” people. Once, on Twitter, under the hashtag #WhatMightAnnoyALiberal, a man said that if poverty disappeared, Democrats would “lose their platform.” As if poverty was something that exists only for political gain, and it is being enabled for that reason. I found that quite sick. This was coming from a US Veteran.

I do not like these titles. I do not like anyone who shows open ignorance and hatred in a public forum. I just am growing tired of the political games and gaffes I keep seeing. I am tired of nothing getting done. Yet it makes me want to work harder so that the smallest change can occur. It’s the only way change happens, and small victories are, indeed, still victories.

Gay Rights… What Should be the Social Work Response?

by Deona Hooper, MSW

I want to share an article that was brought to my attention yesterday by a very close family member. This particular article was especially impactful for him because he recently shared with our family that he is gay. He is an awesome human being, well-educated, cares about his community, and he is doing everything a parent would want for their child. Why should him being gay matter? Well, for some in our family….it does! It was not accepted very well by his parents. Despite, everyone seeing gay mannerisms in him as far back as when he was three to four years old.

Although he may never be allowed to bring his partner to family events, I make sure that he knows they are always welcome at my home. I do not want him to be isolated from his support system or dread coming home, but I must admit that I have not always been this progressive. I grew up with conservative christian values in the South, and the South its difficult enough being a minority.

However, the pain that I have experienced and witnessed caused a change in my views. I had a best friend who was  a woman, a minority, and openly gay. For the majority of my adulthood, we worked at the same places. Most of my adult life, we were friends, but her being gay was the elephant in the room. I tried to be supportive, but she would always say,”You don’t understand”. She had a very limited support system, rejected by her church, and at times harassed at work. Yet, she always got through it.

In 2007 on December 27, she committed suicide with her police service weapon. She always struggled with depression, and I didn’t understand this internal conflict  for a lifestyle she lived openly. She was very apprehensive about seeking mental health services because her fitness for duty may have come into question. I didn’t know anything about LGBT support services or getting her connected with people who could identify with the pain she was feeling. I just wanted her to get over it, and I thought she did.

The last few months of her life were a complete lie, and she had convinced me and everyone around her that she was alright. She said that she was in a relationship and working extra shifts in which I didn’t question it. It wasn’t unusual for us not to hang out when she was with her girlfriend. Although I would meet whoever she was dating, I never broke bread with any of them.

Today, I truly regret it, and I can’t imagine how that must have made her feel. I miss my friend everyday, and I will never get the opportunity to have the conversations that I wish we should have had. She wasn’t in a relationship and she wasn’t working extra shifts. She left no note, and I have no idea about what was going on with her in the last moments of her life. Bringing awareness to this issue is the only way that I know how to honor her memory.

Social workers provide 69 percent of all mental health services in the United States. Are social workers contributing to the mental health crisis of the LGBT community’s increase in suicides by failing to proactively do outreach to this community? We must assess if our own prejudices are preventing the creation of early intervention services and proper assessment of issues when conducting home visits. I have noticed a shift in the social work profession that is moving closer towards conservative values. What impact will this have on treatment if the primary mental health service providers do not want to work with the LGBT community?

This is not a blog post that I had planned to write, but I think this is an important discussion needed within the social work community. You may disagree or agree with gay rights, but a plan must be devised to deal with the uptick in suicides within the LGBT community today. Where do you stand on the issue?

I have included an excerpt written by Perry Noble with a link to the full article as follows:

Let me begin by saying I absolutely LOVE Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. (Gonna go ahead and tell you that Oatmeal Cookie Chunk is THE BEST flavor I’ve EVER had!!)

A few years ago I went to Wal Mart (the closest thing to hell I can imagine…that and the DMV), found my favorite flavor and decided to tweet that I was purchasing some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream…and doing so “unleashed the hounds” in a sense. Honestly, I’ve never experienced anything like it, “Christians” began @ replying me on twitter condemning me and scolding me for buying this product because apparently Ben & Jerry’s supported gay rights/same sex marriage.

Honestly, it bothered me. Because, first of all…I wasn’t trying to make a political statement I was simply trying to get some chunky monkey and some oatmeal cookie crunch. I like ice cream…I believe it will be served in heaven (with ZERO calories)! And second, it has broken my heart the way that many who claim to follow Christ have treated those who are homosexuals. We’ve yelled at them, ignored them and in some cases damned them to hell without EVER sitting down and actually having a conversation with someone who is gay. Read More

How the Affordable Health Care Act is Saving My Life-Part I

I knew that pursuing this degree would be costly, but what I didn’t know is that it could potential cost me my life. Three years ago, I was accepted to one of the top five Schools of Social Work in the country.

I was already working as a Child Protective Services Investigator when I decided to pursue my MSW, and I thought it would help me to advance in my field. However, as a CPS investigator and a Master level student, I was forced along with others in my cohort to make a decision between finishing school and my job. Both worlds were colliding, and I was caught in the middle.

It’s crazy how a social work student with no work experience can work in Child Welfare to fulfill their 900 hour internship requirement. However, someone already working in Child Welfare doing the same job does not receive credit and is required to do an additional field placement. In what world is this fair!

I was already invested in both time and money to just walk away from school. So, I quit my job working at a Human Service Agency in order to work for free at another Human Service agency in order to fulfill my internship requirements. As a working practitioner, I knew that I could not manage my caseload, class work, and another 16 hour per week internship to be completed in another department. Initially, my agency was going to give me some concessions while in school, but all it takes is for someone to quit or go on FMLA.

Yes, I knew that I had a pre-existing health condition, but I was going to a university with one of the best health care systems in the country. It never occurred to me, not even once, that the program in which I was accepted would not offer me a healthcare plan.

The summer before my last semester, I started getting sick. Everyday, I would park in the deck of the Medical Center to walk to class at the School of Social Work while I was being relegated to free clinics for my health care. The last semester, my school made some changes to the health care plans. I have a healthcare plan…. Now, I can get the care that I desperately need. Right? Wrong!!!

The health insurance provider stated that I needed proof of continuous coverage in order to receive coverage because I had a pre-existing condition. Guess what….I didn’t have proof because I had been uninsured for a year. Ok….I thought. I am an advance standing student….I will be back to work in no time. Everything will be alright. Right? Wrong!!! It would be a year after graduation before I would gain employment and health insurance again.

Two years and one pre-existing condition later, in May 2012, I began getting the tests I needed years ago to determine whether I have cancer or not. Not having health insurance in this country is a death sentence. In the last six months, I know two African-American women who died from complications from preventable issues because they did not have health insurance. Despite my degrees and my accomplishments, I was just another unemployed, black woman with no health insurance, and I was treated as such.

Today, my insurance carrier is covering the majority of cost for my tests and surgery, and I don’t think it would have been possible without the ACA. With health insurance, I have Dr. Randall Scheri the world-renown surgical oncologist at Duke University Cancer Center performing my surgery later this week. The prognosis is good because the cells have not turned cancerous….Thank God!!! They are taking every precaution in case something is found during the surgery. However, I believe everything is fine, and I am planning for a speedy recovery.

President Obama made it possible for those without healthcare to have the ability to get health insurance and be covered. He did it despite the difficulty and the unpopularity of the bill, and I am thankful that he did. Now, my hope is that the Council for Social Work Education will reform their current internship requirements, so it is not oppressive and create further hardships on students who just want to help others. No other profession mandates a 900 hour unpaid internship with no guarantees of health insurance in order to obtain a degree. So why is social work doing it?

It’s been difficult to not be bitter and not to be angry. No one should have to choose between basic human needs in order to pursue higher education for a better life. After my surgery and I am on the road to healing, I plan to advocate on behalf of students who may find themselves in similar situations or for those who may choose not to go back to school for social work because of the barriers. Change is needed.

*Part II soon to come…

Captain’s log stardate 74906.5, June 10th, 2021, Part II was never written. Cancer was found during the surgery, and it has been a long journey to recovery. However, this platform would not have been created without that experience. I use this platform to create awareness and advocacy on a variety of issues, but at its core, our goal is to help register people to vote on the matters important in their lives and their loved ones.  I am a firm believer that pain and suffering breed empathy and compassion. As a result of my pain, it further ignited my desire to help more people navigate their pain as well as support their purpose.

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