How Alcohol Addiction Affect Your Marriage And Relationship

At a time when liquor stores have been deemed essential during the Covid-19 crisis, alcohol abuse can cause relationship problems that can destroy a family and leave lasting emotional scars for years to come. 

Alcohol addiction is an epidemic across the world. The CDC estimates that six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. Of the 15 million people that struggle with alcohol misuse, less than eight percent seek help for their addictions.

This can create a myriad of problems in a marriage. The decline of a partner’s health and experiencing belligerent, aggressive, and disrespectful behavior from a spouse is hurtful to experience.

Substance abuse is a serious threat to marriage that can affect partners in more ways than one. Here are the 6 ways that alcohol addiction causes serious relationship problems.

Emotional Distress 

When your spouse is sober, your relationship is wonderful. You have a great connection, a passionate sex life, and a deep emotional bond. But once your partner has a drink, your stomach sinks. The kind, compassionate, loving person you had just spent the day with is suddenly emotional, aggressive, and just plain mean.

Alcoholics may react to alcohol in different ways. They may become verbally insulting, emotionally abusive, may resort to crying and hosting pity-parties, or may be frequently unfaithful when under the influence.

Being the sober spouse of an alcoholic partner is an exhausting journey that can cause great emotional distress.

Neglecting the Marriage

An alcoholic is selfish when under the influence. They are only out for their own enjoyment. As stated above, this may result in infidelity and other blatant acts of disrespect towards the marriage.

In order to have a happy, healthy marriage, couples need to spend quality time together. They must work on communication and maintain emotional and physical intimacy. 

Studies show that the inability to communicate with a partner is one of the most common reasons for divorce. If you and your spouse can no longer communicate, sober or otherwise, it may be time for separation in marriage.

Negatively Effects Children

When a spouse is struggling with addiction, it is common for them to start neglecting their family responsibilities. Even something like having a game night with the children or watching a movie together becomes impossible and robs children of a loving household.

Statistics on children of alcoholics show that they are likely to

  • Seek romantic relationships with alcoholics or abusers
  • Be socially inept
  • Engage in dangerous or risky behavior
  • Fail in school
  • Have an unhealthy obsession with overachieving
  • Confuse sex with love
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Manifest a physical illness
  • Abuse drugs
  • Suffer from depression or other mental health issues

American Addiction Centers reports that children who grow up with at least one alcoholic parent are more likely to become an alcoholic themselves.

Living with an alcoholic can also be scary for a child. In some cases, they will be witness to the instability brought on by alcoholism. They are statistically more likely to experience physical, verbal, or sexual abuse while living in the home of an alcoholic. 

Children may also feel the effects of the financial ruin caused by alcohol addiction.

Financial Troubles

Alcoholics will do anything to feed their addiction. Some resort to prostitution in exchange for a drink, while others think nothing of draining the family banks accounts, savings, and piling up credit card debt all to get a fix.

Furthermore, alcohol acts as a depressant, which can cause an individual to have a poor judgment with regards to emotional and financial aspects of the marriage.

If you are experiencing relationship problems at the hands of an alcoholic spouse, but you do not want to consider separation in marriage, do your best to ensure all financial matters are in your care. Do not allow your spouse to have access to bank accounts or credit cards, as this could put your family in severe debt.

Abusive Patterns Form

Marital conflict is hard to live with on a daily basis. Abuse often occurs in a relationship with an alcoholic.

Research shows that each year, more than 10 million women and men will experience physical abuse at the hands of a romantic partner.  Physical violence may manifest itself when an intoxicated partner becomes aggressive or confused.

Verbal abuse can be just as painful as physical. Common side effects of an abuser include:

  • Control the spouse’s social life
  • Express severe jealousy and possessive behavior
  • Resort to physical aggression and abuse, resulting in damage to the home, car, or leave a spouse in the hospital
  • Verbally abuse and belittle 
  • Cause embarrassment and shame
  • Make a spouse believe they are worthless
  • Inflict severe stress to a marriage

These are deeply unhealthy behaviors that no one should tolerate. If you feel you are in an abusive or toxic relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text 1-800-787-3224 for help to get out of that dangerous situation.

Unhealthy and Dangerous Behavior

Serious alcohol addiction can create troubling patterns of control that make it difficult for them to leave safely. In fact, most violence toward women occurs when she tries to leave an abusive situation. Other troubling behaviors that make it hard to separate from a spouse may include:

  • Severe guilting or blaming the victim for the drinker’s behavior
  • Threatening self-harm if a partner says they are considering separation in marriage
  • Unfairly using the children against a spouse, “Please, let’s keep our family together” or “You aren’t allowed to see the children if you’re willing to break up our family like this.”
  • Keeping finances, identification cards, and other material needs from a spouse to prevent their leaving 

Betty Jo Barrett, an associate professor at the University of Windsor says that, regarding intimate-partner violence, “the risk of domestic homicide becomes highest during the period of separation.” She goes on to say that this is a form of power and control.

Being with an alcoholic is bound to cause serious relationship problems. You deserve to be with someone who loves and appreciates you. If your spouse is unwilling to get help for their addictions, it may be in the best interest of you and any children to seek help apart from your spouse.

Understanding and Resolving The Cycle Of Abuse

Do you find yourself returning to the same abusive relationships time and again or choosing abusive partners over and over?  Do you find yourself returning to your parents all the time seeking advice, guidance, validation, or support, only to be continually disappointed? You likely have poor self-esteem and you are likely quite emotionally vulnerable.  Here’s why and what you can do.

Self-esteem

Self-esteem is an outcome of being valued by our parents when we were growing up.  Our self-esteem is actually rooted as far back as our parents’ mate selection.  Hopefully, our parents chose each other believing each possessed the appropriate emotional maturity and practical skills necessary to rear a child.  Beyond that, being valued by our parents is demonstrated by reasonable prenatal care, planning for childbirth, postnatal care, and the ongoing efforts to meet our needs in a caring and loving environment.  As we are consistently and reasonably loved and cared for, we develop a sense of security and value in ourselves.

In the absence of our parents’ emotional investment in us and/or their lack of appropriate care, or worse, our exposure to neglect, abuse, or harm, we may have an incomplete sense of security, value, and worth. In view of an incomplete sense of security, value, and worth, we are insecure and may inadvertently spend considerable time and energies seeking the validation and sense of worthiness we never received.

Further and without a sense of worthiness, we may come to accept relationships and circumstances that unfortunately only contribute to greater worthlessness.  In the face of this greater worthlessness, we may continue to engage in more self-defeating attempts at validation from those incapable of reasonably meeting our needs.  Thus, a conundrum is created in that the more we try to meet our needs through persons less capable of providing for our needs, the more harm befalls us.

The person who has unmet needs to be reasonably valued from before childhood and on may have impaired judgment when it comes to their own mate selection and sources of validation.  These persons require support to endure their insecurity as they learn to set boundaries, discriminate between reasonable and unreasonable partners, and learn to meet their own needs.

By way of example, lack of being valued or validation creates a thirst to quench the dry well of insecurity.

Imagine a woman setting out across the desert with no water. Eventually, she is overcome by the sun’s heat and an increasing thirst. With her clothes in tatters, she pulls herself through the sand looking for an oasis.  In the distance are palm fronds which provides hope to her.  After almost dying of thirst, the spring of hope induces a desire to drag herself to the oasis.

Now at the oasis, she comes across a small shallow pool of liquid. Without thinking and with a need to quickly quench the driving thirst, she submerges her head into the shallow pool and sucks back the liquid. With the thirst barely quenched she can finally taste the liquid from which she seeks relief. At that moment she realizes she is drinking camel urine.

While camel urine may briefly sustain the thirst-quenched person in the desert, it hardly provides for lifelong sustenance. The point of this story, hopefully, will show understandably how vulnerability can lead to self-defeating solutions.

The strategy to overcome these circumstances is to seek new supports typically from agencies or professional persons trained to help people sustain themselves in an emotional drought whilst they learn to take care of themselves and fill their own reservoir in the company of other nurturing individuals who take legitimate interest in others for the sake of the other’s well-being.

If this article rings true for you and you wish to change the direction of your life and circumstance, seek counseling.  You may find that that counseling is best delivered through agencies or individuals who are trained and have a working knowledge in helping people who have been subject to abuse or neglect.

Given a history of abuse where you may not have been appropriately nourished, there are few things as satisfying as learning to nourish yourself to then make more reasonable choices for love and affiliation with other people who themselves are truly caring.

Study Shows Teens Feel Pressured to Get Pregnant

Woman Holding Negative Pregnancy Test Kit

Female adolescents are experiencing relationship abuse at alarming rates, according to a new Michigan State University study that specifically researched reproductive coercion – a form of abuse in which a woman is pressured to become pregnant against her wishes.

Heather McCauley, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, and co-researchers found nearly one in eight females between ages 14 and 19 experienced reproductive coercion within the last three months. Forms of such abuse included tampering with condoms and a partner threatening to leave.

The study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology this month, is the largest adolescent study on the issue. It uses data from a previously conducted randomized trial at eight school-based health centers in California during the 2012-13 school year and assessed 550 sexually active female teens.

To date, most research has focused on young adult women. But because adolescent relationships differ so much from adult relationships, clinicians need to know how to spot reproductive coercion in their younger patients and tailor clinical assessment and intervention for this population, McCauley said.

“We looked at whether adolescents who experience reproductive coercion displayed the ‘red flags’ we typically teach clinicians to look for – like coming into the clinic multiple times for emergency contraception or pregnancy testing,” McCauley said. “We found no difference in care-seeking behaviors between girls who experienced reproductive coercion and girls who didn’t, so those red flags may not be present. Therefore, clinicians should have conversations with all their adolescent patients about how relationships can impact their health.”

Previous research has also identified disparities in reproductive coercion by race/ethnicity, with black women more likely than white women to experience such abuse, she said. But, again, that wasn’t the case in this study, highlighting the need for researchers and clinicians to understand how to talk about relationship abuse with female teens.

Other takeaways from the study:

  • 17% of teens reported physical or sexual abuse.
  • Females who experienced reproductive coercion had four times the odds of also experiencing other forms of relationship abuse.
  • Females exposed to both relationship abuse and reproductive coercion were more likely to have a sexual partner who is five or more years older.

“These findings highlight how common reproductive coercion and other forms of abuse are in adolescent relationships, yet the signs of a teen’s unhealthy relationship may be tricky for clinicians, parents and other adults to spot,” McCauley said. “So, parents could open the door for their teen to disclose abuse by having a conversation with them about healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors, including those that interfere with their decision making about their own reproductive health.”

Additional researchers on the study are Amber Hill, Elizabeth Miller and Kelley Jones, from UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh; Daniel Tancredi, from University of California Davis School of Medicine; and Jay Silverman, from University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Justice and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Congresswoman Karen Bass Leads Passage of “Put Trafficking Victims First Act

On February 7, 2019, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), lead the passage of the “Put Trafficking Victims First Act”, which ensures that survivors of human trafficking do not go unnoticed. The bill was approved by a vote of 414-1. Watch her remarks below:

REMARKS AS PREPARED:

I introduced H.R. 507, the “Put Trafficking Victims First Act,” with my colleague the gentlelady from Missouri, Ms. Wagner.

Ann, thank you for your hard work over the years on this important legislation.  We are here today because of your dedication and willingness to work, in a bipartisan manner, to address the problems faced by victims of trafficking. We both recognize that Congress must do more to combat this heinous crime.

HR 507 is designed to ensure that survivors of human trafficking do not go unnoticed.  First, it expresses the sense of Congress that law enforcement set aside a portion of the funds they receive for combatting human trafficking to ensure that victims receive support that is trauma-informed and victim-centered.  This will provide victims with a better chance of recovering from their experiences.

Second, this legislation addresses the tremendous need for expanded victim services, improved data-gathering on the prevalence and trends in human trafficking, and effective mechanisms to identify and work with victims in an effective and respectful manner.

It directs the Attorney General to form a broadly-representative working group to assess the status of the collection of data on human trafficking and recommend best practices, conduct a survey of survivors regarding the provision of services to them, as well as prepare a report to Congress on Federal efforts to estimate the prevalence of human trafficking, the effectiveness of current policies addressing victim needs, and analyzing the demographic characteristics of trafficking victims and recommendations on how to address their unique vulnerabilities.

The bill also directs the Attorney General to implement a pilot project testing the methodologies identified by the working group and requires the Attorney General to report on efforts to increase restitution to victims of human trafficking.

With this type of information in hand, Congress can provide appropriate oversight of efforts to combat human trafficking, and researchers, advocates, and law enforcement agencies will all have a shared resource as they continue to develop innovative approaches to stop traffickers.

Finally, the bill expresses the sense of Congress that States should implement trauma-informed, victim-centered care for all trafficking victims.

Forced labor and human trafficking are among the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprises. Globally, these inhumane practices generate an estimated $150 billion a year in profit.  That’s three times the amount that the top Fortune 500 company made in 2016.  Criminals are profiting from the systematic abuse of vulnerable people around the globe. Sadly, women and girls represent approximately 71% of these victims.

The U.S. State Department estimates that between 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into our country from other nations every year. These victims are part of the estimated hundreds of thousands of victims of trafficking, currently living within our communities.

My home state of California has the 9th largest economy in the world. It is also one of the nation’s top four destinations for human traffickers, especially for child sex trafficking.  In 2018, of the 5,000 reports to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 760 of them were from California.

As the Founder of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, I am very aware of the risk to vulnerable youth. Foster youth, along with runaways and homeless youth are at the highest risk of being sex trafficked.   Experts agree that the foster care system is yielding a disproportionate number of human trafficking victims.  Nearly 60% of all child sex trafficking victims have histories in the child welfare system.  We cannot allow this to continue.

Washington, DC is home to the most powerful government in the world. Yet, even in DC, women, and girls are being trafficked.

Organizations like Courtney’s House are working to improve the outcomes for sex trafficking survivors

Tina Frudt, Director of Courtney’s House (right here in DC), asserts that African American and Latino communities are not immune to human trafficking. Her organization provides trauma informed services to sex trafficking survivors between the ages of 12 and 19.

Tina is also a child sex trafficking survivor.  As a 9 year old in foster care, she was sex trafficked.  By the time Tina turned 14, she became one of the 2 million children who run away from home each year. Nearly 200,000 of them will be sex trafficked.

In Tina’s case, her adult abuser was more than twice her age and forced her to become a child sex worker. It took her years to escape.  Now, Tina helps children, like her recent client, a 12-year-old girl, whose 25 year-old abuser called himself her “boyfriend” rather than her trafficker.

H.R. 507 will improve the implementation of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.  Trafficking victims, like the girls at Courtney’s House, face many challenges even after they are freed from trafficking rings, ranging from access to social services and utilizing assistance programs.  Survivors face difficulties navigating social services and assistance programs.

What’s more, survivors may face criminal charges, possibly even convictions for prostitution, loitering, or indecent exposure.  The threat of prosecution may lead trafficking victims to avoid contacting law enforcement for help, even as they face horrific trauma on a daily basis.

This bill is designed to ensure that survivors of human trafficking do not go unnoticed.  First, it expresses the sense of Congress that law enforcement set aside a portion of the funds they receive for combatting human trafficking to ensure that victims receive support that is trauma-informed and victim-centered.  This will provide victims with a better chance of recovering from their experiences.

Another component of H.R. 507 encourages law enforcement and prosecuting agencies to make every attempt to determine whether an individual has been a victim of human trafficking before charging them with offenses that are a result of their victimization.  This is of particular concern to communities of color. According to the FBI, African American children made up 57% of all juvenile prostitution arrest.

In Los Angeles, we changed how children were treated. Today, a minor cannot be charged with prostitution, which means children are no longer being placed in handcuffs when it’s the adults who are abusing them who are the real criminals.  There is no such thing as a child prostitute. I strongly support efforts to recognize children as victims rather than criminals.   In this bill, we encourage treating victims as victims and providing them with the necessary supports.

I am reminded of a case in Tennessee that has been in the news recently, involving Cyntoia Brown.

Cyntoia was only 16 years old when she was abducted by a drug trafficking ring, repeatedly drugged and raped, and sold to a child predator for sex.  In a moment of desperation, she fought back against her trafficker and killed him.  She, the victim, ended up with a life sentence.  Mercifully, Cyntoia was granted clemency last month, by the Governor of Tennessee after having served 15 years—for defending herself.   Victims of these horrific acts, like Cyntoia, should not have to hope for grants of clemency 15 years later.

Although much of the focus of human trafficking is on those who have been sex trafficked, those who have been trafficked for domestic labor should not be overlooked. There was a story a few years ago in The Atlantic entitled “My Family’s Slave.”  The author shared an intimate account of the life of a Filipina woman who for years was forced to work for a family as a domestic laborer in the U.S. from dusk till dawn.  An estimated 21 million men, women, and children are forced into labor around the world.  There are cases all across the United States.  We are working towards eliminating human trafficking in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, Congress’ intent is clear:  Protecting victims from the heinous crime of human trafficking is of utmost concern.  I am proud to have worked across the aisle with Congresswoman Wagner on this important legislation, and I urge our colleagues to support it.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 507 supports efforts to stop human trafficking.   We are making progress in protecting those who have been caught up in this horrific criminal activity, and this bill is a great example of what we can accomplish when we focus on helping the most vulnerable among us.

We have an obligation not only to end human trafficking but to support people who undergo horrific experiences like these.  This bill is yet another step in the right direction.

Once again, I would like to especially thank Congresswoman Wagner, for her efforts in this regard.  I was very pleased to team up with her again on this legislation and hope we can continue to work on these issues in the future.

For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill today.

Tracking the Impact of Early Abuse and Neglect

Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Maltreatment experienced before age 5 can have negative effects that continue to be seen nearly three decades later, according to a new study led by Lee Raby, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah.

“It is not a controversial statement to say abuse and neglect can have harmful consequences,” Raby said. “This study adds to that by showing that these effects are long term and don’t weaken with time. They persist from childhood across adolescence and into adulthood.”

The journal Child Development published the study. Co-authors are: Glenn I. Roisman and Madelyn H. Labella, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota; Jodi Martin, Department of Psychology, York University; R. Chris Fraley, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Jeffry A. Simpson, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota.

Raby said his team wanted to know two things: Does maltreatment early in life have long-term associations that extend into adulthood and do those effects remain stable or weaken over time?

The researchers used data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation, which has followed participants since their births in the mid-1970s. The U study looked at data on 267 individuals who had reached ages between 32 and 34.

Information about the participants’ exposure to physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect was gathered from multiple sources during two age periods: 0-5 years and 6-17.5 years. Throughout childhood and adolescence, teachers reported on the children’s functioning with peers. The children also completed standardized tests on academic achievement. The participants were interviewed again during their 20s and 30s, during which they discussed romantic experiences and educational attainment.

Unlike studies based on adults’ retrospective accounts of their childhood experiences, the data used here were collected in real-time. In addition, because data on the participants has been collected throughout their lifetimes, the researchers were able to disentangle the effects of maltreatment that occurred in their early years from experiences of abuse and neglect during later childhood.

“The design allows us to ask our two questions in a way no other study has before,” Raby said.

Raby said the findings showed those who experienced abuse or neglect early in life consistently were less successful in their social relationships and academic performance during childhood, adolescence and even during adulthood. The effects of maltreatment did not weaken as the participants got older.

“The harmful effect of early abuse and neglect was just as important when we were looking at outcomes at age 32 years as when we looked at outcomes at age 5,” he said.

The researchers found abuse and neglect in later childhood also impacted these competencies in adulthood, but that later maltreatment did not fully account for persistent and long-term influences attributed to abuse and neglect experienced in early childhood. They also found long-term difficulties with social functioning — but not academic achievement — occurred independent of such factors as gender, ethnicity and early socioeconomic status.

“These findings add more evidence for the importance of identifying high-risk families and attempting to intervene before experiences of abuse and neglect occur,” Raby said.

Scottish Survivor Groups Encourage All Survivors of Abuse in Care to Take Part in a Milestone Consultation

Survivor groups in Scotland have called on all survivors of abuse in care to take part in an important consultation, allowing individuals to share their views on a possible financial redress scheme for the first time.

The consultation has been developed and delivered through a collaboration between a range of partners including survivor representatives (Interaction Action Plan Review Group) and CELCIS (the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland).

With just four weeks left to the deadline of Friday 17 November to complete the consultation, survivor groups have spoken out about the need for all survivors of abuse in care to take part.

David Whelan, spokesperson from Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers group (FBGA), commented: “This redress and compensation consultation gives everyone who has experienced abuse in the care system in Scotland an opportunity to share their views. The consultation offers real choices to the individual and survivor groups as to what it is they would like in any proposed redress-consultation scheme. It allows all survivors a chance to have their voices and opinions heard.  We would encourage as many survivors as possible to take part over the next month.

“Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers group fully support this consultation which was put together in a partnership with other victims-survivors, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, CELCIS, The Scottish Government and others.”

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “Anyone who has been subjected to abuse has a human right to access justice and to an effective and fair remedy. Everyone has the right to live and be treated with dignity.  The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomes the consultation by the InterAction Review Group and CELCIS on financial redress for historic abuse.  It is a crucial part of developing Scotland’s Action Plan on Historic Abuse and we encourage anyone who is themselves a survivor of childhood abuse to take part.”

Joanne McMeeking, Head of Improving Care Experiences at CELCIS, said: “We are in the final month of the consultation process, which is a milestone in terms of seeking justice for survivors of abuse in care in Scotland. Completing this consultation questionnaire gives survivors a way to have their views about potential financial redress seen and heard.”

Taking part

The consultation is open to all victims/survivors of historical abuse in care as defined by the Terms of Reference of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and is available online.

To Counter Child Abuse, Administrators and Case Workers Need Support to Implement Evidence-Based Improvements

In 2015, more than 425,000 children were placed in foster care due to incidents of abuse and neglect. But many unsubstantiated cases under investigation divert time and resources from handling cases that warrant close monitoring and attention. According to recent statistics, more than two million reports of child abuse and neglect were accepted for investigation in 2015 – with more than 700,000 of them eventually substantiated as cases of child abuse or neglect.

Imperfect Responses to Harmful Abuse and Neglect

Caseworkers often report that negotiating the multiple demands of their jobs puts them under constant stress. The sheer volume of Child Protective Services reports and investigations, the number of youth in foster care that need to be looked after, and the piles of paperwork that must be filled out to track decision-making – all of these burdens are overwhelming under the best of circumstances.

Faced with such workloads, agencies and caseworkers are ill-equipped to deliver services based on evidence of what works for youth and parents in the foster care system. The current standard of practice, however, leads agencies and caseworkers to engage in practices not supported by research-based evidence. Poorly conceived and delivered services cause considerable harm by failing to limit the incidence and after-effects of abuse and neglect.

Victims of child abuse and neglect are nine times more likely to become involved in crime and 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy. Such victims also face increased risks of smoking, early-age drinking, suicidal ideation, inter-personal violence, and sexual risk-taking. The sad results become obvious in later years. Two-thirds of adults under treatment for drug abuse report that they were maltreated as children. And similar reports of childhood abuse come from 14% of men in prison along with 36% of incarcerated women. Four-fifths of 21-year-olds who were abused as children show evidence of at least one mental health disorder. And saddest of all, about 30% of child abuse victims will later abuse their own kids.

What Could be Done?

Several steps can be taken to improve responses to child abuse and neglect:

  • Improved, ongoing training and job support for caseworkers and supervisors could ensure that they know the characteristics of the populations they serve and are aware of effective anti-abuse practices and know how to deliver them or help clients find others in the community who can provide optimal help. Front-line workers also need training to monitor client progress and detect when a case warrants more intensive intervention.
  • Enhanced preventive efforts could save lives and money. Research shows that the total cost of new U.S. cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment was approximately $124 billion in 2008. The estimated cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment was $210,012 in 2010, including the costs for health care, productivity losses, child welfare services, criminal justice procedures, and special education. In fatal cases, the figure rises to an astonishing $1,272, 900 per death.
  • Resources should be reallocated to areas of greatest need. In addition to redistributing available funding to hire more staff to manage high caseloads, innovative and effective programs and services must be delivered to prevent child maltreatment and fatalities. States should take advantage of funds offered by the federal government to expand evidence-based child welfare interventions that may have previously been underfunded.

Lessons from Philadelphia

A promising model comes from the state of Pennsylvania, which has participated in a federally funded project that allows child welfare agencies to use Title IV-E funds for evidence-based reforms. Philadelphia’s child welfare system has been at the forefront of adopting three evidence-based treatments for children and families that the city was previously unable to implement due to lack of funding. Waiver funds have made it possible to enhance preparation for child welfare caseworkers, develop databases to track outcomes for children and families, and train staff to identify and implement further improvements.

With flexible authority over spending, two child welfare agencies in Philadelphia decided to implement the Positive Parenting Program, an evidence-based approach to preventing child abuse. Although some reallocated resources have been used to train staff, additional funding is needed to discover barriers to effective program implementation and to implement additional steps known to be cost-effective – such as holding weekly consultations and boosting training for current and replacement leaders and caseworkers involved in the new program.

Research could pinpoint which approaches do best at giving various parents and youth access to the positive parenting program. And as parents and their offspring complete the program, further research would ideally track results in areas such as safety, reductions in abuse incidents, and improved parent-child relationships.

Next Steps

The Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Project was a provision in the U.S. Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which Congress reauthorized for five years in 2011. Now that the act is again up for reauthorization, Congress has the ability to implement changes to the way child welfare federal funds are allocated. Advocates for children have an opportunity to contact representatives and senators in Congress to propose that this program should expand to give more states the chance to reallocate funds and improve child safety.

Much remains to be learned about what it takes to carry out evidence-based interventions in the child welfare system, which provides vital help to many endangered children, youth, and families, disproportionately minorities. The federal Waiver Project provides a unique opportunity to observe what happens when system leaders, community partners, and providers mobilize to prevent childhood trauma. Lessons learned will help provide ongoing guidance to federal and state administrators and welfare leaders as they look for the most effective, empirically proven ways to protect children and families under their supervision.

Exploring the Traumatic Impact of Criminalizing Policies on Black Women and Girls

Black Youth Project 100 with Freedom Side in New York City August 2014. (Photo: Caleb-Michael Files)

The truth is, “black girls and women are still some of the most vulnerable members of society, thereby putting us more at risk for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Black teen girls, in a given year, are more likely to attempt suicide and become trafficked at younger ages than their racial counterparts. Additionally, black girls are at a significantly higher risk for sexual abuse, physical abuse, and child neglect.

Stressors that occur during black and brown children girlhood, such as loss, grief, substance abuse, mental illness, exposure to violence and parental incarceration are identified as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). A tool to “assess the cumulative effect of trauma on a person’s life”, ACEs identifies household dysfunction by exploring childhood experiences through a series of questions. At the conclusion, the response totals are utilized to assess the likelihood of risk factors for negative physical, mental and behavioral health outcomes (i.e. – asthma, early experimentation with drugs, suicidal ideation).

The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence indicates that more than 60 percent of children from birth to 17 years experience victimization and 38 percent witness violence sometime during childhood. While our recent focus has centered on the black and brown #missingDCgirls, who are disproportionately pushed out of the educational system, the community needs the conversation expanded in order to continue to coalition build and support efforts for black and brown girls affected by many of the issues that girls face, within their families, schools, and communities.

Faced with significant trauma and limited coping skills, many girls engage in behaviors that impede healthy socio-emotional development and positive overall well being. Cutting, drug experimentation, poor diet, violent outbursts, social isolation and displays of depressive emotions are just some of the behaviors that precede unaddressed stress and hopelessness, particularly in black and brown girls’ lives.

Restricted by geographic location, lack of resources, lack of knowledge of supportive services, healthcare access barriers due to age and parental rights and adolescents are left with no options. It is the foundation for a perfect storm hopeless feelings and stress.

Exploring the Impact of Criminalizing Policies on African American Women and Girls

In September 2015, scholars, community members, activist, and advocates gathered for a roundtable to discuss the impact of incarceration and mandatory minimums on survivors. With goals that focus on black women and girls, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault highlighted criminalizing policies, mandatory minimums, and challenges in reform initiatives.

The summary report highlighting the US Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women key points and recommendations from the roundtable was issued in January 2017. The report captures these critical issues at “the intersection of multiple aspects of a person’s identity (i.e., gender, race).” When examining the “impacts of increasing incarceration and criminalization,” public health issues faced by black women and girls, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, mental illness, disability and chronic health ailments are often an afterthought. While acknowledging, the roundtable did not further discuss the impacts due to expression or exploration of sexual orientation.

“…participants noted that efforts to end violence require a deeper analysis of the intersecting factors that shape an individual’s identity. For example, it is important to take into consideration the additional barriers and risks experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) girls and women. Participants also highlighted the need to take into account the particular challenges and exploitation of transgender women and girls.”

The criminalization black women and girls face due to the inability to cope, runaway status, nonreporting of parental abandonment and all “the ways in which conditions and experiences related to domestic violence and sexual assault intersect with girls’ experiences in the child welfare and social services systems.” This an area of inquiry for further research and development of culturally relevant and trauma informed programming. As evidenced by the short and long term effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), the correlations to pathways involving hyper-regulation and criminalizing trauma are the opposite approach to rehabilitation.

Critical race and black feminist theory are the foundations of my clinical and sociological perspective when presenting bio-psycho-socio-emotional histories. Social workers in clinical roles such as substance abuse and mental health are trained to not only “acknowledge, be supportive and discuss the problem” but also help the client navigate institutions and systems.

As an effective therapist, it’s imperative to not pathologize behaviors but to also understand individuals, communities, and organizations within the context of the social and cultural climate.

The FCA and the American Health Care System: Finding the Balance

Medicare fraud, you see it in the news every day, but many believe it is individual recipients costing the government billions of dollars. When in fact, doctors and other health care professionals are billing the government for services they never performed or for services and tests that were unnecessary. Billions of taxpayer dollars that were meant to serve actual needs go into pockets of unscrupulous health care professionals. It often goes unnoticed for years before someone discovers fraud.

The False Claims Act (FCA) is a law that oversees government contractors and prosecutes any false claims submitted to the government. It was passed in 1863 in an effort to address rampant fraud, such as double-billing and other deceptive business practices. In 1986, it was amended to address the fraudulent military spending under the Reagan administration.

Is Disagreement Fraudulent?

Over the past eight years, the Department of Justice reports it has recovered $19.3 billion in fraudulent health care claims. This accounts for 57 percent of the total amount of money recovered over the past 30 years, leading many people to suggest that the FCA has overreached its authority.

Lack of medical necessity is often cited in claims that are deemed fraudulent, but who decides what is and is not necessary? Shouldn’t that be a doctor’s decision? Certainly doctors have filed egregious fraudulent claims, but do we want our health care professionals second-guessing their decisions because they are worried about being prosecuted for fraud? One doctor may choose one course of action or set of tests while another may disagree and choose another. Should either of these decisions be considered fraudulent?

Whistleblowers Must Be Protected

No one is pro-fraud. Even criminals don’t want others to defraud them. When it comes to stopping the wanton theft of taxpayer money, both Democrats and Republicans support the False Claims Act and have done so for the more than 30 years the act has been in place. While there are concerns about its scope and reach, politicians in general can cite its obvious merits.

One part both sides mostly agree on is the protection of whistleblowers, people from inside a business environment who see and report suspected fraud. Without them and without protecting them, taxpayer money would be fraudulently spent without ever being noticed.

Whistleblowers can report suspected fraud directly to the government and not have to go through channels at their place of employment, where they could be ignored, or even worse, face retaliation. Even good, honest people might choose to keep quiet or turn a blind eye if they fear losing their job or being otherwise retaliated against.

Whistleblowers Reap Rewards?

A criticism of this is that people who report suspected fraud are legally protected and often end up receiving large financial settlements. This may unintentionally create a financial incentive to report fraud even when it may not exist. Disgruntled employees may report fraud that does not exist just to cause their employer trouble. The people who suffer most from this are those on government health care whose doctors may undertreat them or not treat them all out of fear of prosecution.

Costs Continue to Rise

Guess who pays for all of this: You do. Fraud and the prosecution of suspected fraudulent claims cause health care providers and insurance companies to raise their prices. These price increases are passed on to the consumer.

Health care costs continue to rise, putting financial pressure on employers and business owners. Health care spending in the United States is expected to grow from $2.9 trillion in 2013 to $5 trillion in 2022. Prescription drug costs have increased 10 percent, partly due to marketing and increased specialty of treatment. The government has done little to stop the increase in drug prices.

The FCA is necessary in order to protect taxpayer money from being fraudulently spent. Everyone can agree to that. However, let’s give doctors and other health care providers some leeway and support how they decide to treat a patient. We need that. Otherwise, costs and insurance premiums will continue to rise, and patient care will suffer.

Encourage whistleblowers to support suspected fraud, but let’s rein in the bountiful cash settlements they may receive in order to sustain honesty in the FCA. Let’s be as strict about fraudulent claims of fraud as we are about fraudulent medical claims. Protect the whistleblowers, but establish strict penalties for abuse. It’s all about ensuring quality care while protecting our tax dollars.

Wading into Action at the Intersections, The Case for Bresha Meadows

Photo Credit: Verso Books

On July 18th, 2016, 14 year old Bresha Meadows was arrested for shooting her abusive father in the head, and she is currently awaiting trial for aggravated murder.

Bresha Meadows continues to plead “not true” (the juvenile court’s version of “not guilty”) to the charge of aggravated murder. Although, it is a plea attached to an outcome too unsettling to consider, she remains a hopeful black girl, who acknowledges the small freedoms of wearing her own clothes, being able to go outside and having additional visiting privileges. These “freedoms”, additional supports financed by her family, parallel her previous placement in juvenile detention.

At a pre trial release hearing on January 20th, a judge ordered that Bresha be sent to a residential treatment facility in her home state of Ohio. Initially, Bresha faced a life sentence for aggravated murder of her father, whom she allegedly shot and killed. It is reported that Bresha’s father brutally beat her mother and terrorized her family for years. Although her father’s family is insisting he is innocent, Bresha and her family members contend that she was born into a nightmare and was afraid of him.

An August 2016 article reported that Bresha’s mother took necessary precautions such as filing an order of protection and contacting child services. It is unclear at this juncture, whether any of those precautions were effective.

Stories like Bresha’s rarely receive recognition on a mainstream level but when they do, they tend to focus on the criminalization of black girls and the education system. Broadening the conversation on the criminalization of black girls to include child abuse and neglect, witnessing and experiencing domestic violence, trauma and a complacent child services system are imperative.

Bresha is at the intersection of witnessing domestic violence, experiencing child abuse and unsuccessful supportive resources. She has suffered the effects of shooting her father and ultimately becoming the protector of her family. Bresha’s mother, Brandi reported that she was not strong enough to leave the abusive relationship but Bresha helped so they could all have a better life.  Bresha is at risk, as demonstrated by studies that suggest that children who are exposed to domestic violence and/or child abuse are more likely to experience a wide range of adverse psychosocial and behavioral outcomes.

Bresha Meadows

Bresha’s final pre-trial hearing is set for April 17, 2017. Here are 12 ideas for action you can take, developed by the #freebresha campaign, some of which include organizing a #freebresha teach in, and creating art inspired by Bresha, to name a few.

This case is important because of the clinical work that I have done as a licensed social worker with black families in Illinois and Indiana. While my experience has spanned settings, specifically within child welfare and juvenile justice, black families are routinely marginalized throughout the experience.

Limited or no resources, lack of access to services and discriminatory practices are a few ways families are marginalized through the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

In addition to my concern for her family as a unit, my concern is for Bresha.

Now she languishes in a system that has failed her over and over again. The screams of so many victims of violence, racism and patriarchy bounce off the sterile walls that surround her, only to be swallowed whole by our silence. read more

As a former therapist at a juvenile residential treatment center and juvenile detention center, my group and individual sessions were often tailored from a holistic perspective. Topics ranging from trauma, grief, familial, community and (what I now understand to be coined) state violence were often processed and addressed during treatment.

The longer that Bresha is locked in a juvenile facility, away from her support system, the higher her risk is for attachment and mental health issues. A representative from an organization in Ohio that advocates for youth mentioned, “Children who spend time in juvenile detention are more likely to abuse substances as adults, and less likely to have good educational outcomes and form stable families of their own.” Bresha’s case progression, home environment and psychosocial risk factors such as exposure to violence are elements that contribute to her overall mental health and well being.

Lastly, her case is important to me because she is a black girl and so am I. In solidarity, this is my fight for Bresha.

Black girlhood, violence and child abuse in the black family and the criminalization of black girls are complex topics, especially within the black community. These issues are complex due to the intersections of race, gender and the culture of abuse, all of which have a foundation rooted in racism and patriarchy.

Professor and Author Dr. Stacey Patton states, in How Black Feminists Have Become Complicit in the Abuse of Black Children, “the one form of violence within black communities that does not seem to be recognized as incurred by white racism is violence against children.” Many of these stories include our experiences with domestic violence, intergenerational trauma, community violence & state violence, along with a litany of other socio-cultural issues that impacts black families and communities. These stories are worthy of examination and amplification.

We must reflect on our present moment…who we truly are when it comes to the identity of our profession as one committed to social justice in our culture, particularly on issues where Black cis and trans women and girls are being killed and victimized while their suffering is marginalized, erased, and rendered invisible to us. Read More

Juvenile Detainment and the “Child – Support Model” The Case for Social Justice

In “Do Black Women’s Lives Matter in Social Work: A Gender Analysis of Racialized State- Sanctioned Police Violence” Crystal M. Hayes states, “As a social worker, I am calling specifically on us to do better as a profession when it comes to our commitments to promoting social justice and anti-racism in the world and culture seeped in persistent anti-Black racism, heterosexism, patriarchal violence and misogyny, and anti-queer antagonism and violence.”

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), “Social workers apply social-justice principles to structural problems, use knowledge of existing legal principles and organizational structure to suggest changes to protect their clients, who are often powerless and underserved”. Related to the social worker’s role is identifying and advocating for social justice.

Bresha’s mother is tasked with financing her daughter’s care.

A billing practice, rooted in capitalistic and oppressive ideologies. Deemed by detention center administrators and proponents of the social policy, as “child support”, the financial expectations and repercussions which are placed on families is challenging.

A recent investigation conducted by the Marshall Project highlights the aftermath of this system through stories of garnished wages and the impact of detainment on the child’s behavior. Rooted in the belief that parents did not want the obligation of caring for a delinquent child, “parental billing practices” were implemented. It was subsumed that this policy would serve as a deterrent and attach billing for families that utilize detention centers as babysitters for their wayward children.

Today, mothers and fathers are billed for their children’s incarceration — in jails, detention centers, court-ordered treatment facilities, training schools or disciplinary camps — by 19 state juvenile-justice agencies, while in at least 28 other states, individual counties can legally do the same, a survey by the Marshall Project shows.

Parental billing practices should be abolished given that they are archaic and heavily intertwined with oppressive and racist roots. Roots built on the premise that collecting fees from a parent would somehow encourage them to have a different stake in their child’s life, a financial stake. This would in turn, impact their parenting involvement, engagement– too ensure the child will not put the family in such a (financial) position again.

Parental billing practices do not impact parent – child dynamics to the magnitude of decreasing first time and recidivistic interactions with the system. Given my experience as a clinician, I know this issue is more complex and nuanced than mandated billing practices. Interaction and involvement with these systems is stressful, and more often than not, traumatic. Let’s add the financial expectations associated with billing practices. A writer from the Washington Post references:

“Not only does such a policy unfairly conscript the poorest members of society to bear the costs of public institutions, operating ‘as a regressive tax,’ ” Reinhardt wrote, “but it takes advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable, essentially imposing ‘a tax upon distress.’”

A clear example that the “personal is political”, the Meadows family is at the intersection of these social systems.

While in graduate school, I had the opportunity to work with the Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project (MWJCP) which works to free women prisoners who were convicted of murder but who acted in self-defense against abusers and did not receive due process or fair trials.

Unfortunately, Bresha’s case progression echoes many of the stories of the women who receive assistance from MWJCP. Just like many of the women prisoners, Bresha and her family attempted to access the appropriate channels for assistance. Given their limited resources, “domestic issues” are generally addressed through the justice and child welfare systems. It appears those systems have failed.

One of the things that I admire about social workers is our ability to advocate for others and ask all the right, even tough questions. There are a lot of questions to ask concerning this case as Professor David Leonard inquires, “The question is, will we listen—this time? Or, if we pretend that we can’t hear them in our communities and our schools and our homes, bleeding beneath the fists of men who claim to love them, will they, like a tree falling in a forest, even make a sound?”

We can not lose sight. Bresha is a child: a survivor of abuse and a witness to violence in her own home, at the hands of her father,

What to Do If You’re in a Long-term Relationship and You Think You’re Not Attracted to Your Partner

You used to stare across the dinner table and wink at each other; lately though, you barely even look each other in the eyes. You used to call each other multiple times a day, but now you barely talk. And don’t even get started about the difference in your intimacy from the start of your relationship to now; it’s like night and day.

What’s happened? Clearly you’re in a long-term relationship and you fear you’re no longer attracted to your partner. But how did you get here? It definitely wasn’t intentional, and it didn’t happen overnight. But somehow it happened. Now what?

Here are six tips to help you get back on track.

Realize All Relationships Have Ups and Downs

The beginning of a relationship is exciting. You’re with someone new and you know very little about each other. You feel butterflies and are anxious to spend time together. But after a while, those feelings change a little. You get to know each other’s faults, and while you are still attracted, life starts to get in the way.

The longer you are together, you will likely go through big things together, like losing a job, enduring health issues, death of a loved one, etc. Then there are daily stresses of being a couple, such as living together, merging finances, and more. You tend to spend more time focused on these other things than each other; so it’s only natural that you aren’t feeling that loving feeling at the moment. But just know that this is normal.

If you were to start a relationship with someone new, of course it would be exciting—at first, anyway. The relationship would end up having similar ups and downs. So take heart. You’ve made it this far with your mate, and you can go further.

Address Emotional Issues

Sometimes a loss of attraction comes because there are deep emotional issues, such as abuse, or other bad experiences in the past. If that is true, then it can be hard to open up and let your current partner in.

If you want to help your relationship, then it’s time to address any emotional issues you may have. Seek the help of a reputable, experienced counselor. At some point, it may be helpful to have your partner join you at a counseling session.

Focus on What You Love About Each Other

Life is so full of negativity, it has a way of creeping into our relationships. After two people have been together for a long time, they see every part of each other, warts and all. It’s only human nature to forget why we fell in love in the first place. We get blinded by the annoying parts of life and each other. Maybe your partner leaves his socks everywhere or can’t ever find his keys. Maybe she is demanding or takes too long in the shower. After a while it’s all we think about. If that’s true in your relationship, it’s no wonder you aren’t feeling attracted to your partner anymore. How can you feel attracted if you only focus on the negative.

Instead, let go of that. Focus on what you love about each other. Maybe he is forgiving and playful. Maybe she is a great cook and does thoughtful things. Focus on those things instead. Feel grateful you are so lucky to have a partner like that. Remember why you fell in love in the first place and soon you’ll feel those attractive thoughts come back.

Schedule Regular Date Nights

If you’ve gotten too busy lately,  you’re probably not spending quality alone time with your partner. Sure, you’re together in the car or at home. But when was the last time you went out, just the two of you? Schedule regular date nights to show that your relationship is important. A night out every week will speak volumes and be an opportunity for you both to act like a couple out in public. It may be just the spark your relationship needs.

Do Nice Things for Each Other

When we stop feeling attracted, we tend to stop doing nice things for each other. What’s the point, right? But this is exactly the time to be doing nice things for your partner. You can’t serve someone and not love them. Think about other people you serve, either friends or in the community. Don’t you feel good when you life your friend’s spirits or volunteer? You can have those same feelings of happiness when you serve your partner, and they could be a jump start to feeling attracted again.

Choose to Act in Loving Ways

In the end, love is a choice. Sure, it would be nice to feel loving all the time without any effort. And certainly it feels that way in the beginning of a relationship. But you’ve both matured. Now love is a choice. If you choose to act in loving ways, you will feel love towards your partner. It may be more difficult than it sounds, especially if your relationship is in a tough place. So start small. How could you show your partner you love him? Choose love, and receive love in return.

Elder Abuse in the Twenty-First Century

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In this “silver tsunami” era, elder populations are outnumbering the younger workforce. This creates significant inequity and more than enough opportunity for people to take advantage. Whether financially, neglectfully, emotionally, physically or sexually, seniors in the United States are at a high risk for exploitation.

Seniors can be abused by underpaid and overworked employees. Nursing shortages, along with an explosion of senior populations, lead to less competent care resulting in bedsores, malnutrition, falls, sepsis or other damages from neglect. In addition, economic woes lead to a rise in physical and financial abuse perpetrated by family members, caretakers and even outsiders. Older people are more susceptible in giving of information without asking questions, which makes financial abuse a low-risk, high-reward crime area. Having adequate representation can be a problem as well.

Social Security and other government assistance is typically managed by a person with power of attorney, but occasionally the government will designate someone to perform economic functions. The potential for abuse necessitates records to be very exact and reported regularly. Social security, wills, estate management, retirement portfolios and such accounts are difficult for most clear thinking people. It has been reported that any older person, much less those with dementia, make bad financial decisions.

Trends

Knowledge of elder abuse is not up with the times, decades behind the experts in the field. It’s difficult to even get a report filed. The myriad of potential problems is worsened due to many inappropriate state laws being slow in prosecuting offenses. Institutional Review Boards don’t commonly deal with such cases and there are not many federal regulations. Meanwhile, seniors don’t always have a great memory for testimony to help their cause in getting charges.

It is going to be hard for the courts to catch up with the times. Currently, elder abuse is acknowledged by WHO as a human rights violation with one in ten seniors falling prey to some crime. That ratio becomes one in two concerning people with dementia. As bad as the current populations trends look now, the future looks worse. 85+ is the fastest growing age group in the United States and the 60+ population is expected to double to over 2 billion people by the year 2050.

What to do?

Local district attorneys need tougher laws that focus on stopping predators and ways to enforce those laws. Whether with state or private agencies, seniors need more representation in housing placements or other living transitions and their monetary affairs.

Elders need younger people to show interest. Nursing home staff is going to be more careful with people they know are being checked on. Other relatives that are taking care of a loved one, should be helped out too. Stopping by or ask about older family members shows that someone is cared for, reducing the abuse risk. Importantly, it also breaks the cycle of care and provides everyday caretakers with the knowledge that they could get a break if needed.

The marks of abuse need to be more commonly known and easy to identify. Upwards of 500,000 seniors are victimized, but very few of these cases are ever identified, much less reported and charged. It helps to have advocates who can sense physical harm, negligence, medical malpractice and other atrocities. Physical and sexual abuse are easier to spot than most neglect, so it takes a concerned loved one to spot personality changes or injuries that are inconsistent with the individual.

Mistreatment is more likely to occur to seniors who have experienced past abuse, in part because those people are frequently left in bad situations and never given much help. Senior women are more victimized than men, as are people in poorer health and those with lower incomes. Many other obvious risk factors and tell tale signs exist to make others aware. We need to be more empathetic and better educated.

The onus is on the concerned relatives to care about what facility seniors are placed in. For-profit corporate chain nursing homes often have less than ideal conditions for staff or residents. Relatives should take the time to tour various homes, make observations, and find the right fit. The most important way to combat elder abuse is by being involved. We just can’t put elders into homes and forget about them. It’s not supposed to be a prison for people we can’t help anymore. Nursing homes are expensive places that should be treating residents like royalty. It takes our effort to keep things as they should be.

To facilitate better treatment, we need to listen to both seniors and caregivers. We need to be attuned to what seniors needs and worries are. We need to speak up and file charges when something has happened. One in ten reported cannot be acceptable. If a caregiver is stressed or burned out, we need to make sure they can get the breaks they deserve to provide the best care, just as we must make sure caregivers are getting paid adequately for the grueling work they put in.

As with raising a child, it takes a village to care for our elders. We need to impress upon society in general that it is everyone’s responsibility and how this needs to happen. We are all going to be in this position someday, we should be doing everything we would want others to do for us as we become more helpless.  

Why It’s Not So Easy to “Just Get the Hell Out”

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One of the many difficult questions survivors of toxic relationships ask themselves is “why is it so hard to leave someone who treats me so badly?”  As rational people, we recognize that a relationship is extremely problematic and believe that the rational course of action would be just to stop the drama.

And yet, this is usually harder than it sounds.

While there are practical and logistical barriers to people exiting, the emotional resistance to leaving is usually present even when there aren’t kids or property or business deals or divorce laws slowing us down.

What accounts for this?  Why is it so common?

Social science has some insights that help to explain what’s going on here.  Knowing them may help you understand your own behavior (and the toxic person’s), help you exit or recover, and help you comfort yourself with the knowledge that if you’ve been caught in a toxic relationship, the dynamics that hooked you are dynamics that have tripped up many other human beings. They are also dynamics that you can change or avoid, once you’re in the know.

Here are seven principles from social science that will help you understand why it’s challenging to “just get the hell out.”

1. Intermittent reinforcement

They come, they go. They love you, they disappear. They love-bomb you, they tell you nobody else would want you.  These mixed messages may come quickly or may emerge slowly, but they hook us by making us wonder how we can stay on the happy side of the person’s attention and affection.

If the messages were all negative, we could easily walk away.  When we’ve had some taste of what it feels like to be “loved,” and then the behaviors we interpret as love disappear, it’s the fact of intermittent reinforcement that keeps us hanging in, trying to get the good stuff back.

2. The principle of least interest
At first, you are the center of their attention. Over time they are “just not that into you.”  The principle of least interest argues that the person who has the least interest in preserving a relationship has the most power in it.

Think of how this works with car salespeople: if you can walk away from the deal, you have more negotiating power. Toxic partners and family members manipulate the principle of least interest. As they back off, ignore, you, ghost you, or otherwise fade or disappear emotionally or otherwise for periods of time, they also accrue power — if you allow it by remaining intensely interested in “saving” the relationship.

3. How secrets create intimacy between secret keepers

Sociologist Georg Simmel argued that “every relationship between two individuals or two groups will be characterized by the ratio of secrecy that is involved in it.”  In healthy relationships, people are transparent with each other in generous degrees.

In toxic relationships, toxic people withhold information to manipulate you and have power over you and your choices. When they have affairs, they create intimacy with someone else who is then in on a secret (the relationship) that is invisible to you.

You may not leave because of the information that has been withheld from you, or because your partner’s other relationships are used to provoke you into competing for their attention, or if you aren’t savvy about how triangulation (the classic “love triangle” between three people) can be triggered by secret keeping.

4. Cognitive Dissonance

The experience of holding two competing beliefs simultaneously, cognitive dissonance is common among people in toxic relationships. “I love them” and “They treat me badly” are two beliefs that create the kind of tension associated with cognitive dissonance. “They are my sister so I should help them” and “they never repay the money I loan them” are two similarly competing beliefs.

Cognitive dissonance keeps us in emotional turmoil and slows us down in figuring out the best course of action to take for our health and happiness.

5. The Sunk Costs Fallacy

“Sunk costs” are the investments we have already made in an enterprise — or a relationship. The “fallacy” refers to our human tendency to over-estimate what we will lose by ending the endeavor and to under-estimate what we will lose by continuing.

In toxic relationships, this works to your disadvantage because it creates a tendency to expect, despite the evidence to the contrary, that if you just invest a bit more, the other person will become kind, appreciative, or reciprocal.  We underestimate the advantage of the “risk” involved with walking away. You can see how this belief sets you up to give until it hurts even more.

6. “Opportunity Cost” denial

Every day we spend in a toxic relationship is a day we don’t spend enjoying our single life or sharing happiness with a loving, supportive partner.  While our focus is on the drama, pain, or trouble created by a toxic relationship, we are missing out on opportunities for joy, connection, freedom, and happiness because the opportunities are less in our line of sight. Just like the moon behind the clouds, though, they are there all the time. When we see true alternatives to suffering, we can make choices to minimize opportunity costs.

7. Decision fatigue

Toxic relationships involve extraordinary decision making, often including re-evaluating every day whether you will stay in the relationship or exit. Neuroscience tells us that decision-making demands remarkable amounts of mental energy, leaving people exhausted.

As a result of decision fatigue, the quality of our decisions declines; we become less able to clearly see our options, assess potential outcomes, and accurately evaluate what we might gain or lose as a result of different decisions. Because of our tendency to under-estimate the costs of staying and over-estimate the costs of “losing” a toxic relationship, we may be inclined to continue to choose to stay when deciding from a place of decision fatigue.

Understanding what happens in toxic relationships through the insights of social science can help us see exploitative relationships more clearly. Even more importantly, these concepts can help us see more clearly the ways our own minds work, how we are vulnerable to making decisions that keep us in difficult situations, and how we can redirect our energies into more liberating, more loving relationships.

Leaving Abusive Relationships Is Especially Hard for People in Minority Communities

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Partners in abusive relationships — with psychopaths, narcissists, and other disordered individuals — often suffer in silence. This is especially true in marginalized communities.

Partners’ silence reinforces their isolation and reduces their capacity to end abuse and exploitation in these relationships.

What stops a partner from seeking help? Among the barriers to reaching out for a reality check — and support for leaving — are these common factors:

Shame. Partners worry that their association with a toxic person reflects poorly on them and that others will judge them if they know about the abuse they are tolerating. If they’ve left and returned, the shame feels greater.  Partners also often want to protect the “good reputation” of their toxic mate or the status the couple enjoys within a family or community.  If friends or family opposed coupling with the toxic person, the partner faces the shame of acknowledging the decision to ignore good advice and feels unworthy of support now.

Fear.  Partners of personality disordered people experience many kinds of fear as they contemplate seeking help. Fears range from the fear of retribution or stonewalling by the partner to the fear of being seen as crazy when they describe what is happening.  They sometimes fear that they cannot trust their own perceptions, or that they aren’t really seeing what they think they are seeing.

Hopelessness.  Partners may trust their perceptions that a relationship is toxic, and believe that others would sympathize with their situation, but still feel trapped by financial, cultural, and familial limitations.  As a result, they continue to suffer in silence, assuming that nowhere they turn will offer practical help in ending an exploitative relationship.

These three limitations affect partners of psychopaths and others with toxic personalities across categories of gender, sexual identity, race, religion, and relationship status.  For members of minority groups, barriers to seeking help are even greater.

Because members of marginalized groups are already stigmatized by society, they often work to “protect the reputation” of their communities, thinking that calling attention to dysfunction or violence within them reinforces negative stereotypes. For this reason, domestic violence and sexual assault are frequently under-reported within communities of color, religious minority groups, and LGBTQ communities.

In addition to the common forms of shame, fear, and helplessness that many victims feel, members of minority communities also experience fear that others will judge them for calling negative attention to the community.

They also fear that the legal system will not protect them as it should.  Because people from majority groups dominate criminal justice, legal, property, and financial systems, turning to people in authority to seek help with a toxic relationship is an extremely courageous and vulnerable act. But it could result in the system being unresponsive or shaming — or actually siding with the perpetrator.

In a worst case scenario, a victim could alienate friends, family, and community members by naming the problem and seeking help, only to find themselves treated poorly by the systems to which they have turned, resulting in more isolation and danger than if they had remained silent.

A famous example of how minority status increases vulnerability to psychopaths occurred in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous Milwaukee serial killer of gay men.

Dahmer was white. Many of his victims were poor men of color, men whose “missing” status would be less of a priority for white authorities to resolve. One of them, a 14-year-old Southeast Asian boy, Konerak Sinthasamphone, escaped Dahmer’s apartment, drugged, naked, and bleeding. African American witnesses called the police asking for assistance on his behalf.  White officers responded, only to return the minor to Dahmer, who had assured them that the two were a couple and everything was fine, despite the victim’s obvious distress.  Within moments of the police leaving the boy in Dahmer’s apartment, he was killed — a victim not only of the psychopath, but also of police ignorance, incompetence, and hostility toward minority people.

Aware of situations like these, victims from minority communities often seek help only with great caution, both when they face “stranger danger,” harassment, and hate crimes, and when they are victimized by intimate partners or family members. It is vital for people in the helping professions to be prepared to respond skillfully when people from minority populations take the risk of seeking help.

Police officers, lawyers, doctors, therapists, and clergy need an awareness of the patterns of victimization created by psychopaths and other troublesome people, as well as the special vulnerabilities of people in minority populations to exploitation and abuse.  When victims of toxic partners decide to reach out for help, we have a professional obligation to understand not only psychopathic abuse, but also what it means for a person in a minority community to come forward, to seek help, and, possibly, to exit their relationship.

Minority victims of toxic partners, like all victims, deserve to know that competent help is available when they take the important step to seek help, despite the barriers of shame, fear, and hopelessness.

Helping Children Overcome Genetic Risk for Externalizing Disorders

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Imagine loving someone, having children with that person, and then realizing that you’ve gotten yourself involved in an abusive relationship.

Imagine suspecting that your partner, the mother or father of your children, has a personality disorder — and then hearing that personality disorders are highly genetic. If you’re a therapist, imagine this person is your client. What do you do?

I believe we can and should intervene in the lives of children who are at risk of developing externalizing disorders, such as ADHD, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and substance use disorders. If we do, we may be able to prevent these children from developing personality disorders as adults.

When we study large numbers of people affected by externalizing disorders and personality disorders in particular, we see that about 50 percent of the risk for these disorders is genetic. That means the environment children grow up in, including their interactions with parents, siblings, and peers, also strongly influences the development of the disorder.

With the right environmental influences, genetic risk may be mitigated. Most programs to support victims of partner abuse do not address the issue of genetic risk. If we start early, and if we put a little energy into helping children, both the child and the family can be spared a lot of anguish due to emotional and behavioral problems later on.

By and large, programs that teach parenting skills are good. But for this particular group of children, parenting approaches that emphasize rules, consequences, and discipline, may not be the most effective.

Research is finding that internalizing disorders, such as anxiety and depression, relate to the inhibition system of the brain, whereas externalizing disorders relate to the dopamine reward system.

What we want to do with this group of children is to train their brain reward system to respond to positive rewards — most importantly a loving family and affection. It’s very difficult to train a child to respond to affection in a good way when you’re punishing the child every five minutes for something the child is doing.

Still, love is not enough. We also have to train the child to enjoy doing things that are productive, like work — because life involves work — and hobbies, such as music and sports.

I advocate a two-pronged approach, although one of the prongs of my approach has not been thoroughly researched.

I believe in teaching the parents and the children — in developmentally appropriate language — what genetic risk is about. In the case of externalizing disorders, it involves difficulty with self-control. I think it’s important to teach children, when they show problems with self-control, to identify their issue, and to help them understand that it’s something they can work on. This teaching has not been well researched, but it is similar to cognitive behavioral therapies that are used for children.

The other part of my approach is teaching parents to interact with their children in a positive way and to enjoy their children. Now, I understand that this can be difficult when the children have issues with self-control. But we’re focusing on training that reward system, and if there’s no enjoyment, you cannot train the reward system.

Of course, sometimes the genes express themselves so strongly that no amount of loving parenting can overcome the genetic risk. But if we try, we may be able to save many children from a lifetime of disorder and antisocial behavior. I think the effort is worth it.

Bullying – A Dirty Word

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Bullying is a ‘dirty word’ nowadays. Dirty are the people who use bullying to control you to please themselves because of their own lack of self-worth. Dirty are the actual words and/or the actions the bullies dish out. Worse yet, dirty is how they make victims feel. It’s time to clean up the act.

Whether you are a bully or the poor soul who’s been attacked or abused by one, you can do something to help with the cleanup. Yes, anyone can so why not you and I. It may be in the school ground, on social media, at work or even your own home, but there is never a better time to act than the present.

Bullying is a physical or verbal and emotional assault on another person that is repeated over time. The victim is usually a soft spoken or timid individual as they are easy targets. I say, emotional assault for good reason because no matter whether an attacker is calling someone names or physically harming them – both types of abuse causes emotional harm.

All victims of significant bullying find themselves with low self-esteem or self-worth. This is the aim of the bully. Why? Because he’s self-esteem is low too and he doesn’t know how to better himself in practical, useful ways, so s/he takes it out on others to bring them down to their level – all under the cover of an all high and mighty mask though of course. They’re usually the last ones to admit their own mistakes.

Many bullies have been victims of it themselves in the past and rather than believing they are undeserving and better than that, some go onto becoming bullies themselves to cover up their own pain. They try to cover it up with a false sense of macho-ness.

It’s time to clean up our act…. it  starts with bullies, victims or mates of bullies and victims – so no matter who you are – you can help take part and do your bit.

If you are a bully yourself and you’ve just owned up to the fact, in your own mind at least, then thank you – thank you for being honest and taking the first step to cleaning up the mess.

If you’ve been a bully or still are being bullied, well guess what? – no more! If you’re a mate of either a bully or a victim – it’s also time for you to act.

It can start today, right now. How you ask? Well, if the reason behind bullying is low self-worth (which I believe it is), then it’s time to build up your self-esteem and appreciate who you are, what you stand for and how you deserve to be treated.

Even if you believe you’re a bully because you witnessed your parents fighting with each other, or with yourself for that matter, it still comes down to low self-worth as a result of the violence. If you are willing to take a good, hard look at yourself you will be cleansed in no time.

Violence in my Rear View Mirror

By Tracy Cerff

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Too often we hear it said that a woman should ‘just leave’ a violent relationship. It is far easier said than done. Hindsight is a gift not afforded to all of us. The majority of assaults and deaths of women in domestic violence crimes have been committed after they have left the relationship.  The Australian Institute of Criminology put these horrendous crimes between 80-100 women each year, saying the majority of them were being killed in their own homes.  I remember clearly the day I ended my relationship with a former partner and how difficult and almost deadly it was.

As usual he took me in through the back entrance and insisted I sit down, politely pulling out a kitchen chair for me from the large dining table which seemed odd even then, as I had never seen anyone in the home to use it. I remember the warmth of the sun sneaking its way in the backdoor. To my dismay, but relief, he left it slightly open. It was the only comfort amongst the coldness I felt and the echoing of his voice inside my head.

We reached his home, the sun shining hot on the heavy, heritage bricks. He invited me into the house, in his ‘ordering voice’, to come inside for one last drink together. I wanted to run a thousand miles. I followed him in knowing I had to make it a quick stop or perhaps I wouldn’t be leaving at all.

Although we had just had a fiery argument in the car before arriving, he was eerily calm now and had begun to peel a mango with a sharp kitchen knife, which I’m sure I stared at for too long. He was remarkably back in his happy space again – he often changed his emotions without notice. Me however, I was stiff with fear as I now dreaded being in his presence, in his house – in his life.

From the other side of the room, while I silently watched him peel his mango, he tried to coax me to share it with him – how kind, I sarcastically thought. One mouthful and I would have physically puked. I so wanted to hide the fear I could sense he detected in me as he would see it as his prize, a triumph. I meekly declined his offer.

Deciding to now play a hero role, he came and lifted me from my pedestal – my place where he put me at the table. As he stood me up he mockingly snickered that I should lighten up and give him a hug. I stared at the shadow cast from us both open the half opened door. That doorway that gave me hope – with the warmth of the sun and openness to the outside world.

The shadow told a different story. Not one of a loving embrace for sure, rather a thrilling scene from a movie where we were the main actors. I could see the portrait of us both entwined, with the knife in his tight clenched hand against my skin. I was so frozen in fear that I couldn’t feel the actual knife itself. I knew I needed out or this was it.

With whatever scrap of strength I could summons, I hugged him as he wished and shakily lied, “I really have to get going or I’ll be late for my appointment and I don’t want them calling me”. Without hesitation, I pulled away from his grasp and grabbed my bag off the side of the chair praying it wouldn’t get caught. I don’t know why he allowed me to go, but I just knew to keep going – I did what I had to do to survive and it worked.

At my appointment I must have still been as white as a back-washed wall, as the Doctor was very concerned about my anxiousness, offering me the details of a counsellor near to my home. I never shared a word to him of the incident. I did however gratefully accept the details. I was one of the lucky ones, so many are not as fortunate.

My experiences have led me to a deeper understanding of the vast complications that women face when they find themselves in a similar situation. Unfortunately my story is not unique. It is far too common and made even more complex when there are children involved and when women don’t have the means or funds to safely leave the situation. My work in counselling and education opens doors for me to empower women, men and young people to plan their future, a future without violence and control at their hands of another.

Breaking the Stigma of Child Sex Abuse

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Recently, celebrity actor Dax Shepard, who previously appeared on NBC’s Parenthood and is also married to actress Kristen Bell, revealed in an interview that he had been molested as a child. Dax disclosed on The Jason Ellis Show that he was just 7 years old when he was abused by his 18 year old neighbour.

Initially, Dax viewed the incident as minimal with him not telling anyone about the abuse for 12 years. He said that he blamed himself and even considered he may have been gay as a reason why the abuse occurred. Dax publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse in which he now feels his addiction was fueled by the molestation. Dax’s mother is a court-appointed advocate for children in foster care and recently shared a statistic with Dax. At a seminar, Dax’s mother learned that if child has been molested, there is only a 20% chance of them not becoming an addict.

Every 107 seconds a sexual assault occurs with approximately 293,000 victims of sexual assault each year, this is a shocking statistic. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) have published statistics which show that 44% of victims are under the age of 18. Most importantly, research shows that the majority of sexual abuse perpetrators know the child. This may be surprising especially since in schools there is a lot of teaching on the dangers of strangers and what children should do if approached by a stranger. It is even more shocking that 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to police and 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison.

Not all sexually abused children will exhibit visible symptoms, and some may even appear asymptomatic. However, others may begin acting outside of behavioral norms. Research shows that children will not give a detailed and clear account of sexual abuse, but  they may imply something in order to test the reaction. When children are ready, they may hint more directly, but it is very easy to miss a child disclosing which prevent them from getting the help they may need.

Research has also found that the relationship to the perpetrator, age at first incident of abuse, the use of physical force, severity, gender and ethnicity can be key factors in a child’s willingness to disclose. Children who do disclose, frequently tell a friend or sibling. Of all family members to be told, the mother is most likely, but this depends on the child’s expected response. Professionals are rarely on the receiving end of sexual abuse disclosures. However, when professionals are chosen, teachers are the most likely to be told in this circumstance.

With the increasing use and development of technology, sexual abuse does not just include physical acts. 9% of youth internet users have experienced distressing sexual material whilst only and in 27% of incidents youths have been asked to provide sexual photographs of themselves.When asked, 72% of teenagers felt that digital abuse is something that should be addressed by society.

The NSPCC have detailed behaviour children may exhibit if they have been abused such as being withdrawn, anxious, clingy, eating disorders, wetting the bed, drugs, self-harm and taking risks. The impact of abuse can impair the ability to cope with stress or emotions, and as the brain becomes damaged it can result in memory impairment or reduced social functioning.

Self-blame is a commonly known consequences of sexual abuse which can often lead to self-harm and suicide. with studies finding that people who were sexually abused as children were more than twice as likely consider suicide in later life. Sexual abuse can lead to confused ideas about relationship and sexual behaviour as well as having physical consequences such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

For professionals, it can be extremely difficult to hear the abuse someone has suffered, but a supportive reaction can make all the difference to a child who is deciding whether to disclose or not. Also, what can we learn from the correlation of abuse and addiction? If we could prevent/reduce child abuse occurrence, imagine how much could we impact addiction?

Privilege and Power: The Role of Shame and Self-Awareness

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If you are a helping professional, chances are you were trained in self-awareness and learned about its importance. In fact, self-awareness is foundational to all areas of helping. In micro intervention, we must be aware of our biases and feelings about a host of presenting problems. If we are not self-aware, we risk placing judgement on our clients and decreasing our credibility and effectiveness as a result.  

Similarly, self-awareness plays an important role at the macro level. Specifically, we must know our place in the hierarchy of the structures and systems that we are charged with ameliorating, and self-awareness must be part of what drives our analyses of structural and systemic inequality.  

The latter, self-awareness and macro structural analyses, is not a popular topic among many elements of North American society. However, without challenging the status quo with analyses such as the one contained herein, the progressive and change-oriented elements of society cannot make progress. We must challenge and be truly progressive in order to help the people we are charged with serving. Vulnerable populations and marginalized groups remain marginalized time and time again if we cannot change damaging conservative elements within our political structures.   

Evidence, a case study

I am a white male, 45 years old.  I am a 5th generation Canadian with European roots dating back to the United Empire Loyalists.  

For the majority of my adult life, I have felt a great deal of shame regarding the history of my country and that of the United States of America in so far as I can claim to know the history of the latter. The shame I have felt and carried and to some extent still carry, stems from our collective white, European history.  

Although I do not easily acknowledge my expertise, I am an ‘expert’ in many areas of social work knowledge, and  I have become ‘expert’ through study and practice experience of 20 years.  These areas include domestic family violence, trauma and posttraumatic stress.  I acknowledge my areas of expertise because they factor into the shame I feel as a person, as a man, and as a social worker who has worked with children and families for 20 years.  

Maybe I am an anomaly, but I feel and identify with shame a great majority of the time. Perhaps, it is because of my privilege as a white male.  I studied male violence toward women and children for many years and worked in the treatment of women and children victims and male perpetrators for many years.  Often, I have identified as feminist and anti oppressive almost exclusively.  

Have you read about or studied intergenerational trauma?  I wonder if this is perhaps some of what causes me historical shame?  Did my ancestors personally participate in wars and acts of oppression?  These are questions I don’t have answers to.  If I did have answers or insight into my ancestors actions in the past, I suspect they would be tainted with some sort of justification for their acts.  

Things I feel shameful for

I feel shame for being a man.  Men, I think it can be argued, are responsible for the majority of gross atrocities carried out against human populations at the individual / family, community, and societal levels.  Although we as a planet have histories of non -white men and groups acting out atrocities against others, it seems to me that the great majority of atrocities are carried out by white men or at least groups that have strong power relationship ties with white men.  In this way, white men are inextricably tied to global suffering. Other men are too but it seems to me that once you start to explore or investigate conflict it leads to the power structures that are predominantly white and male.  

Men abuse women and children. Women do too, but it occurs on a much lesser scale. Men are the face of domestic family violence as well as the atrocities and secrets which exist in patriarchal family systems.

Men stole North America from first nations peoples.  Plain and simple.  I actually can’t believe that I have never read the history of North America in such simple and truthful terms.  That is the truth, we, our ancestors, stole this continent from first nations and we used force to take it. We killed and violated countless first nations people.  How is this not a shameful history?  

Is my shame different?  

Is my shame different than that of other men?  I have no way of knowing this because to the best of my knowledge people do not generally talk about or write about this. How do I feel connected to a history that has nothing to do with me personally?  Is my shame quotient that much bigger than normal because of my own abuse and post-traumatic history?  

Is shame helpful?  I can only answer this for myself.  I know people avoid pain and shame which is a big part of psychological and emotional pain.  It seems to me that shame can destroy people through the likes of addiction and other self-destructive paths.  

But isn’t shame also helpful?  If we connect to shame doesn’t it act as a compass for moving forward?  I know that my connection and relationship with shame is something that makes me who I am. I am incapable of hurting other people unless there is a real threat to my personal safety or that of my family and loved ones.  My shame is part of my life in terms of my goals, beliefs and values.  It is no accident that I am a social worker.  

What is the cost of privilege?  

Privilege gives people power over others.  It allows people in positions of power to dictate the terms of other people’s lives.  A clear example of privilege is government setting the terms of welfare recipients for those living in poverty. Making a person do a drug test in exchange for still living below the poverty line is an abusive use of power and privilege.  Plain and simple. If this was not true, those with power and privilege are exempt from drug testing to receive government subsidies and/or other governmental funding.   

Is privilege and power the same or inextricably linked?  Does privilege corrupt like power often does?  It seems to me it does.  

I’m not naive enough to think that there is an answer to this query.  Sometimes, I’m not even exactly sure what the exact query should be. I often find myself thinking analytically and as a result negatively about the state of our world. Our current lack of global peace is a stain on all of humanity in my mind.  It is easy to remove oneself from responsibility for the current state of affairs, but this is not honest living in my mind.  Living honestly means accepting one’s connection to the past and committing to move forward in new, nonviolent and non-privileged ways. 

Best Practices for Grief: Foster Care

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Often, helping professionals in the lives of foster care youth struggle to understand the magnitude of losing a child or teen in the foster care system has experienced.  Abuse and neglect, loss of innocence, trauma, separation from parents, loss of security, and multiple placements are all factors affecting the wellness of children placed in the foster care system.

These heavy experiences not only impact children and teens in our foster care population short term, but they are also far reaching.  The long term impacts of these experiences of foster care youth are evidenced by the staggering statistics of foster care alumni such as homelessness, prison, unemployment, mental health concerns, and lack of education.

In order to effectively serve this underserved population, it’s time for us to acknowledge how much we really don’t know about foster care youth in the United States today.  It’s time to create more conversation about the needs of children and teens in foster care placement and the realities of their experiences.  It’s time we meet them where they’re at in their grief.

Foster care alumni abandoned by the educational system often become the inmates at youth detention centers and adult prisons across the country. They are the experts on what needs to change in order to create more equitable outcomes and opportunities for vulnerable populations. These orphaned inmates are the ones who could drive the creation of new methodologies, curriculum and policies to decrease risks while increasing protective factors. – Foster Care Alum Veola Green

Below is the first video in our series highlighting best practices for teachers and other key players impacting the lives of grieving foster care youth today.  In this video, I interview Evangelina Reina, LCSW, Assistant Regional Administrator for DCFS – Los Angeles and Adjunct Assistant Professor for The University of Southern California.

Reina offers her insight into best practices when working with children and teens in foster care placement as well as her expertise on what sets foster care youth apart from youth impacted by the other experiences of death, divorce, parental incarceration, and parental deployment.

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