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


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

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

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

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

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

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

World Social Work Day 2016

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

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

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

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

Independence Day: An Ongoing Fight for Freedom

Independence Day is a day we celebrate being free from tyranny, oppression, and persecution. It’s a day we celebrate a democratic society with the rights to freedom of speech, religion, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am especially thankful to the men and women serving in our military who have made many sacrifices to protect the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.

However, when power shifts from one entity to another, its we the people who must demand our rights and freedoms be endowed to us. As I reflect on the current state of our society, Independence is an ongoing fight to be free. Around the world and the United States, civil disobedience is being seen in historic fashion from the streets of Cairo to the state houses of Texas and North Carolina.

Pockets of small wealthy groups seek to rule this planet through war, famine, poverty, and oppression. They seek to pit oppressed groups against each other in their efforts to attain more wealth and retain more power.

independence-day-movieOn this Independence Day, I am reminded of a speech and a call to action by one of our finest movie Presidents ever who said it best:

Mankind — that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore.

We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation.

We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist.

And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:

We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We’re going to live on!
We’re going to survive!”

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day! – President Thomas Whitmore (Played by Bill Pullman) ~Independance Day


Top 4 Ways to Improve #SocialWork


Recently, I wrote an article entitled, The Top 5 Reasons Social Work is Failing, which has become one of the most read and searched for articles on Social Work Helper since its inception. Whether you agree or disagree with my reasons, we all can agree that social work has some serious issues that must be addressed in order to improve outcomes for social workers as well as the perceptions of our profession with the public. Social work institutions are not providing adequate resources or responses to assist social work students and practitioners engaging or who want to engage in grassroots organizing, social justice advocacy, and public policy reforms.

Part of the job of a social worker is to assess and define the problem, but the other part of our job is to look for interventions to implement in order to limit the effects of the problem while adding protective factors to help increase outcomes. In an effort to be solution focused, I went on search to find actionable interventions that we could implement without needing an “Act of Congress” to get the ball moving. Social workers are the first responders to society’s social problems because we engage people from birth to death in all aspects of their life.

As a social worker, I have counseled an oil executive whose life was failing apart, an engineer after an all night drinking bender, a school teacher contemplating suicide, a man who has taken his family hostage at gun point, and a woman who was shot by her partner to name a few. Pain is universal, and it is not limited by socioeconomic boundaries which is why its imperative for social workers to be apart of the conversations developing public policy.

For Students 

As a future practitioner, you will not be able to work in a vacuum which means you will have to interact with other disciplines in order to be effective in practice. However, social work students rarely interact with disciplines outside of their programs or with social work students from other schools. By working in concert with other disciplines at the higher learning level, we are our best examples of how social work skills translate into other areas.

RICNDue to our isolative nature, what opportunities are we not taking advantage of that will serve us later in the workforce? It’s great to have social work clubs and organizations to increase collaborations within our profession, but it is also equally important to form partnerships and collaborations outside of the profession.

For students, I recommend seeking out the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network at your university, or starting a chapter if your university does not have one.

According the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network Website,

Campus Network develops local laboratories of democracy and policy experimentation where young people can work with community members to innovate, scale, and replicate the best ideas and policy initiatives emerging from our generation.Students have changed policies around predatory lending; established a tax fund in New Haven capable of sending every high-school graduate to college tuition free; and even included an automatic healthcare enrollment policy in the Affordable Care Act. Read More

Don’t miss out on available workshops, fellowships, and connections with community partners because you are afraid to step outside of our social work bubble.

For Practitioners

In school, most of the time, you have access to a support system through your professors, peers, and other services. However, once you enter the profession, it feels like your professional support system diminishes. Many schools don’t dump a lot of resources into developing strong and thriving alumni networks in order to maintain connections to former students that will allow us to interact with each other. Many social workers, especially those on the lower end pay spectrum, may not be able to afford access to a professional association membership or costs for conferences to gain those connections.

alumnifyMany social workers have turned to social media in attempt to forge those connections, but most would prefer an option for these connections to be an extension of their university community. Social media constructs like Linkedin are not designed for you to connect with each other within a Linkedin Group. How do you find alumni in your area when you are looking for a mentor or trying to expand your network for possible employment opportunities?

For practitioners, I recommend to request that your School of Social Work add an Alumnify Network for its graduates.

According to the Alumnify Website:

Alumnify will give alumni the ability to sign in with LinkedIn and receive data on their professional career and interests. It will allow graduates to find each other in their immediate area, making it as easy as possible to grab coffee and network. Alumnify also provides interactive and modern data that helps universities reach your alumni and understand them like never before. Read More

Currently, Schools of Social Work are making important school policies based on a couple of  hundred surveys they can get people to answer. Alumni get tired of the robocalls and email requests only they want something, and we begin to tune them after the second year we leave school. Why wouldn’t they implement a mutually beneficial system which could be free to users or for a modest fee to offset cost?

For Schools of Social Work

If we are going to advance our profession, we need to be engaging in the national conversations and social issues of our day. Social Workers are attempting to find ways to do this on their own, but utilizing social media improperly can have the opposite intended effect. Earlier this month, I wrote another article on how to reduce risks to employment when using social media where I stated,

via Tumblr

As a profession, we can not begin the journey of leveraging online technology and social media to advance social work because we are stuck having conversations about account creation, security, and ethical use. These things should always be ongoing conversations, but we have got to start making advances in tech education and training.

Agencies, associations, and social work faculty can not adequately answer or provide solutions because most don’t use social media or they utilize outside firms to meet their social media needs. There is nothing wrong with contracting out to meet the needs of your organization, but we must also have mechanisms in place to address social workers’ technological IQ at the micro and mezzo levels. Read More

Social Workers should be engaging in national awareness campaigns which can provide many opportunities to showcase our areas of practice and engagement on social policy issues.  Schools of Social Work should be leading the charge, and when used properly, these could become valuable marketing tools for your university while engaging community stakeholders.

If anyone is interested, take a photo or do a vine using the hashtags #TurnOutForWhat and #SocialWork telling why you are turning out to vote on November 4th. Then, tweet to @swhelpercom, share on SWH Facebook Fan Page, or tag me on instagram. I will be happy to share and promote the issues that you care about.

Learn How to Use Twitter Effectively

When I first started blogging, twitter was the number one tool I used to connect with people. In turn, I credit Twitter as the number one factor in growing Social Work Helper’s readership. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter does not place limits on who you can follow, who can follow you, or who you can tweet to.

If you decide to tweet a member of Congress or parliament, you may actually get a tweet back. Some of my twitter highlights include a tweet from the Oprah Winfrey Network and being retweeted by the US Department of Labor and Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union.

As an individual, you don’t have to wait until #socialwork get its act together and do a better job at promoting the profession. This is something that we can start doing today.

Is Politics Failing Social Work or is Social Work Failing at Politics?


Current news events seem to be rife with stories relevant to social work while continuing to highlight our lack of presence in those conversations. Suicide, police shootings, more school shootings, corporal punishment, and domestic violence are issues that stick out on a very long list . Various articles on this website have challenged us to think about social worker’s role in these mainstream stories.

The ultimate gauntlet was thrown by Dr. Steven Perry and his speech on C-SPAN that we are “too silent” on issues of access and social justice.  We are in the trenches on the frontline, and we need to increase public awareness on the efforts of social workers in order to affect public policy making decisions.

Prior to listening to Dr. Perry’s speech, I honestly thought the answer to this question was that politics has been failing social workers, but Dr. Perry calls us out on how we can do more and should be doing a lot more. As social workers, we are interested in making a change, but it is how we go about it that is coming into question. What the above speech and article do (excellently) is get us to think about where and how we want to be involved. Social Workers need to be involved more in politics.

Where I struggle with politics is the much talked about notion of “Policy to Practice”. As people in the helping profession, we all have a notion of what helping others entails. We have the power to help heal individuals, families, schools, and communities yet our voice is not always heard by policy makers. Similar to Dr. Perry, I wondered why our expertise and knowledge continues to not inform policy. What gets in the way?

Social work is becoming more and more about the bottom line. We get messages to use programs that are “evidence based”, “increase productivity”, and “reduce cost”. Interventions that accomplishes all three of these things may get the funding or not. However, despite meeting this criterion, these programs don’t always appear to “make the cut.”  Here are some examples to illustrate this further.

First, lumping together both foster care and juvenile justice together to discuss prevention programs and increasing outcomes. There appears to be a lot of concern about the money we are spending on foster care, out of home placement, and juvenile justice centers. As someone who coordinates care with young people who are at risk for out of home placement, there is a lack of intensive preventive services. There are huge waiting lists for the small amount of slots available. We know prevention services work, however my observation is that these programs are actually getting cut. Are politicians aware of this?

Another example of failed policies and lack of evidence based interventions being funded can be seen in how homelessness is being addressed. According to a press release by The U.S. Housing and Urban development in 2010,

“When an individual or a family becomes homeless for the first time, the cost of providing them housing and services can vary widely, from $581 a month for an individual’s stay in an emergency shelter in Des Moines, Iowa to as much as $3,530 for a family’s monthly stay in emergency shelter in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today released three studies on the cost of ‘first-time’ homelessness; life after transitional housing for homeless families; and strategies for improving access to mainstream benefits programs”

Services to prevent homelessness seem few and far between. For a homeless family, $3,000 per month can go a long way to finding someone permanent, stable housing. Social Workers are on the frontline, and we see what works as well as what our clients need. We apparently need to demonstrate to policy makers that what we do has “return on investment.”  Investing $3,000 a month to teach families to be more self-sufficient, knock down barriers to unemployment, and access to substance abuse and/or mental health treatment will save more money so individuals and families don’t need to become homeless in order to get services.

Are we ensuring policy makers know that we are fighting for the poor, marginalized, and oppressed on a daily basis to help improve their quality of life and to reduce dependency on government services? This is the challenge that we need to take head on, and Dr. Perry reminds us of how powerful social workers can be at the policy making level. To truly serve our clients, we have to address and engage on a policy level because helping one client at a time is only temporary fix which may be impeded further without proper funding.

To truly serve our clients, we have to address and engage on a policy level because helping one client at a time is only a temporary fix which may be impeded further without proper funding. Social Work has power and let’s take up the challenge to find new ways to use it. Dr. Perry has called us out and please find your way to answer the call.

How to Reduce Risks to Employment When Using Social Media


A recent decision sanctioning a social worker for a comment on Facebook by the Health Care Professionals Council (HCPC), a United Kingdom regulatory body, sparked an international social work debate on the use of social media in the workplace. Since the decision, I have engaged in multiple conversations via social media with social workers around the globe on this very topic, and I will admit that I have often found myself in the minority arguing against the HCPC’s decision.

Despite the social worker’s comment failing to meet the test for breach of confidentiality, the majority of social workers favoring the HCPC’s decision believe that any comments related to work or a case posted on social media are grounds for termination or discipline even in the absence of identifiers.

The social worker was not disciplined for Breach of Confidentiality, but it was found that her Facebook post “could lead to a Breach of Confidentiality” despite not giving any personal information or descriptors about the client.

I am concerned the HCPC decision will set a dangerous precedent by expanding the scope of breaching confidentiality. The term “could lead to a Breach of Confidentiality” is so broad it could open up liability for social workers outside of the internet sphere.

From the HCPC’s press release on the social worker’s disciplinary action, we actually learn more about the client than we learned from the social worker’s actual comment. The HCPC press release states, “Mrs A, the mother of the children in the case, made a complaint after she searched for the social worker on Google and found the posts, which the complainant stated she was “disgusted” by.” This tells us the complaint was a married woman and biological parent of the children in question. Now, these identifiers within itself  “could lead to a breach of confidentiality”.

The social worker’s comments only described that she was working on a “domestic violence case among other things”. The client assumed the social worker was referring to her case because it was a domestic violence case on the same day as the social workers check-in on Facebook. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had three to five cases go to court on the same day and all of them had a domestic violence element. In the absence of identifiers and a decision from HCPC, the client had no real evidence to prove the social worker’s comment was about her case. Sanctions and disciplinary actions in your employment should be based on evidence and not assumptions.

In retrospect, I do believe the social worker’s comments were ill-advised, but it’s not for the reasons you may think. I am definitely against and don’t recommend anyone to commingle your professional life with your personal Facebook account no matter your profession. As a matter of fact, some of the comments I see from social workers on Facebook make me afraid for the client’s they are serving. I do and must believe that social workers have the ability to separate their personal beliefs from practice, but you may not be able to “unring that bell” with clients or potential clients after review of your online persona.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) have provided me with one of the best social media policy guidelines to help social workers be aware of the pitfalls when using social media personally as well as using social media to obtain information on clients. However, I have yet to see any real solutions that equally address social workers safety with client centered policies. Also, it’s important for us to acknowledge that clients can’t breach confidentiality in their own case. If a client wants to publish online every document you send them, it’s their prerogative, and you should keep this in mind when providing written documents as well as having oral communications with your clients.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter are the three primary areas that cause the greatest concerns for professionals and students. Here are a few recommendations that may help you move one step closer to having some peace of mind and keeping your job out of jeopardy.

Tips for Using Facebook

10434000_311155715719496_3315011175902307129_nFacebook is a double-edged sword. When used correctly, Facebook can expand your reach as an expert, increase traffic to your website, and allow you to provide support to others on their professional development journey. Where people get into trouble is when they try to occupy their professional and personal life in the same virtual space. This is not limited to commenting, but it also includes likes, shares, who your friends are, photos, and etc.

I recommend changing your personal Facebook page to a nickname/middle name with an avatar or baby picture for your profile and cover photos. True friends and family members will know who you are, and Facebook will automatically update your post search history with your middle, nickname, or alternate spelling. But, be careful because it’s possible for Facebook to flag your name change. You should also take precautions to enhance the security of your Facebook account.

This will help protect you when clients are actively seeking out content generated by your social media accounts. Secondly, don’t post case related items on your personal Facebook account. If you need advice or an opinion related to a case, message the Social Work Helper Fan Page. I frequently post #SWHelper Team Questions as case study questions to minimize risks to you, and I hope other social work entities will offer similar support for social workers.

If you chose to anonymize your personal Facebook account, I recommend creating a Facebook Fan Page in your professional name which can also help with establishing your professional identity.

  • You can post information and resources for your clients
  • You will no longer need to have embarrassing conversations with clients or coworkers about why you can’t friend them
  • Clients can follow your Fan Page without exposing client’s to each other
  • You can like other Fan Pages your clients may find useful while organizing resources in a central location
  • FB feature allows you to seamlessly switch between your FB account and Fan Page without having to log out
  • You can also make comments, like, share photos, and share posts choosing from either profile

To prevent Facebook from locking your account due to the name change, you should use a shortened or variation of your real and last name, a common name with a long search results history, your maiden name, or your middle name. These are just some of the possibilities you can choose to prevent Facebook from blocking your account. So, if you don’t want to explain to a client or an ethics committee about how your personal beliefs did not affect your decision-making due to memes and content found on your social media account, please take my advice above.

Making the Most of Twitter

Twitter is one of the best social media platforms for making connections and expanding your professional network while enhancing your ability to advocate for the causes you care about. However, there are times when you do need anonymity to protect your employment especially if actively engaging in conversations you don’t want public. Due to my personal philosophy, I don’t post comments or materials that require me to distinguish between my professional and personal identity with the exception of the occasional tweet when I am watching Scandal.

If you are using your professional name, potential networkers and possible opportunities are not going to sort out your professional tweets from your personal tweets. They will all be considered a reflection of you as an individual. “RT does not = endorsement” is not going to cut it. It’s safer to not tweet and/or not retweet something you don’t want to defend, but you could always phrase it as a question to ask other’s opinions. Also, I recommend adding the disclaimer “my opinions are my own not my employers” on accounts using your professional name. As a rule of thumb, if your account is going to be opinion filled, use an avatar with a pseudonym for anonymity. It’s better to be safe than sorry later.

When using your professional name, it should consist of useful information, advice, inspirational quotes, resources, and/or projects that make you look good professionally. If you are only on twitter anonymously, you are missing opportunities to enhance your professional development. If you are using twitter with your professional name and it’s a private account, you are still doing yourself a disservice. What’s the point of being on Twitter with a private account because it’s difficult for someone to connect with you and no one can retweet your profound 140 characters?

To Google or Not To Google

As practitioners, we should not be asking whether to Google or Not Google instead we should be giving you the information on how to Google clients and potential clients ethically. According to a recent study by American Psychological Association, 98 percent of clinical, counseling, and school doctoral students reported Googling their clients. It’s time for this profession to readjust our reality for the digital world we are living in. When Googling a client or anyone for that matter, one must keep in mind that everything on the internet is not true, and it should not be used to penalize without giving the individual a chance to respond.

However, for potential clients at a private practice or when making home visits to new clients, a Google search may be a vital tool in assessing social worker safety. Dr. Ofur Zur provides one of the most comprehensive resources on whether to “Google or not”, and its complete with scenarios and varying categories to help practitioners decide which category is best for your practice and needs. It also covers how to use informed consent for conducting Google searches at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship.

How Do We Move Forward?

Unfortunately, many people have been introduced to social media and online technology as entertainment or to be used as a personal diary. Even if your account is marked private, using instant messaging, email, online technology and/or social media should never be used with an expectation of privacy. You should always assume any information you post online can be privy to public consumption via screen capturing or other measures from anyone who is intent on hurting or exposing you.

In my opinion, the social worker in the above case was condemned because her comment was posted on Facebook. I argue that if said social worker made the same comment in a restaurant, classroom, or another public place would the disciplinary action have been the same? The counter-argument was that Facebook is public and archived by Google which makes it different. I assert we all need to be more careful and aware because we live in a digital age where you can be video tapped or audio recorder via camera phone, vined, viddyed, snapchat, etc. The individual in possession of such digital data can make your actions and comments public without your consent. The medium in which words and actions are transported is irrelevant, and it stifles our ability to move the conversation forward instead of focusing on best practices.

Most importantly, one of the biggest issues in the above case not being addressed is that fact the client went onto Google searching for the social worker in question. Community Care UK reported that 85% of social workers reported being harassed or verbally abused on the job. Whether the client was acting with nefarious intent or in preparation for a pending court case, we simply don’t know. However, social worker safety should be just as important as client confidentiality. The biggest mistake made by the disciplined social worker was her checking in on Facebook thereby giving the time and location for when she would be in court. Why are we not being programmed to think about social worker safety as much as client confidentiality is drilled in our heads?

As a profession, we can not begin the journey of leveraging online technology and social media to advance social work because we are stuck having conversations about account creation, security, and ethical use. These things should always be ongoing conversations, but we have got to start making advances in tech education and training. Agencies, associations, and social work faculty can not adequately answer or provide solutions because most don’t use social media or they utilize outside firms to meet their social media needs. There is nothing wrong with contracting out to meet the needs of your organization, but we must also have mechanisms in place to address social workers’ technological IQ at the micro and mezzo levels.

We must develop continuing education credits, foundational course work, and in-service trainings to properly prepare current and future social workers for practice in the digital age. Social Work education is expensive and students should be demanding that they get the best resources and training during their education especially when they can be fired or disciplined for it later.

Most importantly, we have a duty to our students and professionals to assist them in harnessing all the advantages that social media and technology can provide.

*Since this was a UK regulatory body disciplinary action, I primarily used UK resources for this article, but they are applicable globally.

NASW Technology Standards: How Do You Measure Up?

Social Worker 2

One thing that students and current working social workers are familiar with is the NASW, which has a huge influence over most of the standards set for social work practice and education.  They also have some clearly defined standards for technology as outlined in the NASW’s Code of Ethics.

The standards cover a wide variety of topics, and I know that my education as a social worker did not address more than a minimum number of the standards. As discussed in an earlier article by Deona Hooper, Social Work and Technology: Fails in Teaching Students Technology, even though in 2005 it was directly laid out that we should by the NASW!

Lets take a look at what the NASW’s standards are and we can see how we measure up:
I will be scoring myself on a 1-5 scale you should too!

Ethics: 4/5

“Social workers providing services via the telephone or other electronic means shall act ethically, ensure professional competence, protect clients, and uphold the values of the profession.”

Technology adds an entirely new dimension to the ethical standards social worker’s have to abide by. Not only do you have to know what can  and cannot be shared via communication on telephone and email. Technology has a way of blurring lines that are otherwise clear. If someone texts you something are  you still mandated to report that or is that something you keep private? What about if you hear something in the background of a Skype conversation?

Privacy: 4/5

“Social workers shall protect client privacy when using technology in their practice and document all services,taking special safeguards to protect client information in the electronic record.”

Do you know about HIPAA regulations? Do know about the many ways client confidentiality can be compromised in electronic means? More importantly do you know what you might be held liable for? To compound  the issue  most social workers need to know about how to maintain client privacy when using nonstandard means of communication. This is particularly relevant when looking at the recent development of teletherapy (therapy via video conferencing). Worse, what happens if you store your clients information on a personal computer and it gets lost?

Let me know in the comments section if you have ever had questions about client confidentiality and privacy related to technology!

Access: 3/5

 “Social workers shall have access to technology and appropriate support systems to ensure competent practice, and shall take action to ensure client access to technology.”

The NASW acknowledges that we work in organizations that often have obsolete software and equipment and they clearly state we should advocate for both ourselves and our clients when it comes to access to technology, something I agree with. Good job NASW! Do you have access to “appropriate technology”? Do you know what the technology you might need is? Let alone the technology that your clients might need. This is a gap in education for social workers that needs to addressed by schools across the country.

If you know of any schools that have classes that address technology and social work let me know in  the comment below!

Proficiency: 3/5

“Social workers shall be responsible for becoming proficient in the technological skills and tools required for competent and ethical practice and for seeking appropriate training and consultation to stay current with emerging technologies.”

This is where you can check where you measure up, do you know how to use the technology in your workplace? Does your workplace offer training in that technology so that you can better help your clients? What should social work programs offer in the way of technology?

Let me know in the comments below what you wish your social work program had taught you about using technology to help your clients!

Final Score: 14/20

Ouch  70%!  It is pretty obvious that this is an issue that still needs to be address, for right now you can keep visiting Social Work Helper to educate yourself about technology until social work education gets its act together!

And don’t forget to let me know your final score in the comments below!

Boycott of Hyatt Hotels: Should a Social Work Organization Cross the Picket Line

by Deona Hooper, MSW

(From left) the Revs. Marti Scott, Chuck Dauhm, Michael Shanahan and C.J. Hawking line up (risking arrest) in support of Hyatt workers in Chicago. A web-only photo by Luis Juarez
(From left) the Revs. Marti Scott, Chuck Dauhm, Michael Shanahan and C.J. Hawking line up (risking arrest) in support of Hyatt workers in Chicago. A web-only photo by Luis Juarez

A controversy has been brewing within the social work community, and the Society for Social Work Researchers (SSWR) have found themselves at the center of it. In January 2014, SSWR will be having their 18th annual conference which will be held at Hyatt Hotels in San Antonio, Texas. Over the past few years, Hyatt Hotels have continued to be boycotted globally as result of worker’s rights violations and labor disputes involving their treatment of hotel service employees. On October 3rd 2014, a Change.org petition was created urging Jeanne Marsh, President of the Society for Social Work Researchers, and its board to reconsider having their annual conference with Hyatt Hotels.

In just a two week period, the petition received over 500 signatures from people all over the world while simultaneously creating a buzz on various social media outlets. After receiving emails from social workers expressing their concerns, I decided to reach out to the Society for Social Work Research, the labor union Unite Here, and Shane Brady the originator of the Change.org petition. The first person I interviewed was Dr. Jeanne C. Marsh who is the President of the Society for Social Work Research as well as Director of the Center for Health Administration Studies at the University of Chicago.


Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Society for Social Work Research has found itself in the middle of a boycott dispute. In 2000, the SSWR annual conference was being held in Charleston, South Carolina which was also under economic sanctions by the NAACP due to the State’s choice to fly the confederate flag over the Capitol Building. According to an article written by former SWWR President Allen Rubin, he reflected on the precisive measures taken by the organization in dealing with the circumstance before them which included:

1. We issued a press release on a resolution to the governor of South Carolina, unanimously passed by our board, which includes the following statement: “that the [Society] shall NOT hold any future meeting . . . in the state of South Carolina until such time that the Confederate Battle Flag is removed from positions of sovereignty in the state of South Carolina.”

2. We urged conference participants to sign a petition to the governor of South Carolina, which includes the following statement: “We, the undersigned non-residents of South Carolina, vow NOT to visit the state of South Carolina again for any purpose whatsoever—not for vacations, professional meetings or any other reason—until such time that the Confederate Battle Flag is removed from positions of sovereignty in the state of South Carolina.” After the conference ended, we submitted the petition to the governor.

3. We offered a free conference exhibit booth to the NAACP, and they accepted our offer.

4. The NAACP is developing a data bank of information on individuals who cancel vacations planned for South Carolina.We asked all conference participants who were planning such vacations to cancel them and let the NAACP know about the cancellations for their data bank.

5. A featured speaker at our conference banquet was the Reverend Joseph Darby, vice president of the South Carolina Conference of Branches of the NAACP and chairman of the South Carolina Coalition of Black Church Leaders. Reverend Darby delivered an informative and stirring talk about the issue of the Confederate battle flag and received a standing ovation. Read Full Article

However, the current policy makers with SSWR have decided not to use the model created by their predecessors. Instead, they have chosen to handle the current issue differently.

Interview with Dr. Jeanne C. Marsh

SWH: How long has the SSWR Board known about the  Hyatt Hotels Corporation and UNITE HERE?

Jeanne: The current SSWR Board learned about the situation when we were contacted by UNITE HERE around February/March 2013. Since that time, the Board has been actively involved in monitoring the evolving situation in San Antonio and communicating with SSWR members about it.  (See attached communications to SSWR members.)

SWH: What is the specific nature of the recent agreements reached between Hyatt Hotels Corporation and UNITE HERE?

Jeanne: On July 1, 2013 Hyatt Hotels Corporation and UNITE HERE issued a joint press release (see attached press release) which “announced a national agreement that resolves longstanding disputes between the two organizations.”  The agreement addresses the settlement and ratification of union contracts by Hyatt associates at specific hotels in San Francisco, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  Once approved, the contracts will provide retroactive wage increases and maintain quality health care and pension benefits.  The contracts would be retroactive from 2009 and be in effect into 2018.  Upon ratification of the union contracts, UNITE HERE will end its global boycott of Hyatt.

A part of the agreement is to establish a fair process, which includes a mechanism for employees at a number of Hyatt hotels currently without union contracts to vote on whether they wish to be represented by UNITE HERE. At this time the Grand Hyatt San Antonio is not unionized and there are no contract negotiations that we are aware of between Hyatt Hotels and UNITE HERE at this property.

SWH: What are implications of the agreement for labor/management relations at Grand Hyatt San Antonio?

Jeanne Many of the agreements reached are relevant to Hyatt properties that are currently unionized (in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago).  Since the Grand Hyatt San Antonio is not currently unionized the primary agreement reached relevant to that property define the rules for voting – if and when the workers decide they want to unionize.

Since the end to the global boycott of Hyatt, UNITE HERE in San Antonio has maintained a local boycott at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio and other non-unionized properties and continues to actively organize.

SWH: What are the implications for SSWR 2014 conference to be held at Grand Hyatt San Antonio?

Jeanne: The SSWR Board voted not to terminate the contract with the Grand Hyatt San Antonio based on the appraisal that financial penalties of $491,088 that would put SSWR out of existence. Please note that the contract with the Grand Hyatt San Antonio was signed in 2009 and is the final contract SSWR has with Hyatt Hotels.

SWH: How is SSWR responding to the labor/management relations at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio?

Jeanne: The SSWR Board is moving proactively in three directions:

(1)  Understanding that the situation with UniteHere and the Grand Hyatt San Antonio is evolving, the SSWR Board will continue to work hard to gather and communicate with members and non-members the most up-to-date information about the situation.

(2)  The Society books its hotels approximately four years in advance. We currently have contracts signed with the Marriott in New Orleans for 2015, the Marriott inWashington, DC for 2016 and the Marriott in San Francisco for 2017.  All hotel contracts are currently under review by the SSWR attorney to ensure terms are consistent with SSWR policy related to avoiding contracts with hotels engaged in current or pending labor disputes.

(3)  A special session is planned at the SSWR 2014 meeting for the SSWR Board to discuss with SSWR members the current status of the situation, the complexities of the issues, and to hear members’ concerns.

For more information, SSWR members have been encouraged to contact the UNITE HER representative , Rachel Melendes, at 210-2242-1520 and with Managing Director of the Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Toom Netting at 210-451-6501.

A copy of the statement issued to SSWR members outlining the above can be viewed here. Also, I was provided with a joint press release by Hyatt Hotels and Unite Here announcing a tentative plan to end the boycott against Hyatt Hotels which can be viewed using this link.

As you can tell from the picture above, faith based organizations and community leaders have been very active in the boycott against Hyatt Hotels. They have complied a report outlining the working conditions at Hyatt Hotels which can be viewed below:

[gview file=”https://swhelper.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/openthegatesofjustice_Hyatt_Hurts_Faith_Organizing-2.pdf”]

Email with Unite Here

I reached out to Unite Here and requested a status update regarding the boycott of the San Antonio Hyatt Hotel location. I received a response from Rachel Mendes of Unite Here stating,

The boycotts of the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency in San Antonio are continuing, and new boycotts may be called at additional Hyatt properties. Workers at these two properties are asking people to honor the boycott and not eat, sleep, or meet at these hotels, and move events to a venue not in a labor dispute.

This agreement has shown us that when workers and allies stand together, we can move forward and win justice and respect on the job. As an organization of social workers, SSWR needs to do the right thing for the San Antonio workers and community by honoring the boycott until workers here are treated with the justice and respect they deserve.

San Antonio Grand Hyatt Boycott Email
Interview with Dr. Shane Brady

After speaking with Dr. Marsh, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Shane Brady, the originator of the Change.org petition, who is also an adjunct professor with the social work department at the University of Michigan. Dr. Brady was an invited presenter at the 2014 annual conference, but he has chosen to decline as a result of these issues. He is also a first generation Phd graduate with roots as a community organizer focusing on social justice and LGBT issues.

In the petition, Dr. Brady acknowledges the contractual obligation SSWR has with Hyatt Hotels, but he raises some important additional concerns. He states,

The Society of Social Work Research Conference has a contractual obligation to hold the 2014 conference at Hyatt Hotels, despite the injustices experienced by workers of the San Antonio Grand Hyatt. It is the stance of UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers of the Grand Hyatt of San Antonio, and a group of us within social work and similarly allied professions that it is unethical to hold the SSWR conference as planned at the expense of perpetuating the injustices experienced by Hyatt workers by giving our business to Hyatt Hotels. Please sign this petition and send a message to SSWR leadership to cancel this year’s conference, change venues, or push the leadership of Hyatt Hotels in San Antonio harder to do the right thing by workers. In the words of Paulo Freire, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”  Sign the Petition

Dr. Brady stated that he has spoken with many of his colleagues who have expressed their empathy for the workers, but stated they did not want to get involved. What does this mean if social work professors and leaders within the social work community feel no obligation to advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations? In doing my due diligence, I had some additional concerns that I needed to ask Dr. Marsh about.

Follow-Up Questions with Dr. Marsh

SWH: Being that the organization has dealt with a similar situation in the past, why not use the same strategy?

Jeanne: The SSWR Board recognizes that many social work (and other) organizations have encountered similar issues when planning conferences. In order to learn from these experiences and draw on the significant expertise in the social work field, the SSWR Board has developed a Leadership Panel for the SSWR 2014 conference with representatives from major social work organizations including the Council on Social Work Education, the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education, the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work, the American Academy for Social Work and Social Welfare.  The Chair is University of Washington Social Work Professor Nancy Hooyman who was SSWR President when the SSWR Conference was held in South Carolina** during the period the state was flying the Confederate flag.  The charge to the group in the short term is to provide the Board with their recommendations of actions we can take to address the situation.  In the long term, the group will reflect on strategies all social work organizations can consider in avoiding and addressing similar situations in the future.

SWH: Was there an attempt to negotiate with Hyatt to release SSWR from its contract?

Jeanne: Yes, the Board was able to re-negotiate the contract to eliminate the food and beverage cancellation fee but not the overall cancellation fee of $491,088.

SWH: The Chairman of Hyatt Hotels Corporation sits on the Board of Trustees for your University, is this a factor in preventing the organization from using the same plan of action when it encountered a similar situation in the past with the NAACP?

Jeanne: The University of Chicago has a strong tradition of academic freedom where faculty pursue their work without outside interference or influence including from Trustees of the University.  I am aware that Mr. Pritzker is a University of Chicago Trustee, but I have had no contact with him. It also is my understanding that the Pritzker family no longer owns Hyatt Hotels as a result of a breaking up Pritzker family holdings a couple of years ago.

Leave Your Comments

I tried my best to represent the point of view of each party involved. Now, I am interested in your point of view. Do you feel SSWR is properly handling this matter or do you feel more could be done? Please, leave you comment on this page, so others outside of the social work community can add to the conversation. Is having an internal conversation with other social work researchers at the annual conference enough?

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Dignity at Work and Hyatthurts.org

The Importance of Social Work and Politics: A Social Worker’s Call to Arms

A protester holds a sign at San Francisco International Airport during a demonstration to denounce President Donald Trump’s executive order that bars citizens of seven predominantly Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in San Francisco.

The social work profession is a diverse and vast profession whose mission is to improve outcomes and the quality of life for vulnerable populations. To put it another way, social workers are trying to help America find its dream again, and this dream crosses party lines. However, we are having difficulty seeing our common goal because we are so focused on the differences between us. What happened to “The American Dream” and how can it be part of our future again?

We have forgotten somehow the importance of social work in the political arena. Some may ask, “How can the social work profession help our society and improve the lives of  citizens?” The social work profession is the foundation that must be restored to help empower society to find its dream again and make it a reality.

Age 0-6 is the most important and formative years in a child life, and social work is the profession that creates programs to help aid families and protect children from scars that may affect them for the rest of their life. If a child is denied needed resources such as food, shelter, developmental education, and ability to live free from abuse, this child’s chances of benefiting from the best public or private education is diminished. ~ Deona Hooper, MSW

As social workers, we can be a great force for this kind of growth in our society, but we must be the Superpac for the poor and vulnerable populations. Too many social workers are “fighting the good fight” alone in their agencies and private practice. Although we work on the individual level, we must also” be a united front” as a profession politically and in our community.

We cannot be this force if we do not become more united and take a leadership role in society. Too many social workers have forgotten their social justice roots and are too caught up in their private practice or agency to reach out. As a result, social work as a profession has become almost invisible. We are not taken seriously by other professions and not really recognized politically either.

The voice and face of social work needs to be heard and seen by our government, by our society and by ourselves. Many times, there is a disconnect between social work values, legislation and the agencies we work in. We must unite as a profession and advocate for better work conditions, more efficient systems for client care, and be the voice for the populations we serve.

We are not represented properly in our society because we have remained silent, and being active in our profession and community can change this. We are the face, we are the voice, and we are the fire of our profession.

I call to you …don’t let your fire burn out. We cannot restore hope in society if we cannot restore it in ourselves.

Is the VMAs Intentionally Upstaging Democratic Events to Prevent Celebrity Turnout and Advocacy

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege to attend the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington organized by Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN). This event was both symbolic and historic in honoring those who sacrificed their lives during the Civil Rights Movement and made us the beneficiaries. As an African-American woman, it was a truly profound and an emotional experience standing in the presence of history. Despite the significance and enormity of the event, it was overshadowed by the VMAs dominating the news cycle in reference to Miley Cyrus. This week, I plan to write a series of articles in which I will reflect on Rev. Al’s keynote speech, renewing the Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and role of the NAACP in our current political climate.  However, in this article, I want to examine the possibility of the VMAs intentionally upstaging Democratic events in order to prevent Celebrity turnout and advocacy to our youth.

miley-vmas-600x337On my drive back from Washington, DC today, I was listening to the radio and everyone kept talking about the VMAs. When it occurred to me, the same thing happened last year during the Democratic National Convention in 2012 when President Obama accepted the party’s nomination. On both instances, I noticed celebrity turn out was low due to the majority of A-listers, entertainers, and sports figures being in attendance at VMAs instead. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I decided to investigate this matter further.

Prior to 2008, MTV had a staunch no political ad policy, but this is where things began to get interesting. In 2008, President Obama reached out to MTV in order to purchase ad space for a Rock the Vote campaign to reach younger viewers. MTV responded by saying:

 “Given where we are in the election cycle, and how the youth vote has increasingly engaged and played a crucial role in past presidential elections, we re-evaluated the MTV policy and decided that campaign-approved ads would be a good fit for our audience, and would complement our ‘Choose or Lose’ campaign efforts,” she said. “It’s a good thing when candidates want to reach out to young people, and the best way to do that is through MTV.”  via Adage

According to the nonpartisan grass roots organization Rock the Vote, they reported registering 2.2 million people in its 2008 campaign which shattered all previous records. Currently, the 2008 record still stands, but what happened with the 2012 Rock the Vote campaign? Reportedly, President Obama reached out to MTV again in 2012 to purchase ad space for another Rock the Vote campaign, and this was their response:

The campaign called MTV’s internal ad agency, MTV Scratch, for assistance in mid-August, sources familiar with the conversations said. MTV Scratch, run by Ross Martin, former MTVU boss, and Anne Hubert, who was a policy adviser to Jon Corzine when he was a US senator from New Jersey, works across all the MTV Networks and helps marketers such as General Motors and Dr. Pepper understand the mind-set of young people.

The re-election effort wants to reconnect with youth, which were among its most fervent supporters in 2008.“The youth initiative is having trouble with big donors and youth votes,” said a person familiar with the discussions. “They asked, ‘Can you tell us how we should be talking to them?’ ” one source noted. Viacom’s unit took a few weeks before getting back to the campaign to decline its invitation, saying that it doesn’t do political work. via New York Post

You may be thinking, MTV has a right to change its mind and its not required to run Rock the Vote campaigns. Also, this does not prove any MTV conspiracy to prevent Celebrity supporters from turning out to events favorable to Democrats and progressive causes. I agree with you, which directed me to look at the historical airings of the VMAs to see if any pattern emerges. Following is the data set I used for my analysis courtesy of Wikipedia:

MTV Video Music Award - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • In 2008, the VMAs aired three days after the Republican National Convention where McCain-Palin accepted their party’s nomination. MTV finished second in ratings behind the GOP Convention for the week. *It should be noted that prior to 2008, I could not find any evidence to support the VMAs aired during a Republican or Democratic National Convention.
  • In 2009, the VMAs aired on Sunday, September 13, which just happened to be days following President Obama’s September 10th address to Congress on Health Care and his September 11th in memoriam address at the Pentagon for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • In 2010, the VMAs aired on September 12th, the day after President Obama honored the victims of the World Trade Center on September 11th.  *It should be noted that prior to 2009, the VMAs had never aired post memorial for 9/11 victims except for the first two years of Barack Obama’s Presidency.
  • In 2011, the VMAs aired on August 28th, which was the same day as the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and also marked the same day as King’s “I have a Dream” speech 48th anniversary. On August 24th, BET held its program honoring the memorial’s unveiling on August 28th, 2011.
  • In 2012, the VMAs aired on September 6th, which was the night President Obama accepted his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention
  • In 2013, the VMAs aired on August 25th, one day after the start of ceremonies commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
  • According to Wikipedia, MTV has already scheduled the VMAs for August 24th, 2014 which also happens to coincide with planned events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Lydon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

*It should also be noted that the VMAs has led in Nielson Ratings every year since coming behind 2nd to the GOP National Convention in 2008.


In the 1963 March on Washington, Celebrities such as Sammy Davis Jr, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Charleston Heston-Aka Mr. NRA, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Harry Belafonte, Sydney Poitier, and Bob Dylan to name a few were in attendance to support the march. These actors and entertainers where the A-listers of that era. MSNBC did a great article looking back at the 1963 March on Washington which can be viewed here.

What does it mean for present day politics when the wealthiest and most talented among us can be systematically benched from historic moments of civic engagement?

Photos Courtesy of Celebrity Buzz Feed, Wikipedia, and MSNBC

NC Teachers Run A How To Organize Clinic at Final Moral Monday Protest

We all have seen by now the organizing ability of teachers in the Chicago Public School system (CPS). When necessary, they have quickly immobilized and activated to action large numbers of teachers to protest and strike. Until yesterday, I wrongly assumed that this type of solidarity and advocacy could only be wheeled by a unionized organization.

However, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) proved at the Final Moral Monday Protest 2013 that they have perfected a model which should be replicated by other public sector employees in states preventing unionization. NC teachers led the way by pushing the total of Moral Monday protesters to over 10,000 people in attendance. In the picture above, NC teachers and allies are identified by those wearing red or with red balloons.

While at the rally, I had the opportunity to speak with two public school teachers who explained the issues facing NC teachers. Latisha Best who has been teaching for 12 years and Carolina Schubert with 7 years, both stated they were at Moral Monday to protest against increased class size, lack of pay increases, and privatization of public education. Currently, the Republican led legislature is making efforts to remove 50 million dollars from public education to be used for private school vouchers while there is an existing court order preventing a for profit company, K12, Inc., from implementing a 6,000 student virtual charter school.

If I was the leader of a grassroots organization, I would be contacting the NCAE to find out how to replicate their model in preparation for Moral Monday 2014. Yesterday’s rally may have been the final Moral Monday for this legislative session, but this is only the beginning heading into the 2014 mid-term elections.

As a social worker, I wished that my profession was out there with equal force as teachers protesting the denial of health care for many North Carolinians as a result of our state government refusal to accept federal Medicaid Expansion funding. High unemployment rates, right to work laws, and low paying jobs are causing middle class and working poor North Carolinians to rely more on a social safety net that is quickly eroding. If we do not help each other organize, collaborate, and share resources for collective impact, the model that this Republican led legislature is creating will be implemented across the nation.

We are not just fighting for our children in North Carolina, but we are fighting for children and families in Red States all across America. Join us on Twitter for a Live Chat using the hashtag #SWunited on August 1, 2013, Thursday at 8PM EST, to discuss What We Can Learn moving forwards to Moral Monday 2014. Questions for the discussion can be tweeted in advance to the moderator @swhelpercom, and information on how to participate in a live twitter chat can be found via https://swhelper.org/chat-formatrules/.

Moral Monday Showdown is Just Getting Started

by Deona Hooper, MSW

IMG_0429During the 2012 election, I remember riding in my middle class neighborhood seeing all the Mitt Romney for President and Pat McCrory for Governor signs. It was believed that Republicans would make a sweep in the North Carolina State election, and they did. It was clear to me then that many Republicans continue to vote against their own interest. However, the con game that Republicans have played on their middle class and poor constituents has served as the catalyst and growth for Moral Monday Protests.

In last year’s Presidential election, North Carolina was the only battleground state that did not implement voter id laws, but it was not from the lack of trying. Mitt Romney won North Carolina in a slim 51 to 49 percent split over President Obama. Many North Carolinians believe these numbers were reflective of a southern state making progressive movement towards equality and fairness. However, the North Carolina Republicans who came into power has proved this is not the case.

The 51 percent of North Carolinians, who helped vote them into power under the guise of jobs and smaller government, are now regretting their decision. The super majority Republican led legislature is no longer instituting policies that only affect welfare recipients and the impoverished. They have done an outstanding job at offending everyone who fall outside the top two percent tax bracket.

Republican blogger in the Raleigh News and Observer writes:

There was a time when I would have groaned with disgust at the coverage of the tumultuous Moral Monday protests. As a conservative activist and blogger (and registered Republican), my feet remain firmly planted on the right, but I have become surprisingly sympathetic to the passionate protesters who gather every week in Raleigh.

What changed? Last October I lost my job of 19 years and officially became a deadbeat. Now, Gov. Pat McCrory has never used that word officially to my knowledge, but he did remark, while campaigning in 2012, that filing for unemployment is “too easy.” Read Full Article by David Bozeman

Mr. Bozeman’s sense of compassion for Moral Monday Protest seemed to develop after GOP policies began to affect him and his ability to collect unemployment. North Carolina is the first and only state to disqualify itself from receiving federal unemployment benefit funds. This moved cause over 71,000 people to instantly lose benefits effective June 30, 2013 while those who remained eligible for benefits experienced drastic cuts to their weekly payout. Amazingly, North Carolina government decided to make these changes while having the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country.

In their first six months of power, Republicans have rolled North Carolina’s progress back decades with repealed and  new right wing laws relating to voting, education, fracking, taxes, abortion, and civil rights to name a few. On July 22, 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and regular contributor to Social Work Helper was one of the speakers at yesterday’s rally.

“The Southern Coalition for Social Justice believes that recent state redistricting laws – as well as the General Assembly’s recent proposals to restrict the right to vote — violate both the State and U.S. Constitution. We will fight these laws all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. But at the end of the day it is individuals like you, standing together for your rights, that create change.” –Anita Earls, Executive Director, Southern Coalition for Social Justice to Moral Monday protesters

From my observation at the rally, Moral Mondays are waking people up from the backroom deals traditionally made by our elected officials which have in the past remained unnoticed. I saw people from all different backgrounds both young and old coming together to fight injustice. Churches were protesting along side organizations such as Durham People’s Alliance, NARAL Pro-Choice NC, and Equality NC. It appears that everyone is beginning to understand that it is going to take a collective effort to prevent our State from being ruined and ruled by the few.

Republican cuts to education is creating awareness on the political process to a new generation of voters. What appears to be insanity from the right is actually assisting baby boomers from the Civil Rights Era in teaching activism to today’s generation. Also while at the protest, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of students from Durham, North Carolina, and this is what they had to say:

Durham NC Student U (L to R) Jalan Bowling, Tabitha Ruffin, LaTosha Ruffin, Tiffany Ruffin, Jamaire Bowling, Ben Coreas
Durham NC Student U (L to R) Jalan Bowling, Tabitha Ruffin, LaTosha Ruffin, Tiffany Ruffin, Jamaire Bowling, Ben Coreas

This was our first Moral Monday that we attended and we honestly didn’t know what to expect. From this inspirational experience, we realized that we all have different beliefs, but at the end of the day,we stand up for what’s right. We learned that everyone has their own opinion (such as protesting against racial justice, equal rights, education, voting and many others) and that they have the right to express what they feel. We saw that they will do whatever it takes to stand up or sit down for what they believe in. We really enjoyed this protest and we all found it very inspirational. We know that when we feel that something isn’t right, we know that we need to stand up and say what we believe. NO MATTER WHAT others who don’t agree say!  We ARE Student U!  ~Tosha Ruffin

When people ask me if the Republicans are winning, I simply say regression is necessary. We have benefited from an era of prosperity as a result of those who died to get the rights we take for granted. There is more concentrated wealth and resources within minority communities than when our ancestors fought for equal rights. We are by no means powerless in achieving desired outcomes. However, we must have collective collaboration in order to achieve collective impact.

At this present time, North Carolina is trying to privatize education, make it easier to buy a gun than vote, destroy our environment with deregulation and fracking, and the list goes on.  However, Moral Monday Protesters have demonstrated they are in this for the long haul and not just to the end of this legislative session. The current total of Moral Monday arrests are now over 900 with over 70 protesters arrested yesterday.

I had the opportunity to see Reverend Barber address the people, and my hope is that more leaders in our churches especial in minorities communities begin to stand with him. As Rev. Barber says: We Fight! We Fight! We Fight!


Photo Credit: Deona Hooper

How Genie Lauren Used Twitter to Stop Zimmerman Juror B37’s Book Deal

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Courtesy of ABC News
Courtesy of ABC News

Many people were shocked and appalled when Juror B37 from the George Zimmerman trial announced a book deal the Sunday immediate following the Saturday night not guilty verdict. Trayvon Martin supporters were confused as to how a sequestered juror under court ordered anonymity was able to acquire a book deal on a Sunday as well as an appearance on CNN for the following Monday. However, Genie Lauren, like many other supporters, saw the book deal and appearance by Juror B37 as opportunistic and decided to use Twitter to voice their protest.

Lauren was able to find the name and company contact information for the Agent who gave Juror B37 the book deal, and she used Twitter to disseminate the information to fellow tweeters to allow them to voice their concerns. The initial contact from the Agent with Lauren was one of empathy as she understood that Trayvon Martin supporters were in mourning. However, the next time Genie Lauren was contacted by the Agent, it was to notify her that the book deal had been rescinded.

This has many pundits and others asking the question is social media to powerful as well as what constitutes responsible use of social media. Technology and social media has removed the communication barriers that once blocked the flow of information from those in control of organizations to those at the bottom. In addition, the speed in which social media and technology is able to facilitate communication and calls to action is becoming a game changer for grass roots organizing.

Prior to social media, grass roots organizers or disgruntled consumers had to contact the heads of organizations and make request for assistance in order to address issues. The persons in charge of receiving these requests would then decide the flow of information. People were often drowning in red tape and bureaucracies in order to get complaints to leaders within an organization. This is no longer the case with the advent of social media, and its ability to micro-target individuals and organizations with complaints, information, and resources as vested entities.

Genie Lauren talks to ABC news about the experience:

Genie Lauren proves that the internet can literally change something overnight. Lauren, who goes by the handle @MoreAndAgain, launched a Change.org campaign in response to juror B 37. The now infamous juror was one of six women who acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. She was also the first to secure a literary agent. Read More

View her interview with ABC News

Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson Choked by Husband in Public

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Nigella LawsonMulti-Millionaire and art collector, Charles Saatchi announced he is filing for divorce after a tabloid newspaper released a photo of him choking his celebrity chef wife, Nigella Lawson, in June 2013. He has allegedly expressed disappointment in his wife’s failure to defend him relating to the public photos of him choking her.

Nigella Lawson is celebrity chef  largely known for her television show in Great Britain, but she is also widely known in most English-speaking countries. The couple has been married for 10 years, and Saatchi reportedly stated the incident was the result of a “playful tiff” between he and his wife. Domestic violence groups are  in an uproar over the lack of police intervention in this matter.

The photo appears to capture the face of a terrified Nigella Lawson which has many asking the question what does “playful tiffs” look like behind closed doors?  Nigella Lawson is 53 years old, and this is her second marriage after she lost her first husband to throat cancer.

NBC News Reports:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Photo Credit: www.thesun.co.uk

Keira Knightley Makes Explosive Video on Domestic Violence

Hollywood actress and celebrity Kiera Knightley, recently released a video called Cut where she is drawing attention to the dangers of domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Also, the Federal Bureau of Investigation national crime statistics has indicated that police reports show one-third of female homicide are committed by an intimate partner.

Preventing-Domestic-Violence-MainPhotoThe National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines the problem:

Battering is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person with whom an intimate relationship is or has been shared through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. Battering happens when one person believes that they are entitled to control another.

Intimate partner violence in intrinsically connected to the societal oppression of women, children, people of color, people with disabilities, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, elders, Jewish people, and other marginalized groups.

While oppression functions in similar ways regardless of which group is targeted, different target groups have unique experiences of oppression stemming from their specific historic, cultural and social experiences and realities. The work to end domestic violence must necessarily include the fight against all oppressions.

Domestic violence may include not only the intimate partner relationships of spousal, live-in partners and dating relationships, also familial, elder and child abuse may be present in a violent home. Abuse generally falls into one or more of the following categories: physical battering, sexual assault and emotional or psychological abuse, and generally escalates over a period of time.  Read More

View Keira’s video which visually defines the problem:


ACOSA Journal of Community Practice: Organizing, Planning, Development & Change

by Deona Hooper, MSW

The latest edition of the Association of Community Organizing and Social Administration (ACOSA) Journal of Community Practice was recently published. The journal presented articles that focused on macro practice and systems change in a variety of areas such as  psychiatric housing, diversity challenges in staffing community health centers, and strategic prevention frame work to name a few. However, one particular article that resonated with me was “Reaching Out to the Hard to Reach: Lessons Learned from a Statewide Outreach initiative by authors Kathleen S. Gorman, Allison M. Smith, Maria E. Cimini, Katherine M. Halloran, and Anna G. Lubiner.

Here is an excerpt from the journal article:

Despite high levels of need, many federal assistance programs are underutilized, with differential participation rates among demographic subpopulations. Outreach efforts seek to address challenges facing potentially eligible program recipients. This article examines a statewide initiative to address barriers to participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), focusing on the elderly and people with disabilities, eligible immigrants, and low-income working households. We describe a dynamic approach that relies on community partnerships and utilizes media messaging, information dissemination, and direct client assistance to reach our target populations. The data illustrate how continuous evaluation allows for systematic adaptation of strategies, highlighting lessons learned for future outreach efforts.  ~Download Journal Article

Unfortunately, this article like many other journal articles in the social sciences are not easily accessible because they often reside behind a pay wall in order for users to gain access. This prevents many practitioners, who may not be attached to an educational institution, from gaining access to best practices and evidence based knowledge. Most importantly, it prevents the authors and researchers who dedicate their time to creating such authoritative works from taking advantage of new technologies to further enhance recognition as experts in their respective areas. Currently, copyright assertions by the publisher prevents me from sharing the article with you. However, ACOSA members are giving free access to all journal articles, and I must say their membership fees are very modest in comparison to most professional associations.

smjcpAccording to ACOSA’s website:

The Journal of Community Practice articulates contemporary issues, providing direction on how to think about social problems, developing approaches to dealing with them, and outlining ways to implement these concepts in classrooms and practice settings. As a forum for authors and a resource for readers, the Journal of Community Practice makes an invaluable contribution to community practice its conceptualization, applications, and practice. As the only journal focusing on community practice, it covers research, theory, practice, and curriculum strategies for the full range of work with communities and organizations.

The Editors seek submission of articles from academics and practitioners who are engaged in community practice. The Journal of Community Practice occasionally publishes a feature article and Notes from Practice or Notes from Teaching to supply readers with up-to-date resources.

This unique interdisciplinary journal covers a range of research methods, including:

  • Case studies
  • Curriculum development
  • Historical studies
  • Participatory research
  • Policy analysis
  • Program evaluation
  • Qualitative and quantitative methods
  • Theory and model development and testing

For more information on ACOSA and the Journal of Community Practice, view their website at www.acosa.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWH: What are SWAN’s highest priorities?

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

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

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

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

In Remembrance of Those Who Lost Their Lives: Honoring Memorial Day

By Deona Hooper, MSW

cbs-memorial-day-dlMemorial Day Weekend has morphed into many meanings over the years. For some, it’s the time of year when you have the biggest sales to start summer. For others, it’s booking the first family vacation to celebrate the warm weather. For those who have lost husbands, wives, sons, and daughters while serving our country in times of war, it’s a day of remembrance and mourning for their loved ones. We say Happy Memorial Day, but is it suppose to be a happy day if it is being celebrated as it was originally intended?

It is estimated that over 190,000 soldiers lost their lives during the past ten years of the Iraq War. Some families will never know what happened to their loved one other than he/she went to go serve their country to protect our freedoms, and they never came back home. I also believe that it is important to spend time with our friends and family on this Memorial Day, but I also believe that we should have a moment of silence for those who protect us and our freedoms.

Memorial Day Prayer:

Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history —
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you
in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your loving kindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
[though we sometimes feel that low]
and without fear
[though we are often anxious].
We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things’ going meaninglessly well.
God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully [as it seems]
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion those who have died
serving their countries
in the futility of combat.
There is none of us but must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
We believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  ~ US Memorial Day Prayer by Rev. Dick  Kozelka

Photo Credit: lasvegas.cbslocal.com

Hollywood Celebrity Angelina Jolie Discloses Double Mastectomy

Angelina Jolie

Mega star actress, Angelina Jolie,  sent shock waves through the media when her op-ed disclosing a double mastectomy was published in the New York Times on May 14, 2013. Jolie discusses how her family history and the loss of her mother to cancer played a huge role in her taking preventative measures to increase the odds of longevity for her children.

The opinion pieces also acknowledges how this life extending preventive measure was an option afforded to her only because of her financial means. Angelina’s disclosure brings to light the health care disparities many low income and uninsured women face in obtaining treatment and preventative care.

She also discloses the financial cost of the testing necessary to determine if she was at risk. The test itself was $3,000 which does not include the actual cost for the double mastectomy procedure and the reconstructive surgery. Many advocates for cancer screening and early education feel Angelina Jolie’s opinion piece will help efforts to educate young women on cancer risks and the importance of preventive care.

According to the New York Times, Angelina Jolie stated,

MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.

We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer andovarian cancer.

My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.

Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.

Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex. Read Full Article

For information on treatment and preventative care covered by Medicaid and Medicare, you can visit . The American Cancer Society is also an excellent resource to gain insight and access to information on cancer statistics, treatment, and preventative care. Below, you can view and download the latest cancer statistics.

[gview file=”http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-036845.pdf”]

Is Being Gay A Choice

By Deona Hooper, MSW

I had no intentions of doing any writing today, but I came across a video in my inbox that was too good not to share with SWH readers. Many people believe members of the LGBT community made a conscious choice for their sexual preference, or they believe it was a combination of genetics and environment that has led them to the same-sex lifestyle. Upworthy does something that is pretty darn amazing. They make a logical rebuttal to the common question Is being gay a choice?  by asking, “When did you choose to be straight?”.  View the video and watch the responses:

Matthew Perry for Drug Court: When a Court Orders an Addict to Treatment Instead of Prison We All Rise

by Deona Hooper, MSW

“When a court orders an addict to treatment instead of prison,  we All Rise” ~ Martin Sheen

I am always elated when a person conquers their demons, and then uses it to help elevate someone else. Amazingly, Matthew Perry is one of many individuals working with All Rise who are lending their celebrity to help bring about awareness on issues that would only fall off the lips of the poor, imprisoned, or invisible. Matthew Perry made a recent appearance on Hardball to discuss how his drug addiction could have easily landed him into prison. Although he should have been riding high on his success with the hit television show The Good Housewife, Matthew disclosed how he needed a certain amount of pain pills to get him through each day. Matthew is thankful his activities never got him arrested, but he stated that is not the case for the majority of Americans. Matthew along with many others are advocating for government funding to Drug Courts because they make sense, cost-effective, and measurable. The biggest barrier for prevention programs aren’t funding, it’s for profit prisons. As long as sending people to prison is incentivized, there is no incentive to find solutions.

According to the All Rise National Association of Drug Court Professionals website:

For centuries, anyone with business before the court has heard two words called out by the bailiff or court officer. Two words that demand everyone in the courtroom to come to attention. Two words that create order amidst chaos. Those two words are ALL RISE!

In Drug Court, these two words have an even greater meaning. These simple words capture the essence of what a Drug Court does. ALL RISE describes how instead of imprisoning an addict, Drug Courts insert hope and support into the very lives of people who the traditional justice system says are hopeless.

Whenever one person rises out of addiction and crime, we ALL RISE. When a child is reunited with clean and sober parents, we ALL RISE. When the intergenerational cycle of drug addiction in a family is broken and healing begins, we ALL RISE.  Whether the charge is driving while impaired, theft, burglary or any number of other addiction-driven offenses, we ALL RISE when a Drug Court guides the offender past the chaos and wreckage and toward recovery.

Read More and Download Proclamation

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