The Savvy Social Worker’s Guide to Social Media and the Internet

Social media is ever-present and will only continue to grow. As such, social workers need to know how to ethically and successfully navigate the many paths of the online world to protect themselves and more importantly, their clients. Social media in particular can be used in a myriad of ways from networking with other professionals to marketing your practice.

How Social Media Can Be Useful for Social Workers

  • Network with other providers. In addition to networking in person with local social workers, social media platforms give you connections ranging from your own neighborhood to all over the world. While there’s no shortage of social media platforms to choose from, Facebook is clearly the front-runner based on audience engagement according to Tech Times’ analysis of comScore’s data. Below is a chart comparing audience engagement across the top social media platforms.

Due to Facebook’s popularity, there’s a good chance you’ll find a group pertaining to an area of social work that interests you.

Do you want to connect with private practice therapists? There are groups for that.

Are you interested in networking with child welfare or geriatric workers? There are groups for that.

Are you interested social work pertaining to social justice or advocacy? You guessed it – there are groups for that, too!

Your best bet is to get into a secret or closed group. A closed group can be searched for and anyone can find it, but you have to be approved to join and your posts are only seen by members. A secret group is a group you are invited to join so it’s not searchable.

  • Build reputation and showcase expertise. People look up their providers on the web all the time and clients will search for you. If you have professional blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or Pinterest accounts that are public – you control the story you let others see. You choose content that allows clients to get to know you, the practitioner.
  • Use social media to enhance your motivation for your career. Create and develop Pinterest boards with your social work interests. And while you’re at it, blog about social justice issues that are important to you. Exploring your area of interests can remind you why you love what you do!
  • Use discussion boards to connect with other social workers. Engage in conversations about policy and procedures, or concerns with other professionals. You might join a listserv, a therapy site, or even LinkedIn – interact with other professionals, gain knowledge, and share your own thoughts.

How the Internet Can Be Useful for Social Workers

  • Take advantage of online educational opportunities. There are plenty of options online for Bachelors, Masters, and PhDs in social work and related fields. There are also certificates you can earn online to hone your skills and increase credibility. You are no longer confined to your community to find preferred training classes. Online courses are offered for virtually any aspect or specialty of social work.
  • Tele-social work is an option. Online platforms allow social workers to see and talk to their clients, and provide services like therapy, without ever having to step into an office! This can be ideal for clients who live in rural areas, lack the means for proper transportation, or are just having difficulty getting to a traditional office. Using telehealth to reach clients is becoming steadily more popular among doctors and other health providers.

Ethical Considerations

  • Get educated about on-line rules and regulations. Look into classes and certification courses you can take regarding online etiquette. Know that most email is not confidential, and that a telehealth platform has to be HIPAA compliant. With all of the rules governing social work and social media, it’s essential for you to be informed so you don’t make an inadvertent mistake. You can use the following infographic by Scrypt as a quick reference for using social media without violating any HIPAA regulations.
  • Don’t talk about clients online. If you must – keep it in the broadest sense possible. Don’t include any identifying information about your client, not even gender. Social workers often want to share cases and funny stories with their colleagues, or ask for advice from others in the field. Be aware that what you write could get out for anyone to see. Even in a private Facebook group, you’re not going to know all the people who can see the posts.

Before writing anything about a client, consider how they would feel if they knew what you were writing about them. If you are looking for feedback, ask broader questions instead of focusing on a specific client. Instead of saying “I have a client with PTSD and am wondering…?” Try asking “What interventions can people use to help alleviate someone’s symptoms of PTSD?”

  • Avoid looking up your clients online. It is human nature to want to find out more, but doing so can harm the therapeutic relationship. A client will tell you only what they are comfortable sharing. If they ask you to read a blog post they wrote or look up something they were featured in, then by all means do so. When tempted to look, ask yourself what you’ll do with the information you find, and what’s your purpose for searching it out? If it’s simply for the sake of curiosity – stop.
  • Whether you work for a private practice or in an agency, it is vital to have a social media policy in place. Let your clients know you won’t friend them on Facebook or LinkedIn. Set that boundary. You can like, respect, and have an excellent therapeutic relationship with a client, but you are NOT their friend.
  • Nothing truly disappears on the Internet. Even if you delete a tweet or blog post – it’s still findable. It is a good rule to not put anything on the Internet you wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone you know – including grandma and your boss – seeing. If you have a personal Facebook page, blog, or other social media account – keep the privacy settings high. Realize even when you post privately, your post isn’t always private. It comes down to not writing or posting anything that you are not willing to be a representation of you to the world.

Like many professions in the 21st century, the Internet has been an amazing asset to social workers. This technology allows us to connect with peers, colleagues, and clients from all over the world, but it can also land you in hot water if you’re not careful. Luckily there’s a vast supply of online resources and courses you can take to help you have a successful and secure virtual presence.

Understanding the Code of Ethics in Social Work Practice

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Social workers are required to consider the code of ethics when working with clients in a therapeutic or direct practice relationship. However, we want to examine and discuss the implications of utilizing the code of ethics while working along the full continuum of social work practice from micro to macro. Most have heard about ethical issues relating confidentiality, dual relationships, and sexual relationships, but what do ethical dilemmas look like when working in communities, advocacy, or public policy? What ethical obligations do social workers when working in social justice versus working in one on one relationships with clients?

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Heather McCabe

We will explore how practitioners and students view ethical obligations around macro practice and social justice issues. Our guest expert is Heather McCabe, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Indiana University. She served as a medical social worker at a pediatric tertiary care hospital for several years before returning to school for her law degree.

She also served as the Director of the Public Health Law Program  and then Executive Director for the Hall Center for Law and Health at the IU School of Law – Indianapolis before coming to her current position.  Professor McCabe’s research is primarily in the areas of public health, health policy, health disparities, health reform, and disability related policy.  She is particularly interested in exploring the effects of multidisciplinary education and collaboration in her work.

Questions to be explored:

  1. Do you think about the NASW Code of Ethics applying to community organizing, policy practice, advocacy? If so, how?
  2. If you see multiple clients with the same systemic issue, do you have any ethical obligation to address the issue?
  3. What types of bills do you see as impacting your clients? What responsibility to you have to advocate for/educate about them?
  4. Do you advocate for policy in your day to day work? Give an example.
  5. How do we continue encouraging social workers to see practice as a continuum, which includes macro practice?

Resources:

  • Reisch, M. & Lowe, J.I. (2000). “Of means and ends” revisited: Teaching ethical community organizing in an unethical society. Journal of Community Practice, 7(1), 19-38.
  • Hardina, D. (2000). Guidelines for ethical practice in community organization. Social Work, 49(4), 595-604.
  • Harrington, D., & Dolgoff, R. (2008). Hierarchies of Ethical Principles for Ethical Decision Making in Social Work. Ethics and Social Welfare, 2(2), 183–196. doi:10.1080/17496530802117680
  • National Association of Social Workers. (2008).  Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
  • Rome, S.H.,Hoechstetter, S., and Wolf-Branigin, M. (2010). Pushing the envelope: Empowering clients through political action. Journal of Policy Practice, 9(3-4), 201-219.
  • Rome, S.H. (2009). Value inventory for policy advocacy. In E.P Congress, P.N. Black, and K. Strom-Gottfried (Eds.) Teaching Social Work Values and Ethics. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

About us:

#MacroSW is a collaboration of social workers, organizations, social work schools, and individuals working to promote macro social work practice. Macro social work practice focuses on changing larger systems, such as communities and organizations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of actions and ideas, ranging from community organizing and education to legislative advocacy and policy analysis. The chats are held bimonthly on Twitter on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST).

Hillary Clinton Can Do Better on Race

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Hillary Clinton is currently using a rhetorical device otherwise known as an attempt to be “honest”, and it’s a call for us to be reflective about our own indifference to the racial divide. The problem is, former Secretary of State Clinton reinforces an irrational fear, masked in a logical fallacy, to justify an unsustainable ego defense. She meant well in the context of a larger discussion on race.

But, she could have engaged the same discussion by demonstrating the fear as irrational rather than leveraging the fear to elicit an emotional connection. Let’s apply the Social Work Next perspective to evaluate the rhetorical device. Our central question is one of Politics. How can policy and politics support empathy?

Exploring the Rhetoric
This speech was delivered July 23, 3015 in South Carolina. Some are attempting to use the clip without context to manufacture a Clinton gaffe. Presenting this as a gaffe, it would set up a narrative pitting open-minded Whites against other Whites using Black lives as the key factor in the decision point. Many may fall into that pit, but Social workers cannot.

If you took this position, it argues for Whites to advocate for and acknowledge that Blacks deserve to be treated as equals. Then, the other Whites should join the open-minded Whites and their action in creating a more tolerant United States. What this does is maintain the privilege of Whites as the center of the debate—the decision makers and the one group whose advocacy and opinion matters.

It also limits the debate to an individual level debate, one where each person needs to step up. The danger is to ignore mezzo and macro levels that also need attention. The danger is to miss the opportunity to ask a presidential candidate how he/she will legislate with the empathy necessary to create change. Policy should be the center of this debate leveraged by Justice for all, informed by Appreciation for all.

Clinton states in multiple events over the past month, some version of the following:

“Let’s be honest, for a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports that poverty, crime, and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege” (June 20, 2015 speech to US Conference of Mayors).

It’s still an inappropriate line. It could have been better. It serves to justify fear of Black males even while highlighting privilege.

Breaking down the Conceptual Semantics

The Social Work Next approach to this begins with the awareness of multiple systems levels: micro, mezzo, and macro. The individual or micro level is where much of this rhetoric resides. Rather than justifying the fear as a reminder to reflect with empathy and action, let us explore the fear as irrational.

The individual assessment would ask what biopsychosocial-spiritual-meaning experiences support the fear of Blacks. Only by addressing those fears at their origin, can the individual address the fallacy (most often) or the trauma (less likely) that supports the fear. The point at the individual level is that YOU have a choice regardless of the past or fear of the future. The risk in this moment is equal to the risk is all other moments.

At the mezzo level, we deal with institutions. What institutions support the idea that being Black is somehow threatening or precursor to harm? The solution is to move away from prejudice and determine the content of a person’s character no matter their race or clothing. The number of Blacks has no impact on your level of fear during a board meeting even if they all wore hoodies.

Let’s be clear, alley ways are scary no matter who is standing around in them. Anyone walking into a convenience store with a hoodie pulled over their head is going to raise your fear level. Remove the “being Black” offense from the evaluation of safety in context. Let us promote institutions that utilize the best in social engineering to support collaborative outcomes. You do that by moving away from social control and toward social capital. You know what I mean. “Protect and Serve” community policing versus “Stop and Frisk” raids and harassment.

At the macro level, we discuss environmental practice—the home for our discussion of politics. This is where we get into the depth of empathy. Empathy can begin with guilt. The problem here is that the guilt-to-empathy construct works at the individual level. The task is to expand the construct to the macro level, to collectively reflect, then politically act. What Clinton got wrong is that we don’t make this choice because of our guilt about our privilege or our fear of Blacks. We make the choice to create a politic of justice and appreciation because it serves our ends. The first level of empathy is to see ourselves or our children as the potential victim of unjust policy. The second level is to care that any other person would be subjected to such unjust policy without our ability to successfully navigate the system.

Policy-JusticeANDAppreciationPolitics of Change
As citizens, we are counting on our politicians to advance policy solutions. As social workers, we must educate a populous addressing a politic that lacks empathy. Clinton discusses empathy that leads to action, but only after justifying irrational thoughts. Reflection on assumptions and privilege is not enough. Many well-meaning people don’t have the energy and commitment for true empathy–understanding how my history makes my choices reasonable. And, how your insistence on my conformity criminalizes my existence. That is the point of #BlackLivesMatter. Not a redress to your privilege, but the assertion of my right to exist, under my own terms.

Use policy to grant me that right. Structure institutions that promote and bolster that right. Make equitably available the tools to defend myself and navigate the system.

In your speeches, structure your rhetoric to ensure a movement of justice and appreciation leading to empathy. Go beyond the guilt of having more, living outside stop-and-frisk zones, and living within successful school districts. Create, support, and enforce policies that provide equity of opportunity without asking me to become like you or more safe for you. I can’t change my color, but WE can change policy.

Afterward to the Social Worker
If you want to explore rhetoric and semantics further, may I suggest the following article as a starting point.

Complex speeches aren’t better speeches. In fact, they’re worse.

The most memorable lines in modern rhetoric—”Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”; “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; —are remembered precisely because they’re simple enough to understand, memorize, and talk about. Practically every modern sage of language—George Orwell, Steven Pinker, William Safire, Strunk & White—advises non-fiction writers to express themselves with simple language. Even if you like purple prose in your long-form narrative non-fiction, you’ll agree that it’s pleasing to hear complex policy points in clear sentences and parallelisms. (It’s hard to rule out that the dense language of the 19th century was pleasing and cogent in its own time.)

Read More

If you would like to explore the implications and the next steps for social work thought, keep reading this site, or you can do both.

Ethical Dilemmas Facing Mental Health Social Workers

In practice, it is sometimes necessary for social workers to make a judgment call, and one needs to be sure they are choosing the best options to resolve issues wisely when encountering an ethical dilemma. The social work code of ethics are designed as a guide to follow in order to help aid you in finding the best resolution when possible. Circumstances will naturally be further defined or complicated as specific details arise from any number of given scenarios a social worker may face over the course of his/her practice.

Accounting-EthicsOne important key principle to emphasize is the client’s right to self-determination which means the client’s desire to make his or her own choices including finding resolutions takes priority. This is paramount whether or not the social worker personally believes it is the right decision.

Instead, it is the role of the social worker to present all of the options available, thus allowing the client to make an informed course of action. For instance, perhaps a client has a different set of personal beliefs, such as those regarding sexual orientation. The social worker will need to put any differing opinions regarding this aside as they work with the client.

This right to self-determination may come into conflict with the right of confidentiality if the subject display or express being a danger to themselves or others. If a client expresses a desire to commit suicide or seriously harm another person, the social worker has a right to disregard confidentiality, as this is now a matter of public safety. In any other cases, any personal details shared with a third-party must only occur after the client has signed a consent form. Confidentiality extends to the educational process, in which case a social worker may never use a client’s real name when recounting certain events in a learning environment. Also, social workers should remember to stay updated and educated about advancements made in the field, which will also help you maintain the continuing education credits needed for licensure each year.

When providing mental health services, it is important for social workers to make sure they have the client’s consent to treat them. Clients need to be aware of the extent of the services they will be offered as well as the obligations for payment. If the patient is a minor, then consent will need to be obtained from a parent or legal guardian. The client should also be made aware of any alternative treatment methods that may be available to them.

Another ethical consideration for social workers is to determine how long treatment is needed in order to be effective. The social worker should seek to terminate the relationship with the client if they believe that treatment is no longer in their best interest, and the social worker will also need to keep records of their work. However, you need to be sure that names of third parties are kept confidential, and they you do not violate HIPPA Laws. Social Workers should seek to protect the privacy of your clients at all times as well as maintaining a professional relationship with their client at all times.

Also, you want to ensure to limit treatment only to areas in which are trained  and officially licensed for. Leaving your own personal issues or biases out of the therapeutic process is paramount to your client’s success, and always seek additional consultation for a patient as it is needed. It’s important to acknowledge if additional guidance is needed.

Voluntourism – How to Find an Ethical Project?

“Voluntourism” is a portmanteau of “volunteer” and “tourism”, describing tourists that combine a trip abroad with volunteer work. The idea is often met with scepticism and has caused a lot of controversy. One reason for this is that researchers have found that some of the companies involved with voluntourism are misrepresenting their products, i.e. trying to make a profit out of volunteers that come to help. But with hundreds of opportunities offered by agencies, charities and grassroot projects, how does a potential volunteer know which organisations are ethically a good choice and which ones are unhelpful to the very communities they claim to help?

During my bachelor’s education, I considered volunteering abroad. However, I was overwhelmed and shocked by how difficult it seemed to find information on projects. Much of the international volunteer industry seemed ethically ambiguous to say the least. Most projects I found charged thousands of dollars which in the end discouraged me from joining any program at all. Nevertheless, there are many ethical options out there for everyone interested in volunteering, however finding them is tougher than it should be. It is the very nature of this dilemma that motivated me to join Team Social Work, a social enterprise dedicated to making the voluntourism market more transparent

Step One: Be realistic

Make sure you have realistic expectations about what to expect to experience on your trip and what you can accomplish

  • You came to help, keep that in mind throughout your stay. This does not just mean that first you have to think about the beneficiaries of your stay first and put the community needs ahead of yours, but also remember that your efforts are ultimately for the community you’re serving, despite the pivotal role you can play. Your ultimate goal should be to to assist them with their vision, whichEducationh ever part you may play in it.
  • Remember that change takes time. If you’re only going to be there for a short period, then the chances are that you won’t be there long enough to witness the impact your efforts will have on the community that you have elected to h
    elp. Nevertheless, consider the bigger picture to appreciate that your contribution has made a significant contribution and indeed a difference.
  • Last but not least – don’t underestimate the importance of a smile or other acts of kindness. They can have a bigger impact than you might realise.

Step Two: Choose a Good-Fit Type of Volunteering

A lot of volunteers have only a few weeks of their time to donate to a project and are worried that they can’t make a difference in such a short period. So how can you make short-term voluntourism worthwhile?

Short-term voluntourism isn’t necessarily bad. It really depends on the project that you want to volunteer for. As a general rule of thumb, you should always ask yourself whether or not your position at the project is effected by a personal relationship. E.g. within a conservation project, your duration of stay will have limited impact on the animals or biodiversity; often these projects need an extra hand, so it won’t make so much difference if you are only there for a short period. If you want to volunteer with a project that involves community development or working with children, carefully evaluate whether your short term stay will be useful to them or if you will do more harm than good. You might help to build a school in a few weeks, but you won’t become a counsellor for traumatised children. In any case, be sure that you are matched according to your skills.

Step Three: Ask the Right Questions

To ensure that you are joining an ethically sound volunteering project, the organisation should be able to provide you with answers to your questions. But what are the right questions to ask?

Before getting in touch with someone at the organisation, think about the following:

  • Many projects will provide you with a great vision of what they are trying to achieve, but only genuine projects will be able to provide you with details of how to get there. Ask whether or not there has been a needs assessment establishing exactly what help is required. Only projects that plan ahead will be able to make a lasting difference, so be sure to enquire about specific goals and why these are of importance in advance.
  • Take careful consideration over how the communities and projects are talked about by their relevant organisations. If they are degrading the locals they claim to be helping and belting their situation, then this should be sending you warning signs – taking advantage of their poverty to market the volunteering project in question is not respectful in the slightest.
  • Furthermore, every project should break down where the money you pay will go, and how the money from past volunteers has made a difference to the community they are working in. If they don’t, I recommend reconsidering your choice.

Get in touch with someone who has volunteered there beforehand: 

  • We live in the age of social media, so make sure you use it to your advantage. Sincere organisations should provide links to their social media sites. Use them to get in touch with former volunteers of the projects and ask them for their personal experience.
  • Make sure to ask what the exact nature of their volunteer work was, and what level of volunteer support they experienced. If the program description doesn’t match what former volunteers describe, you should be cautious and ask the project why this was the case.

Have you been on a volunteer holiday? Share your views and experiences in the comments below.

Doing What Is Right Versus Doing What Is Easy: Whistleblowing in Social Work

Any Social Worker who has had the misfortune to ever need to consider whistleblowing at work will know that the battle of doing what is right versus doing what is easy is unimaginably more difficult than it first appears.

Social Workers choose this complex and often emotionally challenging profession because they are driven by a core desire to do good, to help, to do what is right. Our values and our ethics underpin everything we do both in our professional and private lives.

What happens then, when something at work feels intrinsically wrong to you and yet everyone else is acting as if it is right? Do you go along with everyone else? Do you quieten the little voice inside your head that has encouraged you to do so much good before?

do-what-is-rightHopefully, highlighting your concern to those involved will solve the problem. If not, escalation to Management should lead to resolution. However, for some individuals in some offices, the issue is no longer solely a misuse of power or acts of injustice, but rather the institutional acceptance of malpractice as normal.

In the United Kingdom, we have seen the tragic reality of widespread acceptance time and time again in notable cases such as Winterbourne View and at Haringey Council. In environments such as this, Social Worker’s can find themselves in a very lonely position if they decide to speak up.

If and when you decide to ask the questions that you believe need answering, you quickly discover the sad fact that, for many people, integrity and justice are of secondary importance to paying the mortgage. Manager’s can betray you. Colleagues can turn against you for “rocking the boat” or they may disagree with your desire to change things.  And whilst you will feel a sense of incredible guilt that colleagues may become collateral damage due to the issues you have highlighted, it is always worth remembering that complacency and unintentional negligence is still negligence. Where possible, ensure that you give colleagues the opportunity to speak up with you, and if they choose not to, then they alone are responsible for the consequences of their decision.

Whistleblowing also has a heavy impact on the Social Worker’s health and wellbeing. A whistleblower has to continue managing, what are often dangerously high caseloads, whilst simultaneously recording evidence of malpractice, ensuring she does not make mistakes for fear of disproportionate reprisals and doing all this with little to no support. This combination is a crucible which makes work mistakes more probable and infinitely raises stress levels. Often those who would offer the most support, your friends and family, will want you to quit rather than stay and fight. They are unable to fathom the drive within you which means you willingly put yourself under so much strain and potentially sabotage your career.

Supervision is a crucial element of safe Social Work practice. In toxic Social Work environments, you can begin to feel yourself going mad. You are sure that things are wrong but everyone is acting like there is no problem. No one acknowledges the issue and so you begin to wonder if there is an issue at all. Some of the best advice I have been given by a Supervisor was: “Don’t think you are mad simply because you are the only sane one in a mad world.”

Of course, always remember that your take on the situation may indeed be inaccurate or skewed. But there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to ethics and morality; so whilst you may be wrong, it is just as likely that you may be right. You should never be punished for asking that people be held accountable for their actions, in the same way that you must always be accountable for yours.

As Social Workers, we are taught to engage in ethical decision-making and to promote justice. This cannot be mere rhetoric. Standing up for justice will sometimes demand from us every last ounce of strength we have. It takes real courage. If you decide to challenge the powers that be, however alone you feel, know that you are not the first person to have been through this and you will not be the last. Seek support. And remember that the smallest of battles can have the biggest of impacts.

Imagine if Rosa Parks had moved to the back of the bus.

NASW Technology Standards: How Do You Measure Up?

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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!

Fueling the Political Machine: Kristie Holmes on Campaign Finance Reforms

There is something very special about a social worker in public office. As social workers, we are bound to an ethical code to uphold social justice, provide service to others, bolster the dignity and self-worth of all people, understand human relationships and communities, and act with competence and integrity in all our endeavors. When considering how these core values shape social workers’ singular objective to make the world a better place for everyone, I think most people can agree that these are the kinds of people we want representing us in government. That is exactly what Kristie Holmes is planning to do in her campaign for Congress representing California’s 33rd district.

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Kristie Holmes (right) at United Nations

Kristie Holmes is a breath of fresh air for Los Angeles County. Unlike her top opponents, Holmes has not been a participant in the troubled public administration in her region. Rather, Kristie has been fighting at the front lines as a case worker, community organizer, and social policy scholar. As a social work professor at the University of Southern California and small business owner in Los Angeles, Holmes is in touch with the people in her community and is raising quite a following among younger voters, who are sick of establishment politicians and nepotism.

So what’s the problem? Why isn’t her name up in lights with the best of them?

Sadly, along with her virtuous political agenda and clean slate comes a major shortcoming: Money or as she refers to it in her blog, “Trial by Fundraising!” And while we all know campaigns always require money, Kristie Holmes has been exposing political financial requirements to that will make your stomach ache. According to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, the average congressional campaign costs over $1 million per candidate and the average senate campaign costs $4.3 million (while many go as high as $10 million and 15 million).

This leads many concerned citizens to ask, who has that kind of money? Certainly not the families and citizens politicians are supposedly “representing.”  These unprecedented financial requirements not only distract elected officials from their primary role as lawmakers, but paves a clear path for encouraging special interests in politics. As Kristie explains:

“When it is all over, what do we have to show for it?  How much have we collectively spent- on what exactly?  It certainly doesn’t go to those who need it.  In fact, it goes to funding things that voters clearly despise.”

As a determined, trail-blazing social worker, Kristie Holmes is standing up to the political establishment. She is running her campaign on policy, not politics and financial deal-making. With her hard earned, modest budget, Holmes is inspiring awe as she unwavering fights for a seat at the table. As fellow social workers, we are very proud. In her campaign blog, title “Kristie’s Adventures in Running for Congress in the Wild West” Holmes documents the process of running an honest campaign amidst a corrupt landscape of Super-PACs and sneaky political loopholes:

Money & PoliticsTo begin the process, there is a $1,740 non-refundable fee to get your name on the ballot. Okay, steep but do-able.  But wait, it doesn’t stop there. In order the get your name and 250-word blurb printed in the voting guide (the sample ballot given to all voters before they cast their vote) candidates must pay an additional $8,600.

If you want this available in Spanish (which is spoken by about half of L.A. residents) it costs another $17,200! Further fees are required for each additional language. Just the fact that there is a language fee at all, from a social justice perspective, is ethically questionable considering the US Census reports 56.8% of L.A. residents do not speak English at home. So, all in all, it actually costs a whopping $18,940 just to have a meager presence at the ballot box.

Now, comes the campaign. There is the usual stuff: yard signs, door-hangers, TV commercials, etc. These are the kind of cost most people expect from campaigns and millions of dollars can also go into funding these. Luckily, there are low-costs alternatives to raising political awareness such as relying heavily of social media and people power in the community- the tactics Kristie Holmes is well versed in as a macro social worker.There are countless, nearly insurmountable hidden costs all along the way. Just last week, for example, Kristie was denied invitation to a candidate debate forum because the organizers required candidates to have raised over $100,000 in order to attend. 

Seriously? Television commercials are one thing; denying candidates a right to speak at political debates- that is another. Requirements such as these are normal; they are a part of a regime to perpetuate the political status quo, stifle real social progress, and represent the interests of the few over the many. According to the LA Times, the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club created the requirement (which was possibly as high as $200,000) to allow only “viable” candidates to participate, as not to “dilute the session… by including candidates with little or no chance of winning.” Yet, isn’t is also true that barring these candidates from the debate is directly contributing to their poor chances of winning?

Kristie also points out that candidates for California’s 33rd congressional district only found out about the current congressman’s retirement in late January. Established candidates with an existing FEC number had less than three months to acquire their current campaign funds. However, the time frame was much shorter for new candidates who needed to apply for a FEC number before fundraising could begin. As Holmes speculates, “Perhaps a candidate has a long line of wealthy, waiting funders ready to go when they announce (due to fame or personal fortune).” Whatever the funding sources or tactics are, one this is clear: our current political system is designed to pander to wealth and power.

When a real candidate “of the people, for the people” emerges, the powers that be quickly shut them down. In such a climate, it is not a surprise that our congress looks like a Hampton country club full of white men shaking hands. As social workers and citizens, we cannot sit quietly as the political machine attempts to push aside highly qualified candidates like Kristie Holmes. The system will not fix itself. It is up to us, as voters and social change leaders, to demand better and to put people in office with integrity. We must support Kristie Holmes and raise awareness for her campaign.

As a congresswoman, Kristie pledges to fight for open government and to put an end to fraud and corruption in her district. She will fight for gender equality, equal access to education, improved care for veterans, and to put an end to the war on drug through the decriminalization of marijuana. As a social worker, she will fight for all socioeconomic groups but most importantly, those who are most in need.

Why can’t we have a Congresswoman like Kristie Holmes? I believe we can.

Learn more about Kristie Holmes and how you can support her campaign. Follow Kristie’s blog, “Kristie’s Adventures in Running for Congress in the Wild West

Follow Kristie on Twitter @DrKristie

How To Be A More Ethical Manager

The surly, unfriendly boss has long been a corporate stereotype and the butt of many jokes in the workplace. However in modern businesses, organisations, and charities, the manager is increasingly responsible for the wellbeing of staff which means finding modern ways to motivate.

How to Be a More Ethical Manager
How to Be a More Ethical Manager

From the CEO to the project manager, every supervisor in a charity has a role to play in motivating staff and keeping morale high. There are various skills you can develop to make yourself more effective as a manager in your charity or business, and we’ll look at a few here.

Flexibility

Managers are increasingly having to learn to be flexible. The information age has introduced a huge range of challenges for the modern boss, from the use of social media (authorised or not) to the monitoring of staff performance in the cloud. Managers need to teach and learn. Most importantly, they must accept that other team members may have more to contribute on certain topics. The ability to be part of a team, as well as its leader, will serve any manager well as they strive to be more ethical in their leadership.

Generosity

The modern manager needs to be confident in their appraisal of a situation, yet willing to bend and adapt – and willing to admit when they’re wrong. An ethical approach to leadership means letting others lead when they are in a better position to do so, then stepping up to help when others struggle. Charity employees are in an ideal position to recognise opportunities to give more of themselves and realise when energy can be conserved for other tasks.

Motivation

Modern bosses are increasingly asked to motivate staff using positive methods rather than correction. That means finding the employee’s trigger and using it to lead them towards positive change. For some employees, that might be an extra break, an early finish or a bonus. For others, simply recognising their achievements is enough.

Managers are increasingly aware that punishment breeds resentment, and in voluntary jobs or charity work, the ability to motivate is a critical skill. The very best managers and bosses inspire a willingness to learn and a desire to work hard, and are able to discover the things that make their team members ‘tick’ in order to foster a positive, productive working environment.

Keeping With the Times

According to this blog by Sue Brooks, a human resources expert, our modern, ethical bosses need “great learning capacity and the boldness to try new ideas”. Bosses also arguably need the confidence to tackle problems in the team, or the organisation, and willingness to admit to their own flaws before blaming others.

Breeding honesty, transparency and trust is a great way to ensure your team stays motivated and united in its aims: to do good work for your charity or non-profit and approach each task with a can-do attitude. Sure, it’s a matter for HR, but it’s also a matter for any business or charity that employs people and needs their commitment to the job.

Learn How To Be A Consultant Series with Dr. Michael Wright

In case you missed the phenomenal chat with Dr. Michael Wright, I have compiled his Social Work Consultant series into one article, and I have attached the link to the archived chat. This will allow you to easily access the vast amount of information he provides in his Consultant series.

Series 1. Defining the Social Worker as a Consultant

Social Workers are uniquely qualified to operate as consultants at all ecological systems levels. Our mandate of individual change and social change ensure that we are always mindful of the consequences of individual creativity and organizational innovation. Our ethical parameters provide a clear process for reviewing policy, corporate decision making,… Continue Reading »

Series 2. As the Consultant, What the Social Worker Already Knows

Social work professional education includes in its core curriculum some important constructs that are also vital to the social worker as consultant. In addition to reinforcing the mantra of individual change and social change, the constructs provide us with a vocabulary for discussing human behavior in the social environment.  Perhaps… Continue Reading »

Series 3. As the Consultant, What the Social Worker Must Learn

A Matter of Roles (and Rolls?) Consider that, as consultant, you must gather the ingredients, the cooking pans, the oven, the electricity, and the dinner guests. You cannot simply show up with napkins and a winning personality. The ability to plan and manage complexity across systems bakes success into the…Continue Reading »

Series 4. Managing Your Consulting Business

The social worker will certainly be skilled in connecting with and informing clients. The social worker as consultant will also need to manage a business. Social work tends to attract persons whose primary concern is not money, who do not typically publicize their achievements, who favor trust-based relationships, and who… Continue Reading »

Series 5. Four Context for the Social Worker as a Consultant

Launching and sustaining any business depends on three things: Development of a brand, marketing of brand, and truth in advertising. In other words, first, you have to come up with something to sell. Second, people have to hear about and understand what you are offering. Third, your product or service…Continue Reading »

Series 6. Consulting with Start-ups

BUSINESS PLAN The first and most important task for any start-up is a two-page executive summary outlining your business model. In two pages, you need to be able to summarize the market, operations, management, and financial projections of your new company. It must have real information (not fluff and wishes),… Continue Reading »

Series 7. Ethics of the Social Work Consultant

I am nearing the end of the “Social Worker as Consultant” series (only 1 post remaining). I am going to publish the complete series as a text book. I am soliciting your help. Would you like to write a chapter for the book? Let me know your ideas. I think… Continue Reading »

Series 8. Educating the Social Worker as a Consultant

THE CURRENT SOCIAL WORK CURRICULUM: The standard social work education curriculum has 5 areas of inquiry: Practice Methods, Policy, Ethics, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Social Research.  The social worker as consultant may organize these into two categories: Systems of Practice with Human Behavior and Social Mechanisms. “Systems… Continue Reading »

Ethical Concerns When Using Social Media


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In the latest Iron Man, Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr., always has the best and newest technology gadgets out there. Even though Iron Man is a fictional movie, the use of technology and social media is revolutionizing how we communicate, process information, and problem solve local and global problems. However, many helping professions struggle to use the basic technology which require minimal skills in order to enhance our communications with each other. Until we master the basics, we will have difficulty intertwining advanced technologies into practice.

With the uber-trendy social networking sites’ (SNS) captivation of Internet users around the world, those in the helping profession are having a hard time keeping up with the latest and greatest in this season’s social media tools before they become outdated.

While many are quick to claim that this lag is due to an “old-school” mentality of avoiding 21st century technology, there are several factors that social workers, non-profits, and government agencies have to take into consideration before they can pick up the new toy on the playground. Private entities that are not working with vulnerable or at-risk populations have the perceived luxury of being more “lax” in their social media policies – forgoing concerns of confidentiality, cultural competency, or liability.

Public organizations are often times held to different legal and ethical policies that require much more detail and time spent towards considering where social media can help service provision and clinical work.

Social networking sites are intended to provide quick access and instant information dissemination to a specific group of people. So how do organizations working with vulnerable populations balance justified ethical concerns with the incredible potential of social media? While I may not have the magic answer, a well-developed social media policy is a good place to start.

To help anticipate all possible outcomes of social media use – both good and bad – social workers need to make sure that if they are planning (and able) to use these tools in their practice, they have a strong, carefully thought out social media policy to guide them. Especially considering that there are resources and examples out there of how caseworkers and clinicians can correctly use social media in their work, an effective social media policy can develop a “treatment plan” for using these tools while also developing a “safety plan” for when issues arise.

Whether you are in a government agency, a nonprofit, or a private practice, a social media strategy that outlines your specific goals of using the tool, your disclosure and participation policies, and how the tools will be used will help address ethical and legal considerations while also creating a foundation for keeping pace with evolving social media trends.

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Letter to the Aspiring Social Worker

I don’t claim to know about all things social work, but I have learned some life lessons along the way that have shaped who I am, my faith, and my desire to help others. Do we choose this profession or does it choose us? I believe that everyone who enters the social work profession do so because of something in their background that enrages that desire to change injustices, speak up for those without a voice, and/or inject compassion into an otherwise heartless society.

As I reflect on my journey, there are several things I couldn’t have moved forward without, and there are several changes older me wish I had the insight to make. For the aspiring social worker and the new social worker, I will be sharing throughout this post several mantras that I have used to guide my path over the years. It’s when I ignored my compass that I found myself learning another life lesson. Here are a few of the most important ones.

Lesson One-“If you want to know where you are going, look at your friends”

No matter if you are 13 years old or 45 years old, this mantra should guide you for the rest of your life. This mantra is powerful because it will determine the most powerful influences and the direction of your life for the rest of your life. You can substitute friends for peers, coworkers, or membership groups. Who you choose to align yourself with will influence your belief system, your work ethics, your ideas, and your actions. It will affect your ability to collaborate, share ideas, and information especially when there is no personal benefit for yourself.

Lesson Two- “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”

Define the line that you won’t cross. Find your moral compass. Identify the part of you that draws you to this profession. What are you most passionate about? AND Who do you feel the most compassion for? DETERMINE: What are you willing to do to advance or get ahead? What are you willing to ignore or overlook? Who has value in this society according to your standards? Are those who are suffering and poor to blame for their own problems? No Social Worker is immune from having prejudices and biases against individuals or groups of people. The failure to acknowledge this human deficiency will determine whether you are an advocate or an oppressor.

Lesson Three-“When two or more stand together and agree”

Social Work is not like running track,  playing tennis, or riding equestrian. Social Work is not an individual sport. Whether you choose to go into private practice, Child Welfare, health care, or any other area of practice, you must remain connected to other like minded individuals working together and with others.  I believe the reason why so many social workers experience burnout is because it feels like a solo fight against a system that’s to big to change.  Our separation and isolation from other professions begin in college. When do you interact with education majors, sociology, public health, criminal justice and so forth. Guess what? You are going to have to interact with other professions in the workforce! Why not start now while you are in college? Start a community service project and invite the other student groups from different majors to participate.

Why should social work students take the lead? ANSWER: The Social Work profession is the only profession that is designed to help people improve the quality of their lives on a biological, social, and psychological perspective. Give this some thought…..Let that statement marinate.

In physics, pushing up against a wall that does not move fails to meet the definition of work. If the wall does not move, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend pushing because no distance can be measured.  Instead of spending our time pushing up against walls, let’s align ourselves with people who can work with us to take the wall down brick by brick or at least enough to go around it.

Also View:
Resources for Students Considering a Career in Social Work

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