UMSSW’s Financial Social Work Initiative Celebrates 10 Years

The University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Financial Social Work Initiative (FSWI) during the 2017-2018 academic year with a new Financial Social Work (FSW) Certification Program and numerous activities that honor its achievements over the past 10 years and lay the groundwork for ongoing work in this important, emerging area within social work.

In celebration of this milestone, the FSWI received a leadership grant of $100,000 from The Woodside Foundation, whose trustee, Meg Woodside, MBA, MSW, UMSSW alumna, is a co-founder of the FSWI. The Woodside Foundation is a private family foundation focusing on program development, outreach, and advocacy in the areas of family financial security and asset building in Maryland. “Social workers have been on the front lines of stabilizing vulnerable families and communities for decades,” notes Woodside. “Today’s challenges necessitate integrating new tools, skills, and evidence-based practices to strengthen the profession’s ability to address financial stressors and economic disparities. As FSWI’s 10th anniversary unfolds, we will be able to offer several new opportunities to engage even more social workers in financial social work.”

This generous grant will underwrite several planned educational and community events during the anniversary year. In the spring of 2018, a new Financial Social Work (FSW) Certificate Program will be launched, which in addition to financial support from the Woodside Foundation, has received a notable $23,600 grant from the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, Inc.

“For more than 60 years, the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation has provided economics and personal-finance education to various audiences, most particularly to teachers,” says Michael MacDowell, the foundation’s managing director. “We are now also investing in social service providers. We see social workers as having an immediate impact on improving the financial well-being of their clients. The foundation applauds the work at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work and its innovative new certificate program. We are pleased to be part of this important undertaking.” OneMain Financial also contributed $3,000 toward the certificate program, and it has sponsored other programming offered through UMSSW; OneMain Financial provides support and sponsorship of community financial education programs and activities, in addition to offering financial services to individuals nationwide.

FSWI will offer the certificate program through UMSSW’s Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Office. The Certificate Program will run from April to December 2018 and will meet an identified need for greater knowledge and skills in financial capability, stability, and empowerment on the part of social workers who practice in nonprofit and other social service agencies, as well as in schools, medical settings, and justice and court settings. This is especially critical for social workers who work with individuals, families, and communities facing complex financial and psychosocial issues.

In large part due to the efforts of the FSWI and its partners over the last 10 years, social workers and human service organizations are seeking additional FSW education and training, in addition to skill-building strategies to enable them to intervene more effectively with financially distressed individuals, families, and communities. Beyond providing resources, social workers must have sophisticated knowledge about issues in typical daily financial life, such as credit, debt, budgeting, financial struggles, and how these intersect with other stressors, and they must be knowledgeable about and familiar with financial issues and barriers, and feel comfortable in addressing such issues directly and effectively with people and communities they serve. Also, social workers who work in FSW must be well-versed in historical and current policy issues that influence and affect people’s paths toward greater financial stability, as well as those policies that hinder financial stability or perpetuate economic injustice.

More information about the FSW Certificate Program is available online at www.ssw.umaryland.edu/fsw/education. It will span seven full-day sessions from April to December 2018. The in-person classroom style of the FSW Certificate Program will enable rich class discussion and learning through interaction among the macro and clinical practitioners.

FSWI’s 10th anniversary year officially kicked off with the 2017 Daniel Thursz Social Justice Lecture in April, featuring noted economist, author, and commentator Julianne Malveaux, PhD, who provided incisive commentary on the topic of “Economics, Race, and Justice in the 21st Century: Perspective on Our Nation’s Future.”

In addition to the FSW Certificate Program, the FSWI will host the following:

  • The third Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) Convening on Jan. 10-11, 2018, to be held just prior to the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) annual conference (Jan. 10-14, 2018, in Washington, D.C.). The third convening is titled “Using Evidence to Influence Policy and Practice” and will feature managers of widely used databases in FCAB work, along with social work researchers who are using these sources to further the FCAB research agenda.
  • UMSSW’s Homecoming 2018, slated for March 9, 2018, will focus on family financial stability and  feature influential advocate Jonathan Mintz, executive director of the New York City-based Cities for Financial Empowerment, who will speak on “Strengthening Family Health: Advancing Economic Stability.”
  • Increased infusion of FSW and its role within psychosocial assessment in the Practice 1 courses offered in the MSW curricula.
  • Development of an FSW alumni network at UMSSW.
  • Increased financial support through scholarship opportunities to support MSW students who have an interest in financial social work: The Woodside Foundation Scholarship Endowment in Financial Social Work is available to all MSW students who would like to apply, and The SunTrust Foundation Scholarship Endowment in Financial Social Work is available to incoming first-year students.

“It is hoped that through these events and offerings, and especially with the launch of our FSW Certificate Program, the UMSSW FSWI will continue to advance and lead the field as financial stability plays an increasingly important role in social work education, research, and practice,” states FSWI Chair Jodi Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP.

UMSSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, lauds the efforts of the Financial Social Work Initiative. “I am thrilled by the rapid development of the FSWI from a kernel of an idea and a few active participants to a wide array of services and educational programs that now appear destined to become central to much of what social work accomplishes.”

For information on these and other FSWI activities, visit www.ssw.umaryland.edu/fsw.

Human Rights Campaign Outreach to Child Welfare Workers

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The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s All Children – All Families project is conducting a survey of public and private child welfare agency staff. Your responses to this survey will help us understand your agency’s experiences working with a range of resource parents, volunteers and youth. We will use this information to improve our resources and technical assistance for child welfare agencies, and we will also share it with policymakers.

  • Who can participate? Anyone who works for a child welfare agency in the United States is encouraged to take the survey. Your employer can be a public or private agency, and its mission could include working with youth, biological parents, resource parents, or volunteers.
  • What you will do in the survey: You will respond to general questions about yourself and your professional role, your professional experiences, and your opinions about specific topics. You will also answer questions about your agency’s work.
  • Time required: Completing the survey will take approximately 25 minutes.
  • Risks: There are no anticipated risks associated with participating in this survey.
  • Benefits: Some participants may find that the survey is an opportunity to reflect on their professional experience and practices. There are no other direct benefits to you of participating in this survey.
  • Confidentiality: Your response will be anonymous. No personally identifiable information will be collected. After the survey, you will have the option to be contacted by All Children – All Families staff, but your contact information will not be linked to your survey response.
  • Voluntary participation: Your participation in this survey is completely voluntary. If you learned about the survey through a professional association, your membership will not be affected in any way by your decision to participate or not participate.
  • Right to withdraw: You have the right to stop taking the survey at any time without penalty. To do so, simply close the browser window. Because the survey is anonymous, it is not possible for us to delete data that you have already submitted.
  • Payment: You will not be paid for your participation in the survey. However, participants who complete the survey will have the option to enter a drawing for one of five Amazon.com gift cards worth $25.00 each. The odds of winning a gift card will depend on the total number of people who choose to participate.

You can begin the survey on the HRC website using this linkIf you have questions about the survey, please contact:

Gabe Murchison
Senior Research Manager, Human Rights Campaign Foundation
1640 Rhode Island Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
gabe.murchison@hrc.org
(202) 789-8028

As Arkansas Outlaws Re-homing, Other States Might Follow Suit

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Re-homing, a practice which consists in transferring a child’s custody to non-family members without the oversight of child welfare or judicial authorities, became a nationwide issue after Reuters published an investigation in September 2013. The 18-month investigation revealed that parents used Internet discussion groups to give away their adopted children and sparked heightened debate across the country. In May 2014 the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) sent a Memorandum to state child welfare authorities encouraging an overhaul of legislations to “adequately address the implication of re-homing” and putting an emphasis on post-adoption services.

So far, only five states – Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana and Wisconsin – have regulated it. Since February, lawmakers in Maryland, Nebraska, New York and North Carolina are discussing bills to address re-homing.

At the beginning of April, Arkansas became the fifth state to have regulated the practice when its Governor, Asa Hutchinson, signed two bills to this effect.

The first law, signed on April 2, ensures post-adoption services to families and the screening of prospective guardians. The second, signed four days later, makes re-homing a felony punishable by up to five years of prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

The laws were speedily adopted in the wake of a dramatic re-homing case which involved Arkansas State Rep. Justin Harris. In February, Harris admitted to have given away two adopted daughters bypassing child welfare authorities. The eldest child, 6 years old, was eventually sexually abused by the man to whom Harris had transferred the custody.

This was the tenth re-homing case in two years occurred in Arkansas that the local child welfare authorities were aware of.

“The story in Arkansas and other stories that have been in the media recently about re-homing tells us that many adoptive parents are struggling to meet the emotional or behavioral needs that come out after they have adopted a child,” said JooYeun Chang, associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in an interview.

One study reported that only 26 percent of adoptive families in the United States felt they received quality mental health services. Parents engaging in re-homing often mention the lack of support as a reason for their actions.

Acknowledging the high vulnerability of children in rehoming cases and the inadequate support available to families overwhelmed by children with behavioral problems, Chang underscored the federal government intention to change the situation. “This is an important policy change that really needs to happen. The President 2016 budget contains a proposal that would guarantee federal funding for prevention and post-placement services.”

The proposal Chang refers to involves $587 million over the next ten years to help state agencies offer adoptive parents crisis counseling and other support. “Maybe States will not have all of the prevention and post-adoption services ready at year one. But over time if there is a dedicated federal funding stream that is going to support these types of activity, States will continue to build their capacity to provide them,” Chang said.

Stephen Pennypacker, a senior child welfare expert and President of the Partnership for Strong Families, welcomed the federal proposal as a rare intervention on the front and back-end of child protection services. “These services are integral to prevent abuse from ever occurring. Some adoptive parents legitimately reach our for assistance and try to get help but then, because they are either unable to get it or the help that they access is inadequate, they turn to self-help remedies like re-homing. When an adoptive family starts to struggle we need to have something available to them rather than having to turn to the Internet or some other ways to make a child placement”.

Some doubt whether the proposed funding alone can prevent re-homing. “Enhanced support for adoptive families is certainly positive,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, professor of the practice of health and human rights at Harvard School of Public Health. “Whether it will have any impact on re-homing is not clear however. This will depend on targeted risk assessment and careful monitoring of at risk families and adoptive children that may well tend to fall under the radar normally.”

A leading expert in the field of children’s rights, Professor Bhabha stressed the importance of more progressive policies in the whole adoption system, in particular as regards international adoptions, and the need to improve the scrutiny of parents’ suitability and children’s adoptability. “Even before you get to the re-homing, if you look at the homing there are a lot of practices that are very troubling. Families which are not well qualified to be adopting are allowed to adopt. Much more supervision is needed.”

Progress in U.S. legislation and policy might have positive repercussions in Canada too, where cases of private rehoming, including across the border, have occurred in the recent past. “The U.S. is providing needed leadership that Canada should emulate to develop a more serious incentive program and also ensure better surveillance and monitoring of children’s rights,” said Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, British Columbia Representative for Children and Youth. Warning about the risks that re-homing can pose to children, she advocated a stronger focus on children’s rights and pointed at European initiatives “which appear to be more understanding of the possibility of systemic exploitation”.

In Europe, where no re-homing case has been reported, states are required to act in the best interests of the child in all child matters. In Germany, a federal country, “nobody can relinquish his parental rights without the authorisation of youth welfare and judicial authorities. Post-adoption services and supervision are obligatory,” said Tanja Schwarz, a German family lawyer.

Officials at the Government Accountability Office confirmed that they expect to publish a study this fall on state and federal laws governing this practice.

When asked whether there is a need for further federal intervention to ensure uniform laws on re-homing across the country, Chang said that “the current definition of abuse and neglect is broad enough to include re-homing. It is up to the State to enforce both criminal and dependency laws.”

It’s About Living: Difficult Conversations Made a Little Easier

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It’s A Wonderful Life

Ahhhh holidays! Once the hustle and bustle are over … our thoughts turn to cozy evenings with family, wrapping and then opening presents, crackling fires in the fireplace and another round of the seasonal food that we all associate with childhood wonder and good times.  What a time for celebrating our lives!

In these busy times, it’s just so rare when families and extended families get together for uninterrupted and unhurried conversation.  But, whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year is an ideal time to really connect and go  beyond the usual chatter and catching up.

This holiday season think beyond the traditions of the past and take the opportunity to start a new one.  Have a conversation for which you will be thankful in the future.  What is this conversation? It is a conversation about joy and having your voice heard even when you cannot speak for yourself.  When serious illness or long-term disabilities impact everyday life, difficult conversations need to take place. How do you find a way to start that conversation long before difficult situations are staring you in the face? It’s really quite simple. Here’s a holiday recipe for starting the conversation.

As you come together, invite everyone to take turns sharing what makes them happy and where they’ve found joy in their lives. This is something to which even the youngest family member can contribute.

Talking about the joys in life can easily lead to a discussion of what it is in the things that bring us joy. This invites everyone to share a bit more deeply about who we are and what makes us unique.  It promises to even surprise a few with the hidden story gems that will emerge and what you’ll learn about those you think you know well.

And, don’t be surprised if it now feels much easier to ask one final question…

“If something happened and you couldn’t tell us yourself, what would you want us to know that is important to you in being alive?”

Does this feel like an old friend in new clothes? Yep, it is, but the new clothes carry great significance. Unlike the more familiar questions about choices in case of illness or at the end-of-life, this is a question that comes from the perspective of living and that makes it a much easier, more palatable question to answer. Don’t be surprised if this gently evolves into a discussion about a beloved family member with an illness or a health challenge to face, and then into very personal sharing of thoughts on individual preferences and choices.

It’s fine to keep this topic on the light side but making sure family members have an idea of what’s important to you and how you’d want to be cared for during a difficult situation is really important.  And, it’s important for you to know … and understand … their choices too.

There is no question that the holidays can bring up a lot of emotions and you can use your best judgment about your family based on their response, but starting the dialogue about living life to the fullest is a way to connect and learn more about the people you love the most.  And, when you need to know what’s important to them in life, it’s a conversation you’ll be thankful you had.

A Recipe for Joy

Many of us see joy differently. To some, it might mean, sitting in the backyard watching the grass grow. To others, it could be contemplating their life sitting by a mountain stream with a fishing pole in hand. It’s an interesting discussion. We all take this journey that has a road that eventually ends. How we spend that journey is as individual as we are. Sharing with our loved ones how we envision that journey gives us a better chance of realizing it. We must remember that respect for the dignity and privacy of our family members comes first.  But, to initiate this conversation can be a beautiful gift for all who take part in it.

Initiating Important Conversations With Loved Ones

If you’re the conversation initiator, you’ll be surprised at how many possibilities you can find during holidays or other family gatherings.

·         Missing a loved one at holiday events
·         Movies you’ve seen
·         Sermons/seminars
·         Television talk shows, dramas and comedies
·         Medical checkups
·         Family occasions such as baptisms, marriages and funerals
·         Magazines and books

Supporting a Conversation That Continues

It’s only in the movies that everything is neatly wrapped up in a package. The real world is much more complicated. Family conversations stop and start over time. Maybe touching on the subject during family celebrations can be seen as a starting point.

The true objective of family conversation is more than a simple package of papers with advance directives and estate details. Those things matter, because they will guide final actions. But what matters most is to talk with the people you love about decisions relating to the joy you wish to live in the journey of your life.

We never know for sure when the story of our life is going to write its final chapter but we do know what gives us joy. Discussing what brings that joy and how we envision our life is meaningful conversation that helps eliminate difficulties and complications later but also brings families closer together today.

When Processes Become Part of Outcomes: Collaboration, Creativity, Community

As social workers involved in community development, we all know and understand that funding bodies, sponsors and management committees wish to see “objectives and outcomes”, but how much valuable information gets lost when these are the only areas of focus for reporting? And how much do we restrict ourselves when planning programs purely based on stated initial objectives and outcomes?

A recent experience highlights the need to be flexible in the planning and implementation of projects as well as in the final evaluation phase. Had the focus for this particular project remained inflexibly on the initial “objectives and planned outcomes”, we may well have missed valuable opportunities and failed to report valid information in the outcomes section of any final evaluation.

The key is to spend a little bit of time thinking about the impact of “processes”. You may be pleasantly surprised that processes can actually add to the outcomes.

The Canopy Family Community Exhibition

The Canopy at Cameron Park Community Centre is a community organisation (in NSW Australia) that provides services to families, children and communities.  To celebrate 25 years of supporting families it was decided to hold an event that involved other organisations who provide family services.

The objectives of the Canopy Family Community Exhibition were to:

  • Give local groups and/or agencies the opportunity to promote what they are doing in the community to support families
  • Spread awareness of services to the local community
  • Provide an opportunity for networking
  • Provide a forum to positively model relationships and family

With objectives such as this, it would be all too easy to simply send out an invitation to participate, and wait for the bookings to roll in. The end result would be similar to a kind of “expo” where organisations have a stall with various pamphlets and information.

The trouble with that concept is that it’s been done before. Not too much thought or preparation needs to go into the event. In other words, the process for staff and/or volunteers from each agency would simply be to nominate one person to gather promotional items from the agency’s cupboards and set up a standard table of information.

How do we expand on this concept?

  • What processes could we set in motion to encourage communication around the meaning of “family”?
  • How could we engage clients of some of these services into a process that ultimately portrays and promotes the function of the service?
  • How can we take some of the projected outcomes beyond just the planned “one day” of exhibits?
  • How do we foster collaborative efforts?
  • How do we encourage agencies to do something innovative so that others are inspired by their presentations? (yes this means encouraging people to move out of their comfort zone)

What we came up with was to ask agencies to submit a creative representation of “family” as it related to their group. Creative representations allow participation from all ages, backgrounds and skills levels.  Each agency was asked to enter a collaborative effort involving staff, volunteers and if possible, clients of the service. They were asked to explain their “creation” and also provide information about their service. For those who felt stuck for ideas and/or time, we offered consultation and assistance with brainstorming and/or assistance with the creation.

The results were 17 entries, all depicting “family” from their agency/group perspective, with an explanation of the services that their agency provides to the community. The making of each entry had become a “mini” project with outcomes of its own. Subsequent conversations between agencies revolved around the process of making their creation. Who took part, how they made decisions, sharing stories about what “family” meant to them, which contributions were made by staff, volunteers and clients of the service, and the feeling of teamwork the process inspired.

The following statements from agencies involved explain this:

Our communities are from various cultural backgrounds coming together to develop new relationships that redefine family in Australia, after their loss through migration of close loved ones. This project has been very important as a way for  parents, children, siblings and community coming together as family. We have had over 20 participants inclusive of children involved + 5 staff and 4  volunteers.  ~Northern Settlement Services

We started out with the idea of having a hat stand…to represent where the family members ‘hang their hat’….So…one of the ladies from the craft group who meet here on Tuesdays said she had an old plant hanger which may suffice as a hat stand. When I picked it up and brought it into my office the staff, volunteers and visitors all started contributing ideas and somehow it turned into a family tree instead of a hat stand. It ‘grew’ from there…at one stage it was going to have photos of our various ‘family members’ hanging from it but then the leaves seemed to work better.  ~ Woodrising Neighbourhood Rising

A lot of our tiles came from donations of staff and families old tiles which also added a special element of family and  togetherness. Many wonderful conversations and reminiscing came with our “labour of love”, family and friends and times gone by. ~Domain Macquarie Place

Would these results have eventuated if we only implement a cookie cutter approach? Next time, you’re involved in planning a community project, don’t lock in the goals. Don’t restrict yourself to preconceived outcomes. Remain flexible, get out of your comfort zone, and try a little innovation! Check out some of the photos on https://www.facebook.com/cameronparkcommunitycentre

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Tea Party Dominance Causes Government Shutdown

government shutdownIt is shortly after midnight, and a government shutdown is now reality. Republicans have refused to pass a budget or continuing resolution unless Democrats agree to defund or further limit Obamacare which has led to the first government shutdown in 17 years. It appears Texas Senator, Ted Cruz, is leading tea party Republicans in their disdain for Obamacare. However, their efforts have done nothing to prevent full implementation of the Affordable Care Act which also went into effect at 12:01AM.

Hours before the government shutdown, President Obama signed a bill that would ensure military personnel would not be affected. Unfortunately, the government shutdown will affect over 800,000 federal employees who are not considered essential employees. President Obama recorded a video message to our troops which can be viewed below:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/75834646[/vimeo]

You can read the full text of the President’s speech below:

Hi everybody. As President and your Commander in Chief, I’ve worked to make sure you have the strategy, the resources and the support you need to complete the missions our nation asks of you. Every time, you’ve met your responsibilities and performed with extraordinary professionalism, skill and courage. Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again. Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey and your commanders will have more information about how this affects you and your families. Today, I want to speak directly to you about what happens next. Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status. The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations—like our efforts in Afghanistan—will continue. If you’re serving in harm’s way, we’re going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions. Congress has passed, and I am signing into law, legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time. And we’ll continue working to address any impact this shutdown has on you and your families.

To all our DOD civilians—I know the days ahead could mean more uncertainty, including possible furloughs. And I know this comes on top of the furloughs that many of you already endured this summer. You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress. Your talents and dedication help keep our military the best in the world. That’s why I’ll keep working to get Congress to reopen our government and get you back to work as soon as possible.

Finally, I know this shutdown occurs against the background of broader changes. The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan will end next year. After more than a decade of unprecedented operations, we are moving off a war footing. Yes, our military will be leaner, and as a nation we face difficult budget choices going forward.

But here’s what I want you to know. I’m going to keep fighting to get rid of those across-the-board budget cuts—the sequester—which are hurting our military and our economy. We need a responsible approach that deals with our fiscal challenges and keeps our military and our economy strong. And I’m going to make sure you stay the greatest military in the world—bar none. That’s what I’m fighting for. That’s what you and your families deserve.

On behalf of the American people, thank you for your service, which keeps us free. And thank you for your sacrifice, which keeps our nation – and our military – the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known. God bless you and your families, and God bless the United States of America.

Growing Careers in Social Work

Social work is a field offering a diverse array of challenges and exciting opportunities to improve the lives of individuals in all sectors of society. The jobs in social work and the human services field are considered to be some of the fastest growing career opportunities, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting growth rates exceeding 23 percent in many areas. Some of the fastest growing sectors of the human services field are discussed below.

Case Management

Growing Careers ImageHuman services case management opportunities continue to top the list of growing fields in the social work arena. Professionals taking on these tasks assess individuals to determine their needs and make recommendations of community resources that benefit them. These professionals maintain a relationship with their clients for as long as services are needed, and they constantly reassess to ensure resources remain appropriate and necessary. Case managers work in long term care facilities, with geriatric clients in their homes, assisting children and families in the court system, in hospital settings and with clients in community corrections. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 27 percent growth rate in this field between 2010 and 2020, making it one of the fastest growing professions in the United States.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Another growing sector of the human services field is substance abuse and behavioral health. Counselors working in this capacity advise people who are facing addictions. They might work in a hospital setting, outpatient care facility, within the prison system or in private practice. Substance abuse counselors can expect to see a 27 percent growth rate in their careers between 2010 and 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continued growth in the field of substance abuse and behavioral health counselors is largely due to the transition that managed care insurance companies are making, moving clients away from seeing more expensive psychiatrists and psychologists and toward sessions with less expensive counselors. In addition, as jails seek solutions to overpopulation problems, the criminal justice system continues to sentence drug offenders to counseling rather than jail time.

Health Education

Health education is a third field of human services that is experiencing tremendous growth. The demand for healthy living information continues to escalate, and this is leading to an increased need for professional health educators. These individuals often work in private practice or hospital settings, and they teach individuals about behaviors that promote physical and mental wellness. Corporations are also employing firms that offer wellness services in an effort to reduce employee illnesses and cut down on increasing healthcare costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 37 percent growth rate is expected in this field between 2010 and 2020.

Social Services Assistant

Individuals seeking a more entry level human services occupation might be interested in a social services assistant position. Professionals working in this capacity provide support to social workers and their clients. They assist in locating resources, transporting clients, completing social work documentation and generally providing support to the organization in which they serve. Social service assistants work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, government agencies, nursing homes and non-profit agencies. This is an excellent position for the new graduate, as it provides exposure to the field of social work and additional on the job education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 28 percent growth rate in this profession between 2010 and 2020, a higher than average rate when all occupations are considered.

Marriage & Family Therapist

Finally, individuals with higher degrees can consider a career as a marriage and family therapist. This profession requires at least a Master’s Degree, and licensing is required in all fifty states. Therapists assist individuals, couples and families during times of crises, and they empower their clients by recognizing strengths and teaching coping techniques. Many therapists are employed in private practice, but mental health facilities and hospitals also offer positions for these professionals. The growth rate for this field is anticipated to be 37 percent between 2010 and 2020, with continued increases expected as managed care programs show a preference for paying reimbursement to therapists versus more expensive psychologists or psychiatrists.

The opportunities a social work degree presents will continue to see extensive growth well into the 21st century. Graduates should consider the challenges that each area of social work presents, and apply their talents in the area that best represents their individual strengths. In addition, considering positions such as the ones described above helps ensure continued upward career mobility and job security for many years to come.

A How To on Health Care for LGBTQ

The United State’s system of health care continues its progression in providing all-inclusive services since the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Monday, July 1st, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an official policy announcement declaring same-sex partners be given equal visitation rights at long-term care facilities regardless of their marital status. This new guidance policy applies to all long-term care health facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding to include nursing homes and hospice facilities.

How does this affect agencies and staff?

Now that medical facilities are encouraged to be more inclusive of LGBTQ individuals and families, agencies are encouraged to evaluate existing programs and services as well as staff support.

A useful tool that can be used by agencies is the Health Equality Index (HEI) developed by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GALMA). The HEI measures the effectiveness of services provided to LGBTQ individuals.

2012 Health Equality Index Leader
Courtesy Human Rights Campaign

The HEI tests for the “core four”

  1. Patient Non-Discrimination
  2. Equal Visitation
  3. Employment Non-Discrimination
  4. Training in LGBT Patient-Centered Care

Responses to these questions are returned to the participating agencies in a comprehensive document for their use in service planning.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius describes the HEI as “an important tool for making sure LGBT individuals and families are treated with the same respect and care in these situations as anyone else.  It shines a light on what our country’s health institutions are doing to better serve LGBT patients.  And it’s very encouraging to see more institutions being recognized as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality.” Read More…

Participating organizations reap several benefits including free online training for staff at all levels,a customized needs assessment for planning, as well as featured status in the HEI report as Equality Leaders.

Registration is free and open to all healthcare organizations in the U.S. with ten or more employees, whether inpatient or outpatient, network or individual facility.

The following are some Suggestions for Medical Staff interacting with LGBTQ Patients:

  • Assumptions: Do not assume the sexual identity or orientation of your patient please ask in a proper manner.
  • Education: Learning about LGBTQ sexuality and sexual practices will allow healthcare providers to better assess patients’ support.
  • Language: Be aware of the language used as well as cultural nuances of the LGBTQ population, including celebrations of the community such as gay pride, symbols that are representative such as rainbow flags and pink triangles and terms like butch, femme, dyke, and queer.
  • Communication: Properly educate patients about the effect of illnesses and medical treatments on sexuality.
  • Compassion: Provide sensitive and compassionate service, if uncomfortable with learning about a patient’s sexuality be honest and let a patient know.
  • Respect: Be respectful of a patient and the information they are sharing, this includes confronting coworkers of inappropriate comments.

Stand up Against the Stigma of Mental Illness: The New Normal

Social isolation, discrimination, and labeling are a part of the everyday struggles faced by the mentally ill. 1 in 4 American adults suffer from a mental illness. 1 in 17 people will have a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder. The stigma of mental illness ensures the majority of affected individuals will face negative consequences in recognizing and coping with their mental health needs.

anit-stigma-campaign-namesErving Goffman defined mental illness as a blemish of character and a way to deviate from social norms. However, many of the definitions of mental illness fail to grasp that there are many other aspects to mental health. The three most influential social factors to mental illness are family stability, the placement of neighborhoods and society’s relationship to mental health problems. Mental illness does not solely arise from one’s environment. There are also biological and genetic predispositions that contribute to one’s mental health. One thing that is certain, as a society, we can change the way mental illness is perceived.

Social isolation or exclusion has been one of the most detrimental affects of the stigma, which is brought upon by labeling. The labels placed on the mentally ill by society, which the media reinforces, are dangerous, crazy, and inadequate. Due to these labels, those with mental illness get isolated from the rest of society. The practice of socialization then inevitably creates an “us vs. them” mentality, those people, the sane and the insane. Confided by these labels and exclusions, mental illness sufferers also struggle with finding their place in society.

Stand up against the stigma of mental illness is what society needs to create a new normal. This new normal will accept the importance of mental illness and will recognize treatment as equally important with physical illness. This new normal will place mental and physical health on the same spectrum. The new normal will make talking about mental illness a part of everyday conversation, and it will allow people to no longer be ashamed.

Hopefully with  the acceptance of the new normal, it will bring about affordable mental health treatment, better counseling centers in high schools and colleges, and a society that is better educated on the issues of mental illness.  With a new normal, those with mental illnesses can finally feel like they are a part of society and live without fear of  isolation, discrimination, or labeling.

Listen to Episode 1 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings:

Anxious Ramblings is a biweekly conversation about mental illness. This show will challenge society’s views on the mentally ill and help to fight against the stigma. Anxious Ramblings explores the good, the bad, and the ugly side of living with a mental illness. Here we speak about all the crazy thoughts in your head that you’re afraid to say out loud.

For this episode of Anxious Ramblings, I introduce my story with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and speak about the stigma regarding mental illnesses. The episode concludes with me sharing responses from people who want to tell the world about their mental illness.

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Immigration Bill Passes the Senate Vote, What’s Next?

by Amanda Huber MSW, LCSWA

Within days of each other, The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was repealed, the Filibuster in Texas stopped an anti-abortion bill, and the Supreme Court refused to rule on Prop 8. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 endured a devastating blow with the Supreme Court striking down section 4 requiring states with historical discrimination practices to seek pre-clearance before modifying voting laws, and Senate Bill (S. 744) addressing immigration passed the Senate with a vote 68 to 32.

Infographic provided by Quartz
Infographic provided by QuartzWhat does S. 744 : The Immigration Bill Address:

What does S. 744 : The Immigration Bill Address:

Border Security: DHS (Department of Homeland Security) will tighten up on border security and it provides a budget of 6.5 Billion to increase resources and infrastructure, more tax dollars spent  on basic border surveillance.

Immigrant Visas: RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) is the status that will be given to immigrants who meet specific legal standards as addressed in S. 744.  The ability to apply for family members who are in the country without updated documentation or  illegal status will be granted a path to citizenship.  This is a costly matter and lower income families are less likely to meet the minimum standards.

Visa Updates: Changes regarding different documents including V(visiting )visas, U (undocumented) visas, RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) visas and LPR (Legal Permanent Resident) visas, and the qualifications an individual must face along their journey toward citizenship.

The Dreamers:  Dreamers are childhood arrivals who have advocated for their access to education, drivers licensing and to basic human rights. They are included in this bill and will be allowed a fast track to citizenship.

Access to Benefits: Dependent upon the type of visa received, governmental aid provided to many at-risk populations in programs such as Medicaid, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security may or may not be provided. For example, Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI) are ineligible. However, RPI status immigrants will be allowed to operate in a the private market system for medical insurance benefits.

Employer Enforcement: E-Verify  and work authorization guidelines. This section of  S. 744 includes worker protections against exploitation. This section gives rights to temporary farm workers (those who hold H-2A visas) who hold  temporary agricultural visas.  In the past, this population has been exploited by large farms that do not want to inform their workers of the rights they have as employees in the United States.

The path to citizenship in some cases will take up to 13 years to accomplish. This comes at a time where Latino voices and Latino storytellers have been able to have a stronger presence in the immigration dialogue. The passage of S. 744 in the Senate was a step toward equality and justice, but it still needs House support in order to become law. The Republican majority House may prevent S. 744 from being voted on without a majority of House members consent. According to Speaker John Boehner, House Republicans have their own immigration bill.

Arizona Wildfire Results in 19 Fallen Firefighters

by Logan Keziah

On Sunday, June 30th 2013, an Arizona wildfire killed 19 firefighters, and it has now set a blaze over 8,400 acres. The fire engulfed over 2,000 acres Sunday night alone, and it is currently burning outside of Prescott, Arizona.

The firefighters were part of an elite force, called the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Officials report they lost their lives performing a very risky maneuver as a last ditch effort to get the blaze under control before it could cause more damage. Unusually hot conditions as well as strong winds have created extreme conditions which has made it difficult to contain the fire.

The 19 men who lost their lives Sunday trying to protect homes from the expanding blaze were part of a greater effort of over 400 firefighters attempting to combat the fire. The Arizona wildfire was sparked by a lightning strike, and the National Fire Director for the US Forest Service, Tom Harbor, said it was the deadliest in the United States in 80 years.

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A picture of the elite force of fireman known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

In a press conference today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said her heart breaks over the loss of the firefighters and the loss their families, friends, and communities are facing. She asked that all flags at state buildings and facilities be flown at half-mast to honor the sacrifice of the fallen men through Wednesday. The names of the fallen were just released which consisted of a group of exceptionally brave men ranging from age 21 to age 36. All of the fallen were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots Team that was killed in Sunday’s blaze. Only one member of the team survived the tragedy.

Officials have little information as to what caused the expertly trained group of men to be overwhelmed and the situation will be investigated further. The fire is still has  not been contained, and more firefighters are on their way to assist continued efforts to bring the fire under control. Other emergency personnel and the communities surrounding the blaze have shelters in place for the families that are being evacuated from the area. This tragedy serves as a reminder to people across the country of the dangerous work and sacrifice first responders face every day.

Power and Prejudice

by Christel Striekwold

Some years ago in 2009 the female Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie appeared at a TED conference. I was not present but saw her speech online a while later. She immediately caught my attention with her graceful and charismatic way of talking. Adichie spoke about the “danger of a single story”: about how we can often be so sure to understand how the world works and the people who live in it and how it can all turn around the other way if you hear a second story. Ever since I heard her talk I keep her words in mind and I like to show people her speech. Here I would like share with you some of my own experiences concerning a single story.

When I saw war and poverty on TV as a child I was sure that I would be able to solve it one day. I felt responsible and angry. At a very young age I was aware that there were people in this world who were not as fortunate as me. Injustice was unacceptable and people were either good or bad and rich or poor. My life was simple. I guess that’s how a child’s life is supposed to be.  After elementary school I went to a high school like any other high school in my country. I was, if I may so, a pretty ideal high school student. I never ditched classes, always did my homework the way I was supposed to and I even listened to what teachers had to say. I was a good girl who hung out with everyone she wanted to. But I remember a classmate asking me one day which group I belonged to. Having all these different cliques that are so typical of high schools, he found it necessary to put me in one. I found his question so stupid. Was it really necessary to belong to a group? Did I need to be one thing only for people to accept me? For him it definitely seemed necessary to put me in a box, otherwise he apparently couldn’t understand me and he didn’t really seem to try either. I guess labelling people made it easier for him to get a grasp on the world around him.

After graduating from high school I studied social work for four years. Once I finished, I kept on studying and traded the Netherlands for Belgium where I started criminology. I guess I always liked hearing different sides of the story. Then in the summer of 2009, after I had a pretty tough year, I thought it was time to spread my wings and go to South Africa to volunteer. I paid a lot of money to be able to go there. And that money, so I found out later on, mostly ended up going to the organization that took care of my trip, not to the family where I was staying. That’s one of the reasons why I now encourage people to take care of their own trip whenever they choose to volunteer. The money I made could have fed about 50 children in a rural African village. Nonetheless I was ready to make the world a better place and filled with young enthusiasm I eventually left. The situation makes me think now of what Adichie said in her speech; “Africans, ready to be saved by a kind white man”. What was I even thinking? Me, a young girl from the Netherlands, being able to help a whole country? A whole continent? Nevertheless, I had one of the most incredible eye-opening moments during my stay there.

The African continent had made quite an impression on me and in October 2010 I left again for Senegal. I started a second bachelor in International Cooperation and a six month internship was obliged. I started working with an NGO in Rufisque, a small town next to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Not being able to speak French at that time made it more difficult for me to integrate, although that experience made me realize later on how frightening it can be if you change cultures and everything is completely different from what you’re used to. But the Senegalese people being really friendly and hospital made me feel at home very quickly.

Around the fourth month of my stay I remember sitting on the seaside in Dakar with a new friend. We were enjoying the lovely view and the soft breeze when two middle-aged Western women walked by. They were being followed by a group of street children. Me and my friend were watching them as street children always find a way to get something out of tourists. One woman handed her terribly expensive camera to her friend after which she took some candy out of her bag. When she started handing it to the children the other woman made sure her generous friend as well as the poor children were in the picture. The situation made me really angry and I realized that I was already so much used to my new home that I got to see it in a different way. Then I could see the women sitting around the dining table with their families sharing stories of how the children were begging for candy and showing them pictures of it. Why could they not take pictures of the wonderful experiences that I’ve had living there? Could they not take pictures of the happy families living around? The craftsmen on the local markets? The fishermen? The women owning beauty salons? Why could they not share a different story?

It made me think and I realized later on that showing a different story is not only about randomly pointing your camera in a different direction, although I’m sure it can take you places. It’s merely about making a choice not to try and judge on the single story you already know and to keep gathering stories so you can learn and share your experiences. Although our opinions are often formed of what we see and hear directly around us it’s important to realize that there will always be another world we don’t know about and is left there for us to discover: a world without a political agenda, a world where power is only a word simply because it has no value. We each have the power and privilege to experience, feel and share that undiscovered part of the world. I’m not saying this because I suddenly became an expert on the topic. I’m saying this to make you think because in the end, we all cope with prejudices in our lives. So we also have to handle them. My Kenyan boyfriend told me a while ago about a party he went to when he was still studying in California. A girl came up and asked him for how long he had to drive to come there. Or the time when my roommate thought Kenyans are good runners because they cannot afford bicycles to go to school. And the numerous times when people react after seeing my passport and cannot understand why they don’t hear any Dutch accent, assuming being born in one country means you cannot speak other languages. Or all the years that I had my dreadlocks and everyone automatically assumed that I was a Bob Marley fan. I do appreciate his music, but that is not the point. It’s like Adichie said; “The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete”.

I’ve been working as a community worker and counselor for a little while and I learn everyday from the people that I meet. Like a few weeks ago, when I went to visit a mosque in our neighbourhood. When I was having tea with the two Egyptian men responsible for the place they almost felt kind of pressured at some point to tell me that they were not terrorists. I felt the need to say; “don’t apologize”, but then I realized one person saying that wouldn’t make any difference.

My point is, and I think a lot of you will agree with me on this, that I take my “job” to tell stories, build bridges between people and start discussions very seriously. It goes beyond a professional level.  It’s who I am and who I choose to be. Or at least, how I choose to act and re-act. My world now is not good or bad neither is it only black or white. It’s black, white, and every colour in between. So I’m not going to end this article with a famous quote, because that would only assume people like you and me have nothing important to say. I’m going to end this article by saying that I believe in stories, many stories, stories that matter and make a difference. Stories that surprise us, touch us and wake us up. Because in the end, we are all part of the same novel.

Child Care Subsidies: Why Is This A Federal Program

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

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

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

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

For further reading:

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

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