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

By Deona Hooper, MSW

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

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

Memorial Day Prayer:

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

Photo Credit: lasvegas.cbslocal.com

Autism Awareness: Letter from a Mother and a Teacher

Dear Social Workers,

My name is Niki Schomas, and I am a special education teacher and parent of a child with autism.  I recently released a 27-song social skills album titled “Beautiful You”, and although it is applicable for all children, it is specifically appropriate for children that are affected by autism related disorders.  I worked very closely with different school social workers to identify the needs of the children they served, and created music that could be utilized by children, both during social work sessions, and outside of those sessions to provide them with support when a social worker was unavailable.  I thought that given that April is National Autism Awareness Month, I would share this resource with you, given that, according to the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a recent study shows that children with autism are more than four times as likely to be the victims of bullying.

Autism FacebookTom McIntyre, a former teacher of students with behavior disorders and learning disabilities, currently a Professor of Special Education and Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Behavior Disorders at Hunter College of the City University of New York, recently stated this about the music:  “An absolutely wonderful cornucopia of music (you’ll be able to listen to a great deal of it for FREE) that is not only beautifully composed, arranged, played and sung, but also teaches social skills and cognitive processing of events and feelings to youngsters with autism (and other mental health and behavioral issues).  I was floored when I first listened to this CD.   It is nourishment to the ear, the soul, and the cerebral cortex.

My ultimate goal for the music is to provide children, families, and therapists with an inexpensive therapeutic tool that can be enjoyed and utilized to help teach children necessary social skills to help them succeed in life.  I have piloted this music with my son, special education students, and some general education students as well, and the results are all consistent.  When children learn new coping strategies through music, they are able to recall the strategies they have been taught when their behavior is escalating, and consequently learn how to independently manage their own behavior.  The beauty of the music is that it is fun, and it doesn’t require any “work” on the part of the parents and children.  It requires a cd player and perhaps a car ride of listening to enjoyable, contemporary music.

My website address is nikischomasmusic.com, where you will find free excerpts of the music, and be provided with the ability to download or purchase the music from amazon or cdbaby.com.  My contact information is nikischomasmusic@gmail.com, and I would love your feedback in terms of the music I have written, as well as ideas for future songs that will help all children learn to grow socially and emotionally.

Thank you so much for everything you dedicate your lives to helping children succeed.

Have a blessed day!

Niki

p.s. The sales of the cd will be utilized to help create a private school for kids whose academic and behavioral needs are not being met in public education settings.  The irony of my life is that because there is no appropriate placement for my son with autism, he is being privately homeschooled by a certified teacher, while I continue my career as a special education teacher.  There are too many children like my son, and my goal is to reach out to them and provide a safe, educational environment where they will thrive academically, be celebrated for their individuality, and encouraged to overcome challenges.

Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/AutismAwarenessPage

May Day, an International Affair

by Amanda Huber, MSW Candidate

May Day, on May 1st of each year, marks the international day of protest for workers rights which has its roots from Chicago, 1884. The dialogue advocating for workers rights has changed over the past 100+ years. In North America, May-day has shifted its focus from being solely about work conditions to advocating for job creation, the expansion of benefits programs, and immigration reform. May Day has since generalized to the world at large including protests and rallies in places like: Greece, Spain, Turkey,Korea, Baghdad, Moscow, and Indonesia among others.

Historically, Labor organizers like the AFL-CIO were considered radicals for advocating and fighting for an 8 hour work day. The first organizers were feared and criticized for their belief systems and idealism. Now, the standard workday is 8 hours, and the majority of Americans receive benefits from the direct actions of those organizers and advocates.

The global world has taken May-day as a way to organize particularly on the global economy. Here is an excerpt from People’s World:

Photo Credit: Peoples World
Photo Credit: Peoples World

May 1 dawned first in Asia this morning with hundreds of thousands of protesting workers literally shutting down the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. They condemned the government for hiking fuel prices and eroding recent meager increases in the minimum wage.In Manilla, the capital of the Philippines, meanwhile, thousands of exploited contract workers marched through the streets demanding the right to unionize.

In Istanbul, Turkey, police locked down the center of the city to keep out thousands of May Day protesters. The history of police violence against workers did nothing to deter the demonstrators, still mindful of the 1977 protests when police shot dozens of Istanbul workers to death during May Day demonstrations. “There are scuffles everywhere in the streets leading up to central Istanbul,” said Hashim Jahelbarra, in his post on the Al Jazeera website.  Read Full Article

Featured Image Photo Credit: www.londonmayday.org

Graphic Photos of the Boston Bombing by the Atlantic

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Boston Bombing Suspect CapturedThe nation has been paralyzed as events unfolded from the deadly Boston bombing and the pursuing manhunt for the suspects. Conflicting news reports and misleading headlines did nothing more than to increase panic for major cities in the northern seaboard. I was in the Capitol building in Washington, DC when I found out about the Boston bombing. One of the security check-points had televisions which allowed us to see the destruction and confusion in the aftermath of the explosions.  Who would do this and why were the questions on everyone’s mind. The news outlets have been captivated with learning more about the suspect, but the carnage left by the Boston bombing is akin to a war zone.

The photos by the Atlantic are very graphic which brings me to another point. Is this an indicator of how much violence has been normalized by our society? There was a time when such photos would be unsuitable for public consumption, so am I becoming part of the problem by sharing their existence in order to satisfy this insatiable curiosity to know more? Warning, one of the pictures are not to be clicked on if you are faint of heart. In wartime, journalist  travel with our military to capture the devastation and canonize those moments in time for history.  The Boston bombing provided new revelations on the capabilities of government and the power of a camera phone. Here is an excerpt from the Atlantic:

Several explosions erupted near the finish line of the Boston Marathon today, in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. Police are reporting 2 deaths and at least 23 hurt, as authorities begin their investigation. For further details, see coverage on the Atlantic Wire. [16 photos]

Photo Credit of Capture: CBS News

Using Twitter

I ran a course on Twitter for beginners recently and was amazed how many turned up and continue to want to learn about social marketing.

using twitterI use Twitter a lot and the analogy I gave the attendees on using it to their advantage was it’s like a newspaper where you can send out headlines to your story. Then, ‘lure’ visitors back to your website or blog to give them the full story, and usually they stay a while to find out what you do.

This sparked a debate of Google Plus as to whether it’s a good idea to have everything in one place like Google Plus or have an external blog or website? I am somewhere in the middle on this one and will continue to use my blog and websites for a while longer.

Surprising how the analogy really gets them thinking. Twitter for me is a great tool, and I use it every day for lots of different things and reasons which are mainly headlines of what I’m up to. I think this is the case with most people, unless you fall into these categories:

  • Have a lot of time on your hands
  • Love to go back and read stuff when you have the time
  • Group stuff together to read later, this is me!

Using Twitter as an attention grabber is a tool because it’s harder to do this effectively on Google Plus, LinkedIn or Facebook. People expect more time and thought to have gone into the post, whereas on Twitter it’s the opposite, short precise headlines are the order of the day.

Think about how you want to use Twitter to communicate or whether it’s to get visitors to your website, blog, Google Plus, LinkedIn or Facebook page. It doesn’t really matter how you use it, but making sure you do is what counts. See you in the twitterverse at @keithmcmean

Gary Wexler on RFP and Institutionalizing Nonprofit Dysfunction

Their work is important, and nonprofits believe they are doing the right thing. However, are they defeating their success by issuing a delusional RFP (Request for Proposal) that reflects the ineffectiveness of their processes and marketing strategies?

The RFP sets out a list of requirements.

1. An investigation of the communications strategies of each of the five coalition members.

2. An investigation of other coalitions throughout the country and their communication strategies.

3. Outlining costs and benefits of such a program. (Means you actually have to create the program.)

The list went on, requesting analyses, creative work, evaluations, training sessions, branding, public relations, media strategies and a host of others tasks. To reach excellence, the work would require the labor of a professional team over many months. The RFP was long, complex and convoluted. The budget for all of it? $15,000 .

Photo Credit: http://egypt.worldcupblog.org/
Photo Credit: http://egypt.worldcupblog.org/

Then a document followed from the funding foundation with pages of requirements, stipulations, hoops to jump through, reports to be made and handstands to be performed.

The irony is that the labor poured into creating this RFP probably exceeded this project’s budget by at least three to four times.

I declined to compete or explain that I would need to apply for aid from their organizations to work my way out of the poverty imposed upon me by accepting their proposal.

I offered the one question that experience has taught me needs to be asked of a nonprofit when determining if there is a chance at success. What kind of milestones and approval process will you be establishing while this work is ongoing? (One client, alone, is complex enough.) In this case, there are five clients and a foundation, each with its own agenda and internal committees and boards. There are deep complexities reflecting the causes each are tackling. What will be the process for them to reach consensus and move forward at each stage?

While they were posing a thousand questions, they had no answer to this essential one. Along with all their other impossible demands, they were setting up a dysfunctional nightmare. The foundation, big and national, has a responsibility to know better.

The marketing RFP process that has evolved in recent years, is often implemented with hubris, intimidation, unrealistic demands—and no consideration for the finances of the small businesses that service them. It is one of those practices borrowed from business that has no place in the nonprofit world. RFPs in business are issued for multi-million dollar budgets—not for $15,000.

This kind of action wastes millions of donor dollars and causes severe dysfunction. It has been institutionalized, with a whole system built around it. It must be taken down, brick by brick and replaced with marketing education and a practice of excellence.

If ever there was a need for The Revolution, this proves it. Tell us what you think. Make your comment below.

Have Millennials Abandoned Yes We Can?

by Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Have Millennials abandoned “Yes We Can” since the 2012 election?  Recently, I went to my first Democratic Party meeting in my hometown.  I decided to get involved because I enjoyed volunteering for the Presidential campaign in 2012, and I have aspirations of being a politician in the future.  When I made my interest of being involved known to the Chair of my County’s Democratic Party, she was ecstatic.  A good leader needs to have experience in various roles in order to expand their skill-set, become familiar with their responsibility, and the frustrations of each position.  If I plan to become a political leader, having such familiarity will afford me the opportunity to understand how each person and their role is instrumental to the success of the Party, as well as ensuring that we are truly working on the behalf of the people.

While at the meeting, I quickly realized that I was one of perhaps two people under the age of 40 in attendance.  I noticed the majority of individuals volunteering their service were in their late 40’s and up.  I was truly surprised given that those under the age of 30 volunteered heavily during the 2008 & 2012 Presidential elections.  Immediately, I began to feel embarrassed.  The lack of representation by those under 30 plays directly into the stereotype that young people do not care about politics or wish to be involved in bettering their communities.  Trust me, we do care about the issues affecting our lives and the actions of those representing us at all levels of government, but how do we maintain the level of millennials involvement for 2014?  I started to think about one of macro social work professor’s lectures which seemed to capture the moment:

Millennials, we really have to become more of a visible voice and presence in this country.  We are the future leaders, innovators, history makers, and politicians of this country, and our world.  Our grandparents (members of the “Greatest Generation”/Silent Generation), our parents (the Baby Boomers), and our comrades just a few years older than us (Generation X), have overcome adversities that we will never endure due to their tireless efforts to leave the world in a better shape than it was when they came into it.  When will we take the baton and lead this country, and the world, into a new stratosphere?  We have the man and woman power to do so – we greatly outnumber the Baby Boomers & Generation X’ers combined.  We are obtaining advanced degrees at record-breaking rates, plus we’re tech-savvy and excellent multi-taskers and team players.  What are we waiting for?

I was left thinking about the legacy my generation will leave behind.  Will we be considered revolutionary, progressive, and/or fearless agents of social change?  Will we be remembered as ordinary or failed to follow through because we were too consumed with our own problems?  Are we to be remembered as the disconnected generation, lacking a sense of community that used to exist in society?  I do not want our fate to be tied to our inaction  because we are educated and talented with less barriers than our predecessors.

Help me brainstorm and figure out how we can get more young people involved in the political arena.  No matter your political affiliations or viewpoints, I cannot stress enough how important it is to be active within our communities.  My fellow Millennials, this is our day.  We cannot stand by and be mere spectators to what is going on around us.  We cannot make the world better by just looking at the dysfunction.  We have to roll up our sleeves and dive in head first without hesitation or reservations.  We may not fix all the problems that exist in our world, but we can look back and say that we did a damn good job trying.  I’m willing to try….. Are you?  I think we all need a pep talk from Kid President!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o]

Photo Credit: technokitten via photopin cc

Social Work Month: Proud to Be One

By Daniel Jacob, MSW

social work monthAs we honor National Social Work Month, I thought it would be fitting to share some words…  There was a period in my life when my direction was far from having a career as a social worker.  In retrospect, it is so fitting that I had to be empowered along the way, moving towards self-determination in order to find my true calling, helping others change for the better!  I can say with my whole heart that I am proud to be a social worker, and I welcome every opportunity that presents itself to share, expose, and advocate for the profession that has given me so many wonderful lessons and experiences.

I can give you many reasons why social workers are important, but what I really want to share is how this profession helps those in need, as well as those who serve.  I have always maintained that there is no greater feeling than when you see “change for the better” happen right in front of you.  That moment where the individual (or family) you are supporting gets it, and thus the door towards opportunity has been opened.  To be part of this outcome is empowering, and the mutual process that transpires for both parties is truly rewarding for all.  Yes, of course there are tremendous challenges, obstacles and barriers involved with this work, but this in itself is just another opportunity to utilize your skill sets, training, experience and wisdom to help you grow and further develop.

I love being a social worker, having the opportunity to continue to evolve and work on my craft, while improving my personal and professional    self (in order to better serve those in need) is inspiring.  Having the ability to facilitate change for the better, an outcome that can transform for years, on to others and within communities and organizations is powerful.  This profession is not for all as we know, but for those that it is, there are no further words needed other than I am proud to be one!  Until we meet again be well to yourself, because when you are, your impact on those you serve will be as well!

Photo Credit: National Association of Social Workers

FOSTER CARE AND IMMORAL FOSTER PARENTS

by Socialworkingal

Foster CareThe social services field consists of an assemblage of factions that involves a multitude of players who attempt the impossible… cohesively facilitating the protection  of abused and neglected children.

If you’ve ever been involved in the social services system, you are aware that there are the social workers that manage the dependency portion of the case, and social workers who manages the foster homes where the wards of the court are placed.

In comparison to non-profit state and county social services agencies, those in the private sector, which are for-profit agencies, or FFAs, function more like a business, depending exclusively on the placement of children and the recruitment of foster parents to stay in business. But wait, it gets deeper….

How it works? A private agency seeks out “qualified” individuals to care for children in their homes. The foster parents are compensated by the agency, and may even receive monetary incentives to foster children with severe behavioral issues. The foster parents are the key in this field because they are meeting the needs of the children…or say they are.

From experience, there are some foster parents who run their homes similar to businesses. They estimate how many children can be placed in their home according to licensing guidelines, and the amount they would receive for each child. I have met a foster parent who received almost $3,000 in foster care payments, but was always asking for clothing assistance, or funds to cover school expenses. When this same foster parent’s car was repossessed, there was an inquiry into her spending habits with the “reimbursement” money for the foster children in her home. Sadly, it was discovered that she was paying her estranged husband’s college tuition. Instead of paying bills or purchasing food for the house, she spent the money on her estranged husband. When asked to rationalize her behavior, she explained that taking care of her husband’s tuition was an attempt at reconciliation. She was immediately decertified, but unfortunately, the children were moved to yet another foster home.

The Anonymous Social Worker

For more view the Anonymous Social Worker’s Blog

Photo Credit: http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/things-that-suck-about-being-a-foster-kid/

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