Government, Businesses and Organizations Announce $50 Million in Commitments to Support Women And Girls


WASHINGTON,DC – Ahead of the first-ever United State of Women Summit, the Obama administration, private-sector companies, foundations and organizations are announcing $50 million in commitments, along with new policies, tools and partnerships that will continue to expand opportunity for women and girls. These announcements include a pledge by more than two dozen leading companies to take actions to continue to close the gender pay gap, new resources to empower community college students to negotiate their first salaries, new campaigns to change how our country values caregiving and improve portrayals of women in media, and enhanced global efforts to promote gender quality worldwide.

Each of these new efforts build on the work that President Obama and his administration have done since the day he took office ensure that women and girls have equal rights, treatment and protections.  He’s signed major pieces of legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – the first major bill he signed into law in January of 2009 – and the Affordable Care Act. He’s dramatically expanded fair pay and paid leave protections. And his administration has systematically encouraged cities and states to embrace policies like higher minimum wage and paid leave.

Underpinning these actions, the President has spoken out and driven a conversation‎ about treating women fairly. He convened the first-ever White House Summit focused on working families to help build 21st century workplaces that better support the needs of families and companies. He has pushed for cultural change that gives women the respect they deserve in schools and in workplaces, and joined advocates in dramatically changing our country’s approach to sexual assault on campus and elsewhere. That conversation has spurred changes in cities and states, businesses big and small, and schools from pre-K to college.

To continue this conversation, tomorrow the President and Vice President will participate in the United State of Women Summit to highlight the progress that has been made over the course of this Administration, and discuss public and private sector solutions to the challenges that still lie ahead. The First Lady will join Oprah Winfrey for a conversation aimed to inspire the next generation of women, shedding light on the progress the First Lady and Ms. Winfrey has seen women achieve and to encourage young women to take action so that progress continues for generations to come.

The primary goal of the Summit is to build a roadmap for future policymakers, stakeholders and advocates to continue to expand opportunities for women and girls. The Summit is being convened by the White House Council on Women and Girls, hosted in partnership with the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation, and will bring together leaders across a wide array of public and private sector industries, along with students, advocates, entertainers, and athletes, to explore six issue areas that are critical for women and girls: economic empowerment, violence against women, health and wellness, civic engagement, education and entrepreneurship.

The new commitments, resources and initiatives being unveiled tomorrow will build on the progress we have made over the past seven and a half years – both domestically and internationally – on behalf of women and girls. They include:

Commitments from leading companies to join new White House equal pay pledge

Highlighting the critical role that businesses must play in reducing the national gender pay gap, the White House will announce a new private sector engagement, called the White House Equal Pay Pledge, for companies who share this commitment – many of which are already taking steps on their own. Each company signing this pledge commits to take action within their organizations by conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations, reviewing their hiring and promotion processes, embedding equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives, and identifying and promoting other best practices that will help ensure wage fairness for all workers.

As part of this announcement, 28 companies have signed on to the pledge, including Accenture, Airbnb, Amazon, American Airlines, BCG, Buffer,, CEB, Cisco, Deloitte, the Dow Chemical Company, Expedia, Inc., Gap Inc., Glassdoor, GoDaddy,, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal USA, PepsiCo, Pinterest, Popcorn Heaven, PwC, Rebecca Minkoff, Salesforce, Slack , Spotify, Staples, and Stella McCartney. Additional companies are invited to join this effort in the coming months.

Modernized protections against gender-based discrimination in the workplace

The Department of Labor will publish a final rule comprehensively updating its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors (including subcontractors) for the first time since the 1970s.  The rule newly addresses a variety of sex-based barriers to equal opportunity and fair pay in the workplace, including pay discrimination; sexual harassment; pregnancy-related accommodations; family caregiving discrimination; and discrimination on the basis of gender identity or transgender status.

New collaboration with Harvard Negotiating & Mediation Clinic to expand career readiness resources through making available negotiation training for community college students nationwide

Negotiation training can be critical in helping workers of any age secure a good job, salary and benefits – but many workers, especially women and those newly entering the job market, can face distinct barriers. Tomorrow, the Department of Education and Harvard Law School’s Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program – as part of their program in negotiation training – are announcing the development of a new toolkit for community college students around the country to equip them with the knowledge and tools that will better prepare them for starting a career and successfully negotiating their first salary. In addition to being available for community college students, the toolkit will be made publicly available later this year – so will be an important readiness resource for all those newly entering the job market.

The Department of Labor will award more than $54 million in grants to give working parents the ability to train for higher wage jobs while addressing barriers faced by those with child care responsibilities.  This will help working parents address key barriers to participating in and successfully completing training for middle-and high-skilled jobs in in-demand fields, as well as help bridge the gap between the workforce development and child care systems.

By leveraging additional public and/or private funding, the grants promote activities that address barriers to accessing training and employment including co-location of training and child care services; increased access through unconventional training delivery times or locations; flexibilities related to scheduling and child care exigencies; and improved access to child care and other related participant supportive services.  This more than doubles the grant awards previously announced as part of the Department’s Strengthening Working Families Initiative grant program.

A New Coalition to Change How We Value Care in the 21st Century

Child and elder care are key to the economic growth of our country and the wellbeing of our families, but too often, we overlook the needs – and vital economic and social contributions – of paid and unpaid caregivers. Today, Caring Across Generations, and New America are launching the “Who Cares Coalition,” a unique partnership bringing together a corporation, advocacy campaign, and think tank to spearhead a broad-based social change movement redefining the cultural norms, behaviors, business practices, and policies around caregiving in the US.

The “Who Cares Coalition” will reach millions of families and caregivers by uniting the world’s largest online marketplace for family care; the nation’s top advocate for families, caregivers and aging Americans; and the leading, nonpartisan civic enterprise focused on creating new data and policy analysis on caregivers and changing the narrative around care.

New advertiser-led campaign to improve portrayals of women and girls across advertising and media

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Alliance for Family Entertainment (AFE) will announce a new initiative called “#SeeHer” to incentivize advertisers, content creators and the media to develop and showcase content that portrays diverse women and girls authentically. The ANA is the largest representative body for the marketing community in the United States, including over 650 member companies with 10,000 brands who collectively spend more than $250 billion in marketing and advertising each year. The AFE is a coalition of ANA members with family-driven brands. With the launch of #SeeHer, the ANA will share toolkits to support the campaign and lay out the roles of partner organizations to ensure success.

New foundation-backed initiative to invest in young women of color

Seven women’s foundations are announcing their commitment to launch a Young Women’s Initiative in 2016, which will invest and catalyze resources to improve equal opportunity and the prosperity of young women, with a focus on young women of color and those experiencing the greatest disparities in outcomes in our communities. The Young Women’s Initiative will be built on cross-sector partnerships, including: government; philanthropies; nonprofits; corporations; and, most importantly, the young women themselves. The foundations announcing this commitment include the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, California Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. The New York Women’s Foundation previously launched a Young Women’s Initiative in 2015.

Academics and Advocacy Groups Launch a Policy Platform to support Marginalized Girls

The Girls at the Margin Alliance, a group of  more than 150 alliance members, steered by The National Crittenton Foundation, Rights4Girls, the National Women’s Law Center, Georgetown Center on Policy and Inequality and Girls Inc, will launch a policy platform that will propose concrete, actionable recommendations to ensure that marginalized girls and young women are met with system responses that honor their experiences and voices, provide opportunities for them to heal, develop their strengths, overcome challenges, ensure their safety, and support them in building thriving lives. This platform will provide a framework for change for all organizations and individuals dedicated to the potential of girls and young women. The Alliance was created to advance the best interest of girls who are marginalized by their communities, and often by their families and by the systems charged with their care. 

New report and convening on early educator compensation

The Departments of Health and Human Services and Education are releasing a new report on the compensation of the early care and education workforce. The report examines the low – and often poverty level – wages that child care providers and early educators receive, the vast majority of whom are women, the growing demand for high-quality early education to both support working families and foster children’s early brain development, and the key role that early educators and child care providers play in preparing the next generation of girls, and all young children, for success. To organize around solutions that address this issue, the Obama Administration will co-host a convening on June 15th with early childhood stakeholders, in partnership with the National Head Start Association, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Service International Employees Union.

Enhanced global efforts to empower women and promote gender equality worldwide

The U.S. Department of State will release a new strategy for women’s economic empowerment across the globe. The strategy will outline four broad policy objectives: promoting women’s equal access to resources and services, promoting women’s equal access to decent work, promoting women’s entrepreneurship, and addressing overarching issues that impede women’s economic participation, such as gender-based violence.  The State Department’s overseas missions and domestic offices and bureaus will use the strategy to guide their efforts to support women’s economic participation and pursue gender integration across their portfolios.

The White House will announce updates to two global strategy cornerstones of the U.S. Government’s commitment to advancing human rights and promoting gender equality worldwide. The updated U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, jointly led by USAID and the State Department, reflects our growing understanding of gender-based violence, including historic provisions for vulnerable populations, such as lesbian and transgender women. Established in a 2012 Executive Order in order to prioritize U.S. foreign policy and programs to combat gender-based violence worldwide using a whole-of-government, interagency approach, it lays out the tools the U.S. Government is employing to prevent and combat this scourge.  Annually, the State Department and USAID contribute approximately $150 million to support projects all over the world that support women’s and community groups broadly. USAID alone has reached more than five million survivors of GBV with vital, sometimes life-saving services in more than 40 countries worldwide, and has awarded more than $17 million in dedicated incentive funds to support innovative pilot programs, research, and scaled best practices to address GBV in 15 countries. 

Likewise, the newly updated National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security will provide the framework for U.S. efforts to increase participation of women in peace processes, prevent sexual violence in conflict, empower women to prevent violence, and ensure that women and girls have equal access to relief and recovery resources.

More than $20 million in new commitments to the Let Girls Learn Initiative to support the 62 million girls around the world who are out of school with the opportunity to attain an education: 

CARE is committing to reach three million adolescent girls, by investing $15 million dollars in six countries through its Udaan “Second Chances” school program. Through this new commitment, Second Chances will broaden from India into Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, and Malawi to double its reach. This program provides an intensive, nine month curriculum to help girls who were unable to finish primary school, catch up to their peers. Through Second Chances, some of the world’s most marginalized girls have returned to school and some have even gone on to college. With a 95 percent success rate, CARE plans to broaden this program with the support of ministries of education, corporations, foundations, and local organizations.

Oracle is committing to invest more than $3 million in direct and in-kind funds over the next 12 months to promote and support educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world. Under this Let Girls Learn commitment, Oracle Academy, Oracle Women’s Leadership (OWL) communities, Oracle’s Diversity & Inclusion program, and Oracle Volunteers will offer more than 65 direct educational events and support conferences, summer computing camps, and codefests for girls, reaching more than 55,000 students around the globe and inspiring them to explore and pursue opportunities in STEM fields.  The Oracle Education Foundation and Oracle Volunteers will teach girls coding, electrical engineering, and project management through four immersive girls-only workshops. Oracle also plans to expand the work of its Oracle Academy program in Egypt by making an additional investment of nearly $1 million in resources and services over the next four years as part of a new partnership with the Ministry of Education in Egypt to expand computer science education for girls in nine newly developed STEM schools. These schools, also supported by USAID, will provide three years of paid secondary education for each girl.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is committing to deliver new programs worth $1 million to adolescent girls in the most conflict-affected states in Africa and the Middle East, including programming that addresses how violence impacts girls’ learning and their ability to access education services. Through its education and GIRL SHINE programs, IRC will target the hardest-to-reach adolescent girls with an in-school and out-of-school enhanced package of services, including girl-only safe spaces and discussion groups, life skills and social and emotional skill development curricula, remedial support in math and reading, parent and caregiver support groups, and an interactive visioning program that breaks down barriers, reduces violence, and ensures increased access to education.

The Hershey Company is committing to support projects that will empower and educate adolescent girls through a $250,000 three-year commitment to the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund. The Hershey Company has a long history of giving underserved children the resources they need to be successful. Tomorrow, the company will advance this shared social purpose through this new commitment to Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund.

PayPal is featuring Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund in its Back to School charitable giving campaign this August as part of an effort to raise awareness and encourage millions of PayPal U.S. users to support Let Girls Learn projects around the world. In addition to encouraging customers in the U.S. to support the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund, PayPal will add 1 percent to each donation, ensuring that 101 percent of every gift made by PayPal U.S. users reaches Let Girls Learn projects.

American Airlines, through its Change for Good partnership with UNICEF, commits to expanding support for adolescent girls’ education by working with UNICEF’s “Let Us Learn” initiative. American commits to build upon Let Us Learn’s successes to-date, including awarding more than 4,000 scholarships to girls in Madagascar to help them enroll and stay in school through the lower secondary level, and helping over 8,000 out-of-school adolescent girls enroll in non-formal classes that provide flexible learning opportunities in Nepal.

Just Like My Child Foundation (JLMC) is committing to reach an additional 10,000 vulnerable adolescent girls with their Girl Power Project® in Central Uganda, thereby doubling their current program reach by 2020. An initial investment from the Toni Ko Foundation will launch the JLMC’s $250,000 commitment. The Girl Power Project® was created to empower adolescent girls and to reduce barriers that prevent adolescent girls from completing secondary school. The Girl Power Project® (GPP) “System in a Box” is an evidence¬-based, innovative, targeted, and scalable mentoring program totaling more than 60 hours of training over two years. It addresses the complex needs of vulnerable adolescent girls’ aged 10¬-15, by ensuring that they stay in school and avoid obstacles in the transition to secondary school. The GPP® empowers girls to live healthy lives by avoiding forced child marriage, HIV transmission, early pregnancy, rape and disease.

AOL, a media technology company with a mission to connect consumers and creators, is taking action in support of Let Girls Learn by announcing the Let Girls Build Challenge. The Challenge, powered by Citizen AOL and AOL’s #BUILTBYGIRLS platform, calls for young women to use the power of technology to conceptualize tech-enabled solutions to the problems facing the #62million girls without access to education. The Challenge will conclude with a final “pitch off” to a live audience, as part of the #BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge, which young women with a background in entrepreneurship to fund tech projects built by other girls. Through the Let Girls Build Challenge, AOL and Let Girls Learn will provide the resources, funding, and mentorship needed to empower the leaders of tomorrow to help open the doors to education globally. For more details please go to

New resources to support efforts to combat and prevent violence against women

The Department of Justice, through its Elder Justice Initiative and its Office for Victims of Crime with support from the Office for Access to Justice, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, will announce Elder Justice AmeriCorps, a $2 million grant program to provide legal assistance and support services to victims of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation – the majority of whom are women – and to promote pro bono capacity building in the field. This grant to Equal Justice Works will be the first ever army of new lawyers and paralegals to help victims of those who prey on our nation’s elders.

The Department of Justice, through its Office on Violence on Women (OVW), is investing $3.2 million in new initiatives to prevent domestic violence homicides. This includes $700,000 for the establishment of a new National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms to improve the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence homicides involving firearms, as well as a new $900,000 technical assistance grant award to a consortium of organizations that will work closely with OVW to provide enhanced training and technical assistance to implement an effective firearms response at the local, state, and tribal levels. OVW has also entered into a partnership with the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to launch the new $1.6 million National Intimate Partner Violence Intervention Initiative (NIPVII). NIPVII will work with three cities, to be selected as part of the demonstration pilot, to replicate a successful strategy for reducing intimate partner violence and homicides. The National Institute of Justice will oversee an evaluation of the initiative through a grant to Yale University. Additionally, OVW will announce the addition of two new cities, Miami, FL and Winnebago County, IL, as replication sites for the Lethality Assessment Program model. This model was included as part of OVW’s Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative, established in 2012

The Department of Justice, through its Office on Violence Against Women, will award nearly $1.2 million to two organizations to help jurisdictions implement the Department of Justice Guidance on Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, which was released by the Attorney General in December 2015. Through training and technical assistance, these grants will develop resources and build the capacity of law enforcement and advocacy organizations to improve responses to domestic and sexual violence victims

Today, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) will release a special report, Down the Road: Testing Evidence in Sexual Assaults. It highlights findings from NIJ-supported action research projects in Houston and Detroit, where two multidisciplinary teams of criminal justice professionals developed effective strategies to address the large numbers of sexual assault kits that had not been submitted for DNA testing. The report offers key lessons for improving responses to sexual assault based on research findings from Houston and Detroit and discusses NIJ’s forensic and social science research portfolios as they relate to using biological evidence to solve sexual assaults.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families Office on Trafficking in Persons has partnered with the Office on Women’s Health to create a training for healthcare and social service providers offering trauma-informed services to survivors of human trafficking. This will be complemented by a new initiative to collect data to improve understanding of how trafficking survivors interact with the health system and with social service providers, and will begin in August 2016.

The Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) will invest $1.35 million in holistic services for American Indian and Alaska Native victims of sex trafficking in urban settings. Organizations awarded funds through this investment will be supported by Project Beacon, a training and technical assistance project that will help service providers’ work to promote the healing of sex trafficking victims. OVC will support Project Beacon through an additional investment of $450,000.

The Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, through its National Girls Initiative, will provide an additional $700,000 in funds to support eleven community programs in Iowa, Hawaii, New York, California, Texas, Connecticut, Washington state, and the District of Columbia, that are working with young women and girls at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system. These programs are culturally-responsive, and build on girls’ strengths to empower them to build brighter futures.

The Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women will release a report summarizing the sustained impact of the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) throughout communities across the country, drawing from conversations with domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking service providers from over twenty states and tribes.

Gun Control from a Buddhist Perspective

by Stephanie Cianfriglia, BSW


It’s true. I am an avid supporter of gun control. But not for the reasons you might expect. I am liberal… to some, that means I am a mindless pawn of an evil government that wants to snatch up every last thing every “patriot” owns just because I can. I am also a social worker, and indeed, as one I have an interest in looking up the stats on what rabid gun-lust is doing to our country, and they are disheartening and disturbing. But, the real reason I support gun control is because I agree with it on a spiritual level.

Now, I am by no means a devout Buddhist. My meditation practice leaves much to be desired: I am occasionally materialistic; I have trouble sometimes with living in the now and instead dwell on the past or worry for the future; I am an anger junkie; I am sometimes very lazy; and I need to remember that dharma is not the same as telling people what to do.

I’m young, I’m learning, what can I say?

However, I have long since been a nonviolent person. Enjoyment of horror movies aside, I often have looked at the culture I live in with a feeling of mild, and sometimes not so mild, abhorrence at the ways we think. “This maniac shot 10 people, let’s give him the death penalty!” I say, “no,” and people look at me as if something were wrong with me. But that’s just how far entrenched the average American is in its pro-violence culture. When people were throwing parties about the killing of Osama BinLaden, I was sitting off to the side shaking my head going, “Ugh, all right, he’s dead, let’s move on. Even someone as evil as he was deserves better than a kongaline over his grave.”

Like many, many people, Newtown ignited a fierce fury and a call to action inside of me towards gun control. It also induced a lot of passion on the other side of the coin. I am not about taking people’s stuff away from them as I support the president and my state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, as I support gun control. I am not saying nobody should own a gun, But I believe that of all the things we feel entitled to own, why a weapon? Why must we want weapons so badly? Why do we crave them like sugar?

When I lived for a brief time in a bad neighborhood, and when I walked home at 7pm in the dark, I didn’t want a weapon. I wanted to get myself home as quickly as possible!

And when I watch horror movies, I don’t imagine how “cool” it would be if I had a knife-glove ala Freddy Kreuger and what it might feel like to jam one of those puppies into somebody’s stomach.

And when I played HALO in the past, I didn’t play it for the “thrill” of shooting people.

Violence isn’t caused by video games, in my opinion. I have never wanted to hurt anyone after watching  a horror movie or playing a shooting-style game.

Violence is caused by a culture that has a love-hate relationship with it. If only we could all hate violence! I know I risk sounding like a hypocrite saying that, me who never misses an episode of “The Walking Dead,” but I don’t watch the show because I like it’s splatters but because of how its characters struggle to preserve their humanity in a world that’s fallen into the darkness of Darwinistic thinking.

President Obama and Governor Cuomo are a lot like a character that died in the second season, Dale, who when his friends were debating over whether or not to kill a hostage, cried, “What’s there to debate? Let him go, let him live!” Tragically, Dale died, but he died as a symbol. These two leaders are speaking out in much the same way, and attempting to use laws to change the world in a dharmic fashion by siding with compassion and empathy in a world that often ignores the human nature of them.

So when I see people cry out in rage and accusation that the Democrats and the president are coming to take their guns away, I only pity them, and pray that they wake up someday. I can’t even fathom their emotions after so many little lives have been lost. The same vein of people argue that all abortions must be banned because its “killing babies,” which seems to defy logic. Killing babies? Babies are dying in much more horrid and unneeded ways than a woman choosing to abort a pregnancy. If children are valued so much, why are they dying by gunfire? Why are they being kidnapped? A woman just walked into a school and walked out with a 5 year old, no questions asked. These issues may all seem unrelated, but they’re not. They all stem from the same rot that lies at the most rudimentary level of our country, its culture. Children are not being valued. Weapons are being valued.

I don’t see our cultural disease being cured at any time soon, if the answer is “more guns.” It seems as if we are caught in a vicious cycle, which is, according to Buddhism, this existence on Earth exactly is. It is known as “samsara,” an endless cycle of suffering that all sentient beings are trapped in forever… UNLESS compassion is spread round the world. Another Buddhist belief is that once a human rebirth is the equivalent of a sea turtle rising up to the surface through a life preserver, an occurrence so rare that it almost never happens–meaning that we should be valuing our human lives in this lifetime as much as we possibly can, devoting every possible instant towards loving each other.

Borrowing a commonly used theme from the science fiction stories I also love, I have to wonder how long the human race can last at the rate it’s going. Yet I remain hopeful that enough of us may become enlightened to save the rest of us.

Especially our tiniest souls.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2013.

Opportunities for Social Workers Expand Under Obamacare

Millions of Americans breathed sighs of relief upon hearing the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the insured in states where the federal government created the marketplace exchanges. Six of the nine justices believed it was Congress’s intention to provide a healthcare system that would cover as many Americans as possible. Among those waiting to exhale were social workers who are a critical component in the reformation of the healthcare system under the ACA.

President Obama reacts to hearing news of the Supreme Court’s decision (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama celebrated the validation of his signature legislative accomplishment with his closest staff. Conservatives were appalled by the decision that—for all intents and purposes—institutionalizes a system they derisively named and now is commonly known as Obamacare.

Most Americans know the law for providing healthcare insurance for millions more Americans through affordable premiums and expanded Medicaid. On a larger scale, the ACA is transforming the entire way we look at health and healthcare.

While discussing social workers involvement in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare system with Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, President and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), she pointed out that since the enactment of the ACA the focus of health and healthcare has moved from individualized medical care to an integrated model that includes behavioral health as well as primary care while factoring in social determinants of health.

This is social work’s approach to healthy living that takes into account the biopsychosocial and spiritual dimensions of human existence. As a result of the new direction for healthcare, there is a greater appreciation of the value social workers bring to the process.

CSWE and the National Association of Social Work (NASW) are partnering on a number of initiatives that will expand social work in healthcare settings. One that includes the Society for Leadership Social Work Leadership in Health Care (SSWLHC) is an agreement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to train Certified Application Counselors (CACs) to enroll the millions of Americans eligible for healthcare insurance who have not yet signed up. Another initiative funded by the New York Community Trust called Social Work HEALS: Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars Program, provides scholarships for social work students at 10 universities.

Social workers are receiving training through the Health Resources Services Administration’s (HRSA) $26.7 million Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training for Professionals program. Sixty-two schools of social work received $19 million of the funding that will allow about one-fourth of accredited MSW programs to provide scholarships to 4000 students at $10,000 each over the next three years. Additionally, CSWE’s Gero-Ed Center presented a series of five webinars on opportunities for social workers under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Coffey says the shift to more integrated healthcare service delivery has spurred greater interest in inter-professional education. CSWE’s annual survey which will be released soon, found that 40 of the 223 masters programs that offer joint degrees reported having a MSW/MPH dual degree option. She reports the number of students specializing or pursuing a concentration in healthcare is on a steady incline. The health and integrated health field setting is the second most common setting after mental health. The health/integrative health and mental health setting for baccalaureate students is now the fifth most populated setting—moving up from sixth last year with 400 more students reported for that setting.

Social workers are regaining influence in discharge planning in hospitals as the determinants of health are understood to be more than a menu list of medications and activities. “There is a greater appreciation for social workers in hospital settings,” Dr. Coffey explained, “because hospitals will be penalized for excessive readmissions under the Affordable Care Act.” The ACA contains a provision that reduces Medicare payments to hospitals with higher readmission rates. Having social workers involved in case management and discharge planning should help reduce the number of readmissions.

The demand for medical or healthcare social workers has increased dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of social workers is expected to rise by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, greater than the average of all other occupations combined. While BLS puts the average salary for social workers at $44,200 (2012) annually, they report the average annual salary for healthcare social workers as $53,590 (2013) with some states paying significantly higher wages.

Driving this demand is the aging of baby boomers and the expansion of healthcare by the ACA. Now that Obamacare will remain the law of the land, social workers will play a major role in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare.

Will Social Workers Embrace Hillary Clinton

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves before she delivers her "official launch speech" at a campaign kick off rally in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX1GCOG
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves before she delivers her “official launch speech” at a campaign kick off rally in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid –

Saturday’s rally in Freedom Park on New York City’s Roosevelt Island provided Hillary Clinton with an opportunity to present ideas about what she will do to boost opportunity for prosperity for the poor and middle class. She spoke of four fights she will wage as President—getting the economy working for everyone, strengthening families, defending the country, and restoring integrity to the democratic process.

She vowed to support a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allows unlimited money in the electoral process. She defined herself as a fighter who has been knocked down but not knocked out. She received criticism early in her public career beginning with the 1993 healthcare fiasco early in her husband’s presidency and the wasteful Whitewater investigation led by Ken Starr that cost taxpayers nearly $60 million. She is now embroiled in an investigation of her handling of email while Secretary of State.

The relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton’s character have taken its toll. There are many who literally despise her. She has admittedly made mistakes but has not been found guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. The voices that are loudest and heard the most are the haters. They wish she would go away. Take the money and run.

At 67 years old, why would she want to take on a Republican-led Congress? What is there to gain? She’s had the White House experience. She says she is seeking the Presidency because of her lifelong commitment to children and those less fortunate. There are millions of Americans who believe in Hillary Clinton and look to her for leadership and she will not abandon them.

Secretary Clinton is taking heat because of the millions she and Bill Clinton have amassed through their Clinton Global Foundation. There is nothing wrong with becoming rich in America as long as most people have a reasonable chance at success and you are not trying to destroy those chances by undermining unions and depressing wages.

Yet, both she and Bill missed opportunities to be magnanimous with their largesse instead of piling up huge sums of money for their personal use. Allegedly charging nonprofits huge fees for speeches seems a bit over the top. She needs to address this issue because it will not go away and while it may not prevent her from reaching the White House it puts a damper on her public support.

Should she be elected President—and the odds are truly in her favor because of the demographic makeup of the electorate during Presidential elections—she will have no magic wand that will bring about the sweeping changes she is proposing with her policy agenda. She will need an active and vibrant citizenry working with her and the Democratic Party to rebalance our political and economic systems to expand opportunities for prosperity.

She will need every supporter she can muster. Social workers should not just be part of the effort social workers should be leaders in the pursuit of a more egalitarian society. That means helping to register new voters, empowering individuals and communities to become more involved, getting people to vote, and running for elected office. Changing the system often requires changing people in the system.

Democrats have a nine point advantage over Republicans among Americans who identify with either party, 48 percent to 39 percent. Yet Republicans were able to win control over the Senate and control 31 state governorships. They are also in control of the State Senate in 35 states and the State House in 33 states. Republicans won 52 percent of the votes for the House of Representatives in 2014 but gained 57 percent of the seats. Hillary Clinton has pledged to rebuild state Democratic parties that were largely abandoned during the Obama presidency.

The next President of the United States may be in the position to nominate four Supreme Court justices over the course of two terms. That alone should motivate progressives not to sit idly on the sidelines but to be actively organizing and working to get more like-minded people to register and vote. It would be wonderful if Secretary Clinton was flawless but it’s enough for me to know that she wants to improve circumstances for the poor and middle class. I have no reason not to believe her other than the words of those who would like to see her fail.

Congresswoman Lee Leads Effort Urging President Obama to Ban the Box


Washington, D.C.- More than 70 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, sent a letter to President Obama to adopt a federal fair chance hiring policy. This effort was co-led by Congressman Conyers, Congressman Scott, Congressman Davis, and Congresswoman Jackson Lee.

The federal government should not be in the business of erecting barriers between those who have made a mistake and are looking a job, said Congresswoman Lee. By enacting these basic fair chance hiring reforms, the federal government will continue to lead as a model employer while working to end the cycle of mass incarceration, unemployment and recidivism.

The effort was supported by various groups including Policy Link, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Employment Law Project (NELP), PICO Networks LIVE FREE Campaign, and All Of Us Or None, a national organizing initiative founded by formerly-incarcerated individuals to fight against discrimination and for the human rights of prisoners.

It’s rewarding to witness the work started in our backyard reach national levels, and continue to dismantle the barriers facing formerly incarcerated communities, said co-founding member, Dorsey Nunn, of All Of Us Or None. This effort could not have come at a better time to reflect that all Black Lives Matter, including the lives of people with arrest and conviction histories.

The letter calls on President Obama to take executive action requiring that federal contractors and agencies refrain from inquiring about an applicants criminal record in the initial stage of hiring. Employers would be able to inquire about convictions and conduct background checks before making an employment decision.

The letter reads: We urge you to build on your administration’s commitment to adopting fair change hiring reforms by committing the federal government to do its part to eliminate unnecessary barriers to employment for people with criminal records.

Specifically, the letter notes that seventeen states, the District of Columbia and more than 100 cities and counties have already adopted fair chance hiring reforms.  In six states, the policy also expands to the private sector. Several private sector firms have also independently adopted fair chance hiring policies including: Walmart, Koch Industries, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target.

There are more than 70 million Americans with criminal records and communities of color are disproportionately affected. One in three African-American men will be arrested during their lifetime.


Banning the box in federal hiring would help those who are fighting for a fair opportunity to show their qualifications for employment.  This is the right thing to do for individuals seeking to provide for themselves and their families, and it is the smart thing to do for our national economy which sorely needs the talents and contributions of all of our citizens, said Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The EEOC has ruled that discrimination based on prior convictions without an individualized assessment of the relevance to job performance constitutes illegal employment discrimination, said Rep. Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The Fair Chance practices, also known as ban the box, are consistent with that EEOC guidance.  Studies have consistently shown  that properly tailoring employment restrictions will help to increase public safety, reduce recidivism, and save money.

The cruel, relentless logic of mass incarceration has now become apparent to all.  One in four Americans has a conviction history which often excludes them from the workforce and from housing creating new layers of crisis for our communities, said Congressman Danny Davis (IL-07). Ban the box is a critical step for formerly incarcerated individuals to a dignified, productive civilian life and helping families and communities become self-sustaining once again.

Almost one in three adults in the United States has a criminal record that will show up on a routine criminal background check. This creates a serious barrier to employment for millions of workers, especially in communities of color hardest hit by decades of over-criminalization, said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).

Nationwide, 100 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as ban the box so that employers consider a job candidates qualifications first, without the stigma of a criminal record. These initiatives provide applicants a fair chance by removing the conviction history question on the job application and delaying the background check inquiry until later in the hiring. Fair chance policies benefit everyone because they are good for families and the local community.

The letter can be found here.

President Obama, A Social Worker Is Your Ideal Poverty Czar


Last week, President Barack Obama once again did the unusual by participating in a panel discussion as part of Georgetown University’s Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty. It was a rare setting for a sitting president but proved to be an interesting exchange of ideas with a couple of thought leaders on the subject of why so many (45 million below the poverty threshold) have so little in the land of plenty.

Moderated by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, the discussion included Harvard professor Robert Putnam, and American Enterprise Institute’s president Arthur C. Brooks. Putnam’s latest book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” has renewed interest in the numbers of American children who are mired in poverty with bleak hopes for the future. Brooks has captured the imagination of many with his own brand of compassionate conservatism which sees free enterprise’s most important work as not generating wealth but creating opportunities for the poor.

It was a bold move for President Obama to put himself on the proverbial hot seat because his administration has garnered criticism from those who believe he could do more for the poor. This appearance prompted Martin Luther King, III to renew his call for a “poverty czar” to coordinate poverty reduction efforts across agencies. King was among those who called for the appointment of a poverty czar during the run up to the 2008 presidential elections. Candidate Obama was noncommittal then, however, candidate Hillary Clinton embraced the idea. Appointing a poverty czar this late in President’s tenure does not seem likely, yet those living below the poverty line can use all the help available.

What other profession equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to bring people together to address issues of great magnitude such as poverty? At the top of the list would be Oakland, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who currently chairs the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity. She is the co-founder and co-chair of the Out of Poverty Caucus and chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.Should the President decide to appoint someone as poverty czar, it would be wise to consider a social worker for the position. Who else would you appoint? Who better understands the many dimensions of poverty than a social worker?

Reducing and eliminating poverty has been at the forefront of Congresswoman Lee’s legislative agenda. One of the first bills she introduced in the 114th Congress in January was H.R. 258—the Half in Ten Act of 2015 that would establish a Federal Interagency Working Group on Reducing Poverty within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would develop a national strategy to reduce the number of persons living in poverty in America by half within 10 years after release of the 2014 Census Report on Income and Poverty in the United States. She also sponsored H.R. 1305—the Income Equity Act of 2015 that would address escalating income inequality by denying employers tax deductions on excess compensation. However, Congresswoman Lee has much unfinished business as a Member of Congress and may wish to remain.

One might think retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski would consider taking on the challenge of being poverty czar but that’s probably not in the cards as newly-elected Republican Governor Larry Hogan could appoint a Republican as her replacement diminishing the Democrats very good chance of recapturing the Senate in 2016. Should the President look off the Hill, there are several highly qualified social workers who would fill the role of poverty czar.

Michael Sherraden, the George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis is director of the Center for Social Development and has done extensive research on asset development for the poor. Jane Waldfogel, professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia University, played a significant role in crafting policies that help cut Britain’s child poverty rate in half.

Social workers have provided significant leadership for the federal government, most notably Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins who were key administrators for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the implementation of the New Deal. Social workers are uniquely trained to understand poverty and address it roots causes. If President Obama decides to appoint a poverty czar, he should have social workers at the top of his list.

What Should Social Workers Want from Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton and the World's Women

Of all those actively seeking the presidency, former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton seems to be the most likely successor. It is not just because she is the most qualified among those seeking the presidency, nor is she the least disliked among the candidates, but it’s probably about time a woman gets the chance to lead the nation and demographics increasingly favor Democrats winning the White House.

According to the most recent Real Clear Politics consensus poll, Clinton leads former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 7.7 points (Fox News has the matchup as a tie). She leads Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by 9.2 points, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul by 8.6 points, Florida Senator Macro Rubio by 8 points, Dr. Ben Carson by 13.3 points, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee by 11.7 points, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by 10.2 points. Much can happen with more than a year and a half left before the election, but Hillary Clinton is clearly the frontrunner.

It is far too soon to know who the Republican nominee will be. In the April 15th Public Policy Polling results in New Hampshire, Scott Walker led the pack with 24 percent—ten percentage points ahead of his next rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Rand Paul (12%) and Jeb Bush (10%) managed double digits while Florida Senator Marco Rubio (8%), Christie (8%), Huckabee (7%), Carson (7%) and former Texas Governor Rick Perry (4%) rounded out the field.

So, should we wake up on Wednesday, November 9th with the first woman President of the United States in Hillary Clinton, what will social workers expect from her during her first four years? I say we should avoid making the same mistake Dr. Cornell West and Tavis Smiley made who have spent the last seven years criticizing President Obama for not having a sufficient agenda for black Americans when they failed to present the President with a specific policy agenda they wanted him to support.

What are the specific policies social workers would like to see advanced during a Hillary Clinton administration? That policy agenda should be made known before she goes into the White House. We may not agree on everything but certainly there are several key policy proposals we can all get behind.

Of course, this is easier said than done. How do social workers come up with a relatively concise and specific list of policy priorities we would like to see implemented during another Clinton Administration? There are many notable policy social work scholars who can assist in developing a policy agenda. We can begin with economist Jared Bernstein, a product of Columbia University School of Social Work’s doctoral program. So is Lonnie Berger, the director of the Institute for Research on Poverty.

CRISP has several distinguished policy scholars on our advisory board including Michael Reisch at the University of Maryland and Jane Waldfogel at Columbia University. All the ideas need not come from social work scholars. Developing social work policy priorities, while a social work-led endeavor, should draw on ideas from other disciplines. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Washington Center for Equitable Growth Executive Director Heather Boushey, and economist Joseph Stiglitz all have worthwhile policy prescriptions.

Why should President Hillary Clinton care about what social workers want? Candidate Clinton is on a listening tour and may well be interested in hearing social work policy ideas. She says she wants a more egalitarian society—so do social workers. She says she wants to see the overturn of Citizens United v. FEC—so do social workers. She has been longtime advocate for less fortunate children with the Children’s Defense Fund.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are approximately 800,000 social workers strategically placed in nonprofits, governmental agencies, and businesses throughout the nation. We are the ground troops, the managers, and the strategists needed to turn things around. If and when we flex our political muscles, we will be a force to reckon with.

Oh dear, there goes my alarm clock. It’s time to stop dreaming and get ready for work.

Selma 50 Years Later, Then Back to Work

Obama Family leading the 50th Anniversary March- Photo Credit


President Barack Obama, in what may be his most eloquent and thoughtful speech, helped us to understand the profound place in history held by those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965 in pursuit of social and economic justice. In Selma, Alabama 50 years later, it was their encounter with the forces of bigotry and hate that helped change the course of history.

President Barack Obama share a moment with Georgia Congressman John Lewis during the commemoration of Bloody Sunday.

It was the determination of the protesters to endure the most vile and despicable slurs imaginable, to withstand flailing police batons, ferocious dogs, and battering waves of water pouring from hoses, that moved the needle ever so slightly from oppression towards freedom. We are constantly reminded by injustice in Ferguson and other places that the battle is far from over.

As the President stated, this is no time for cynicism, no time for complacency or despair. Many Americans of good will believe the social contract that the Framers had in mind was not one that favored a few who would reap a disproportionate share of the benefits of a society whose prosperity depends on the work of many.

I came of age in the 1960s, and it was a turbulent time—Vietnam, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. There were riots, uprisings on college campuses, and, yes, black men were still being lynched. Yet through the turmoil there was always a sense of community—a belief that people were better off if we stuck together. We were told that we either swim together or drown alone. Events like Woodstock brought thousands of young “hippies” together for marathon sessions of the best that music can be. Not surprising, the 1960s was the heyday of community social work.

We hardly got into the next decade when another turning point arrived in a tragic day at Kent State University. It occurred one day before my 20th birthday on May 4, 1970—four unarmed students were shot dead by the National Guard and nine others wounded. The age of law and order had arrived with a vengeance. After all, it was the slogan that propelled Richard M. Nixon into the White House. He was soon to be followed by President Ronald Reagan and a new era of conservatism that swept the country. Community was too close to communism and socialism to be an acceptable form of lifestyle. It was the individual that was paramount.

Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama
Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama

Robert Ringer’s Looking Out for Number Onethe tome du jour—became a New York Times #1 bestseller, and supply-side economics heralded Ayn Rand’s great man theory. Unions and collective bargaining began to wilt from constant attacks from corporations and their Republican allies. We were all competing for the American Dream when we should have been working together to achieve it universally.

The President reminded us that the single most powerful word in our vocabulary must be we. We can get a lot more done than me. At the risk of sounding like Rodney King, it is time that we put aside our differences and begin to look for common solutions to major problems. The commemoration of the historical Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama is cause for neither celebration nor despair. It should, however, energize us to go the extra mile—as the old folks used to say—to see what the end’s going to be.

We must believe that things can get better. We must believe that we can have a more egalitarian society. Economic inequality reaches a point where it becomes evil because it robs so many children of their chance for a meaningful future. The only weapon we have to fight this injustice is political power. We must use it or lose what little hope we have today of achieving some measure of social and economic fairness.

The ABLE Act Explained: Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE)

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) was signed into law by the President on December 19, 2014. Tax-free savings accounts can now be built for a population that has historically been forced to live in poverty. Up until now, in order to be eligible for SSI and Medicaid, a person could not have more than $2,000 in cash and property ($3,000 for couples) or make more than $700 monthly (!) in order to be eligible for Medicaid or SSI.

This means they can’t save money for things that Medicaid and SSI don’t cover like education, housing, a job BLOG_12232014coach or transportation. While the rest of society is encouraged to save for emergencies, unforeseen expenses and rainy days, people with disabilities – who have naturally higher expenses and higher medical needs – were forced to scrape pennies and do without due to archaic laws and discriminatory notions held by society in general.

What is the ABLE Act?

This bi-partisan piece of legislation will give people with disabilities and their families freedoms and security never before experienced. It amends the IRS code of 1986 to allow savings accounts to be set up for individuals with disabilities much like the college tuition accounts known as “529 accounts” that have been around since 1996.

The Treasury Department is currently writing all of the regulations. There will then be a period of time where public comments on the proposed rules will be allowed. Before the end of 2015, every State will be responsible for establishing and operating an ABLE program.

How does it work?

In a nutshell, an ABLE savings account can be opened up by an individual with a disability or by someone else on their behalf. Up to $14,000 may be deposited yearly untaxed, with that amount to be increased as inflation rises. If an account surpasses $100,000, the owner of the account will no longer be eligible for SSI but would not be in danger of losing Medicaid. When a person dies, Medicaid will be reimbursed first from the account before it is dispersed to the person’s estate.

What can the funds be used for?

Any disability-related expenses, including:

  • Education
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Employment training and support
  • Assistive technology and personal support services
  • Health, prevention and wellness
  • Financial management and administrative services
  • Legal fees
  • Funeral and burial expenses

This is a great step forward in the right direction for this community. Let’s hope the regulations are completed sooner rather than later so that individuals and families can begin saving for a better life!

The Shifting Roles of Men

The Today Show recently had a series on “Today’s Man” and how the traditional roles of men had changed since the 20th century.  Since the Millennia, our country has dealt with a consistent bombardment of financial crises that affected millions of people.  Many of those affected were indeed men, most importantly, creating a major shift in some of the roles that society had historically identified.   These shifts were not only financial, but somewhat of an epiphany for many men to re-evaluate what was important to them as it related to their respective families.

Engaging FathersToday’s man or men rather have chosen to slow down their lives and re-invest their time into their families in a manner that wasn’t accepted or tolerated in years past.  In a GQ article, the writer discusses how quitting his job to be home was one of the greatest things he did.  Though not initially easy, his ability at times to work from home and be with his son was something he wouldn’t trade for the world.

Men today are breaking down those traditional norms of how one should act, specifically as it related to rearing children.  For generations men were the providers, not always emotionally available and rarely a nurturer.  That was a role considered more for women, mothers, aunts, sisters and grandmothers.

So why is this shift important to note here, well because when you find active fathers in the lives of their children, it minimizes the many issues we see in young people later on when fathers are absent, albeit, because of work or not living in the home.  Many years ago when my youngest was born, I took paternity leave after my wife returned to work.  At first, some of my colleagues were first surprised, but then chuckled at the notion.  “You mean you will change the diapers”, “feed your son”.   Depending on my mood at that moment or the person to whom I was speaking would garner various responses.  But needless to say, what was so absurd about that?  He’s my son, who says I can’t or shouldn’t be active in his life from infancy.

Tanfer and Mott discussed this concern in 1997 at an Urban Institute conference discussing how important early involvement is in preventing future behavioral issues in children.  According to their presentation, the literature continued to examine consequences of relationship transitions for the development of children, to include parents not being involved, specifically fathers.  This presentation was timely because of the beginning of shifts for men during that period.  Almost twenty years later, we see now that men are becoming more active in the earlier developmental stages of their children.

Even President Obama has pushed this as a major item.  The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships works diligently to promote responsible fatherhood and stronger communities.  Having men involved early in that process doesn’t just help the health development of children, but it expands to building strong and vibrant communities.

Notwithstanding the valiant efforts of women, especially those who have served in both capacities, it is refreshing to see more and more fathers, act like fathers.  In one of my summer courses we recently discussed this shift and whether it helps deter future delinquency and criminality.  Many argued that if indeed helps to set that strong foundation. Does it mean young people will not have challenges or issues, of course not, but by hopefully having a strong man teach children how to handle such future trials and tribulations will go a very long way…. So if you’re a stay at home dad or working dad, let’s continue to break those archaic stereotypes in how we should act with our children.  It’s OK to NURTURE, it’s OK to HUG, it’s OK to show emotion….

Obama launches his “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative


President Obama recently launched his initiative entitled, My Brothers Keeper, and it was created to address the under achievement  among young black and Hispanic males. POTUS is gathering businesses, foundations and community support for this commitment. This initiative has been set forth to increase employment opportunities and to encourage our young men of color to reach their highest potential before they  are subject to the criminal justice system.

As a young teen, The President mentions that he himself was headed down the wrong direction with getting high, under estimating himself and his uncontrolled anger from not having a father at home. Obama stated, The aim is to “start a different cycle. “If we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens, then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren.”

According to American Progress,

  • One in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime
  • Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated
  • Unemployment rate of African-Americans without a high school diploma was 26 percent in the second quarter of 2011, compared to 12 percent for whites without a high school diploma

And According to The National Council of LaRaza,

  • It can be estimated that on any given day, at least 18,000 Hispanic youth are incarcerated in the U.S. for mostly nonviolent offenses
  • The United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that from 2000 to 2008, the share of Latino youth under 18 years of age who are in adult prisons rose from 12% to 20 %

I must say that this is an awesome project, and I applaud POTUS for his efforts. President Obama is relatable because he has gone through real life experiences that we as young people and the world can connect with. I know that I can totally relate because I myself went through a tough period of time where I was not focused at all. I did not value my education or the opportunities afforded to me, and I made a few bad decisions. After self-realization and a great deal of support from my parents, I got back on track. Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to do that. Some individuals do not have the benefit of having a support system around them to depend on for encouragement or motivation.

As an African-American woman, I am fully aware of the racial disparities that continue to perpetuate within our society. Having African-American male figures in my life such as my dad, brothers, uncles and cousins I also recognize first hand how unfair the system can be. The decks are stacked against them even more when it comes to our prison systems, employment opportunities and the chances of furthering their education . I am grateful that our President acknowledges these issues and is addressing them. I am sure our communities are thankful as well. I hope countless support groups stem from this initiative because they are necessary. It is time to break these generational curses.


Federal Contract Workers with Disabilities Included In Minimum Wage Executive Order

by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW

Pres. Obama 1Recently, President Obama signed an executive order to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers.  This action will benefit individuals who are contracted with the federal government who are making less than this newly approved rate.  (The current minimum wage rate is $7.25 an hour.)  The minimum wage hike for federal workers will become effective on January 1st, 2015.  Raising the minimum wage coincides with the President’s plans to increase opportunities for the American people.

When the President announced his executive order concerning the minimum wage increase during his State of the Union Address last month, there were one particular group who were left out of his initiative – federal workers with disabilities.  The White House and the Department of Labor did not intend to allow people with disabilities working under federal contracts with special certificates to receive the new minimum wage increase.  The failure to include people with disabilities who work for the federal government was met with great opposition, and those within the disability community advocated for federal workers with disabilities to be included in the President’s order.

Under the current law, federal workers with disabilities may be paid less than the $7.25/hour rate under specialized certificate programs.  This means that it is legal to pay federal workers with disabilities incredibly less than their able-bodied colleagues, even though they are doing the same job.  The current provision creates a disproportionate living wage gap between disabled and able-bodied federal contracted workers.  Without the inclusion of people with disabilities in the President’s order, certain disabled workers would have continued to earn a living wage as little as 22 cents an hour.

With the unemployment rate for people with disabilities being 13.3%, and the labor force participation rate being 18.2% for January 2014, it is imperative for the employability of people with disabilities to be on the consciousness of the President, and our representatives.  Despite being the largest minority group in the country, people with disabilities are not fully integrated within our workforce system, even though there are a great number of programs and services in place to increase employment opportunities for this population.  This “oversight” by the White House and the Labor Department before disability advocates ramped their voices signaled how dire it is for people with disabilities to be politically aware, and involved.

This executive order is a steppingstone in the right direction to increase the minimum wage for all Americans, but what can be done to ensure that people with disabilities are not overlooked or dismissed when future plans are constructed to improve the well-being and economic status of those in this country?  How can we better advocate for ourselves, and demand that those with influence take our needs and concerns seriously?  Share your thoughts and suggestions with me because excluding people with disabilities from momentous initiatives such as this can no longer suffice.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Black Enterprise.)

President Obama Visits NC State to Talk About Jobs

President Obama with Governor Pat McCrory
President Obama with Governor Pat McCrory

Under the current political climate, members of the GOP have avoided any public displays of affection with President Obama out of fear of retribution from tea partiers. However, this did not appear to be the case with Governor Pat McCrory as he welcomed President Obama after he exited Air Force One.

Today, President Obama visited North Carolina State University (NCSU) to discuss his plans for an innovation hub to be developed in Raleigh. The plan seeks to create partnerships between public, private, and universities in effort to spur innovations that will leading to fabrication and mass production in the United States.

According to the Raleigh News and Observer,

Obama announced a $140 million consortium of companies and universities at NCSU that will develop the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices. The effort – and other technology hubs like it – fulfill a pledge in his State of the Union address a year ago to develop high-tech jobs.

The Next Generation Power Electronics Institute will be headquartered on NCSU’s Centennial Campus. Over the next **-five years, the U.S. Department of Energy will provide $70 million to the institute, to be matched by at least $70 million in nonfederal money by the businesses and universities and the state of North Carolina.  Read More

The address to Wolfpack nation was nationally televised on all the major networks except Fox news who decided to cover the “Devil Baby” prank in New York City instead. Nevertheless, the President’s address has rebooted the national conversation and focus back on job creation where it should be.

In the wake of the long-term unemployed being kicked off benefits in both North Carolina and federal extended benefits, Americans are still having a tough time finding employment especially when there are three people for every one job.

Despite the record number of people at food pantries, the GOP is taking lessons on how to appear more compassionate while continuing to deny extended unemployment benefits to jobless Americans. You can view the President’s address at NC State below:


Social Worker Mike Langlois Analyze World Leaders Selfie

World Leader Selfie at Nelson Mandela Memorial
World Leader Selfie at Nelson Mandela Memorial

On December 11th at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial service, President Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt created quite a stir with what appears to be a selfie of the three world leaders. One of the most thoughtful analyses I found on the world leaders selfie was conducted by Mike Langlois, LICSW.

Many critics of President Obama lashed out on social media expressing their outrage at the appearance of him taking a selfie with other world leaders. Many news outlets reported that the world leaders appeared upbeat at what should be an otherwise somber mood for a funeral. However, the actual funeral for the beloved world leader, Nelson Mandela, wasn’t actually held until days later on December 14th.

Chris Taylor of Mashable wrote about selfie-gate with a detailed analysis of why context matters.

First of all, this wasn’t strictly a funeral; certainly not the solemn dressed-in-black occasion we often associate with the term. It was a four-hour stadium-sized memorial celebrating the life and works of the beloved Madiba, a riot of colorful dancing and singing. Think New Orleans meets the World Cup. Read More

For me when I look at the photo, my response is how cool is it for our world leaders to like each other enough to take a selfie. In my opinion, the photo evokes thoughts of allies and not enemies who may go to war against each other. I believe the photo is a dream realized for the life’s work of Nelson Mandela. If one must judge this photo, shouldn’t the standard be whether Nelson Mandela would approve?

As a teacher of online technologies, video gaming and psychotherapy, Mike Langlois believes that our reaction to the President Obama selfie may actually say more about us than what it says about him. View Mike Langlois assessment below, and tell me do you agree?


Government Shutdown Is Over But What Does It Mean

After 16 days of a government shutdown, the House finally allowed a vote which resulted in the passage of bi-partisan bill to reopen the government and avoid default. The 285 votes that decided to reopen the government was comprised of a unified democratic block and several moderate Republicans. However, the 144 votes to keep the government closed and not raise the debt limit were all cast by Tea party Republicans.

Since the government shutdown begin, Democrats and Senate Republicans have openly advocated for the suspension the Haster Rule which requires the “majority of the majority support” before a bill can be brought to the floor for an up or down vote. However, Speaker Boehner has refused to suspend the rule for 16 days stating there were not enough votes to pass a clean continuing resolutions to reopen the government and raise the debt limit. What was the purpose of keeping the government shutdown for 16 days, furloughed workers, and denying needed services to vulnerable populations? What did House Republicans get from shutting down the government other than an opportunity to do it again in another 90 days?  Not only could Speaker Boehner have ended this crisis weeks ago, he could have possibly prevented a government shutdown all together by allowing a vote on a clean resolution or on a budget that has already been passed by the Senate.

According to statement released by Speaker Boehner on Wednesday hours before the default deadline, he stated:

“Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in statement Wednesday afternoon. “Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”  Read Full

In the deal to reopen the government, the agreed upon terms will fund the government until January 15th 2014 and extend the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014. Republicans also added a provision to be instituted into Obamacare which would require income verification prior to receiving a federally subsidized health care plan. President Obama gave a speech to address reopening the government as well as reestablishing the trust of the American People. Prior to leaving the briefing room, a reporter shouted a question at President Obama asking if we will be back at another government shutdown in 90 days. His answer was simply, “No”.

View the President Speech below:


Government Shutdown: Would You Get Fired For Shutting Down Your Job

Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech on the continuing dilemma of the government shutdown which has been in effect since midnight October 1st, and he asked the question, ” What would happen if you decided to shut down your job while you develop a list of demands to be met”? Before, I give the President’s answer, lets look at the past to see if  any such occurrence have happened and what was the outcome.

In November 2012,  Hostess Brands announced that they were selling their company to the highest bidder as a result of a strike by union workers. Hostess fired 18,500 employees because less than 5,000 employees went on strike. According to CNN Money, the company stated:

“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” said CEO Gregory Rayburn in a statement.

Hostess will move to sell its assets to the highest bidder. That could mean new life for some of its most popular products, which could be scooped up at auction and attached to products from other companies.”

Teamsters and unionize workers were blamed for causing the shutdown of a company who products lives in the childhood memories of so many. What could their demands have possible been to cause a company shutdown? According to the president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Frank Hurt said:

BCTGM says the company has ceased making contractually obligated payments to the Hostess workers’ pensions since July 2011 and has pocketed approximately $160 million—money earned by and owed to its dedicated workforce.

Hostess Brands is in bankruptcy for the second time in eight years. Since the first bankruptcy in 2004, BCTGM members across the country have taken dramatic wage and benefit concessions and watched as 21 Hostess plants were shut down and thousands of jobs were lost. At the time of the first bankruptcy, Hostess workers were assured by management that money saved via concessions and plant closings would help make the company stronger, more vibrant and more competitive. Read more

The President’s short answer to the his question is “You will get Fired”!  Take a look at this three-minute video of President Obama’s assessment of the government shutdown by House Republicans:


Currently, House Republicans are on a network messaging frenzy about how the White House and Democrats are not compromising or willing to negotiate with them. Originally, the shutdown was over defunding or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act which went into the full implementation phase also on October 1st.

Republican talking points since 2009 when Affordable Care Act was still a bill made claims that Obamacare would cause death panels, increase insurance premiums, and health care cost.  A 2013 article from Forbes Magazine tells a different story of how the enactment of Obamacare has driven down cost the last four years in a row.

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the CBO, noted that while much of the savings are the result of a loss of wealth due to the recession. But, for the first time, Elmendorf was willing to say that a ‘significant part’ of the savings are the result of structural change in how healthcare is now being delivered.

While the new data suggests that some of the changes in how providers are paid for delivering healthcare began—and were having a positive impact—prior to passage of Obamacare, the ACA codifies these changes in payment procedures for physicians and hospitals, taking what now appears to be programs that are slowing the growth in costs and applying them to all providers throughout the nation. Read Full Article

Now, House Republicans are stating the other side is not willing to sit down and negotiate even more cuts to entitlement programs and government spending in addition to cuts already put in place by sequestration. Republicans have successfully eliminated people from talking about the strain caused by sequestration cuts. Additionally, they have gotten Democrats to accept and willing to sign a continuing resolution with current sequestration cuts as part of the deal. The effects of sequestration cuts have not yet been fully realized which will have devastating effects of their own in the upcoming months without any additional cuts being made. According to the LATimes:

As we reported in August, sequestration will pare as much as 1.2% off gross domestic product — after inflation — through this year and next, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  It will cost as many as 1.6 million jobs over that time frame, the CBO says.

Just as the government shutdown leaves congressional pay and benefits intact, so does the sequester. The damage is all done at the opposite end of the economic scale. Thousands of low-income residents of public housing will be thrown out of their homes. Public housing authorities that managed to stave off evictions this year say they will be out of options next year, when the cuts go deeper.

Tens of thousands of 3- and 4-year-olds will be barred from Head Start, perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty and poor educational attainment faced by those families. Unemployment benefits will continue to be cut by an average of 15% nationwide. And of course job growth will be worse because of the sequester. That’s a great one-two punch Congress has landed on the jobless. Yet the best we can hope for is that the sequester continues, and doesn’t get worse.  Read Full Article

I have heard arguments that both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the government shutdown, and I completely disagree. You can’t negotiate with people who put their self-interest over the needs of the majority. The decisions and demands being made by House Republicans and their leadership is irresponsible. Not only will it cost economic hardship for many children and families, some people will lose their lives as a result.

Also on yesterday, two United States Capital Police were hurt protecting tourists who were visiting our Capital. They left their families and came to work on furlough not knowing whether they would eventually get paid or not. They have the same worries as everyone else like mortgages, food, student loans, and taking care of their children. According to sources, a woman suffering from postpartum depression went on a tear in our nation’s capital with her one year old child. To read more on this developing story, view this link.

What else do Republicans want in order to end this insanity?

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:


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.

What Does the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013 Actually Cover

On July 10, 2013, just two weeks after DOMA was ruled unconstitutional, members of the Senate Committee ruled 15-7  in favor of  Senate Bill 815 called the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013. This is the eighth revision since being introduced in 1994. The purpose of ENDA is to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This update is a significant improvement upon previous revisions. In the past, it has been unable to fulfill its intended purpose due to significant language that has been excluded.  Gender identity was not proposed in the wording of the bill until 2007 when introduced in the Senate and then removed once making its way to the House. On two occasions in 2007 and 2009 have attempted to include gender identity in the wording only to have failed and died in committee.

So what does all this talk about sexual identity and gender really mean?

Sexual identity and gender are completely different concepts:

  • Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted.
  • Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.WorkplaceDiscrimination

Across the United States, LGBT  individuals are being fired from their place of employment due to discrimination. According to a June 13 poll by the Pew Research Center, 21 percent of LGBT adults say they have been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions.

In addition to workplace discrimination, LGBT employees face wage disparities, and studies show that the transgender population is disproportionately affected.

Currently, 29 states provide no state law to protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees from being fired and 33 states lack state laws protecting transgender individuals.

North Carolina is an employment-at-will state which means that an employee can be fired for no reason except in cases of discrimination. Federal protection legislation such as ENDA is important because statutes will prohibit employers from discharging employees based on impermissible considerations such as sexual orientation or gender.

Senator Richard Burr(R-NC) was quoted stating:

“Like most Americans, I strongly oppose and condemn unjust discrimination, it is my hope that our society can be tolerant of different people and ideas. That said, whenever we consider new legislation we must always consider the interplay of new laws with existing rights. I am concerned that the ENDA bill would go beyond our existing laws protecting individuals’ employment rights and would impose new burdens and legal uncertainties regarding the exercise of religious liberties. Therefore, I plan to oppose the bill.”

Despite Richard Burr’s comment, a poll released on June 17, 2013, by Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that a strong majority of North Carolinians 71% think employers should not be able to discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation compared to just 20 percent who think they should be able to.

ENDA is now one next step forward to being approved by the senate where it will hopefully be approved. It must be passed by both the senate and the house before President Obama can sign it into law.  Click here to track the progression of the bill.

It’s LGBT Awareness Month Around the Globe

On June 13th, President Barack Obama held the fourth LGBT Pride reception since taking office in 2008. On Friday, the President reintroduced his 2009 declaration that the month of June will be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.  President Obama is the second president to declare Pride month after President Bill Clinton declared June Gay & Lesbian Pride Month on June 2, 2000.

President Obama addressed several key issues regarding the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual, Ally) community including ending discrimination within the workplace, healthcare issues, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, as well as VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), stating “We’ve become not just more accepting; we’ve become more loving, as a country, and as a people.

Hearts and minds change with time. Laws do, too. Change like that isn’t something that starts here in Washington, but it’s something that has the power that Washington has a great deal of difficulty resisting over time. It’s something that comes from the courage of those who stood up, sat in, and came out. It’s something that comes from the compassion of family and friends and coworkers and teammates who show their love and support.”

LGBT Pride month would not be possible without the Stonewall Riots of 1969. These riots were a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world. When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City on June 28, 1969, the streets erupted into violent protests that lasted for six days.  The actions of those participating in the riots and following the riots paved the way for the modern fight for LGBTQIA rights within the United States

Social workers are bound by a Code of Ethics to regularly seek out education, understand, and respect those of diverse backgrounds. According to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical disability. Therefore as social workers, it is our responsibility to advocate for various populations.

After witnessing several friends within the LGBTQIA community struggle with the denial of basic human rights, inadequate healthcare services, and bigotry, I have since made a decision as a social worker to become an advocate for this population.

Celebrations are being held globally and throughout the nation, and North Carolina Pride events can be found here. I encourage my fellow social workers to attend their local Pride event if possible.

Scalia Calls Voting Rights Act of 1965 A Racial Entitlement

by Deona Hooper, MSW

State of the Union
Desiline Victors at the Presidential State of the Union 2013

After opening arguments at the US Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it appears the landmark civil rights legislation is in trouble. Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act a “racial entitlement” which drew large criticism from onlookers as well as other Supreme Court Justices. This statement is especially polarizing after Desiline Victor, the 102 year old African-American woman,  who was in line for six hours to vote in the presidential election 2012. Many Americans, both white and of color, were outraged at the voter restriction legislation put in place by Republican led legislatures in order to reduce democratic turnout in battleground states. Democratic voters of all ages and color went out in record numbers to vote with a vengeance. President Obama won 11 out of 12 battleground states with the exception of North Carolina which was lost with less than 100,000 votes.

Despite a popular vote win with 2.6 million votes over Mitt Romney, many state legislatures retained Republican control or gained a Republican super-majority which means the House, Senate, and Governor are controlled by the GOP. Did the massive lines single to Republicans that the American people will not stand for voter restrictions laws? No, it only singled to them that their plan is working which may bring them the desired effect in another 10 years which is a gerrymandered federal election. The GOP has utilized think tanks for decades planning not only for the next four to 8 years. They were planning for the next forty years to return this country back to the status quo of whites only making decisions and running all levels of government as well as the private sector.

The civil rights movement occurred because it was a joint effort between whites and people of color, and the GOP did not plan for another mass exodus of White Americans in Election 2012 who have embraced equality and diversity for all in this great country.  It’s time for progressives to do more than sign petitions and starting strategically planning for the next couple of decades to restore a balance of power back to our local governments and state legislatures. Will the US Supreme Court seek retribution for the right after upholding the Affordable Health Care Act as constitutional? Stay tuned for the summer block buster for diversity and equality with both DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Voter’s Rights Act of 1965 before the Supreme Court.

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