National Academies Study Recognizes Social Workers as Specialists in Social Care

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds a study released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – Integrating Social Care into the Delivery of Health Care: Moving Upstream to Improve the Nation’s Health.

Professional social workers for more than a century have been indispensable in advancing the nation’s health, providing much-needed services both within and outside health care settings. Moreover, social workers have been leaders in addressing the social determinants of health: economic stability, education, social community context, health care access and environmental factors. NASW is pleased that the profession’s valuable contributions in providing social care, especially in promoting health equity and access, are recognized in this major national study.

“The social determinants of health account for more than 50 percent of health outcomes. It is therefore important to acknowledge the valuable role of social workers in improving the nation’s health. As the study notes, social workers are specialists in providing social care,” said NASW Chief Executive Officer Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW.

The study defines social care as “activities that address health-related social risk factors and social needs,” and outlines five goals to advance the effort to better integrate social care into health care delivery, including:

  1. Designing health care delivery to integrate social care into health care
  2. Building a workforce to integrate social care into health care delivery
  3. Developing a digital infrastructure that is interoperable between health care and social care organizations
  4. Financing the integration of health care and social care
  5. Funding, conducting and translating research and evaluation on the effectiveness and implementation of social care practices in health care settings.

The study further outlines numerous recommendations for how these goals can be achieved.

Study Committee member Robyn Golden, LCSW, associate vice president of Population Health and Aging at Rush University Medical Center, said “It was truly gratifying to participate in this consensus report and work with prominent, nationally-recognized professionals from across the health care spectrum. As the study articulates, social workers are essential in this arena, and in creating partnerships between the medical and social service worlds.”

One of the study’s key recommendations is that social workers be adequately paid for providing social care. NASW agrees with this recommendation.

We, therefore, urge Congress to pass the Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 782/H.R. 1533). This much-needed legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow, MSW (D-MI) and John Barrasso, MD (R-WY), and Rep. Barbara Lee, MSW (D-CA), will enable clinical social workers to receive Medicare Part B reimbursement for providing Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services, which are within the clinical social work scope of practice.

This much-needed legislation will also enable clinical social workers to receive Medicare Part B reimbursement for services provided to skilled nursing facility residents, many of whom experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

In addition, NASW implores the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) not to implement its proposed payment cuts to clinical social workers participating in Medicare Part B. Clinical social workers are currently reimbursed at only 75 percent of the physician fee schedule, the lowest payment rate of any mental health clinician in this major federal program, despite providing equivalent services.

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act, which Congress should enact as soon as possible, would increase this rate to 85 percent. To ensure a sufficient workforce to meet the social and clinical care needs of older Americans, CMS needs to increase, not decrease, these reimbursement rates.

Finally, NASW urges regulators and other policymakers to adopt the study’s recommendation to enlarge the scope of practice for the nation’s 700,000 social workers to include social care.

“This is a very significant study to which policymakers on the local, state and federal level should pay careful attention,” McClain said. “We look forward to continuing to partner with these and other key stakeholders to ensure that the study’s recommendations are realized, for the benefit of people from all walks of life.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

SWHELPER Announces Its Second Annual Global Social Welfare Digital Summit

On March 19th thru March 22nd, SWHELPER will be hosting the Global Social Welfare Digital Summit which is an all online digital conference. You can attend the conference from any place in the world with an internet connection. The conference themes will focus on advocacy, trauma-informed care, self-care and healing, and solutions.

Are you feeling unmotivated or uninspired? Maybe you need some professional nourishment to broaden your perspective or add tools to your toolbox for future career growth. The Global Social Welfare Digital Summit aims to extend learning to a global classroom by allowing you to connect with helping professionals around the world. Additionally, you may be eligible for up 10 continuing education credits (CEUs).

Early Bird Tickets went on sale January 1st at 50% off the regular price. The Four Day Education Pass regularly $55 is available at $25. For government employees, the four day pass is $49 and $69 for private and nonprofit. All passes come with 1 year access to view all the sessions on your schedule.

Click here and Use coupon code 4DAYSWH to get an additional 10% off of early bird pricing. Early Bird pricing ends February 8th, 2019. You can also view the session agenda before purchasing your ticket.

Some of the presentations include:

  • Twitter – Jerrel Peterson, MSW: From Micro to Macro Leveraging Research, Data, and Ethics for Social Impact
  • Facebook – Avani Parehk: Tech and Movement Building…How to Hold Space in the Digital Age
  • USC – Melissa Singh: Trauma Informed Interview Coaching for Global Environments
  • Columbia University – Matthea Marquart: Helping the Helpers Online Self-Care Technique

Some of our sponsors include the International of Association for Schools of Social Work, International Council for Social Work, Network for Social Work Managers, and the National Organization for Human Services.

For more information visit, https://www.globalsocialwelfaresummit.com.

9 Reasons Why Text Messaging is the Key to Efficient Communication in Social Services Agencies

Anyone who works in the social services industry has noticed a growing trend. The number of clients who request that you use “text messages” to reach them has skyrocketed.

Not email, not voicemail, but text messaging.

Seamless, effortless, and efficient communication is the key to success for both for you and for your clients. Without it…

  • Your clients don’t get the help and support they need.
  • Your organization’s very reason for “being” is compromised.
  • Funding from governments and other sources that is tied to performance metrics may be impacted.

But, why is text messaging the ideal communication channel for social services organizations?

There are 9 reasons…

1. Everyone has a cell phone.

Current data shows that 95% of Americans own a cell phone, with almost 80% of users owning a smartphone.

Only a tiny percentage of your client base does not have a mobile device, and that percentage is shrinking daily.

2. Everyone “texts.”

Because text messaging is such a simple, non-intimidating technology, its use is widespread across all demographics. Recent data from Pew Research Center breaks down text usage like so…

  • Age 18-29: 100% of people use text regularly.
  • Age 30-49: 98% of people use text regularly.
  • Age 50 and over: 90% of people use text regularly.

3. 99% of all texts are opened and read.

Send a text message, and within seconds, your contact’s phone is signalling its arrival, and shortly after that (no more than 3 minutes for the vast majority of messages), it is opened and read.

Unlike emails, which are often missed, or voicemails that are ignored, text messages boast an incredible “open rate.” That “open rate” exceeds 99%, according to a report commissioned by Single Point.

4. Texting is cheap (it’s almost always free).

For those down on their luck and under financial strain, text messaging is the most affordable way to communicate. Email requires either a smartphone or tablet and a data plan or regular Wi-Fi internet access, or it requires a computer and a monthly subscription fee for Internet access.

On the other hand, “pay as you go” cell phones offer an affordable text communication option for those under financial strain, without the pricey security deposits and monthly fees of a landline, or the big ticket price of the newest smartphones or tablets.

5. Works on phones long considered obsolete.

Your contacts don’t need to have the newest and most expensive smartphone to access text messages. Unlike mobile apps, this technology works on phones long considered obsolete.

6. No Data Plan Required.

Internet data plans are required in order to have consistent Internet access with a cell phone or tablet. Such plans can be an expensive luxury for people under financial strain. The good news is that no such plan is required to access text messaging. Text messages are available on the most basic, cheapest cell phone packages, including pay as you go options!

7. No software to Install.

Text messaging is a standard feature on all phones, which means your contact won’t need to download and install special software in order to communicate with you.

8. Text Messaging Identifies You As an “Insider.”

Why don’t people respond to calls received on their cell phones? Because everyone in their immediate circle knows that “text” is the best way to reach them. Voicemails and emails often come from outsiders – telemarketers, creditors, and so on.

Using text messaging “brands” you as being part of their inner social circle, and as a result, your messages are quickly seen and acknowledged (conversely, using emails and voicemail labels you as being outside of that social circle).

9. They’re Fast & Efficient

Quick, on-point communication works incredibly well in text messages. The brief nature of the medium means there’s no need for the usual niceties that would be expected in a phone conversation, for example. As a result, your staff can communicate quickly, which frees up the time they have to devote to other things.

More and more, many of your clients are…

  • Dropping their landlines and relying 100% on cell phones.
  • Maintaining basic talk & text plans only, which are much cheaper than service plans that contain Internet data.
  • Communicating almost entirely by text message, since it’s cheap and efficient.

As a result, in order to stay connected and relevant, you and your organization must start communicating with text messages as well.

How Social Services Across Europe are Supporting the Integration of Unaccompanied Children

Photo Credit: @AP

The European Social Network (ESN), in co-operation with its Swedish member, the National Board of Health and Welfare, organises the seminar ‘Migrant children and young people – Social inclusion and transition to adulthood’, in Stockholm on 23-24 October to address challenges in integrating unaccompanied children and young people in communities across Europe.

According to Eurostat figures, in 2015 and 2016 over 2.3 million asylum seekers arrived in the EU. It is expected that about 1.3 million of those will be granted refugee status.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 25.9% of migrants entering Europe are children, of whom 34% are unaccompanied.

The challenge is huge for local social services, most of them squeezed from years of austerity policies. The European Social Network, which monitors social services across Europe, has been working on the issue of unaccompanied children for several years to support the role of local and regional social services in ensuring the successful integration these vulnerable children in our societies.

With more than 130 participants from 18 countries already signed up, the seminar ‘Migrant children and young people – Social inclusion and transition to adulthood’ promises to be a unique opportunity to share insights on migrant children and young people’s inclusion in local communities and their transition to adulthood across Europe.

The registration is open to any individuals and organisations with an interest and expertise on the topic.

Also, the European Social Network is interested in hearing from people with direct experience of migration themselves and will fund the participation and accommodation of members of organisations representing unaccompanied children in care, young migrants or migrant families.

The programme

Based on a questionnaire that was conducted earlier in 2017, ESN collected data and examples of how local public social services are supporting the inclusion and transition to adulthood of unaccompanied children and migrant young people across European countries.

On top of local practices, several international organisations will take us through the policy instruments that have been developed so far to support unaccompanied children and migrant young people. International organisations confirmed so far are the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the OECD, the WHO and UNICEF.

The Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, as well as other representatives of national authorities, local authorities, NGOs and the media, will also be part of the debate. More information on the programme, the speakers and how to register can be found on this page, or do not hesitate to contact Valentina Guerra, ESN Policy Officer.

ESN and its work on unaccompanied children

The European Social Network (ESN) brings together people who plan, manage and deliver local public social services, together with those in regulatory and research organisations. It supports the development of effective social policy and social care practice through the exchange and transfer of knowledge and experience.

ESN has been working on unaccompanied children and young people since 2005, when a first report was published on the theme of the social inclusion of young asylum seekers and immigrants. Some of the issues highlighted in the report are still of relevance today, and even more so given the exceptional number of unaccompanied children and young people reaching EU countries since 2015.

Therefore, ESN published a second report in 2016 analysing the impact of the refugee crisis on local public social services in Europe and addressed the support for unaccompanied children at the launch of our publication “Investing in children’s services: improving outcomes”.

To Counter Child Abuse, Administrators and Case Workers Need Support to Implement Evidence-Based Improvements

In 2015, more than 425,000 children were placed in foster care due to incidents of abuse and neglect. But many unsubstantiated cases under investigation divert time and resources from handling cases that warrant close monitoring and attention. According to recent statistics, more than two million reports of child abuse and neglect were accepted for investigation in 2015 – with more than 700,000 of them eventually substantiated as cases of child abuse or neglect.

Imperfect Responses to Harmful Abuse and Neglect

Caseworkers often report that negotiating the multiple demands of their jobs puts them under constant stress. The sheer volume of Child Protective Services reports and investigations, the number of youth in foster care that need to be looked after, and the piles of paperwork that must be filled out to track decision-making – all of these burdens are overwhelming under the best of circumstances.

Faced with such workloads, agencies and caseworkers are ill-equipped to deliver services based on evidence of what works for youth and parents in the foster care system. The current standard of practice, however, leads agencies and caseworkers to engage in practices not supported by research-based evidence. Poorly conceived and delivered services cause considerable harm by failing to limit the incidence and after-effects of abuse and neglect.

Victims of child abuse and neglect are nine times more likely to become involved in crime and 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy. Such victims also face increased risks of smoking, early-age drinking, suicidal ideation, inter-personal violence, and sexual risk-taking. The sad results become obvious in later years. Two-thirds of adults under treatment for drug abuse report that they were maltreated as children. And similar reports of childhood abuse come from 14% of men in prison along with 36% of incarcerated women. Four-fifths of 21-year-olds who were abused as children show evidence of at least one mental health disorder. And saddest of all, about 30% of child abuse victims will later abuse their own kids.

What Could be Done?

Several steps can be taken to improve responses to child abuse and neglect:

  • Improved, ongoing training and job support for caseworkers and supervisors could ensure that they know the characteristics of the populations they serve and are aware of effective anti-abuse practices and know how to deliver them or help clients find others in the community who can provide optimal help. Front-line workers also need training to monitor client progress and detect when a case warrants more intensive intervention.
  • Enhanced preventive efforts could save lives and money. Research shows that the total cost of new U.S. cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment was approximately $124 billion in 2008. The estimated cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment was $210,012 in 2010, including the costs for health care, productivity losses, child welfare services, criminal justice procedures, and special education. In fatal cases, the figure rises to an astonishing $1,272, 900 per death.
  • Resources should be reallocated to areas of greatest need. In addition to redistributing available funding to hire more staff to manage high caseloads, innovative and effective programs and services must be delivered to prevent child maltreatment and fatalities. States should take advantage of funds offered by the federal government to expand evidence-based child welfare interventions that may have previously been underfunded.

Lessons from Philadelphia

A promising model comes from the state of Pennsylvania, which has participated in a federally funded project that allows child welfare agencies to use Title IV-E funds for evidence-based reforms. Philadelphia’s child welfare system has been at the forefront of adopting three evidence-based treatments for children and families that the city was previously unable to implement due to lack of funding. Waiver funds have made it possible to enhance preparation for child welfare caseworkers, develop databases to track outcomes for children and families, and train staff to identify and implement further improvements.

With flexible authority over spending, two child welfare agencies in Philadelphia decided to implement the Positive Parenting Program, an evidence-based approach to preventing child abuse. Although some reallocated resources have been used to train staff, additional funding is needed to discover barriers to effective program implementation and to implement additional steps known to be cost-effective – such as holding weekly consultations and boosting training for current and replacement leaders and caseworkers involved in the new program.

Research could pinpoint which approaches do best at giving various parents and youth access to the positive parenting program. And as parents and their offspring complete the program, further research would ideally track results in areas such as safety, reductions in abuse incidents, and improved parent-child relationships.

Next Steps

The Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Project was a provision in the U.S. Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which Congress reauthorized for five years in 2011. Now that the act is again up for reauthorization, Congress has the ability to implement changes to the way child welfare federal funds are allocated. Advocates for children have an opportunity to contact representatives and senators in Congress to propose that this program should expand to give more states the chance to reallocate funds and improve child safety.

Much remains to be learned about what it takes to carry out evidence-based interventions in the child welfare system, which provides vital help to many endangered children, youth, and families, disproportionately minorities. The federal Waiver Project provides a unique opportunity to observe what happens when system leaders, community partners, and providers mobilize to prevent childhood trauma. Lessons learned will help provide ongoing guidance to federal and state administrators and welfare leaders as they look for the most effective, empirically proven ways to protect children and families under their supervision.

Three Myths about Latino Immigrants That It’s Time to Bust

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

As a counseling professor, I train my students to ask their clients: “If you succeed in making the changes we’re talking about, what will be better?” So I have to ask: Has the President thought through the consequences of his actions on immigration?

America was built on positives. We didn’t become great by preventing, arresting, and deporting. Why does the President want us to return to a past we never had? Is it even possible to build something great while focusing on tearing down or walling off?

I’ve conducted more than two decades of research on population studies, and here’s what I can tell you about Latino stereotypes: It’s time to get rid of them. The fact is, immigration is at the core of America’s greatness, and Latinos are very much a part of that greatness.

Here are some of the key facts from analyses of Census data that I’ve done with my colleague Jorge Garcia and from other sources:

First, Latinos do share our culture and do adapt.

The wall-builders say that “Latinos don’t share our culture and won’t adapt — they just aren’t like us.” But in the past, some Americans said the same thing about each wave of Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants.

Research shows that after three generations of being here, Latinos look remarkably similar to those previous immigrant groups. (Of course, most Latinos in the US aren’t immigrants but have been here for many generations – much longer than many other groups.)

Like Americans in general, Latinos are more likely to live in big cities and are more likely to be married. Like earlier generations of immigrants from Europe, they have a preference for coastal cities and their families are slightly bigger than average.

Latinos are on average younger. However, that’s a big benefit for a US population that would otherwise find it much more difficult to grow the economy and pay for programs like Social Security that are based on younger people funding older people.

Second, Latinos are not criminals.

Several studies have failed to show any relationship between immigrant presence and increased crime rates. In fact, a recent study showed that areas with the most immigrants have lower crime rates. It’s important to remember that to be here without documents is a civil violation not a crime; think of it as the equivalent of traffic tickets.

Third, Latinos are not taking your jobs.

The biggest difference between Latinos and the total US population is in their types of occupations. In both 2000 and 2010, the majority of Americans overall were employed in managerial and sales jobs. For Latinos, the majority were employed in either low-level white collar or blue collar occupations, both skilled and unskilled. So, are they taking our jobs? Not as long as these types of occupational differences persist. And yesterday’s Day Without Immigrants protest is a prime example of this fact.

When Latinos do what other immigrants did and become more educated, they’ll move up and start taking some of those white collar jobs. And that will be a very good thing for America, because we’re already looking at huge shortages of educated people as the baby boomers retire.

Are Latinos a drain on our society because they use social services? They do use services, but also contribute significantly to the tax base that pays for those services.

Other Americans, for example those in rust belt states with aging populations, use a lot more services than Latinos, and already are benefiting from younger people supporting the tax base.

Sadly, Latinos who are undocumented, provide an especially big boost to the economy – they pay the taxes but aren’t eligible for benefits. These aren’t the only myths about Latinos. Language acquisition? Same as previous immigrants. Educational attainment? If Latinos get to college they tend to major in similar disciplines as the rest of the country. Military service? Latinos have a long tradition of serving in the US military.

Even the causes of death are similar for the total US population as for Latinos – both die from the same top diseases: heart disease and cancer. Many Latinos, especially in border areas, have retained the ability to speak Spanish. But English is their primary language and American culture –from sports to movies – is the only one they know or care about.

Begging the question of whether it’s possible to build greatness by tearing things down, the obvious conclusion is that Latinos are more like other Americans than they are different. Let’s build relationships and not walls.

Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services Appoints New Senior Program Director

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NEW YORK, NY —Brian Parchesky has been promoted to Senior Program Director at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, New York State’s largest provider of programs and services in the areas of mental and physical health, domestic violence, and supportive housing.

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Brian Parchesky

As he has done since 2013, Mr. Parchesky will continue to run the Westchester-based Hawthorne Cedar Knolls, one of The Jewish Board’s residential treatment centers for teens with emotional challenges.

He will add to his portfolio responsibility for training, at all of The Jewish Board’s residential treatment centers, the social workers, psychologists, and direct-care staff members who work with young people who have experienced family violence, sexual exploitation and other types of trauma.

Mr. Parchesky will also will be part of a group of Jewish Board senior staff members charged with developing policies and procedures related to the reform of Medicaid managed care initiated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

For more than 140 years, [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”” suffix=””]the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services has been helping New Yorkers realize their potential and live as independently as possible. [/inlinetweet]We promote resilience and recovery by addressing all aspects of an individual’s life, including mental and physical health, family, employment and education. Across the five boroughs and in Westchester, we serve more than 43,000 New Yorkers from all religious, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds each year. For more information, please visits www.jewishboard.org.

Helping Pets and People in Crisis

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As more research emerges about the link between human welfare and animal welfare, it has become increasingly clear of the relationship that binds the two together. In recent years, the animal welfare community has fully embraced the human-animal bond issue as animal shelters across the country work to reduce the number of owned animals being surrendered due to emergencies and find innovative ways to strengthen pet owners who are at risk of falling through the larger safety-net.

These new efforts are raising awareness of opportunities to better address the link between child abuse, elder abuse, and animal abuse and cruelty by expanding cross reporting and training among all first responders. It is now a pertinent time for human service agencies to begin to integrate animal welfare issues to meet the needs of the individuals they serve.

While it may initially seem awkward for social service organizations to expand their scope in this arena, this is actually not new for social workers who are historically at the front lines of addressing the needs of most marginalized populations. Today, more than 65% of the US population are pet owners, and it is very likely that some of these individuals and families face significant challenges impacting their housing, health, and safety.

Incorporating animal welfare into the work of human service organizations is not hard difficult but does require a meaningful pivot in thinking about helping a person/family in their whole environment. In terms of key social work interventions, much of the work remains the same from engagement and assessment through treatment. However, by recognizing a pet in the household, engagement and assessment can actually be stronger, thereby facilitating a treatment that is comprehensive for people and animals in the home. Incorporating animal welfare into traditional human service work can be done through these ten areas:

Engagement: Ask about the pet’s name and learn about the client’s relationship with the pet. Knowing about the animal (history, age, veterinary care, behavior) can reveal issues related to the individual as well.

Document: Include the presence of pets in all chart documentation, including a photo of the pet if possible. That way, the information of an animal can be shared with new workers. Include a Pet Information Page to collect information about the pet and services needed.

Assessment: Using the animal as an assessment point can showcase gaps in care (is there pet food, is there human food) as well as address environmental issues. Identifying pet needs (veterinary care, spay/neuter, grooming, food) is useful to the understanding of the client in the environment. In addition, assessments can highlight the relationship between the pet and person, whether there is a risk of human or animal neglect, or if there is a concern for elder abuse or animal cruelty.

Learn about the Issues: Pet owners face a number of crises along with the rest of the population including domestic violence, eviction, and illness. Some states have protections in place legally for situations of domestic violence including naming pets on Orders of Protection. One starting point is the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals online toolkit for social workers:

Explore Resources: There is an increase of low cost/free services targeting at risk pet owners to encourage spay/neuter and regular veterinary care.

Advocate: Front-line workers in under-served communities can advocate for animal welfare issues including spay/neuter, community cat issues, and increase of services (such as pet food banks) to help clients at risk of relinquishing their pets.

Collaboration: Human service agencies can partner with animal welfare organizations to address needs in the most under-served communities and assist the most at-risk clients. By recognizing the issues and understanding solutions, human service organizations can meet additional needs by monitoring and following up with clients and animals in the home.

Early Intervention: Early acknowledgement of pets in the home requiring services can allow interventions for individuals facing emergencies (hoarding, domestic violence, health/mental health issues) to encourage pet retention versus pet relinquishment.

Emergency Planning: Recent events showcase that everyone benefits when preparedness is encouraged whether the emergency is a terrorist attack, a large-scale hurricane, or other event. Social workers can encourage pet owners to secure emergency supplies for themselves and their animals, identify emergency temporary pet caretakers (in case of hospitalization or other emergency), and compile pet go-bags so that no one is left behind if an emergency is activated.

Program Expansion: Human service programs can address gaps in service delivery by expanding their initiatives to better meet the needs of vulnerable pet owners. Several ideas for expansion include identifying pet owners and assessing needs, providing pet food banks, implementing pet foster programs, offering veterinary clinics, and developing small grant programs to help pet owners in case of hospitalizations.

Having a pet that is loved and considered a family member should not impede accessing a level of assistance that non-pet owners can easily access. Locally, several social service organizations are beginning to lead the way by expanding their programs to target pet owners. These include Urban Resource Institute for implementing an emergency co-shelter for victims of domestic violence and their pets, and Search and Care, for expanding their friendly visiting program to target homebound seniors with pets. While these are great advances, it is now time for more human service programs to consider incorporating animal welfare into their work.

Criminalizing Child Welfare: Retired Texas Ranger Takes Over Child Protection Agency

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“Child welfare is a continuum of services that ensure children are safe and that families have the support they need to care for them”, according to the federal Children’s Bureau.  The complexities of serving children and families are many. But, depending on the perspective of the speaker, some are advocating for more law enforcement presence, more substance abuse treatment, or more parenting education and the list goes on.

However, the state of Texas is playing out this high stakes human drama in court, in its state agencies, in foster homes and the Governor’s office.

In the courts:

U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled in December 2015 that the state’s long-term foster care system had infringed on children’s civil rights and caused emotional and physical damage.  Recently, the Judge appointed two special masters to design plans to repair the embattled agency.

This month, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the state to continue making plans, as Judge Jack ordered, to revamp the foster system.  The state has repeatedly gone to court to block the court-ordered changes in the foster system.  State officials have said improvements are needed, but the failings aren’t so bad that they “shock the conscience.”  The state’s lawyers wrote in their appeal:  “It is true that Texas’ foster-care system needs improvement in certain areas.  But the same could be said of most states’ foster-care systems.”

In the Governor’s office:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was in office only six days in 2015 before a child in the state’s care and custody died.  In March, two more children in the state’s care died.  The Governor and his staff became involved in the daily operations of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The Texas Tribune received thousands of pages of email correspondence between the governor and his staff and the child welfare agency.  To staunch the hemorrhage caused by protective service workers quitting, the Governor’s office has approved hire high school and community college graduates who have work experience in a human services field. Currently, 200 hundred jobs are vacant today.

In the state agency:

Retired Texas Rangers Chief Henry “Hank” Whitman took over as commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services.  In Dallas, during the quarter September through November 2015, protective services staff were quitting at a rate of 57% per year.  This exit of experienced staff is associated with a steady increase in the number of investigations open for more than 60 days: from 571 in February 2015 to more than 1,300 in February of this year.  Beginning caseworkers earn CPS caseworker salaries are rock bottom, as low as $34,000 to start.

In foster care

In January the state removed dozens of kids from two residential care centers and dropped off at a shelter 400 miles away.  The disruption was so hard for the kids, some were placed in a psychiatric hospital after the move. Meechaiel Criner, was removed from his mother’s house at age 2 after he and his siblings were left alone in a home with no running water.  On March 24th of this year he ran away from his therapeutic foster home.  Ten days later, he attacked and strangled an 18 year old freshman on the University of Texas campus.

This month, Commissioner Whitman gave a long interview to the Texas Tribune and discussed his vision for protecting children.  He addressed a question about the appointment of a lawman to head the child welfare agency by saying,

“I ask staff ‘Which one of y’all think that a policeman is not a social worker?’ ..I’ve been an investigator 20 years… We have to be with those families during a time of tragedy.  We’re there with them many times to see what we can do because they’re poor.” 

One of Whitman’s first initiatives is to put 20 new crime analysts, trained by the Department of Public Safety, on board to provide background information to Special Investigators who step in after an initial assessment by a protective services worker.  The job description asks for: “experience interviewing perpetrators, children and witnesses, crime scene analysis, experience obtaining credible and reliable victim, witness and suspect statements ”….  98% of 140 the Special Investigators come from law enforcement.

The NASW continues to advocate for child welfare workers who are trained with either a Bachelors or Masters degree in Social Work:

Standard 2. Qualifications, Knowledge, and Practice Requirements Social workers practicing in child welfare shall hold a BSW or MSW degree from an accredited school of social work.

It is all bigger in Texas, but is it better?  Is Texas creating a new model of child welfare that puts an emphasis on investigation, law enforcement with social work assistants left to do friendly visiting?  Can social work reclaim the leadership in child welfare? This would be a nightmare in protecting 4th amendment rights of children and families from unreasonable searches and seizures because they seek or need help.

The Life of a Social Worker – Interview with Freya Barrington

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Freya Barrington, a highly commended Social Worker, is the author of the international bestseller Known to Social Services. This powerful and unflinching book follows the fictional Social Worker Diane, and the characters she meets during her work at the barren, underprivileged Deacon Hill estate. Known to Social Services offers a glimpse into the world of social work from the unique perspective of the social worker herself.

In an interview with Social Work Helper, Freya was animated and keen to share her reasons for writing the book. “I wanted to raise the profile of Social Workers,” she explained. “This is a hard job that people are doing… The main reason for the book was to highlight what it’s really like”. Indeed, Known to Social Services includes a range of challenging situations, including such harrowing topics as incest, rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and child abuse. It is no surprise that Freya wanted to champion her profession.

Freya spoke about her own career, which, somewhat unusually, began with working with horses in a racing yard. After around 20 years of equine-related work, Freya felt ready for something new and through a friend obtained employment in schools focusing on children with emotional and behavioral issues.

From her subsequent encounters with Social Workers whilst working in schools, Freya realised that she wanted to take up the mantle herself. When asked about this, Freya said that she had “great ideals of saving the world and helping children”, and describes her idea of Social Workers as fundamentally being able to help others: “They are carers, caring people”. After an impressive career as a Social Worker, Freya became a full-time foster carer and wrote her first book.

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Known to Social Services, primarily, brings across the chaos of the Social Worker’s world. The narrative of the main character Diane is frequently interrupted with chunks of other people’s lives – from other professionals, to strangers on the street, to the families on her caseload.

“I did this to bring across the effect of how it really is”, Freya explained, “Because you don’t just deal with one family in a block, you might deal with 6 families in a day. And, if something serious happens, you might have to reschedule everything you’d already planned”. In discussion, Freya made it clear that social work requires creativity, hardiness, quick thinking and constant re-prioritisation. Reminders and diaries, she assured are essential!

This led to the question: given the many demands of being a Social Worker, what helps to prevent burnout? Freya spoke about a time that she personally experienced burnout, just 9 months into her first job. She feels that theoretical university education had not adequately prepared her for “suddenly dealing with real people”. This, coupled with a huge and complex workload, could lead in only one direction. Freya sensibly took time off work to recover, and to reflect upon how she had reached burnout.

Freya talked extensively about how crucial it is to separate one’s home and work life, however difficult this may be. “When it’s time to go home, though obviously you still have concerns for the children on your caseload, you have to accept that it cannot be your responsibility 24/7 and that there are other people in the out of hours team to deal with any ongoing crisis.” This tension – between caring and wanting to give everything to the job is a constant theme in Known to Social Services. Currently UK universities now include Known to Social Services on their reading list to help give insight on the pressures of social work to students.

“You’re not superwoman!”, Freya laughed, referring to both her main character and herself. She also spoke about her personal fondness for ‘winding down’ with animals, nature, and being with her friends. Self-care is one of the cornerstones of being an effective Social Worker. Freya noted that her supportive partner was an added bonus, and has written elsewhere about some of their journeys together.

Whilst at work, Freya recommends that Social Workers “Take hope from the positive outcomes”. Such positive outcomes are all too often missed, especially by the media, which will often criticise or vilify Social Workers, while encouraging the “child-snatcher” myth. This, of course, affects staff morale. Freya believes that supportive and understanding management is essential in helping a Social Worker negotiate workloads, manage expectations, and engage in proper self-care in a system that pushes Social workers to overwork.

However, Freya believes in the power of  social media, blogs and article writing, and their usefulness as a tool to share the life of a Social Worker because they can get the message out quickly when needed while helping to foster relationships with the public. Freya’s blog offers insight into her life and writing as well as her current projects.

When asked, at the conclusion of the interview, what tip she could give to fellow Social Workers, Freya had a range of ideas. She acknowledges that it is important to be firm, even with hardworking and busy managers, when the workload gets too much. “Don’t be afraid to say no, and know your limitations. It’s okay to say, ‘No, I have too much work to do and if you give me one more case, the other cases will suffer as a result’.

“You’ve got to know yourself. You’ve got to find the inner strength to deal with everything that faces you – appropriately, and in a balanced way”. Freya’s latest book, Caught in Traffick continues to follow her fictional Social Worker, Diane. Whilst coy about the content, Freya told us that it took about six months to write, centres on child trafficking, and contains some of the characters from Known to Social Services in its ranks. Caught in Traffick is due to be published in August 2016.

Tired of Googling “Food Pantry”?

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As social workers, we’re asked to remember and interpret thousands of pieces of information every day. Our clients expect us to know and to remember. We’re asked to recall the names of distant cousins, specific traumatic incidents that shaped a client’s life course, birthdays, allergies, the list goes on and on.

What’s more, we’re asked to be resource experts. Our clients trust us to have the best, most accurate information about the resources they need. Where’s the closest food pantry to my home? What shelter is accepting new clients? What after school programs are available for my child? We want to help but, at times, our ability to do so is limited by the information we’re given (or not given).

Healthify, a web-based social services resource search platform, seeks to help you solve this problem.

What is Healthify?

Healthify allows you to quickly and easily search for food, shelter, mental health care, and many more program categories, by zip code, city or even street address.

What’s more, accounts are completely free for community based organizations and non-profits. Users can:

  • Search our database of 180,000 social service resources
  • Share resources easily with teammates
  • Download directions
  • Leave comments for yourself and your colleagues about the quality of care your clients received while at a program
  • Communicate instantly with Healthify staff to get more information, share concerns and give feedback.

How did Healthify start?

Healthify founders, Alex, Dan, Eric and Manik had seen hundreds of patients in Baltimore whose health was adversely affected by social circumstances or behavioral health conditions. They simply didn’t have the tools to effectively address their needs or coordinate their care with other providers and social services agencies. Healthify was created with the idea of using the best that software had to offer in order to solve some of the worst issues faced by the American healthcare system.

The Community Care Network

It was my dream to create a linked network of high quality social service agencies across the United States. We so often rely on personal connections and relationships at individual agencies in order to meet our clients’ needs and determine what and where the most effective services are. What if we were all linked together through a common network striving to affect positive change in the world?

The Community Care Network helps to make my dream a reality.  You can share ideas, find events, and collaborate with users in your field of work.

  • Start searching Healthify’s network of social services, by visiting: .
  • Join our social network here: .

Sound like a good idea? Join Healthify today.

UTRGV Students Share Experiences During Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Program

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UTRGV students Carlie Patrick (far left), a junior English/communication studies major, and Leroy Berrones Soto (second from left), a sophomore social work major, joined about 100 other students in late May for the 2016 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Program in Washington, D.C., for three days of education, advocacy and relationship building. (UTRGV Courtesy Photo)

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Carlie Patrick and Leroy Berrones Soto, students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, returned from Washington, D.C., feeling they had contributed to improving and strengthening the child welfare system in the United States.

Patrick, a junior English/communication studies major, and Berrones Soto, a sophomore social work major, joined about 100 other students May 23 to May 26 for the 2016 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Program, three days of education, advocacy and relationship building.

“It was an honor to be selected to represent Texas at the Shadow Program this year, and to share my story of what it was like growing up in foster care,” Berrones Soto said. “The way we change the system for the better is to let our elected officials know that we have solutions on how to make things better for millions of foster youths across the country.”

The annual program, now in its fifth year, is three full days of speakers, workshops, discussions and meetings designed to help young people learn about their Congressional representatives, their districts and how the U.S. Congress works. Current and former foster youths share their experiences with Congressional representatives, to help them gain a deeper grasp of the foster care experience and how they can improve policy.

After a busy first day, Patrick and Berrones Soto attended an evening reception, held in the auditorium of the Capitol Visitor Center, where they met with members of Congress Karen Bass (D-CA 37th District), Robin Kelly (D-IL 2nd District), Diane Black (R-TN 6th District), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th District) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD 5th District).

“During a lively question and answer period, the representatives responded to our questions about child welfare policies and told us a little bit about themselves and how they got their jobs on the Hill,” Berrones Soto said. “After, there was a reception where we had dinner, then went into another theatre in the Capitol Visitor Center to see an episode of ‘The Fosters’ and continue talking policy and life-experiences with people who work in the child welfare arena.”

One of the workshops they attended was on understanding federal policy, presented by program staff from FosterClub and National Foster Youth Institute, two of several sponsors of the National Foster Youth Shadow Program.

“We attended an interesting panel, held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where people who work on Capitol Hill talked about how they got their jobs and became members of President Obama’s team,” Patrick said. “Among those on the panel was Rafael López,Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families.

Carlie Patrick met with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30th District) in the Rayburn Office Building.

A highlight of the program was to meet and spend some time with an assigned Member of Congress and their staff. Patrick met with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30th District) in the Rayburn Office Building.

“I actually ended up shadowing Robin Doody, Congresswoman Johnson’s press assistant and legislative correspondent,” Patrick said. “We discovered that we have lots in common. We are both from Houston, and we went to high school literally across the street from each other.”

Doody accompanied Patrick to a Congressional hearing on transportation of water supply and took her on a tour of the Rayburn Office Building and the maze of tunnels connecting the Capitol Hill buildings. He also attended the shadow luncheon with her, where the keynote speaker was Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C.

Berrones Soto met with Congressman Brian Babin (R-TX 36th District) and his legislative aides Mary Moody and Stephen Janushkowsky. He shared his personal story in foster care, and they discussed ways to improve the child welfare system in Texas. Along with the aides, Berrones Soto attended a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Berrones Soto met with Congressman Brian Babin (R-TX 36th District) in the Cannon House Office Building.

Participants stayed in dormitories at The Catholic University of America, where some of the program activities and workshops took place. Going back and forth to Capitol Hill, they rode the DC Metro.

“This was my first time on a subway, and I loved riding the Metro,” Patrick said. “I liked it a lot better than the city buses I used to take in Houston.”

Also a subway first timer, Berrones Soto said riding the Metro was an “awesome experience” and he, too, became a subway fan.

“It was fast, clean and efficient,” he said, “though I think I was the only one holding onto the pole with both hands!”

Both Patrick and Berrones Soto said it was reassuring to hear from administration leaders on why advocacy by foster youth on the local, state and national levels is critical to affecting the decisions made by elected officials and policy leaders on their behalf.

By meeting other young people and alumni from across the country, leveraging their personal stories to create change, and educating federal policymakers about the experiences and perspectives of young people with personal experience in the foster care system, they feel they are helping move policy in a positive direction.

“Our voices and our stories matter, and I’m excited to have shared my experiences in Washington, D.C.,” Berrones Soto said. “I am extremely optimistic that after this great experience I will be able to continue advocating at a federal level to ensure my foster siblings have a more appropriate foster care experience.”

The Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Program is an annual program sponsored by the National Foster Youth Institute, FosterClub, the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, Foster Care Alumni of America, Casey Family Programs, Foster Youth in Action and Youth Villages.

For more information on the Shadow Program and other programs that support, empower and engage foster youth, visit .

More on Leroy and Carlie’s experiences at the 2016 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day in Washington, D.C.: http://www.lbsj.org/shadow-day/

MEDIA CONTACTS
Marci Caltabiano Ponce, UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications
956-665-2742
Jennifer McGehee Valdez, UTRGV Director of Media and Public Relations
956-882-5105

Honouring Humanity in Human Resources: It Matters.

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No matter what you do for a living or where you work, you are likely involved with a human resources division in your organization. These departments are centrally focused on the management of people – how they are hired (and fired) – how they are paid and how much – how they are provided with the tools to meet the requirements of their job descriptions.

Nowadays, many organizations are committed to supporting the training and wellness needs of employees. It’s like we are actually starting to get it – that healthy and happy people are capable of high quality service. Smart.

People Trump Paper and Process Every Time

Why do we spend so much time and energy caring for equipment, processes, policies and procedures than we do for human beings? We’ll spend countless hours cleaning our computers of viruses while we ignore the slow poisoning of our relationships?

We expect employees to grieve the loss of a loved one in 3 – 5 days and get their butts back to work at top performance. We say that we want employees to take risks, to be creative, to stretch themselves and contribute at their highest level, but when this happens, we buckle under the threat of change and take steps to put that person back in their place.

I think this happens because it is easier. It’s that simple.

In the field of helping professions, this takes on even greater importance. We are talking about people working with other people to provide services to people. It is one big pot of humanity. And humanity can be messy at times. Messy and unpredictable. And ultimately divine.

The Shared Human Experience

Many of the challenges that often lead people to access social services and health care can be the same kinds of challenges faced by those people providing the services. This is the truth.

But, we continue to go by the old adage telling us that as helping professionals we need to compartmentalize these challenges – don’t bring this into the workplace – put it on the back burner. What if we took the time to sit with our challenges – to see the connection between what causes us despair and what breaks the hearts of those who come to us for help? How can we do this without losing sight of our role as a professional helper? How do we maintain integrity in the face of struggle? What can our organizations do to support the human experience of their employees?

Struggle and challenge aside. How much time do you spend cultivating your unique gifts – looking for opportunities for meaningful contribution? Do you have the opportunity to live from your source of inspiration – to serve from this source of inspiration?

Want to be an Organization that Celebrates Your Human Resources?

One of the most powerful things that human services organizations can do is to honour and uplift their human resources. Create opportunities for self-expression and personal fulfillment for employees. I am convinced that people who feel inspired and fulfilled in their work are people who live on the cutting edge of their creativity. Who wouldn’t want a workforce filled with those people?

The most valuable resource contained in health care and human services organizations are human.

How does your organization care for its human resources?

Social Work Advocacy and Psychotropic Drugs in Foster Care

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In 2008, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act required states to begin developing plans to monitor health care for kids in foster care. This was strengthened in 2011 when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study of child Medicaid populations which found that children in foster care with Medicaid received psychotropic medications at a much higher rate than kids with Medicaid who were not in foster care.

Over the last 10-15 years, efforts to legislate, increase awareness about the impact of trauma, engage in advocacy for psychosocial therapies and the need for responsive caregiving have arisen across the country in an attempt to parallel the reduction of unnecessary or inappropriate psychotropic use for foster kids. In spite of those efforts, there is no question that the overprescribing of psychiatric medications for children in foster care has proven a tough practice to change.

The issue of psychotropic use in child welfare populations is clearly one where social workers should be at the forefront, it simply does not gain as much involvement as the psychosocial aspects of practice. Social work practitioners may not see it as being within their scope of practice, but kids in care need social work advocacy in this regard more than ever.

There are a number of reasons why psychotropic monitoring and advocacy has been tough to implement. Too many causes to cover in one article, but one factor may be that all of the efforts to build psychosocial approaches have seemed to exist separately from psychotropic monitoring and reduction plans.

It is unfortunate because better alignment of these initiatives would likely help those living and working with foster care populations to gain a broader perspective and would better illustrate that all therapies, psychosocial or biological, play variable roles. Some states are beginning to implement legislation, but that impact is not yet determined.

Another barrier is that psychosocial treatment modalities are still behind psychiatric medications in terms of research and evidence-based practice. At present, people may simply be conditioned to be more receptive to a medication therapy. Socially accepted norms and the desire for an instant fix can be difficult obstacles to overcome. Effective systems to assist in tracking and authorization of prescriptions for foster kids, as well as hesitant collaborative and information sharing practices between government agencies have proven to be barriers for many states.

Understanding the context of the quick fix

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Governments will wholeheartedly embrace a practice that is thought to offer a quick solution that also suits a budget and it can be several years before any fallout from a poor decision, lack of resources or policy is noted. Twenty years ago the idea of a chemical imbalance really started to become entrenched in American culture. If too much or too few of certain chemicals caused the imbalance, then a psychiatric medication could restore that imbalance. Psychiatric meds were designed to mimic neurotransmitters in the brain – they would “fix” the imbalance in the brain.

It is true that chemicals are important, but more than biology must be considered in developing treatment plans. The idea, intended or not, that mental illness is due to chemical imbalance has largely become accepted, along with a willingness to medicate children as if they will respond exactly as adults. The notion of a ‘chemical imbalance’ is frequently used as the reason for someone’s actions in the everyday vernacular.It’s not his fault, he has a chemical imbalance!” has been further cultivated by pharmaceutical companies and the general misconception of medication as an easy solution.

While none of this was geared directly towards foster children, they are the vulnerable recipients nonetheless. The focus on becoming trauma informed has directly impacted foster care populations and is gaining greater awareness today than ever before. Trauma informed practices can greatly assist in child welfare, but caution should be taken as well. Trauma informed practice does not represent a quick fix either.

Human beings are too complex. A true implementation of biopsychosocial practice which recognizes that age, development, experience, genetics and responsive support each play a role that must be considered in working with kids must be embraced. It is unlikely to be quick or a “fix”, but, in terms of cost it will certainly save in the long run in so many ways.

Polypharmacy and Child Welfare Populations

Kids in care present with a complex variety of behavioral and emotional challenges as a result of chronic poverty, abuse or neglect. They may have unrecognized developmental delays, medical concerns or mental health diagnoses in addition to traumatic experience. In a society where medication has become the accepted first line approach, kids in care are receiving polypharmacy prescribing far more than is appropriate and often without benefit of consistent psychosocial supports. Because foster children can present so intensively, they are susceptible to receipt of psychiatric medication when it may not be warranted.

The effort to medicate behavior, even when no benefit has been realized, makes no sense, but it happens likely increasing the risk of adverse events and placement instability. Caregivers may feel uncomfortable in questioning providers and many do not know what should be monitored and reported. Lack of information and history can be problematic. Providers are often limited in number and in the time they have to give during an office visit. When a foster child refuses a medication, he or she can be accused of noncompliance, but there may be very valid reasons why that child does not wish to comply. Consent is often overlooked or poorly defined.

Side effects associated with some psychotropic medications can outweigh the benefits and clinical trials for children have been in short supply. New science regarding child development suggests that psychiatric medication may have long reaching concerns for children that are not currently understood. In spite of all of the above concerns, efforts to vilify psychotropic use in children should be avoided. Medication can be a helpful therapy, it is simply not the only therapy and it should not be the first type of therapy sought in most cases.

Social Workers need to focus more on psychotropic drug use

Polypharmacy and inappropriate prescribing for foster care populations is more than the latest hot button issue. Efforts have been underway across the nation with varying degrees of limited success for years, often independent of efforts to improve psychosocial supports. There are no easy solutions, a fact that many social workers understand very well. However, social workers can play integral roles in shaping and supporting psychotropic monitoring and oversight at all levels of practice. By improving knowledge, collaboration, highlighting options and advocating for stronger monitoring and consent practices, social workers can make considerable inroads towards positively changing the lives of kids in foster care.

Common Job Interview Questions for Therapists

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There are plenty of websites that focus on general interviewing skills and questions you may encounter in an interview, but here are a few questions specific to the mental health and social work field.

Despite the importance of interviewing, very few people practice their interview skills.  Most people do three things to prepare for an interview.  They start by developing a list of questions they think they will be asked.  They then prepare answers to those questions.  Finally, they research the company where they will interview. – The Importance of Interview Practice

1. What is your theoretical orientation?
With this question, you want to not only impress your potential employer with your knowledge, but also demonstrate how you will apply it to the specific position for which you are applying. You may have a background in several theoretical orientations that are excellent and evidence-based, but not evidence-based for the population for which you will work if given the position. Use your knowledge of theory and how you will apply it to this position to this specific population.

2. How do you stay organized and stay on top of documentation?
This question is very common for both bachelors and masters level positions. This question is asked because it is so easy to get disorganized and get behind on documentation requirements. You will need to give your potential employers examples of how you stay organized and stress your commitment to keeping on top of your documentation requirements.

3. What experience have you had with inappropriate boundaries and HIPAA violations and how have you corrected them?
Your potential employer wants to know that you are committed to following the regulations for PHI and that you are knowledgeable about these requirements. This might be the time to mention how you avoid dual relationships, deal overly friendly clients, or how you dealt with an ethical dilemma in the past.

4. How do you maintain the confidentiality of clients?
Your potential employer wants to know if you understand confidentiality laws and that you are committed to following these rules to protect your clients. Remember that in order to maintain confidentiality, it is never appropriate to speak with a client in public, speak with them on the phone in a public place, not keep confidential materials locked, carry confidential material on a thumb drive that does not meet HIPAA requirements, text or email clients or about clients without using encrypted email or initials, keep files in your car especially if they are not locked or if they are out in the open where they can be seen, etc. Let your potential employer know you are careful and mindful of the potential for breach of confidentiality.

5. How do you utilize your supervision time?
Supervisors want to know that you are willing to learn from your supervisor, who is your mentor while you are working toward your unrestricted license.

6. What experience have you had with crisis situations and how did you handle it?
When working in positions in which there is a high likelihood of clients with suicidality, suicidal ideation, self-injury, delusions, command hallucinations, etc, it is important for you to be able to keep a level head and be able to handle the situation calmly and in an organized manner. It is also important that you maintain the dignity and self-determination (as long as they aren’t in danger of hurting themselves or others) of the client in this situation.

7. What experience do you have with cultural competency and trauma-informed care?
Your potential employer wants to know if you are current with the research and that you will be able to treat your clients who come from a diverse background and who may have a history of trauma. Remember that bilingual does not mean bicultural. Let your employer know what populations you have worked with that have given you experience for the job for which you are interviewing.

8. What do you do for self care?
This seems like a really personal question and an odd question to ask in a job interview, but really for the mental health field it makes a lot of sense. Your potential employer wants to know what you do for yourself so that you don’t burn out in your career helping others. This would be a good opportunity to let them know about some appropriate hobbies you have or maybe throw in that you are into mindfulness or yoga, as these are things that are very supported by the mental health industry. Your potential employer wants you to work hard, but they don’t want you to work so hard that you are not taking care of yourself.

Without Papers But Not Without Rights: The Basic Social Rights of Irregular Migrants

Refugee camp on the outskirts of Calais, France © Matt Sprake
Refugee camp on the outskirts of Calais, France © Matt Sprake

Those who think that irregular migrants have no rights because they have no papers are wrong. Everyone is a holder of human rights regardless of their status. It is easy to understand that the prohibition of torture protects all people but we should also be aware of the fact that basic social rights are also universal, because their enjoyment constitutes a prerequisite for human dignity. Therefore, member states of the Council of Europe should stand by their obligations to protect the basic social rights of everyone under their jurisdiction, and this includes irregular migrants.

Migrants can be in an irregular situation because they have entered a country, or stayed in a country, in an unauthorised way. Their situation may become irregular because they overstay an authorised period which can last several years. Due to the very nature of irregular migration, it is difficult to estimate the number of irregular migrants currently living in Europe, though the figure undoubtedly runs into the millions.

Barriers placed by states to the exercise of basic social rights

In my work, I have been confronted with too many situations where the social rights of irregular migrants have been deliberately denied by authorities, in contradiction with international and European law. In other countries where these rights are recognised in national legislation, practical obstacles to their exercise have unfortunately proved to be numerous.

The criminalisation of migration and repressive policies of detention and expulsions of foreigners seriously affect the protection of the basic social rights of irregular migrants, not least because they create a general climate of suspicion and rejection against irregular migrants among those who are supposed to provide social services.

Migrants in an irregular situation are too often seen as cheats, liars, social benefits abusers or persons stealing the jobs of nationals. In such a context, law enforcement officials in charge of countering “illegal immigration” often have difficulties in recognising an irregular migrant as a victim of human rights violations and in need of protection.

In some instances, the police are placed under official pressure to attain quantified targets of “repatriations” – I noted this to be the case until 2012 in France. This policy can be particularly harmful to irregular migrants’ access to social rights, because it forces them to live clandestinely and avoid contact with social assistance providers for fear of being arrested, detained or deported. According to a June 2015 study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the main reason for victims of exploitation not reporting their cases to the police is the fear of having to leave the country.

The criminalisation of migration through establishing an “offence of solidarity” against those who try to assist migrants by providing minimum access to shelter, food and healthcare is another unacceptable measure taken by some states in recent years. To guarantee access to basic social rights for irregular migrants, basic service providers such as medical staff should never be placed under an obligation to report irregular migrants to law enforcement authorities.

Access to basic social rights can also be impeded by protracted situations of legal limbo such as that experienced by rejected asylum seekers who cannot be expelled in Denmark. I consider that in situations where return is impossible or particularly difficult, states should find solutions to authorise the relevant person to stay in the country under conditions which meet their basic social needs and respect their dignity.

As indicated in a recent study on the impact of the crisis on access to fundamental rights in the EU, undocumented migrants are among the groups disproportionately affected by austerity measures imposed in the field of healthcare. In Spain, access to healthcare for irregular migrants in most regions was significantly reduced in 2012, until the government recently decided to restore primary health care access, mainly because of the disastrous impact the restrictions had on the national healthcare system. It remains to be seen if the right to access to healthcare of irregular migrants will also improve in practice.

Right to basic social assistance, shelter and food

In some countries, restrictions on access to social rights rest, more or less explicitly, on immigration policies aimed at sending back irregular migrants, including by forcing them into destitution, in order to deter other would-be migrants from coming. States may be tempted to link access to some basic social rights to the residence status of the migrant. In the Netherlands, while the law grants irregular migrants access to emergency healthcare and education, the government has attempted to deny access to shelter, food and water. As noted in my report on the Netherlands, I could witness some of the difficulties experienced by irregular migrants due to this policy during a visit carried out to a disused church in The Hague in 2014, where some 65 irregular immigrants had taken shelter.

As unrestrictedly recognised in many international legal instruments, everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and shelter. Under the European Social Charter, as emphasised by the European Committee of Social Rights, the minimum guarantees for the right to housing and emergency shelter apply to irregular migrants too.

Shelter must be provided even when immigrants have been requested to leave the country and even though they may not require long-term accommodation. The Committee has pointed out that the right to shelter is closely connected to the human dignity of every person, regardless of their residence status. It has also stated that foreign nationals, whether residing lawfully or not in the country, are entitled to urgent medical assistance and such basic social assistance as is necessary to cope with an immediate state of need (accommodation, food, emergency care and clothing).

Protection from exploitation and human trafficking

Everyone, including irregular immigrants, should be protected from labour exploitation and trafficking in human beings in full compliance with Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting slavery, forced labour and by extension human trafficking, and with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

While in many European countries a residence permit can be granted to victims of trafficking or severe forms of exploitative work staying irregularly on the territory, too often, this applies only under the condition of co-operating with the police. In 20 country evaluation reports, the Group of Experts on action against trafficking in human beings (GRETA) has urged the authorities to ensure that in practice access to assistance for victims of trafficking is not made conditional on their co-operation in the investigation and criminal proceedings: Article 14 of the anti-trafficking Convention allows parties to make the issuing of a temporary residence permit conditional on co-operation and it seems that in some cases this blocks unconditional access to assistance for foreign victims.

States have an obligation to sanction employers exploiting the vulnerability of irregular migrants. From a human rights point of view, what matters most is not that a state fights against “illegal work”, but that irregular migrants are protected and compensated for the human rights violations they have suffered as a result of their exploitation. Foreign domestic workers, because of their isolation, are particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse.

Right to education of children in an irregular situation

Many international and European human rights standards, including the European Social Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, require that access to education be ensured for children regardless of their immigration status. However, too often, schools or other administrative authorities place barriers to irregular migrant children’s right to education by unlawfully asking for documents such as birth certificates as a condition to enrol the child.

Measures to be taken by states

To create an environment favourable to ensuring irregular migrants’ access to inalienable basic social rights, states should not only refrain from criminalising migration but should go further:

  • Consider policies, including regularisation programmes and increased possibilities for legal channels to immigrate for work, so as to avoid or resolve situations whereby migrants are in, or are at risk of falling into, an irregular situation.
  • Ratify and implement international and European treaties relevant for the protection of the rights of irregular migrants, including the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the 2011 ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and the Revised European Social Charter and its collective complaints mechanism.
  • Train police officers, labour and immigration officials and basic service providers on the human rights of irregular migrants and victims of trafficking in human beings and exploitative work.
  • Inform irregular migrants about their rights and ensure full and equal access to justice for irregular migrants who are victims of exploitation and other human rights abuses by encouraging them to report this without resulting in their prosecution or expulsion.
  • Enable NGOs and trade unions to defend the basic social rights of irregular migrants, including before courts with the victims’ consent.
  • Ensure irregular migrants’ equal access to victim support and assistance mechanisms adapted to the needs of each individual and that are confidential and free of charge.
  • Never call migrants in an irregular situation “illegal migrants” as this would be inaccurate and harmful as stressed by the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) in its campaign “Words Matter!”, promoting alternative words to this expression in several European languages.

Background documents

  • European Committee of Social Rights, Collective Complaints Decisions on the merits:
    • Conference of European Churches (CEC) v. the Netherlands, Complaint No. 90/2013
    • European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) v. the Netherlands, Complaint No. 86/2012
    • Defence for Children International (DCI) v. the Netherlands, Complaint No. 47/2008
    • International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) v. France, Complaint No. 14/2003
  • Press Unit, Registry of the European Court of Human Rights: Factsheet on Trafficking in Human Beings
  • Council of Europe Anti-Trafficking Website
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Resolution 1509 (2006) on human rights of irregular migrants, 27 June 2006
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Recommendation 1985 (2011) Undocumented migrant children in an irregular situation: a real cause for concern, 7 October 2011

Blue Cross Report: Social Services Critical to Improving Health

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In a new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, social, behavioral, and environmental factors are shown to determine a staggering 60% of one’s overall health. The report provides overwhelming support for increased investment in, and collaboration with, social services as a way of improving overall individual and community health.

The report’s key findings include:

-Providing housing support for low-income, high-need individuals can result in net savings due to reduced health care costs. The net savings range from $9,000 per person per year to nearly $30,000 per person per year for the Housing First model, a harm-reduction approach in which adults who are homeless and who have behavioral health conditions are provided supportive housing.

-Nutritional assistance for high-risk women, infants, and children as well as older adults and people with disabilities lowers infant mortality rates, improves birth weights, reduces nursing home admissions, and significantly lowers federal and state Medicaid costs.

-Vulnerable populations experience health gains when their care is coordinated across primary, specialty, behavioral, and social services and that hospitalizations and emergency department visits are demonstrably reduced.

-Partnerships between health care and social service providers, particularly housing service providers, have been effective in improving health outcomes in certain high-need populations.

-Income support programs, specifically the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), were associated with better health outcomes for those individuals who qualify for such programs.

By attributing 60% of one’s health to social, behavioral, and environmental factors, Blue Cross Blue Shield is making known that social workers and social service programs are the key to improving the health of individuals and communities. The report opens the door for unprecedented collaboration between social workers and private sector health insurers, who can work together to address patient care as a whole unit.

The report adds to the increasing evidence that integrated healthcare is the future of care delivery. Integrated care involves primary care providers and behavioral/mental health providers working in unison to treat the whole patient. Social workers, who are trained in interdisciplinary collaboration, are uniquely qualified to serve in this capacity.

Most importantly, the message of the report is clear: achieving optimal health is impossible without increased investment in social service programs, especially for vulnerable populations. This provides a major opportunity to advocate on behalf of increased investment in programs that improve health while reducing healthcare costs. When one of the nation’s largest health insurers says that social service programs are critical to the health of our nation, policy makers will have to listen.

Getting Social Workers Involved in Social Justice: Who Will Take the Lead

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If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu. This pithy bit of wisdom was offered as a reminder by University of Illinois Springfield social work professor David Stoesz in a discussion thread on a social work policy listserv about the profession’s paltry participation in policy and politics. Social workers on that listserv are concerned about our level of effort on social justice issues in order to bring about societal change as our code of ethics mandates. Helping people cope with policies that have disproportionately favored the wealthy over the past several decades is not enough.

However, we must do more to change those policies and create a more egalitarian society. Two interesting articles caught my attention last week. One that was posted on Social Work Helper’s Facebook page had appeared in the Guardian. The article featured young social workers in the United Kingdom who expressed concern about their futures and the future of the profession of social work. One young man, Justin, who became a social worker after serving in the British military in Afghanistan, worried about the absence of a strong voice to represent the interests of social workers.

The other article was published in Al Jazeera by Sean McElwee, a young Demos research associate, titled: “Inequality is a disease, voting turnout is the cure.” This is an idea I have been preaching recently. He provides research to support this hypothesis. The questions are: Can social work can be the x-factor that helps propel a movement leading to full voter participation? And who will be the leader(s) of that effort?

What McElwee is stating is quite simple. The 2016 election will not turn so much on who votes but on who stays home. Non-voters are more likely to be low income and lean significantly towards Democrats. Registering these potential voters and getting them to the polls could have significant effects on the outcomes of elections at all levels of government.

Unions traditionally mobilize voters and got them to the polls. However we have seen the number of members and the power of union decline in recent decades.

Will social workers help fill that gap? I believe we can. Social workers can help would-be voters break through barriers such as voter identification. Republican strategist Chris Ladd says it’s time Democrats stop whining about voter ID laws and begin to help people get the documentation they need. Sounds like good advice.

Mildred “Mit” Joyner proposed this idea several years ago when she was president of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). She believes this is something social workers at every level can participate in. Direct service workers can assist clients in understanding the particulars of voting regulations and ensure they have proper documentation when they go to vote. Administrators of agencies can make it a matter of policy to inform clients about exercising their right to vote.

However, according to WRAL News in North Carolina,

Local social service agencies are not giving poor residents adequate opportunities to file and update voter registrations as required by federal law, a letter sent by a group of voting rights advocates warned the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Department of Health and Human Services. Read more 

On the macro level, social workers can work with churches, tenant organizations, and other community-based groups to organize and implement voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. Joyner suggests social workers engage the League of Women Voters for information and support. Agencies can learn more from organizations like Nonprofit Vote. Social work students can work with Rock the Vote to encourage young people to vote.

At the same time social workers can continue efforts to overturn misguided laws that restrict voting. We can continue to press Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. Social workers have a responsibility to work for a more just society that permits and promotes the self-actualization of everyone.

Policies, laws and systems that restrict one’s ability to be all that one can be should be the object of intervention on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. While social workers must pay attention to licensing, research, and building reputation as a fully scientific profession, we also have a mandate to pursue social justice.

Richard Nixon galvanized a large swath of voters who he saw as being neglected and appealed to them as the silent majority. There is a new silent majority today—voters who have been demoralized by the vast sums of money that are gaming the political system. They see the rich getting richer and not much being done to expand opportunity and prosperity for the vast majority of Americans. They are turned off by the negative campaigning and believe voting is an exercise in futility.

Social workers should be participants in the effort to restore hope to these voters—to help them understand that staying away from the polls is exactly what those protecting the status quo wants you to do. Social workers need to be involved politically and be at the policy table. If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu.

New Field Placement Model With Crittenton Earns Award from CSU Fullerton for its “Teaching and Mentorship” Culture

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Fullerton, Calif. – Crittenton Services for Children and Families (CSCF) is proud to announce the agency’s nomination and selection as this year’s recipient of the Most Committed Partner award by both the CSUF Social Work Department and the CSUF Center for Internship & Community Engagement (CICE).

Each year CICE hosts its annual Community Engagement Awards as a way to highlight students, faculty and community partners in their efforts to strengthen the bonds of engagement that connect the University and the community. CICE’s main mission is to bring faculty, students, and community partners together to create high impact practices for student success.

“Our collaborative partnership with CSUF extends learning from the classroom to the community, giving students experiential learning opportunities that will build their skills, their resumes, and their ability to positively impact the world around them. It is truly a win-win,” said Joyce Capelle, Chief Executive Officer, CSCF, “We are honored to have worked alongside outstanding faculty and staff of CSUF for more than a decade, in order to provide students practical work experience while at the same time making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable youth.”

Under the “Stellar Support of Students” category the CSUF Department of Social Work nominated Crittenton as an organization that has made a difference in the career trajectory of students via mentorship.  As part of the non-profit’s mission, Crittenton, has made it a part of its strategic plan to make the idea of a “teaching institution” a reality and part of the overall agency culture. For its efforts in guiding and mentoring students, Crittenton has been recognized for going above and beyond its duties as an experiential learning host site.

In addition, as of 2015 both Crittenton and CSUF celebrate a 10-year anniversary of working together to serve vulnerable children and their families curtail the effects of child abuse, neglect, and trauma.

Since the inception of this evidenced-based field placement opportunity for social services, human services, and social work students have been able to take ample opportunity to earn academic units, licensing requirements and gain valuable work experience at a nationally accredited agency.

In fact, throughout this 10-year partnership period, roughly 121 undergraduates and 35 graduate students from CSUF have been given the opportunity to take part of a non-profit’s mission with a connection to a proud national child welfare legacy that goes back to 1883. Nearly 30 CSUF students have been hired as Crittenton employees via this partnership.

At the helm of this internship program collaboration with CSUF is executive team member and CSUF Alumna, Denise Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Crittenton Services.

Cunningham has been a strong advocate of community partnerships between Crittenton and higher education institutions, and has also served in the capacity of a mentor. Her commitment to student success is such that as of this year the CSUF Social Work Department has appointed her Chairperson of the department’s advisory council.

To build tomorrow’s workforce in the human services fields it takes the acquisition of knowledge in the classroom in tandem with developing skill-sets in the community. Crittenton’s partnership with CSUF is an excellent example of this collaborative approach to developing effective practitioners and future change agents.

Motivational Work versus Motivational Interviewing

Motivational work is an approach designed to help people who are considered to be unmotivated and hopeless. Most therapeutic contacts are based on the client/patient being motivated to some degree, i.e. that he or she wants to cooperate constructively and accept help.

Nobody is a hopeless case. This is the idea which I have fervently believed in during the whole of my professional career. Time after time, I have seen that it is possible to motivate all clients within psychiatry, criminal care and social services.

hqdefault (1)When you expect constructive cooperation from clients/patients, you only reach the group that is relatively functional.

This leads to the motivation paradox: the clients/patients who have the greatest need of support receive the least. Motivational work tries to resolve this paradox, so that those who are most in need actually receive help.

Motivational Work (MW) is a method that has evolved from my work in cooperation with different groups, and it differs from Motivational Interviewing (MI) by being more comprehensive and general.

MI is more specific and originates from a non-confrontational psychotherapeutic method (Roger’s client-centred therapy), which is then applied to unmotivated clients.

Motivational interviewing is a counseling style based on the following assumptions:

  • Ambivalence about substance use (and change) is normal and constitutes an important motivational obstacle in recovery.
  • Ambivalence can be resolved by working with your client’s intrinsic motivations and values.
  • The alliance between you and your client is a collaborative partnership to which you each bring important expertise.
  • An empathic, supportive, yet directive, counseling style provides conditions under which change can occur. (Direct argument and aggressive confrontation may tend to increase client defensiveness and reduce the likelihood of behavioral change.) Read More

One advantage of Motivational Work is due to it being aimed at all types of clients even those with most destructive behaviour. There is no preconceived technique to which the client must be adapted, but instead the method is adapted to the client’s behaviour. Working in this way, one has a different paradigm from other methods which are based on psychotherapeutic thinking.

For this reason, Motivational Work is built on a developed theory of the psyche, setting goals, defense and the process of change, which differs from the psychotherapeutic approach. At the same time, the theory is a support for personnel, who are able to remain emotionally involved since the risk of being burned out increases as clients are less motivated and act destructively.

Even though many of the ideas are new, some of the basic premises behind Motivational Work come from the Therapeutic community and Moreno’s psycho­drama. Both emphasize feelings and actions. The method was also inspired by Carl Rogers, but from his later development of “per­son-centred therapy” in which he worked using confrontation in encounter groups.

Part one of Motivational Work deals with the attitudes and approaches the motivational worker must bring with him to his meetings with the client. The contents of this section are not only of general interest, but they are also of profound significance to the motivational worker as regards the prevention of burnout and the maintenance of commitment.

Motivational Work is suitable for social workers, correctional workers, treatment personnel in psychiatry, hospital staff, and police. In other words, for all categories of people who meet unmotivated clients in their work.

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