Former Chair of Duke University Psychiatry Explains Why Social Workers Should Oppose DSM 5

Update Follow Up Interview with Dr. Allen Frances

Professor emeritus at Duke University, Dr. Allen Frances, penned an article in Psychology Today entitled Why Social Workers Should Oppose the DSM-5. Dr. Frances was chair of the DSM-IV task force and of the department of Psychiatry at the Duke University School of Medicine. In the article, Dr. Frances acknowledges that Social Workers have not been previously included in the DSM development process despite being the largest providers of mental health services, and he also states that social workers may be the only ones who can prevent the DSM-5 publication in this 11th hour.

The article makes a strong case that the DSM-5  changes may open a gateway for exploitation by drug companies to push unnecessary medications on clients. Dr. Frances in his article quotes several professionals consisting of social workers and doctors. The new DSM 5 publication is schedule to published in the upcoming week, but its publication has suffered several set backs due to continued opposition. The National Institute of Mental Health dealt another blow when it withdrew its support for the new edition.

Here is an excerpt from his article:

SilentDr. Carney writes:

“Where are the social workers? Where are the NASW and its local and state-wide chapters? Over 12,000 individuals mental health professionals have publicly declared their concern at the planned 2013 publication of the DSM-5. They’ve signed the petition launched six months ago by the Society for Humanistic Psychology requesting that the DSM-5 Task Force delay publication of the new DSM and subject it to an independent scientific review. Fifty-one professional organizations have also endorsed the petition. It is extremely puzzling that the National Association of Social Workers and its local affiliates are not to be found among them.”

 “So what’s going on with social workers? It’s almost like asking ‘What’s the matter with Kansas … ?’ It seems like they and their professional organizations are voting against their own self-interest… Ultimately, however, most social workers, like most Kansas voters, are not motivated by self-interest but by core values and beliefs. Their acquiescence to theDSM-5 as currently composed signifies for me an abandonment of core principles—service to others; pursuit of social justice; respect for the worth of the persons being served; the importance of human relationships; and the salience of integrity and competence in social work practice (Code of Ethics @ www.socialworker.org)—and seriously undermines their fundamental mission of helping those who need it.”

“The Open Letter which the Society for Humanistic Psychology states that ‘the proposal to lower diagnostic thresholds is scientifically premature and holds numerous risks … (that) increasing the number of people who qualify for a diagnosis may lead to excessive medicalization’ and the increased prescription of neuroleptic medications, with all their attendant risks.”

“The DSM-5 Task Force will soon announce its last public commentary period—check its website @ www.dsm5.org—after which it will begin to finalize the new edition. Accordingly, if you’re a social worker dismayed with a public mental health system in disarray, alarmed at the distortions resulting from the system’s sole reliance on the biomedical model, determined to re-commit to core social work values and promote change in a system that no longer works, here’s what you need to do:

1. Read the Open Letter and sign the petition …http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dsm5/

2. E-mail the Board of Directors of NASW and ask them to endorse the petition … President@naswdc.org;

3. Spread the word to your social work brothers and sisters. There’s still time to put a stop to the DSM. Don’t mourn, organize!!”(excerpted from “1984 & DSM5 Revisited: Where Are the Social Workers?” … posted 3/27/12 on www.madinamerica.com) (excerpted from “1984 & DSM5 Revisited: Where Are the Social Workers?” … posted 3/27/12 on www.madinamerica.com)

Read Full Article

The petition calls for 50,000 signatures. As of today, only 14, 000 have been collected. Since Social Workers represent 60 percent of those providing mental health services in the US, this publication can’t be stopped without social work support. Last week, I wrote an article asking “Will Clinical Social Workers Embrace the New DSM V”. I got a lot of responses to the question. However, social worker responses reflected a variety of feeling towards the DSM-5 changes, and I would like to share a few.

Interesting (and of course timely) post. Thanks! — Not at all sure that SW must use the DSM-5. Other professions are turning to the ICD, for example. Yes, we need an appropriate manual for diagnosis…esp. for insurance… The DSM-5 isn’t it!! It’s just toooo wrong in too many places. E.g., tell me how we get over the loss of a loved one in 2 weeks. Two weeks? Nonsense! But the DSM-5 (BTW, it is DSM-5, not DSM V) says that if the bereaved doesn’t “get over it” in 2 weeks, he is automatically labeled w/ major depression. — So, I’m not at all happy with this revised manual! ~ Rea G.

I have one question. If clinical social workers DON’T embrace DSM-5, then doesn’t that blur the line between them and those who are not clinically trained? The only certainty is that even DSM-10 will have limitations. My understanding is that client-centered therapists will always be cognizant, and therefore use good judgement on a case-by-case basis. But without a universally accepted standard, the entire field opens itself up to quacks and dubious practices.~ Rodney D.

In answer to your request Rodney (addressing Camille’s point), when DSM-5 comes out this Saturday, DSM-IV-TR will no longer be applicable for diagnostic criteria. Mental health professionals do not have the luxury to pick and choose which manual they prefer. However, as many psychiatrists are pointing out, diagnosis is (and has always been) in the eyes of the evaluating professional and the self reporting of the individual with the concern. Bottom line, we should be up on DSM-5, understand it, apply it appropriately and help our clients to the best of our ability.~Julie R.

Peter has summed up the DSM issue in a nutshell for me. I cringe when Social Workers, Psychologists, LPC’s, PsychNP’s, Psychiatrists, and other mental health practitioners refer to DSM “diagnosis:. I do not care how many axsis or qualifiers one puts with diagnosis, when it comes to mental illness we do not need a medical model as yet. We need evidence and outcome based criteria for treatments. I do appreciate psychopharmaceutical interventions, as do I appreciate all other interventions that can work: behavioral, mindful, interpersonal, etc. However, nobody is saying taking away the science. We need the science and the research. We do, however, need to educate the mental health profession about the unreliability and sham the DSM is about. Of course, the way the system is setup, we do need the DSM for insurance and I do embrace it for that.~Sherry L.

The article by Dr. Frances sheds new light on the DSM-5 and what the social worker response should be, but what do think about his article? Do you think psychiatry will begin including social workers in the DSM development process in the future?

Autism Awareness: Letter from a Mother and a Teacher

Dear Social Workers,

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

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed day!

Niki

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

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

Poverty Simulation: Making Cents of Being Poor, Part 2

Recently, I posted about The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Poverty Simulation that was held on March 27th as part of their social justice week, a celebration for social work month.  The simulation was to provide students and other members of the community a glimpse of what the poverty experience might be like for them.  This simulation  is an interactive experiential guided exercise that walks participants into an alternate universe of second class living in which some people have never experienced.

The day began at 9am on a chilly March day. Students first met in the gym for their training of the simulation which lasted until about 11am. The simulation ran from 12PM until 4PM, and it closed with participants and volunteers processing their reactions to the simulation and sharing what they have learned.

The events consisted of participants playing roles of families, single people , some jobless, homeless, sick all trying to get their needs met. Below are some of the highlights of the day.

The “police” taking a “homeless” person to jail for loitering

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Photo of Jack Register UNCG professor and Luke McCollum

Students learn the experience of long lines at the Department of Social Services

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Mental health professional” telling “prospective clients” that they must have insurance to receive assistance.

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UNCG professor Jason Yates and social work students

Another homeless person whom after he could not find any place to stay  is arrested for sleeping in the streets.

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Social work student Daniel de la Cruz

The Housing Authority checking for proper documentation before providing services.

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Lydia Long and two other participants.

PROTEST! Social work students organizing a protest to advocate for health care being cut.

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DSS social worker assisting clients on receiving services.

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Social Work alumni Calvetta Watlington (DSS worker)  and social work senior Electre

 

Students experience frustration and laughter as they navigate through the simulation.

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Social work students taking part in the simulation.

The simulation is held annually during social work month at UNCG. It was a rewarding experience, and I encourage any locals to participate in the upcoming year. This experience is one that will undoubtedly impact your perspective of your community and society.

Photos by Mike Long Photography

Can the Education Profession Teach Social Workers Innovation with Technology

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Education Technology Consultant, Margaret Powers, spared some time to do an interview for SWH on the advances the education field is making in incorporating technology in the classroom. Margaret is also working on a google glass project in which she will tell us about in the Socialworkhelper Live Twitter Chat scheduled for April 15th at 8PM EST. Margaret frequently shares technology lessons designed for educational professionals on her blog located at http://margaret-powers.com/.  Margaret is a regular contributor for SWH, and she will be passing on her learning here also.

SWH: Tell me a bit about your background and your current work?

Margaret PowersMargaret: I have always been intrigued by learning so studying psychology and education felt like a natural fit for me in college. Since my mother works with young children I was also exposed to the importance and value of early childhood education from a young age and decided to make that my focus. I studied in Reggio Emilia, Italy, the birthplace of the Reggio Emilia Approach to early care and education and while there, realized how vital it was for educators around the global to share and exchange pedagogical practices so that we could all learn from one another. After receiving my B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, to deepen my knowledge and experience with international education, I went to get a Master’s in International Training and Education from American University.

Starting in high school I began to gravitate towards technology and as I started to formally study education and travel abroad, I realized its power in connecting people around the world. With that in mind, I have explored ways technology can be integrated in education, particularly to deepen learning experiences and facilitate global collaboration. This work led me to my current position as a Lower School Tech Coordinator, where I am able to bring my three passions: early childhood education, global education, and educational technology together. I work with students and teachers in Pre-K to 2nd grade, helping teachers integrate technology in developmentally appropriate and meaningful ways and helping students learn to see technology as a tool for creation, communication, and global collaboration.

SWH: What is ETMOCC, and how is it useful in combining technology and education?

ETMOOC is a massive open online course (MOOC) focused on educational technology. It was created by a group of “conspirators” or people working in the fields of technology and education who dedicated over 11 weeks to facilitate and support over 1400 students in exploring new tools and topics while building a network of co-learners. ETMOOC did a great job in having practical, “hands-on” prompts encouraging participants to try new tools and learn new technologies (e.g., creating a GIF) while also inviting participants to think about how these technologies can, should, and do integrate with or affect education today. For example, Audrey Watters, the writer of the blog Hack Education, spoke about digital literacy and data ownership. If you are looking to think critically about how technology and education intersect while also learning some new tools and joining a community of practitioners and researchers, I would recommend participating in ETMOOC next time it’s offered.

SWH: How does technology help you to be more effective in education?

Margaret: I believe technology can help me to be more effective, as well as more innovative in my work in education, as long as it’s used in meaningful ways. For example, by using technology, I can help my students see an animal species that is not local to our community in real-time or I can have my students Skype with a class in a region they are studying but could never travel to on a field trip. These activities bring new ideas and concepts to life by helping students experience them beyond just hearing or reading about them.

I would also argue that technology is an invaluable asset in helping me be a more innovative educator, primarily because it allows me to be connected to an almost endless community of experts and co-learners. Through mediums like Twitter, I am constantly learning about new tech tools, pedagogical practices, and ways of integrating technology into the classroom. I am also connected to a network that can help me solve problems and provide suggestions when I’m trying to start a global collaborative project with my students or explore a new resource. Without technology, I would be exposed to many fewer ideas and experts.

SWH: How has blogging and social media helped you to carve yourself out as an expert in your field?

Margaret: Blogging and social media can both be instrumental in helping you to share your expertise with others in your field. Both mediums allow people to more easily access your knowledge and therefore identify what areas you are knowledgable about. They can also facilitate connections between you and other people looking to learn about topics that you know. Blogging is particularly useful for sharing more in-depth reflections or information about a specific topic while social media seems more suited to conversations, sharing links to your material, and building connections with others. By sharing your blog posts on social media, you can draw people to that space and share your thoughts or expertise about a specific topic and then others can spread the word about that post, helping to increase the number of people who know about your expertise. Digital “word of mouth” is very powerful so using both blogging and social media, your identity as an expert can grow as people share from one person to another.

SWH: What are your aspirations for yourself and how would you like to see ETMOOC impact education?

Margaret: My own aspirations include working to increase my own knowledge of growing trends within the education and technology fields, such as the Maker Movement and the push to integrate computational thinking in our schools. I seek to be an innovator who is willing to try new technologies (e.g., Google Glass) and pedagogical approaches in order to constantly grow as a teacher and learner and model for students and teachers the importance of exploration, adaptation, and reflection today’s world. I also hope to continue making connections around the world with other technologists and educators who are dedicated to improving the ways in which we all teach and learn. I would like to see opportunities like ETMOOC grow so that more people can have access to that type of self-paced, personalized learning, centered around a supportive community. I believe ETMOOC offers a model to other MOOCs and traditional courses for how people from diverse background and with different learning goals can come together to exchange ideas, push each others’ thinking, and build meaningful relationships. I hope it is a model that is taken up by others in the field of education.

Macro Community Practice: Why It Can’t Be Separated From Politics

What is macro community practice, and what does it have to do with politics? Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I often engage in political discussions with my @swhelpercom Twitter account. Most people outside of social work are often glad to see a social worker engaged in the conversation because these discussions involve Medicare, Social Security, Mental Health, and Welfare programs. They view us as the experts in these areas because we are the implementers and providers within those programs.

Social workers are the largest provider of mental health services in the United States, yet we are not at the table when experts are gathered by the government to reform these various systems. Who is the blame for social workers being absent from the policy making table which will overwhelmingly affect our ability to provide services to the people we serve? Macro community practice by definition is instituting programs and policies to increase the outcomes of the service community. Macro community practice focuses on using program evaluation and evidence based practices to gather essential data to identify areas for improvement.

Unfortunately, many social workers in both the US and abroad do not believe social workers should engage in politics. On several occasions, I have been told by other social workers that it’s inappropriate for me to engage in political conversations or advocate from a political point-of-view because social work is not political or it must be engaged in a nonpartisan way. Social Work is a profession much like teaching and law enforcement in the respect that our jobs are intrinsically linked to government funding.

Our Human Services system is in desperate need of reform, resources, and funding. However, is it reasonable to expect politicians with no human service or social work experience to see these systems as a priority especially without a union to protect our interests?

Recently, I had a brief conversation with a social carer in the United Kingdom (UK) on Twitter, and I responded in 140 characters of course. My main point in the conversation is that legislative policy dictates practice, and we must have advocates in public offices who are sympathetic to the plight of social workers/social carers in order to get system changes that are supportive of social workers.

I don’t know a single social worker who won’t agree that the system is broken and changes are needed to improve the quality of services to clients, work conditions, and pay for social workers. Macro community practice is designed to look at system changes that will impact service delivery at all levels. However, macro community practice is not a concept that should be viewed from the top down rather than the inside out. No matter our specialty or the demographics we serve, micro/direct practice should never be separated from macro practice.

For a macro community practitioner to be effective we must challenge systematic oppression as well as oppressive policy and laws creating barriers and limiting our clients’ ability to improve their outcomes. When can still help one client at a time, but how we vote and who will be put in office will determine the fate of our profession.

Social Workers in Politics: Interview with Tanya Roberts

It seems social workers fulfilling their thirst for politics, community organizing, and activism on social issues are back on the rise. I recently had the opportunity to interview Tanya Roberts, one of North Carolina’s own rising stars, in order to learn more about her activities in politics. According to the National Association of Social Workers- North Carolina Chapter’s (NASW-NC) website, Tanya served as President on their  Board of Directors until she was recently appointed to the association’s Political Action for Candidate Elections (PACE) Board of Trustees at the national level. In addition to her service with the NASW, Tanya also sits on the Board of Directors for Craven County Department of Social Services in New Bern, North Carolina.

As a policy wonk and political junkie myself, it was a pleasure to interview Tanya who I can definitely see holding public office on the state or federal level. As of a result of the past election, North Carolina’s State legislature is now being controlled by a Republican super-majority which means both the House and Senate has a Republican majority along with a Republican Governor. Currently, Republicans have nothing standing in way of passing their legislative agenda. Tanya and I discussed a range of topics from her background to entitlement reform and medicaid expansion.

SWH:  Could you tell us about your background and what attracted you into the field of social work?

Tanya: My Dad has his MSW and served in the Air Force working with service members, families, and children. Since I grew up in this world while traveling the world, I assumed this was my goal as well. Once I earned my MSW from East Carolina University, I quickly realized that my area of expertise was NOT in the clinical arena and began to explore other ways to bring social work into other parts of our community. For about seven years, I owned a private agency providing mentors to work with adults and children with developmental disabilities and/or mental health issues. This was an incredible opportunity to learn about my community and to bring my social work interests to others. Now I am coordinating NC Operation Medicine Cabinet and coordinating the NC PACCs (Partnerships, Alliances, Coalitions and Collaboratives) working on substance abuse prevention issues. This allows me the opportunity to address issues relevant to the world of prevention with a social work view.

SWH: With your recent appointment to the NASW (PACE), could you explain what the committee does and what kind of impact it wants to have in politics?

Tanya: The NASW PACE makes decisions about which candidates to endorse for national offices and how much to contribute. Candidates must support NASW’s policy agenda. Due to the requirements, PACE hopes to encourage those running for federal offices to be aware of our agenda, advocate for what we as social workers so strongly support and to back this up by making a financial contribution to their campaign. It is a public endorsement to highlight our national position as well as to participate in the election process as an Association.

SWH: Have or will NASW considered doing any collaborations with organizations like Emily’s List that help identify women interested in politics to run for public office?

Tanya: I don’t know if National has any plans to, or has in the past made plans to, collaborate with organizations like Emily’s List. I am certainly interested in helping to facilitate any such work; getting women (especially women social workers) involved in the political process is a goal of mine. On a statewide level, there is not only an interest, but some initial dialogues going on to do just this. We hope to find the best way to engage women social workers in public policy, especially in North Carolina.

SWH:  Also, as a board member of a North Carolina Social Service Agency, are there any concerns about how Entitlement Reforms may impact human service agency’s ability to provide quality services to vulnerable populations with all the demands for budget cuts?

Tanya: I am especially concerned about our most vulnerable populations while maintaining the integrity of the system. We try to ensure that those who need services get the services they need, and those who are fraudulently accessing services are prosecuted. Also, I really want to see social workers more engaged in developing innovative ways to work with individuals and families to move them from public assistance to self-supporting means. This may well take longer than we would like given the economic situation, but it can and must be a focus of all social workers and all public assistance agencies.

SWH: With the implementation of Medicaid Expansion and North Carolina’s recent decision to refuse the additionally funding, what is your take on what this could mean for North Carolinians?

Tanya: I personally advocated to our new Governor, Pat McCrory, as well as to my local representatives to please allow for the expansion of Medicaid. In these difficult times, we cannot afford to cut off people in need. I would like to see our leaders work to gain a better understanding of what the poverty level is, how people work multiple jobs to support families, and the challenges of accepting public assistance because you don’t earn enough to pay your own way. People have tremendous pride and many receiving services want nothing more than to be self-sufficient. It is these people we must reach out to and help to provide supports for transition. But, this can only be done with the availability of appropriate paying jobs, opportunity to access and endeavor to succeed in such jobs and willingness of our leaders to work with the agencies to effect significant policy change.

SWH: With your resume and activism in politics, have you considered or will you consider making a run for federal office at some point in your future?

Tanya: Now that I have run for a county office, I am certainly more interested in the campaign process. I am a Fellow of the Institute for Political Leadership (IOPL) and a graduate of the NC Center for Women in Public Service, Women in Office training. These opportunities provided tremendous education, resources, contacts and encouragement! At this point, I am not sure if actually being the candidate is using my skills best or supporting another candidate. Either way, I will be very involved in politics and working to bring in social workers and women to the process.

NASW encourages social workers to run for office because social workers are a profession of trained communicators with concrete ideas about how to empower communities. Social workers understand social problems and know human relations, and the commitment to improving the quality of life brings a vital perspective to public decision-making. NASW

Marian Wright Edelman: What Can I Do

by Deona Hooper, MSW

On October 25, 2012, Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund spoke at the Duke University Terry Sanford Public Policy Building in Durham, North Carolina. I had the privilege of attending this event along with many others who were interested in hearing her views on poverty and education. Ms. Edelman spoke in detail about the challenges children in poverty face in receiving a quality education. The event was sponsored by the Crown Lecture in Ethics, named after its benefactor Lester Crown, which was established to bring speakers to Duke in order to discuss ethics in arts, sciences, medicine, business, and other areas.

Ms. Edelman, a graduate of Spellman College and Yale Law School, began her career as the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi State Bar. She led the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Jackson, Mississippi before moving to Washington, D.C in 1968 as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign created by Dr. Martin Luther King. Ms. Edelman also served as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University for two years, prior to creating Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. Ms. Edelman was also award our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Liftetime Achievement Award.

The theme of her speech was ” What Can I Do….Is the Question?”. She points out that society appears to be waiting for the next charismatic leader like Dr. King to lead us into the next movement of our day. However, Ms. Edelman points out that civic engagement must begin with each of us asking, “What Can I Do”.  She offered several lessons that she has learned from Noah’s Arc, and there were a couple that were really insightful for me. The first lesson was “Don’t Miss The Boat” which means listening to naysayers and critics may prevent you from fulfilling your destiny. The other profound lesson was that Noah’s Arch was built by an amateur and the Titanic was built by professionals. In essence, one’s status or level of importance does not determine the depths of one’s abilities and achievements. In conclusion of her speech, Ms. Edelman prayed for underprivileged children. However, she also said a prayer for children of privilege blessed with high intellect yet a low quotient of compassion.

The event was not without its controversy as a result of Ms. Edelman’s strong advocacy for Charter schools in lieu of public schools. During the Q & A section, a public school teacher had to be removed by security as result of his strong opposition to Ms. Edelman’s position and possible profit-making motivations for advocating for Charter Schools. In my observations of the event, I noticed a lot of educators, lawyers, and community members, but once again where were the Social Workers. How can there be a conversation about increasing outcomes for the poor without Social Workers being apart of that conversation? Charter schools or Public Schools, how much does the quality of an educational facility matter when a child is being abused and/or neglected at home? It feels like everyone is discussing what dishes to be served for a five course dinner, and what desserts to have without given thought to the table and chairs.

Message in a Bottle…An Epiphany that Probably Won’t Reach Its Intended Recipient

“Message in a Bottle” was not only a romantic Kevin Costner movie, but once upon a time was a hopeful form of communication. Someone would have an epiphany or reflective moment that desperately needed to find its way to the target of their affection. A message in bottle was then thrown into the ocean hoping that fate will stir the bottle to its intended destination. Before telegraphs, telephones, and the internet, message in a bottle was the hope of connecting with someone outside of your reach, but are we still using a “message in a bottle” mentality in a technologically advanced society?

The internet is just as vast as the sea because the possibility of destinations seem limitless. Today, “message in a bottle” has been upgraded to a Tumblr, Facebook Note, Blogger, WordPress Blog or some form of electronic post.

There has been instances of calls for help, cries for support, profound confessions, or enlightened reflections which may or may not be heard depending on the number of followers, friends, or search engine optimization that allow search engines to find you in this vast world wide web. Does the profoundness of the message correlate with its ability to be heard?

Is Honeybooboo’s preferences more profound than someone battling Cancer who is sharing their experiences in hopes of helping someone else because her medium to be heard is bigger?  As a matter of fact, I would argue the less profound it appears, there is wider appeal. As social workers when we exercise the “message in a bottle” mentality, we lessen our ability to help someone else. It requires those in need to find us in a sea of darkness instead of being that Beacon of Light.

What can we do about it? Social Work Helper may not provide the be all solution for everyone, but it is my attempt at navigating the seas by offering a beacon.  As a Google news outlet with rss feeds placed in the top news aggregator mobile apps around the world, anyone can submit an original blog post or republish a blog post from their own blog to Social Work Helper to help expand their readership. How is this helpful to you? When you take your valuable time to share your dreams, triumphs, failures, and experiences that knowledge should reach as many people as possible in order to help advance someone else.

If you are trying to develop your own magazine, than Social Work Helper may not be the right platform for you. However, if you primary goals are increasing your professional profile, increasing awareness on issues, and reaching as many people as possible, than publishing on this vehicle will help expand your reach.

Work with me in creating a platform that  will better support professional or student development and relationships without having to randomly bump into each other on the world wide web.

If Social Workers are Intrinsic to Humanity, Why Should We Strive to Make the Profession Redundant?

As social workers, your use of ‘self’ is the most fundamental tool in your kit bag. This is why particularly when our profession faces huge challenges, we must be reflexive.  Globally, we are living through unprecedented times. A failure of the capitalist framework which scaffolds our lives has reduced the resources that we and our service users rely on. Our first instinct is to demand more from the hierarchical structures which govern us, voice our concerns and hope to be heard. We do this because that is the system that we are conditioned to, and it’s the way society works.

We question the system and critique it for being out of touch. Why do the powers that be choose what aspects of our concerns to highlight and minimise what we consider to be core issues? How can a system intended to empower people and improve lives, leave people feeling decimated?

These questions can be applied to our personal selves, our profession and on behalf of the individuals and families we support. But to answer them requires time to think about whether the individual answers for our personal self, our profession, and our service users harmonise or create conflict. There are no easy answers. In some cases as an individual and a social worker you may consider that both you and your service users will benefit from you having a reduced caseload to enable you to dedicate more time.

This is an important issue and the answer is one where you might consider the result is increased harmony which is deserving of more funding. But do all areas of public service require greater provision, more doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers and police? Hey, she forgot to mention social workers! Sadly this omission was deliberate to make the point that an increase in the number of social workers is rarely voiced as a national issue.

Despite a lack of national prevalence, social workers are crucial to our country’s success.  This is because social workers stand committed to wanting to make a positive difference, to support and empower our service users to live safe and fulfilling lives. However, although social workers can be the human face of a bureaucratic policy, on occasions we also represent an impersonal faceless system.

Listen or read any criticism of the social work profession by service users and it is underpinned by a sense of dehumanisation. Somehow amidst carefully designed systems and well intentioned policies the interventions of social workers leave some people feeling despair, fear and hatred. This was never the intended outcome of the social work profession, whose ultimate goal is one of redundancy, of not being required by a well functioning society.

You may think this utopia is unrealistic and will never be achieved. I fully understand that position. It is natural to feel overwhelmed simply trying to survive the daily challenges that our personal and professional lives bring. We are only human, how can we meet the needs of humanity? When in truth the question should be: We are human, how can we not meet the needs of humanity?

This may feel like a heavy burden for social workers to carry, but I believe it is part of our DNA, an aspect of our self. Our personal lives led us to this profession and professional training supports our knowledge base and skills. We are taught to analyse and reflect on the needs of service users and our decision making processes as individual social workers.  We need to extend that reflexivity to our profession to be honest enough to own our mistakes and apply ourselves to fundamental change. We can only change ourselves not others, so let’s agree what we can do and not focus upon what others prevent us from doing.  We owe it to ourselves and humankind.

Proof Educational Outcomes for the Poor Can’t be Improved without Social Workers

I am an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. I’ve been teaching for seven years. I’m passionate about helping adult immigrants learn the English language. I enjoy learning new cultures and languages. During my experience as a teacher, I’ve had students face difficult circumstances, some of which required referrals for housing, healthcare, legal counsel, or a chance to have their voices heard. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to their stories, provide comfort in their time of need, and be their ear.

The many “thank you” messages I received were moving and humbling. I realized that there is a strong connection between the teaching profession and social work. The problems some of my students had to deal with eventually interfered with their ability to learn English. As a teacher, I was only allowed to teach. To me, that wasn’t enough to help my students; I wanted to do more. I began taking training classes relating to social work.

I received a Family Development credential learning how to empower families in need to become self-reliant. Although I already had an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s in English, I went back to school and graduated with an Associate’s in Human Services degree. I’ve taken trainings on case management and read several books about the social work field. I became a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and I am now applying to graduate school for an MSW.

Also, I participate in hosted debates on Twitter regarding issues in the social work field. I’m a determined person, and I believe I can still have a career as a teacher and be a social worker as well. My hope is to continue educating and helping people who live in underserved communities. I have a big heart and want to do my part in making a difference in this world. Someday I hope to have that chance.

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