The Positive Impact Social Work Can Have on Public Education

Social workers aren’t always associated with public education. Their roles in social service delivery, legal arenas, and advocacy are often more readily recognized. However, social workers provide vital support within our education system and contribute meaningfully to helping countless children progress through primary and secondary education in the United States every year.

The Social Worker’s Role within the Education System

Social workers can hold a number of responsibilities within a school setting. They might work one on one with students or work with groups and deliver programming. They may also work in home settings with said students outside school hours to help them with homework or learning. However, their interventions are delivered, social workers are primarily concerned with students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with heightened needs. Social workers support their learning processes and make sure they receive the attention they need to be able to succeed in school.

When underprivileged students face difficulties or danger in their home or personal lives, they are far less likely to perform well in the classroom. Social workers’ responsibilities when working with school children that live in tenuous or unstable circumstances can extend past academic support and include monitoring their safety, the provision of their basic needs, and wellbeing of their caretakers. Social workers that are based in schools or academic settings often tend to needs that extend beyond the classroom. They can help provide comprehensive support for school-aged children to give them the best chance of graduating and having success later in life.

The History of Social Work and Its Purpose

The development of the social worker, and of social work in its current form in the United States, can help inform how social work fits into public education and complements the academic endeavors of the educational system. Social work’s origin was brought about by the unintended side effects of industrialization that resulted in high levels of unemployment, abandoned children, poverty, and chronic physical and mental illnesses.

By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, organized charitable bodies were beginning to oversee social welfare projects and the occupation we know as social work came into existence. Along with hospitals and settlement houses, public schools were one of the primary arenas in which social workers served. From the very beginning, children’s welfare and development has been a primary concern for the social work field.

Since its inception, the realm of social work and services provision has morphed and changed.  Various presidential administrations adjusted Federal funding and support. Large-scale cultural phenomena presented unique challenges at various points over the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries. However, social work still adheres to one of its founding priorities – the support of children and especially those who are disadvantaged. Social workers’ role within the public education system is just as important as ever for providing support for countless children as they progress through their educational journeys.

How Social Work in Other Areas Can Also Benefit Public Education

Though some social workers work more directly with school children or within the academic setting than others, the effect of social work on society at large creates substantial benefits for public education. Social workers can be found in a wide variety of settings – from hospitals to homeless shelters, and from rehabilitation centers to nursing homes. Social workers impact people from all walks of life, and some may never come in contact with a school-aged child.

However, people don’t exist in a vacuum. The widespread nature of social work’s reach means that social workers impact individuals who are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, teachers, and more for children within public education. Their influence helps make society as a whole operate more smoothly, and that includes public education.

The impact of social work on our school system is hugely significant. Social workers provide support to countless individuals across the country, whether students in school themselves or those that support, teach, or care for them. Social work is an integral part of making the public education system successful.

6 Useful Tips to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy

People these days are often so busy with work and their responsibilities that sometimes they forget to take care of their mental and physical health. 

However, if you keep this up, you risk your chances of burning out and developing certain illnesses that may be hard to treat later on. This is why it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your mind and body stay in top condition, especially during these troubling times when the world is currently under a global health crisis. 

Apart from avoiding the development of serious ailments and conditions, one of the benefits of keeping yourself strong and healthy includes saving yourself the trouble of paying for expensive hospital and doctors’ fees. 

With this in mind, you can do more activities while prolonging your life expectancy in the process. Read on to learn more about how you can ensure that you stay healthy. 

De-Stress

Stress can come from an abundance of factors that you face in your everyday life. If you do not find ways to remove stress from your body, it can contribute to the development of serious medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. 

Luckily, there are many ways you can try to de-stress, such as listening to relaxing music, lighting a scented candle, meditating every night, or even treating yourself to a massage. 

Exercise regularly

Breaking a sweat regularly keeps your body in good shape and allows you keep your muscles from going stiff. At the same time, you can maintain a healthy weight range and boost your strength, which can affect your overall appearance as you age. 

Watch your diet 

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure that your body stays healthy and gains the necessary nutrients to function properly. Eating a variety of foods that are right in minerals and vitamins can be beneficial, especially for those at a higher risk of developing genetic illnesses such as diabetes. 

Take a break

Overworking yourself will do you no good and only put your health at risk. Always remember to take a few short breaks during the day to refresh your mind and stretch out your body. By doing so, you also allow yourself to perform better and reduce the amount of time you need to recover at the end of your shift. 

Get checked 

Apart from maintaining a good diet and exercising regularly, make it a habit to regularly get yourself checked out by your doctor. While you may feel fine, this is a good way to know if your body has developed any early signs of complications that can be prevented quickly. In most cases, going for a check-up annually or bi-annually is recommended. 

Talk to a counselor

Keeping yourself mentally healthy is another way to look out for yourself and prevent problems from escalating. When certain situations seem to be too difficult for you to handle, seek out a professional counselor to talk to about your concerns and gain guidance on what you can do to reduce your stress and anxiety. 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The majority of people today find that regularly keeping up with an exercise routine and a balanced diet is too tedious. In most cases, people succumb to the convenience of modern-day creations such as instant-cooked foods filled with unhealthy preservatives while spending most of the day sitting down on the couch glued to the television or our phones. 

If you do not change your lifestyle into a healthier one, you risk major consequences later on in life that you may regret. Never wait until a doctor tells you that you need to exercise more and keep a good diet. Start taking care of your health today. 

A Lifeline for Primary Care Amid a Crisis in Youth Mental Health

Most mental health care in America doesn’t happen in psychiatrists’ offices – especially when it comes to children, teens and young adults.

Instead, young people with depression, anxiety and more turn to the same people they already go to for all kinds of other health issues: their pediatricians, family doctors, school-based clinics and other primary care providers.

But where do those providers turn when they need more help in handling the mental health concerns of their patients – especially more serious issues that they’re not trained to handle?

If they’re anywhere in Michigan, they can turn to the team at MC3.

For nearly a decade, the MC3 program has helped thousands of primary care providers throughout the state care for the mental health needs of young people up to age 26. It also aids providers caring for pregnant women and new mothers of any age who have mental health needs.

More than 16,000 times since 2012, MC3’s psychiatrists and pediatric behavior specialists from the University of Michigan have connected directly with more than 1,800 primary care providers by phone, for consultations about their patients.

Together, they’ve mapped out plans for handling ADHD in young children, suicide-prevention safety planning for teens and symptoms that might signal schizophrenia in young adults.

There’s no charge to providers or their patients, thanks to the program’s funding from state and federal grants.

For providers whose patients recently had a mental health emergency or are waiting for an appointment with a child psychiatrist or a psychiatric inpatient bed, the service can literally be a lifeline: one in five of the consults involve a patient who has expressed suicidal thoughts or harmed themselves.

How it Works

MC3 also offers video-based telehealth appointments to connect patients of participating providers with psychiatrists. U-M and Michigan State University experts have also created a wide range of training options for professionals available on the MC3 website.

Though the demand has grown in recent years thanks to the pandemic, the program has room for more Michigan providers to join the network and get access to its services.

Each connection starts by contacting one of the trained professionals in MC3’s network of Behavioral Health Consultants, located throughout the state. MC3 also works closely with the state-funded Community Mental Health agencies across the state.

“Only about 3% of the children, teens, young adults and moms that our participating providers have consulted with us about are in treatment with a psychiatrist. We’re providing access to specialist-informed care to young people who wouldn’t otherwise have it,” said Sheila Marcus, M.D., who heads the pediatric component of MC3 and is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center.

“The reality is that no matter where they live and no matter what their family’s income level, most of these patients would not have easy access to a specialist because of the critical shortage of such providers,” she added. “In some counties, there are no local providers trained to provide this level of care.”

Primary care providers inside and outside Michigan can also access MC3’s free online resources, even if they’re not enrolled in the program.

These include prescribing guides for mental health medications and online provider education, to equip them to provide diagnosis and care that might not have been part of their formal professional training. Much of that training offers continuing education credits that can help physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives keep up their license.

“For me, MC3 has been a game changer,” said Lia Gaggino, M.D., who first interacted with the MC3 team through her pediatrics practice in Portage, Michigan and now is the team’s consulting pediatrician. “Since its inception I have used their services for children and teens who presented with very complicated mental health concerns. I wished I had had a psychiatrist to help me and then MC3 appeared and offered me a lifeline. Their services changed my prescribing practices and improved my skills and I am so grateful for their advice and support. I encourage my colleagues to sign up and call –MC3 is there to help us!”

Local Care Amid a National Emergency

As the nation grapples with a national emergency of rising mental health concerns among young people, MC3 and similar programs in other states are expanding access to critical psychiatric services at a time when demand is soaring.

The national organizations that declared that emergency in October called for more support of mental health care in primary care settings, as well as efforts to overcome the national shortage of mental health specialists for young people, especially in rural and low-income areas.

That shortage is what drove the creation of MC3 in the first place.

Michigan is third from the bottom among all states in supply of mental health professionals for young people. Only Washtenaw County, where the University of Michigan is located, meets national population-based criteria for having enough mental health providers specializing in children and teens.

The pandemic has made matters worse across Michigan and the United States. A national report from November 2020 showed that anxiety and depression in pregnant women have more than doubled, and emergency department visits for mental health concerns in children had risen by double digits since the pandemic began.

Joanna Quigley, M.D., another MC3 consulting psychiatrist from Michigan Medicine, recently presented data at a national meeting showing that 30% of MC3 consults during 2020 focused on pandemic-related concerns.  

The pandemic has prompted MC3’s team to plan to offer extra training to help providers identify the needs and handle the concerns of children traumatized by experiences they or their families have had during COVID-19.

Trauma-informed care is also important for children who even before the pandemic experienced very disruptive life events.

Terri Rosel, NP-C, a nurse practitioner at Cherry Health in northern Michigan, wrote to the MC3 team: “I work in a small student health center in Cedar Springs and am the sole provider in the office. Since starting this job four years ago I have had the pleasure of seeing so many students with mental health concerns. I felt ill-equipped at times to help them with my degree as a family practice nurse practitioner. I would utilize MC3 often to help with treatment plans for these wonderful kids who needed help but could not get into psychiatric services soon enough.”

As the program continues to grow, it will partner more with schools through a direct connection with the TRAILS program that offers mental health awareness and support services.

Positive Feedback from Providers

The MC3 team has surveyed participating providers and found that 99% agreed with the statement that “following phone consultation(s) I felt more confident that I could effectively treat patients’ behavioral health problems.”

The team published other findings from its survey of providers, and responded to feedback by making changes.

The quotes they received from providers are equally compelling.

“This service has been absolutely ‘practice- changing’,” said one. “As we have more and more patients with mental health issues and limited local resources- we are essentially the only option for these kids. Having MC3 support helps us make good treatment decisions and is also ‘on the job training’ which we can apply to future patients.”

In fact, MC3 data show that 25% of the interactions help the patient avoid a higher-level of care that may be difficult to access, such as a psychiatric hospital bed or emergency psychiatric visit.

One of the maternal health providers who joined MC3 recently said, “I can’t even express how this service has enhanced the care I can provide. In the past, we’d screen and diagnose and then send moms out. We’d place referrals and hope that folks could navigate the complex system. Now, with MC3, I can collaborate with psychiatry, start meds or treatment, and access community resources that I am confident they will be able to access. It’s really been invaluable.”

What We Learned from the IIA’s Webinar on Broadband Affordability

On Monday, September 13th, the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) held a webinar entitled Deleting the Broadband Affordability Divide: A Virtual Chat with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel. The event was headlined by a discussion between FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and IIA Co-Chair Kim Keenan and featured a star-studded cast of accomplished women, including:

  • Joi Chaney, Executive Director of National Urban League’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy
  • Dr. Dominique Harrison, Director of Technology Policy for the Joint Center
  • Rosa Mendoza, Founder, President and CEO of ALLvanza

The goal of this event was to discuss the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program’s success thus far, what challenges remain, and ultimately, how the federal government and other actors are fairing in addressing the digital divide in the United States. In the following, we’ll take a look at the key takeaways and information shared in the webinar and assess the current status of the EBB Program in America. But before we do that, we must understand the context and why such initiatives are vitally important.

The Digital Divide

The digital divide has essentially been around ever since the World Wide Web emerged some 30 years ago. The problem has been widely known for decades, but action has largely remained stagnant. The issue started to gain more traction in the last ten years as much of everyday life transitioned to or became intertwined with the digital world. It became clear that Americans across the country were being left behind. Initial policy efforts focused chiefly on accessibility and availability, but we know now that the real issue lies with broadband adoption, i.e., affordability of broadband access.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the vast reliance on the digital world that has followed, it became utterly apparent how strong the digital divide is and how essential it was to ensure no one is left behind. A third of American households have worried about paying their broadband bills during the pandemic. COVID-19 also made it clear how substantial the gap is in broadband availability for under-served communities, with just 71% of African American adults having broadband access. Compared to 65% for Hispanic adults and 80% for White adults.

Given these apparent gaps and severe consequences at hand following COVID-19, the FCC enacted the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program to address this critical issue before it’s far too late.

The Importance of the Webinar

Despite the initiative at the federal level from the FCC, such programs cannot succeed on their own. That’s where organizations and coalitions like the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) come in. The IIA is a coalition that has supported broadband availability and access for all Americans for the last 17 years. They hosted this webinar intending to increase awareness behind the EBB Program and the work that remains to be done. Given the problems that COVID-19 has so clearly illuminated regarding broadband connections, it was essential to keep the momentum building on the EBB Program. And that’s precisely what the IIA webinar achieved. With that being said, let’s look at what the EBB is and what we learned about it in the webinar.

What is EBB?

The main goal of the EBB Program is to make broadband affordable to everyone and get 100% broadband access in America. It’s the most extensive broadband affordability program in our nation’s history, with initial funding from Congress set at $3.2 billion. The idea is to obviously address the affordability aspect of broadband, mainly to help lower-income households from falling behind, and thus, creating an even bigger divide in our country.

The EBB Program aims to keep those online struggling to afford it and help get those online who haven’t been before. EBB provides up to $50 a month to families who qualify, and that number goes up to $75 a month on tribal lands. The Program also works closely with providers to offer discounts on tablets and laptops. Five and a half million households have signed up thus far. But as FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel mentioned, this is just the beginning.

Many households qualify but have yet to reap the benefits, and a big reason behind that is a lack of trust. Unsurprisingly, many Americans are reluctant to trust a new federally-run program automatically, so is the case with EBB. To counter this, the FCC has utilized more than 33,000 partners around the world to help them. Whether massive organizations or small, local groups, the FCC has entrusted their partners to help facilitate the Program and make the community connections needed for it to work.

With that being said, let’s look at some of the key takeaways from the IIA webinar.

Key Takeaways

As mentioned previously, perhaps the most significant barriers to success for the EBB Program are trust and reach. However, the FCC has held over 300 events around the country and has worked with other federal agencies and even the National Football League (NFL) to help further the Program. Even so, it’s the local actors, communities, and leaders that’ll make all the difference. In Baltimore, for example, a city impeded by this issue perhaps more than any other, there are local organizations going door to door to spread the word, and the mayor fully supports the Program. The FCC hopes for more of the same in urban areas around the country, which struggle more with broadband connection than previously imagined.

The FCC has even created a detailed yet straightforward outreach toolkit to help local actors get the message out to assist in such community endeavors. The toolkit is available in 13 different languages to ensure messaging is as effective as possible. They also have a mobile-friendly app which has helped a lot of people get started in the Program.

The most important takeaway from the IIA webinar is that this Program’s success will depend heavily on local communities.

Closing Statements

The IIA webinar made it clear that we can be hopeful about addressing the digital divide. This strong group of women, headlined by the confident and passionate Rosenworcel, are highly dedicated to this Program and evening the playing field around the country. There’s no doubt work remains to be done, but the Program is progressing steadily nonetheless. Let’s tackle this problem together to ensure no one is left behind.

Drinking Increased During the Pandemic. What Happens Now?

During the pandemic, many people turned to alcohol as a release valve. Indeed, drinking — including day drinking and overdrinking — became somewhat of a punchline, not to mention a social norm. Think about how many times the media recommended Zoom cocktail hours as a way to connect.

In such an alcohol-friendly environment, it’s no surprise that 60% of adults in a recent research study admitted to an increase in alcohol consumption during COVID-19. What’s more, 23% of people attribute their heightened alcohol intake to stress, according to the American Psychological Association.

With numbers like this, the only real winners are beer, wine, and liquor makers and distributors. It’s time we begin to address the overconsumption of alcohol, on a societal and personal level.

Addressing Overconsumption of Alcohol

This ramped-up alcohol intake isn’t just a short-term concern. It’s worrisome for the long haul, too, if it becomes the new normal. Overdrinking has been shown to harm people’s mental, physical, and even social well-being. When it comes to physical health, you’re probably familiar with the risk alcohol poses to the liver, but did you know that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of cancer (behind only tobacco and obesity)?

With overdrinking, it’s a time for empathy, not shaming. This past year and a half should highlight just how easy it is to slip into unhealthy habits and how difficult it can be to regain your footing afterward. After all, increased alcohol intake wasn’t the only concern during the pandemic. Many individuals struggled with weight gaininsomnia, and screen time, just to name a few areas of concern.

Whether it’s stress eating or doomscrolling, most people are struggling with moderation in one way or another. As more normal life returns, the nation faces a once-in-a-generation liminal moment that a recent Harvard Business Review article described as “an ‘in-between’ time, when perspectives shift, old certainties are challenged, and new ideas emerge.” This moment provides an opportunity to fundamentally change behavior and social norms.

The key to helping others overcome their unhealthy habits is to approach them with empathy and support, not judgment. Certainly, alcohol use disorder is a disease that may require treatment. But can you encourage anyone you know to take stock of their relationship with alcohol and consider whether they would benefit from leveling off their drinking?

Instead of demonizing all alcohol intake — an approach that is likely to be a conversation stopper — you can encourage those who drink to rethink their behavior and attitudes around alcohol. This approach requires more careful communication and messaging, but it can start a productive discussion.

In the same way, social norms have changed regarding smoking, attitudes about drinking can also change. Subtly shifting social norms could lead to more (or less) drinking over time with huge implications for Americans’ health. However, the key is providing a supportive environment with the resources necessary to help anyone who may be struggling with the overconsumption of alcohol.

How to Encourage Healthier Habits Around Drinking

Overconsumption of alcohol can be a life-threatening problem, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should get preachy about what’s best for other people. Instead, you can help others evaluate their relationship with drinking and whether they want to adjust their habits. Here are three ways to be supportive:

1. Ask more questions.

Why are people drinking more? Is it stress? Social expectations? Boredom? There are a lot of reasons people can overindulge, but you won’t know what they are until you start asking. Don’t worry: You don’t have to get confrontational. Instead, you can ask simple questions about habits. Where do they tend to drink? How much have they had in the past week? What other ways do they address boredom or stress besides drinking? These questions can serve as prompts to help people decide the implications for themselves.

2. Make people aware of the support that’s available.

One silver lining of the pandemic has been the number of telehealth services and virtual support groups that have sprung up. Although the original goal was to help people stay healthy while adhering to quarantine and social distancing restrictions, these convenient resources are here to stay. Anyone who needs a little extra help sticking with a new habit just needs a phone or computer.

Moderation Management, for example, is an online community that offers peer accountability and support through virtual meetings and forums. There’s also Cutback Coach, an app that helps users track their drinking habits and set regular goals for themselves. Both of these options are easy to access and use, which can make a big difference for people who need help doing something hard.

3. Encourage people to consider what the experts have to say.

Federal public health experts recommend no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. However, many scientists are now saying that one drink per day is enough.

Attempts at humor about portion size aren’t helpful. A full bottle of wine is not considered a single drink, even if you can fit it into a novelty glass. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidelines regarding what constitutes one drink. This can be a useful guide or reminder for people who might not realize that they’re drinking more than they should. That generous pour of wine or liquor or the high-alcohol IPA is not considered only one drink.

As the world moves into the post-pandemic era, it will be important to have candid, compassionate conversations about the ways people can live healthier, happier lives. When it comes to drinking, this means changing social norms to encourage moderation instead of normalizing the problem with memes about drinking too much. By working together, we can usher in a future without alcohol reliance or addiction.

Note: SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

How are We Listening to Our Clients in Times of Crisis?

Who (or what) comes to your mind when you think about active listening?

For me, I think about my girlfriend Jo. She gives her complete attention to my stories, her sole intention to understand. She does not interrupt while I narrate, excepting necessary clarifications. The energy steers me to confide in her. She is my definition of active listening.

As Carl R Rogers, an American psychologist and founder of the person-centered approach asserted:

“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”

Social work, without an iota of doubt, involves a lot of listening as we engage with our clients. Hence, the approaches we employ to listen, especially while COVID-19 is taking a negative toll on various aspects of our well-being, can determine the effectiveness of our services.

In order to actively listen, we often must make an effort to be aware of our prejudices and preferences within personal and professional realms. Hence, our commitment to our ethical responsibilities to our clients by respecting their human dignity, worth, and self-determination to make decisions for themselves. This awareness is possible when one is cognizant of different ways of interacting and listening.

For instance, in Collaborating with the Enemy, Kahane mentions the following 4 types of listening techniques: downloading, debating, dialoguing, and presenting.

  • In downloading mode, the person thinks their story is the ultimate truth and ignores or suppresses other narratives out of anger, fear, or arrogance. In this phase, the person only listens to their own stories and agrees to perspectives they are comfortable with. The author points out this is usually a behavior expressed by dictators or experts.
  • While in the debating approach, the space for the various views of expression, some ideas win while others lose. In this mode, people are aware of their perspectives are not absolute, so outward listening can occur.
  • Through dialoguing technique, one person listens empathetically and subjectively to another. This is self-reflective and listening happens from inside them. Kahane reminds this style promotes new possibilities to emerge.
  • Finally, in presenting mode, people listen without any agenda and are open to conversations without boundaries. The individual is fully present and pays attention to not just a specific idea or person but considers the system as a whole.

Because the nature of our job grants us the freedom to perform a wide variety of functions at various levels and capacities (such as facilitating, coaching, counseling, educating, developing resources, writing and researching, advocating, managing, leading, negotiating, building communities, and more) the significance of listening with empathy and patience cannot be underestimated. This will not only enable us to understand their changing needs but also influences our efficiency and capacity to serve our clients well.

Remember the First Presidential Debate – Where Our Presidential Candidates Stand

The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took place on September 29, 2020. The 90-minute debate featured a series of bitter exchanges and name-calling as Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox struggled to facilitate the conversation. Wallace repeatedly admonished the president for disregarding debate rules and interrupting Biden’s speaking time. A “will you shut up, man…It’s hard to get any word in with this clown” from Biden serves as a recap of how the night went and resonates with many of the American people.

Among the six debate topics, the issue of race and violence in our cities was prompted followed by a question to gauge each candidate’s ability to combat race issues. In response, Trump claimed that he was better suited than Biden to eliminate these issues and is “doing better than any Republican has done in a long time” – an opinion that is unpopular among Black and Brown voters. The President also referenced the 1994 Crime Bill, a controversial piece of legislation that reinforced punitive responses to deter crime and incentivized states to build more prisons. In an effort to weaken Biden’s arguments, Trump accused Biden of referring to Black people as superpredators. Biden refuted Trump’s accusations with the statement “I did not say that. I’ve never said that.”

Fact- Check: Did Biden Call Black People Superpredators?

According to NBC News, Trump’s accusation was “mostly false.” In fact, it was Hillary Clinton, the former United States Secretary of State, who used the term in support of the 1994 Crime Bill. However, Biden, a co-author of the law, did warn of “predators” in a 1993 floor speech he delivered in support of the bill. According to Biden’s speech in 1993, predators were “beyond the pale” and must be sanctioned away from the rest of society because the criminal legal system does not know how to rehabilitate them. Since then, Biden has publicly apologized for his past stance on criminal legal issues and admitted that the decisions made in that era “trapped an entire generation.”

The term “superpredator” was coined in 1996 by John Dilulio, a Princeton professor who predicted that a wave of ruthless, violent young offenders was on the horizon. According to Dilulio’s theory, these young people were so impulsive that they could engage in violent crimes without hesitation or remorse. A 1997 report published by the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice found that juvenile courts in the United States processed more than 1.7 million delinquency cases in 1995, a 7-percent increase over the 1994 caseload and a 45-percent increase over the number of caseloads handled in 1986. Compounding an influx of juvenile proceedings was significant research suggesting a strong relationship between childhood adversity and involvement with the juvenile or adult criminal systems. Eventually, public officials supported Dilulio’s theory, which resulted in tough-on-crime policies for young and adult offenders across the country. 

While it is true that incarceration rates were already high by 1994, the passage of the federal crime bill disproportionately impacted communities of color. The bill exacerbated racial and ethnic disparities in state prisons by deploying more police into neighborhoods of color. Considered “one of the cornerstone statutes that accelerated mass incarceration,” a combination of more prisons, racial profiling, and mandatory minimum sentencing funneled a generation of Black and Brown people into the juvenile and criminal legal system. Today, The United States and federal prison population has increased since 1994 and widened racial disparities. According to a 2020 data analysis, more than 60% of people in prison today are people of color and Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men, with Hispanic men being 2.7 times as likely. Consistent with both candidates’ remarks, the Black and Brown community continues to bear the harshest brunt of discriminatory policies and practices. 

Fight the Fake: The Importance of Fact-Checking and How to Recognize A False Claim

In a world with unlimited access to social media and the internet, fact-checking is conducive to making informed voting decisions. Making informed voting decisions means that an individual is knowledgeable about the topics and positions of candidates who are running for office. Additionally, it means that an individual is able to make their own decisions without influence from outside factors, including misinformation found online. Acknowledging that fact-checking is not always an easy task, especially with constant, savvy efforts against it and persuasive content, here are five ways to combat misinformation and cast informed votes:

  • Detect whether the statement is a claim of fact.
    • When a statement that you heard jumps out to you, ask yourself if it is a claim of fact. It’s important to note that opinion, rhetoric, and satire have a place in public debate. Although you can not fact-check opinion, fact-checkable claims can be easily spotted. Sometimes, these claims feature tangible nouns (housing or insurance), numbers, and comparisons (“the economy is doing better under my administration”), and they also contain statements about what a candidate has achieved.
  • Think about the context of the claim.
    • It may be helpful to ask yourself what the claim leaves out. When a candidate claims to have influenced massive economic growth, for example, it’s important to look into the status of the economy before the candidate was elected into office.
  • Find reliable sources to test the validity of the claim.
    • Depending on the claim you are fact-checking, the best sources may be government-run websites and records, peer-reviewed articles with large sample sizes, or well-known organizations with credibility such as The Commission on Presidential Debates.
  • Is the candidate claiming credit that is not due?
    • Another misleading trick is to claim credit for something that was the result of another elected official’s agenda. If an elected official claims that they combated systemic issues while in office, it’s worthwhile to dig deeper to see who was responsible for the specific changes they are referring to. 
  • Accept that you’ll have critics.
    • Lastly, it’s important to recognize that you will have critics. As you know, everyone is entitled to their opinion even if it is different than your own. However, that does not mean you have to conform- you have the autonomy to make decisions based on your lived experiences. 

All in all, ignore the Twitter and Facebook trolls and make informed decisions for you and your loved ones. Despite how advanced and easily accessible information is on TV, social media, and the internet, it is ultimately up to you to remain vigilant and seek the truth.

Statement from the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers Regarding the Changes to the Social Work Code of Conduct

We the board of the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers received the stunning news about the change to the Texas Social Work Code of Conduct that “slipped in” at the last minute at a request of Governor Greg Abbott. This bypassed the usual 30-day requirement for public comment and bypassed usual approval procedures because it was voted on and approved at a joint meeting of the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) and the Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC, TSBSWE’s governing body).

The governor personally strong-armed the board into approving this change, without opportunity for public comment. His explanation was that elsewhere in the Texas Code and legislation, this language is not used and therefore should be removed from the Social Work Code to align it better with the “usual” language. In other words, our state does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes (as we do race, religion, etc.) and therefore Texas social workers should not either.  We are both horrified and speechless at the removal of the protections against discrimination for disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and gender expression from the Social Work Code of Conduct. This move appears to be an exertion of the governor’s power in both a professional and a deeply personal way.

Standing precedent is that political agents are not to dictate the Social Work Code of Conduct; this responsibility belongs to the TSBSWE.  The state Code is also presented as a minimum and is not expected to be inclusive for every profession, area of practice, and population – governing boards are appointed to make rules, as deemed necessary and appropriate for their respective professions. The law should never sanction unethical practices and in fact, should do just the opposite.

As we are called by our National Code of Ethics to both, not discriminate or oppress any group or person, for any reason, and to speak out against systems that seek to do just this, we refuse to accept such dehumanization. The rule to protect the access of service for persons of all sexual orientations and gender expressions was added into our Code in 2012, without objection from the governor’s office.  This language MUST be restored immediately. We must make sure that our VOTES are for representatives who will help us protect access to service for the most vulnerable. This is just the beginning.

NASW is mobilizing action steps to fight this. Members can call their state representatives and the governor’s office right now to oppose, but we will need something collective to beat back this oppressive action. Religious freedom must never come at the expense of serving the most vulnerable in our communities.  Social workers must stand against removing any anti-discrimination protections from the Texas Social Work Code of Conduct.

To see a full list of the NASW/TX board members please visit https://www.naswtx.org/page/Board_and_Staff. To receive the latest updates on the subject visit our website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter (NASW/TX and NASW/TX Advocacy.

NASW Statement on the Passing of Former CEO Elizabeth “Betsy” J. Clark, PhD, MPH, ACSW

Photo: Law & Order Actress Tamara Tunie (R) and Dr. Betsy Clark (L) Credit: @socialworkspeak

It is with great sadness that NASW announces the passing of former CEO Elizabeth “Betsy” Clark, PhD, MPH, ACSW. On behalf of NASW’s Board of Directors, staff, members, partner organizations and supporters, we extend our deepest sympathies to Betsy’s family. NASW team members and volunteers who had the opportunity to work with Betsy remember her as an innovative and inspirational leader who introduced the social work profession to many new allies in the health care field, increased national public awareness of social workers, and expanded NASW’s role in the international social work community.

During Dr. Clark’s tenure (2001-2013) she rebuilt the profession’s largest membership organization and convened two Social Work Congress events in 2005 and 2010, setting long-term collaborative goals for the profession. She also coordinated the introduction of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act into the U.S. Congress; oversaw the profession’s first national research study of the social work workforce; and helped build NASW’s for-profit insurance entity, NASW Assurances Services, Inc. (ASI), to financially support the association and expand its member benefits.

“Betsy understood that strategic partners in government, philanthropy and corporations could help NASW achieve its goals,” says NASW Chief Executive Officer Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “As the first President of the then-newly established NASW Foundation, she invited new allies to support our mission and she expanded NASW’s commitment to our nation’s veterans. An unwavering champion for social workers in health care, she created opportunities where others only saw barriers. Betsy Clark made an enormous difference for the profession.”

Before becoming the head of NASW, Dr. Clark held the position of Executive Director of the New York State Chapter of NASW. Prior to that, she was the Chief Operating Officer for The March…Coming Together to Conquer Cancer, a national public awareness and grassroots organizing campaign, which was endorsed by 1,500 cancer-related groups and culminated in a massive march in Washington, DC. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) hosted the event

Prior to NCCS, Dr. Clark held overlapping positions at the Albany Medical Center and Albany Medical College. She served as Director, Division of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Services, leading patient services, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology.

Dr. Clark wrote extensively on psychosocial oncology issues including cancer survivorship, cancer education, loss and grief, and caregiver burnout. She served as the President of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, Chair of the National Hospice Foundation, Vice Chair of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Secretary of C-Change, Collaborating to Conquer Cancer. In 2015 in recognition for her outstanding contributions to social work, she was elected an NASW Social Work Pioneer

NASW President Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, PhD, LCSW said, “In my conversations with Betsy about the future of social work, she emphasized the importance of recapturing who we are as social workers and as a profession. She believed that instead of being focused on ‘function’ we should identify as professional social workers who have a valuable skill and knowledge set that can be brought to bear in a variety of settings. Social work is the profession of hope, she said.”

The Clark family will hold private services for Betsy in New York and Pennsylvania. Contributions may be made in her memory to:

Seamon Wilsey Funeral Home

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship

NASW Foundation Memorial & Tribute Fund

Cards and letters for Betsy’s family may be sent to the NASW Foundation, 750 First Street, NE, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002

“Of all the forces that make for a better world, none is as indispensable, none so powerful as hope.” -Charles Sawyer

Tourette Association of America marks National Tourette Awareness Month with Engaging Virtual Events and Activities

Tourette Association of America via Facebook

The Tourette Association of America (TAA), the premier national nonprofit organization serving the Tourette Syndrome (TS) and Tic Disorder community, will host a series of virtual events and activities in honor of Tourette Awareness Month, May 15 – June 15.   Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, impacting an estimated 1 million Americans, characterized by sudden, involuntary movements and/or sounds called tics. 50% of individuals impacted are going undiagnosed due to the lack of awareness, lack of general understanding about the condition and stigma.  The misunderstandings often lead to misdiagnosis, alienation and bullying. 

In response to these uncertain times, the TAA has launched feel-good initiatives and comprehensive virtual events to keep the community engaged. Those impacted by the condition have been experiencing heightened symptoms like coughing, sniffling, and throat clearing tics, as well as extreme anxiety, OCD, depression and other co-occurring conditions. These symptoms may be crippling, hindering the ability to fulfill basic needs. In addition, social distancing has heightened mental illness, tics, and co-occurring conditions for the community.  These virtual events bring our community to the forefront during the COVID-19 era, helping to create a more universal understanding of the challenges faced each day, as well as to share successes: 

Virtual Quilt

The TAA has designed a virtual quilt to showcase the Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorder community, entwined with stories of inspiration, hope and community. This virtual quilt is a narrative of the unique experiences and stories to embrace and comfort one another. TS may impact everyone differently, but we are all woven together in community. It symbolizes their resilience, resourcefulness, and optimism. 

Tourette Pledge

TAA is asking people to take a pledge to not use Tourette Syndrome as a punchline, descriptor or slur.   This effort serves to raise understanding and acceptance for TS and Tic Disorders, as well as highlights the progress we have made as a community. 

Miles for Tourette May 15-June 15: Participants can virtually walk, run and cycle to raise funds and awareness for TS.  Tourette Awareness Month that supports the TAA’s mission to make life better for all people affected by Tourette syndrome and Tic Disorders. Each week will feature fun and exciting initiatives. Funds raised will benefit research, support necessary programs, and foster social acceptance of Tourette.  

Teal Tuesdays: May 26, June 2, June 9 – Wear teal on Tuesdays to support Tourette! Ideas include: teal clothing, ties, bracelets, buttons, hair accessories, nail polish and more! Participants are asked to get creative and post pictures on Social Media!

“We are committed to raising awareness and fostering social acceptance of Tourette, which affects 1 in every 100 school-aged children,” said Amanda Talty, President & CEO of the Tourette Association.  “We want people to see the Tourette community beyond their tics. They are diverse and talented and bring incredible gifts as students, leaders, parents, teachers, actors, musicians, athletes and so much more.”

About Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders

  •     Tourette Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by sudden, involuntary movements and/or sounds called tics. They can include eye blinking, head jerking and facial movements — throat clearing, sniffing and tongue clicking.
  •     The involuntary utterance of obscene words is called coprolalia, and it’s much rarer than people think: Only 10 percent of people diagnosed with Tourette experience these symptoms.
  •     There is no cure for Tourette. The cause also remains unknown, but it is thought to involve genetic, neurological and environmental factors that can be treated.
  •     Tourette is underdiagnosed. Many children, parents, teachers and even physicians don’t fully understand TS, which can lead to bullying, a lack of community support, an improper diagnosis and a host of other issues that impair the quality of life for someone with TS.

The Tourette Association of America (TAA)

Founded in 1972, the Tourette Association of America (TAA) is dedicated to making life better for all individuals affected by Tourette and Tic Disorders. As the only national organization serving this community, the TAA works to raise awareness, advance research, and provide ongoing support to patients and families. To this end, the TAA directs a network of 31 Chapters, 83 support groups and recognizes 20 Centers of Excellence across the country. For more information on Tourette and Tic Disorders, call 1-888-4-TOURET and visit us at tourette.org, and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Participant Launches Partnership Campaign to Support Domestic Workers Amid Covid-19 Crisis

Image owned by the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Participant, the leading media company dedicated to entertainment that inspires audiences to engage in positive social change, launched the Care For The People Who Care For You campaign in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) to galvanize support for domestic workers amid the novel coronavirus crisis. The digital initiative centers around a video, produced by Participant’s digital content studio, SoulPancake, to highlight the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on domestic workers, of whom 7 out of 10 have lost 100% of their income because of the crisis, and seeks to educate employers on how to best support them.

The video depicts the acute challenges that the pandemic has placed on domestic workers, who typically do not receive benefits like sick leave and thus far have been excluded from much of the government assistance packages. Told from the perspective of a domestic worker navigating health and financial concerns, the goal of the video is to educate and encourage employers to support those employees who care for them every day.

Over the course of the Care For The People Who Care For You campaign, Participant will direct employers to the NDWA’s Employer Resource Hub, which outlines a range of steps one can take to offer both emotional and financial support, from calling and checking in to paying for cancelled services. Additionally, viewers can donate to NDWA’s Coronavirus Care Fund, a fund that will offer immediate emergency assistance for domestic workers facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Proceeds from the fund will be administered through ALIA, NDWA’s online benefits platform which allows employers to offer domestic workers a range of benefits they otherwise would not have access to, such as paid time off and sick leave.

“We’re delighted to partner once again with Participant to bring attention to domestic workers in this time of crisis,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “Nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers across the country are facing tremendous challenges during this pandemic, from risking their health while working jobs on the frontline to losing income they need to support their own families. We urge employers to show care for those who have cared for them and their families.” 

“During this uncertain time, it is critical to highlight the needs of and support the communities who are most impacted,” said David Linde, CEO of Participant. “We’re proud to continue our partnership with Ai-jen Poo and the entire team at the National Domestic Workers Alliance to bring awareness and for those who care for us and our families.”

The new initiative is a continuation of Participant’s Roma social impact campaign, which launched alongside the Academy Award®-winning film ROMA,  to increase the visibility and value of domestic workers in popular culture and accelerate solutions to support their economic security. The new video is a reimagination of the initial spot SoulPancake created for NDWA, which promoted their online platform, ALIA, as a solution for providing domestic workers with benefits. The video, which received over 1.7 million views, generated a 98 percent increase in page views and a 905 percent increase in users on myalia.org.

For more information on how to support this campaign, please visit here to learn more.

About Participant

Founded by Chairman Jeff Skoll and under the leadership of CEO David Linde, Participant combines the power of a good story well told with real world impact and awareness around today’s most vital issues. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing well over 2 billion consumers compelled to make meaningful content a priority focus.

As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 30 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake. Participant’s more than 100 films have collectively earned 74 Academy Award® nominations and 19 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Green Book and Best Foreign Language Film for Roma and A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital division, SoulPancake, is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting content that reaches an audience of more than 9 million fans.

About National Domestic Workers Alliance

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is the leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for respect, recognition and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA is powered by 70 local affiliate organizations and chapters and by a growing membership of nannies, house cleaners and care workers across the nation. NDWA is home to Alia, an online platform to help domestic workers access benefits, and in 2019, launched a campaign to pass the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, federal legislation sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Social Distancing for Social Workers During a Global Pandemic

Social distancing has become the new urgency for different industries, sectors and corporations around the world. The creative challenge is to figure out how each of us will shape the nature of our work. Many social workers are making home visit remotely or providing therapy via video conferencing, and many in this sector are being forced to find creative ways to provide services that will benefit our clients while also allowing us to maintain our physical and emotional well-being.

This transitioning from in-person services to different forms is leading us to formulate, experience and witness new ways of creativity, resilience and persistence like what we saw with the quarantined Italians singing from their balconies.

Creativity

‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesise new things’ – Steve Jobs

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Before we connect our experiences, as he said, there is no better time than now to examine deeply what each of us have in our toolkits. What matters, now, is to consider and believe what we have, to be of significance. What we have in our toolkit is as unique as we are. So, create.

Here is my toolkit. I hope it inspires you to reflect on what you have in your toolkit to utilise it to the best. To add sparks of joy, grace and meaningfulness. Because we are in this together.

My toolkit

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

1) Education

Apart from my Master’s in Social Work certificate from a University, good grades, 1000 hours of unpaid internships, and my other volunteering experiences, I consider the following to be equally significant to serve clients effectively.

2) Vision

I am curious about human potential. To unearth, cultivate and channelise it gently, thoughtfully and effectively. In ways that spread inspiration, positivity. Persevere ahead with patience and empathy for self and others.

3) The Code of Ethics (Australian Association of Social Workers)

A mandatory source of reference that provides insightful principles, responsibilities, values and guidance for social work profession. You should find and become familiar with the guiding code of ethics for your location.

4) Values and Authentic Self

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

‘What if I come across a situation in which I have to manage a caseload where my values are different than the clients I serve ?’ asked by a student to their field education supervisor.

The supervisor responded by saying never feel obligated to work against your own values. ‘One time, I was approached by a client whose values were completely different to mine with respect to the caseload. I politely directed to a different social worker within the same organisation whose values were congruent with the client.’

This is a valuable insight. It was prudent for the student to inquire and confirm before proceeding to engage with the client instead of realising it midway. The significance on having clarity of personal values can enable or inhibit being one’s authentic self while in service to clients.

5) Journaling

This is my third year of loving to journal on a consistent basis, and this practise is teaching me to pay more attention. Close attention to what’s happening within me and outside me. Sometimes it is scary. Other times, enlightening. At the same time, it is consoling. A mixed process indeed.

I deem this exercise to be not only my source of self-care but also helps me to access, name and take the time to feel my emotions and interpretations, during different life events. Going through this process, offers patience and empathy, for myself, which I can then offer to the clients who might it need the most.

Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

6) Social Work Theories

Everything we do to serve, our clients, are underpinned by theories. We carry and transmit the essence of it, consciously or unknowingly, while we interact, advocate, direct, manage, make decisions, engage or disengage, with our clients, co-workers or managers.

Hence, utilising a post-colonial lens to read, explore, learn, think, reflect and write, social work theories, is a practise that needs to be actively encouraged within the sector, organisations, services, outreaches as well as educational institutions to provide social work services that are inclusive in nature.

This awareness is crucial because clients from diverse backgrounds will have unique perspectives as a result of emerging from cultures that have different ideologies and therefore values different from Western ideologies.

Hence, it is important for a social worker to reflect well in order identify our personal inclinations and to never impose them on clients whose perspectives could be different to us. And often, when I engage and decide to choose a theory, I ask myself these questions:

  1. Is the theory inclusive of the client’s stage of problems/ circumstance?
  2. Am I including/excluding client’s input?
  3. Considerations /possibilities of the theory that can enable or inhibit client’s aspirations/goals/circumstances.
  4. The strengths of the theory
  5. The limitations of the theory

7) Experiences

This is one profession where transferrable skills can be optimised to serve purposes of the job constructively. For instance, I learned a core insight regarding writing from journalism class as well as internship experience during my undergraduate educational phase. Regarding the 5 W’s and 1 H…What, Where, When, Why, Who and How. Social Work involves a lot of writing. Whether, it is writing case notes, assessment reports, project plans, research reports or support plans, writing is crucial. 

This awareness magnifies the significance of having a diversity of skills, educational experiences, perspectives and transferable skills in which to maximise possibilities and opportunities.

Here to create a legacy

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

“You have no idea what your legacy will be because your legacy is every life you touch”- Maya Angelou

And, I could not agree more. At times when we are bogged down by uncontrollable factors resulting in unfavourable crisis, we need a different point of view and perspective that emanates hope especially now during this global pandemic. As individuals, it is necessary to consciously choose our thoughts, words and energy about the situation within our spheres of influence.

‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’ -Victor E Frankl

Even at times like these, let us choose responses that reflects growth and freedom while promoting goodness to create our legacy individually and collectively.

Please share with us your perspectives, toolkit, and how the nature of your job has changed during this global pandemic in the comments below. It is essential to know the changes, challenges and barriers within our respective sectors in order to help us borrow, adopt and apply what works and avoid what doesn’t work.

National Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders

Companies Join Forces to Positively Impact 300,000 National Guard, First Responders and Healthcare Heroes

Today, Operation Gratitude announced the launch of one of the largest coordinated efforts in the country to support the brave men and women on the frontlines of the Coronavirus pandemic. Companies across all industries are joining together to form the Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders to leverage their collective resources and capabilities and provide direct support to hundreds of thousands of Frontline Responders nationwide. 

Over the past two weeks, Operation Gratitude has delivered 60,000 individual items to Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments and 450 National Guardsmen in southern California, as well as 30,000 individual items and 1,000+ handwritten letters to the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington D.C. Bulk deliveries are scheduled this week at dozens of hospitals in NYC and Seattle and metropolitan police and fire departments in areas particularly impacted by the pandemic.

Operations will scale up exponentially with generous support from CSX, Liquid IV, Mars Wrigley, Prudential Financial, Starbucks and The Starbucks Foundation and Veterans United Home Loans.

The Coalition will be co-chaired by retired Lieutenant General Kathleen Gainey, who served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. Transportation Command and brings over 35-years of extensive logistics and transportation experience in the military and in collaboration with the private sector; and Robert Lackman, the former COO of The Gorilla Glue Company and a Navy veteran, who brings 25-years of supply chain and distribution expertise.

Together the Coalition has pledged to support COVID-19 Frontline Responders by:

  • Raising $1.5 million in financial donations to fund bulk deliveries of 5 million items to 400 hospitals, police and fire departments, National Guard units and other Military response forces that are currently deployed or about to deploy.
  • Making in-kind donations of essential items, valued at $5 million, to support 300,000 frontline responders at hospitals, major metropolitan police and fire departments and deployed National Guard units over the next 10 weeks.
  • Mobilizing dedicated and grateful employees and their families through #VirtualVolunteerism with a focus on writing letters of gratitude to military, first responders and healthcare heroes.
  • Providing in-kind resources, to include critical transportation and logistics support and other professional services to ensure an agile and responsive operation

“As we have all seen recently, the world can turn upside down in a matter of days. One thing that we can always count on during a crisis is our military and first responders on the frontlines,” said the CEO of Operation Gratitude, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel. “While they continue to serve, we will continue to support them with the help of this coalition. Together, we will deliver millions of critically needed items and letters of appreciation globally to the Frontline First Responders who need it most.”

Officers from Los Angeles Police Department unloading supplies

In addition to engaging their employee’s enterprise-wide to write letters of appreciation for Frontline Responders, the founding members of the Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders have also committed the following resources:

  • CSX – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 100,000 Frontline Responders allocated as part of their existing Pride In Service initiative and in direct support of tens of thousands of Military and First Responders in states and cities that the initiative has impacted since its launch in 2018.
  • Starbucks and The Starbucks FoundationFinancial support from The Starbucks Foundation to enable bulk deliveries to 50,000 Frontline Responders; in-kind product support from Starbucks including 50,000 lbs of Starbucks Coffee and a letter-writing campaign for Frontline Responders.
  • Veterans United Home Loans – Financial support to enable deliveries to 50,000 National Guardsmen, Deployed Troops and other Frontline Responders; in-kind product and services support including 50,000 drawstring bags for Frontline Responders; creation of a virtual letter writing platform, allowing others to show their support through #VirtualVolunteerism.
  • Prudential Financial – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 20,000 Frontline Responders and enterprise wide letter-writing. 
  • Liquid IV – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 5,000 Frontline Responders, and an in-kind donation of 312,000 hydration drink servings for every Frontline Responder impacted by the Coalition. 
  • Mars Wrigley – In-kind product donation of up to 1 million individual items, cause marketing campaigns, virtual letter-writing and funded drop shipments to locations most in need.

Since 2003, millions of Americans have volunteered in a tangible way with Operation Gratitude, both in their communities and from their own homes, helping us to fill and deliver 2.6 million care packages. 17 years after the invasion of Iraq started and Operation Gratitude was born, our nation is again under attack on the homeland – this time by an invisible enemy. The grassroots movement that started with the first four care packages will grow at a time of great challenge for our nation and lead to a groundswell of appreciation for those serving on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Social Work School Launches New Domestic and Sexual Violence Training for Massachusetts Licensed Health Professionals

Online training helps health professional meet state law Chapter 260 requirements and prepare them for work with survivors and others impacted by domestic and sexual violence 

Simmons University’s School of Social Work recently announced a new comprehensive online domestic violence and sexual violence (DV/SV) training to educate Massachusetts-based health professionals and prepare them for work with survivors, children exposed to violence, and people who engage in violence. 

The training, Simmons University Massachusetts Chapter 260 Training on Domestic and Sexual Violence, is designed to meet state law requirements, which mandates that health professionals participate in domestic and sexual violence training in order to be licensed by their respective boards. The training was developed to fulfill the Chapter 260 mandate and has been approved by Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health (DPH). 

“Domestic and sexual violence is a pervasive problem that virtually every health professional will encounter at some point in their career,” said Dr. Kristie Thomas, Associate Professor of social work at Simmons University, and the training’s lead designer. “This new training is a crucial resource that provides essential knowledge and tools to social workers, nurses, physicians and other health professionals so they can enhance care and better serve their patients impacted by sexual and domestic violence.” 

The online training, which takes about three and a half hours, is informed by the latest empirical evidence and best practices, and is designed to be easily accessible so health professionals can apply it in their work. 

“The training requirements of Chapter 260 will help ensure that every health professional working with someone impacted by sexual and domestic violence is informed about these difficult issues and can provide the best possible care,” said Judy Benitez Clancy, director of the Division of Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention and Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “Simmons University has provided high-quality online domestic violence training for several years. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health was excited to approve this new training, which includes extensive information about both sexual violence and domestic violence.”

The training is organized into four units and covers a variety of topics, including the health impacts of domestic and sexual violence, common physiological symptoms, the immediate and long-term impacts on survivors, the role of structural oppression in increasing risk and decreasing help-seeking, prevention strategies, reporting requirements, and a range of resources for people who are affected by domestic and sexual violence. 

“Simmons University is a leader in educating students in social work and public health, and we’re pleased to offer this new training that is easily accessible online,” said Dr. Stephanie Berzin, Dean of Simmons University’s College of Social Sciences, Policy, and Practice. “This training provides crucial knowledge and tools that thousands of health professionals across Massachusetts can utilize and apply in a tangible way to their practices.” 

Massachusetts’ Chapter 260 law requires that the following groups of MA health professionals participate in the DV/SV training: physicians, licensed mental health counselors, social workers (LICSW, LCSW), psychologists (APA), licensed educational psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, physician assistants, nursing home administrators, nurses, and licensed rehabilitation counselors.

“People who experience sexual and domestic violence interact with a wide host of health and human service providers who can be a big part of their healing process,” said Debra J. Robbin, Executive Director, Jane Doe Inc. “This online training can make a tremendous difference in the readiness and ability of these caregivers to identify, support, and refer people who are impacted by abuse to sexual and domestic violence programs. We also appreciate the inclusive, survivor centered, and trauma informed content and philosophy that runs throughout the training.”

The training will be accessible online through Simmons University and DPH at:  https://sites.google.com/a/simmons.edu/chapter-260-dv-sv-training/home

Home to the oldest school of clinical social work in the country, Simmons has more than a century of experience educating social workers who are equipped to serve urban, suburban, and rural communities. Simmons also offers the only MSW program in Massachusetts with a required course in substance use disorders for all first-year students. In addition, the Simmons MSW is the only program in New England to use hired actors as part of its innovative Simmons Clinical Simulation curriculum.

Loyola Medicine Psychologists Offer Tips and Resources for Coping During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly and drastically changed day-to-day life in the U.S., causing fear and anxiety. Loyola Medicine clinical psychologists Elizabeth Simmons, PsyD, and Laura Wool, PsyD, provide tips for coping and staying positive during this time, as well as resources for securing additional help and care, in two, new Loyola Medicine videos: “Practical tips for staying positive during COVID-19” and “Coping during COVID-19.”

Simmons and Wool say it’s important to allow yourself to feel anxiety and fear during this stressful and unprecedented time. While “nobody likes to feel anxious or scared,” says Wool, it’s important to “work on inviting those feelings in,” while also realizing that those feelings can coexist with other, more positive feelings.

“You can feel anxious and have fun with your kids,” says Simmons. “You can feel uncertain about what’s coming next and find comfort in playing with your dog or going out for a walk with your dog. You don’t need to get rid of that anxiety in order to also feel joy, happiness and calm.”

Tips for staying positive

To help maintain an emotional balance, Simmons and Wool recommend:

  • Choosing activities that make you feel good. These can include “calling a friend, taking a walk, listening to music, reading a book, engaging in a craft,” says Wool.
  • Checking the facts. “At a time like this, when we really don’t know what’s coming next,” says Simmons, “it’s important to check the facts,” or “decatastrophizing,” keeping a check on our thoughts and focusing on the information that we have access to “and what it’s telling us.”
  • Focusing on what you do have control over. “When people are feeling a loss of control, focusing on what you do have control over can be very helpful,” says Wool. For example, “following the strong recommendation right now to socially distance yourself can feel very empowering.”
  • Maintaining a regular sleep/wake cycle and daily routine. “We take for granted that we have these built-in routines in our lifestyle in terms of getting up in the morning and getting dressed,” says Simmons. It’s important to continue to wake up and go to bed at the same times every day.
  • Taking walks and getting outside. “Make sure that you’re not too sedentary,” say Wool. Get up, take walks and “try to get outside for 10 minutes every day.”
  • Practicing simple breathing exercises to stay calm. “Simple breathing exercises where you count your breaths, and pause between each inhale and exhale, can help slow things down and help calm anxiety.”
  • Watching what you eat. Make sure that you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and that you are not eating too many processed foods, says Wool.
  • Maintaining social connections by phone and video. “We know that body language facilities a lot of the connection we experience socially,” says Simmons. “The more you can see people’s faces, the more you can see people smiling, the more that will combat the loneliness factor” of this pandemic.
  • Taking a moment to be mindful. “Mindfulness helps you stay in the present moment,” says Wool. She said there are apps, such as Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm that can help with mindfulness.

When coping is difficult or impossible

Simmons and Wool explain that for some individuals, the stress of COVID-19 may result in prolonged or acute feelings of depression and/or anxiety, which may require additional resources and/or immediate professional help.

“When you notice that for a significant period of time, let’s say at least two weeks, that you are starting to just feel down or depressed all day every day, or you’re noticing that the anxiety is at a level that is really starting to impair your sleep and your appetite—you’re sleeping less or sleeping more, or eating less or eating more,” says Wool. Or, “you are starting to feel hopeless, having thoughts of suicide, or noticing an increase in substance use, “that would be a time to either reach out to a local hotline or to reach out to your primary care provider for a referral.”

If you have a plan or intent to harm yourself, or others, please call 911, says Wool and Simmons.

Additional resources

  • Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-8255 or Chat with Lifeline
  • Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741

To make an in-person or telehealth appointment with a psychologist, or for more information, contact Loyola Medicine at 1-888-584-7888 or visit www.loyolamedicine.org/psychology.

To learn more about Loyola Medicine, visit loyolamedicine.org.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in Chicago’s western suburbs that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC)Gottlieb Memorial HospitalMacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from more than 1,800 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. & Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois’s largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital.

Having delivered compassionate care for more than 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its academic affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 180 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research facility at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center.

MacNeal Hospital is a 374-licensed-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, including acute rehabilitation, an inpatient skilled nursing facility and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919. For more information, visit loyolamedicine.org.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 106 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $19.3 billion and assets of $27 billion, the organization returns $1.2 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 129,000 colleagues, including about 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians.

Engaging Vulnerable Populations Where Its Needed Most With VotER

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, inequities within our healthcare system are on full display, and it further exposes how our most vulnerable are treated when seeking care. The disparities around who gets tested, access to testing, and whether they can even be seen by a health care provider are even more apparent during this crisis. Politicians, celebrities, and athletes are reporting access to testing while this is not the lived experienced of everyday Americans.

Even with the advancement of technology and an encouraged reliance on telehealth, these inequities in our health care system are the reflection of a country with barriers to civic engagement for its most vulnerable. We live in a country where 51 million potential voting-age adults are not registered to vote.

Disproportionately, those who are not registered to vote fall into one of three categories – the young, the poor, and those of color. For example, 36 percent of eligible African Americans and 48 percent of Hispanics were not registered to vote in the 2014 presidential election. And rates among young citizens are not much better; just 50% of millennials voted in the 2016 election, compared to 69% of Baby Boomers and 63% of Generation X.

It turns out that the same demographic groups that are not registered to vote also disproportionately utilize ERs at higher rates across the country for non-emergency care because they lack access to primary care. In other words, patients who are young, people of color, and have low income are frequently coming to the emergency room for non-life threatening conditions. 

Consider, the annual visit rate was 45.1 ED visits per 100 persons for the average patient in America. But when stratified among patients of color the visit rate was almost two times higher at 85 visits per 100. I’m an ER doctor and I see this phenomenon nearly every shift, but how do we empower our most vulnerable in order to create change?

Why not use the opportunity to register them to vote in the ER and in other health care settings where marginalized communities get their health care?

VotER Gets Patients Registered to Vote While They Wait

VotER is a new civic engagement organization that registers patients to vote in health care settings as described here in the Boston Globe. VotER was launched through a collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital, TurboVote, and ideas42 and we build platforms that offer non-emergency patients a chance to register to vote in 90 seconds or less using a combination of iPad kiosks and behaviorally informed posters, stickers, and discharge paperwork while non-emergency patients wait in ERs and community health centers.

Our early pilots have resulted in significant demand from over 50 hospitals across the country in two months – and we are confident this model will lead to large increases in voter registration rates when paired with effective integration with engaged and social justice oriented staff like social workers in chosen health care settings. 

How We Work

iPad Based

VotER uses ipads contained in freestanding kiosks in areas where low acuity patients wait in the ED. The ipads are programmed to only allow voter registration. Above the ipads are large signs that invite voter registration. 

Patient Phone Based

We deploy posters in the ED that have a text to register feature which allows patients to text a ‘short code’ to a specific number which lets them register using their phone or use a QR code to initiate the same process.

Second, we have developed patient handouts that have embedded QR codes and URL links that connect patients to the same Turbovote voter registration platform. 

Social workers as innovators in civic engagement

Studies demonstrate that social workers participate in political activities more than other professions and vote at higher rates than the general population. Indeed the institution of The Human Service Employees Voter Registration and Education Campaign (Human SERVE) and the successful National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign (Voting is Social Work) demonstrate that the social work profession has always known that voter registration and voting support a robust democracy, a just society, and an equitable health care system.

Moreover, social workers have a long track record of success doing voter registration at rates higher than other traditional voter registration groups. During the 1984 election, for example, just 1% of those working with Human SERVE voter registration campaign registered 275,000 people nationally

At VotER, we know that for decades social work has been out in front doing the hard work of voter registration in health care settings — and the tide is now turning. Hospitals are now becoming engaged participants, and VotER is letting them do this in a way they’ve never been able to before.

We value the legacy of activism and empowerment among the field of social work and know that VotER needs input from social workers to blend our novel approach with on the ground tactics and real-world applications inspired by you. We also know that while VotER’s early pilots have resulted in demand and excitement from hospitals across the country, we need the input and insight of the field of social work to truly scale this effectively. 

We know that without participation from those most hurt by the healthcare system, politicians will continue to turn a blind eye to the needs of disenfranchised patients. Do you have ideas on how to partner effectively? Do you have suggestions on how social workers can use part, or all, of the VotER platform in the 2020 election and beyond? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions here.

Call to Action and How You Can Help

We need your help and ingenuity to address this challenge — specifically, to explore how healthcare workers and spaces can support patients with voter registration via VotER. If you are interested in partnering with us, fill out this form to connect with us

Regional Trends in Overdose Deaths Reveal Multiple Opioid Epidemics, According to New Study

The United States is suffering from several different simultaneous opioid epidemics, rather than just a single crisis, according to an academic study of deaths caused by drug overdoses.

David Peters, an associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University, co-authored the study, which appeared in the academic journal Rural Sociology. Peters and his co-authors conducted a county-level analysis of death certificates from across the country that noted opioid overdoses as the cause of death. The study found regional differences in the kind of opioids that cause the most overdose deaths, and these differences should lead to policymakers considering varying strategies to address the epidemics, Peters said.

“Our results show that it’s more helpful to think of the problem as several epidemics occurring at the same time rather than just one,” Peters said. “And they occur in different regions of the country, so there’s no single policy response that’s going to address all of these epidemics. There needs to be multiple sets of policies to address these distinct challenges.”

Multiple epidemics

The study describes three different opioid epidemics in the United States, as well as a syndemic, or a single population experiencing more than one epidemic:

— A prescription drug epidemic persists in rural southern states where access to opioids centers on local pharmacies. Overdose deaths linked to pharmaceuticals peaked nationwide in 2013 and have fallen in the years since. However, some rural counties continue to struggle with prescription drugs, according to the study.
— A heroin epidemic has taken root in states out west and in the Midwest, especially in urban areas near major interstates that experience heavy drug trafficking. The study found overdose deaths related to heroin clustered along two major corridors, one linking El Paso to Denver and another linking Texas and Chicago. Peters said those findings correspond with known routes used by cartels smuggling heroin into the United States from Mexico.
— An epidemic of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, has grown as a major concern in urban centers in the northeastern United States. Often these synthetic drugs are mixed with heroin or cocaine and made to resemble prescription medications. These counterfeit street mixes are highly potent and deadly.
— A syndemic involving multiple simultaneous opioid epidemics exists in counties where the opioid crisis first erupted, particularly in mid-size cities in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia that have experienced steep job losses in manufacturing and mining.

Peters said roughly a quarter of all counties in the United States fall into one of the epidemic categories noted in the study.

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The data used in the study came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An Overabundance of Fast Food: Food Swamps Are the New Food Deserts

Sponsored by Malone University Online

New York, Broadway at night. Take away fast food kiosks selling hot dog

A homemade salad isn’t a realistic option when you have to walk more than a mile to buy ingredients. For millions of people living in low-income communities, it’s more likely they’ll just order a fast-food burger. They live in areas known as “food swamps,” and it’s a growing threat to health throughout the United States.

Compared with the better-known “food desert” phenomenon of areas lacking fresh, healthy options, food swamps are places where unhealthy foods are more accessible than anything else. Unhealthy options outnumber healthy alternatives by as much as four to one in these areas, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

Together, the problems that both food swamps and food deserts create require creativity to overcome, and social workers and nonprofit agencies across the nation are focused on untangling these issues.

A Closer Look at Food Swamps 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stipulates that food deserts are areas with poverty levels of at least 20% where a minimum of either 500 people or 33% of the population lives over a mile from the nearest supermarket. 

While food swamps can occasionally overlap with food deserts, they are usually separate. Food swamps, according to the USDA’s definition, are communities where fast food and junk food are overwhelmingly more available than healthy alternatives. This is most frequently caused by chain restaurants and corner stores that stock unhealthy, processed foods.

The spread of food swamps in recent decades has been staggering. A national study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that 60% of the calories Americans buy are from highly processed foods. An article in The Guardian reported that, in many places, drug stores are selling more food than grocery stores are, and that food is typically pre-packaged and lacks nutrients. 

To understand the power of food swamps, it’s necessary to study the daily meal choices made by their residents. In 2011, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a 15-year study showing that the presence of supermarkets doesn’t make residents more likely to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. This was especially true for men, who tended to choose quick, processed meals. 

The reasons for these unhealthy choices were varied; advertising, cultural norms, and affordability were all factors. While the study focused on food deserts, the findings underscore the concerns with food swamps. There may be healthier options, but most would choose unhealthy options when the unhealthy options are more plentiful. 

Food swamps are even more of a problem in neighborhoods where there is greater socio-economic disparity. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health said that “low-income and racial-ethnic minorities are more likely . . . to live near unhealthy food retailers, which has been associated with poor diet.” Those retailers often pack the shelves with processed snack foods, and the Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy found that the amount of shelf space stores reserve for snack foods is associated with higher BMI scores in the neighborhoods those stores serve.  

In the larger picture of food swamps and deserts, food swamps have been found to be more directly connected with obesity and other health concerns than food deserts, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Poor food choices impact more than just the waist line, though. Heavily processed foods rich in fats and sugars can lead to chronic inflammation and unbalanced gut microbiome, which early research has indicated may have a negative impact on brain chemistry. This negative impact can result in mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and an inability to regulate mood.

Moreover, poor diets can result in other health concerns, such as diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. Heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes-related problems cost patients millions in medical bills every year. For residents in low-income communities, this perpetuates the cycle of poverty through increased debt and financial stress.

Policies Designed to End Food Swamps

The complex problem of food swamps isn’t easy to solve, but groups have been implementing different initiatives. Often, collaboration among public, private, and nonprofit agencies has been necessary to effect this much-needed change. For example, a group called Healthy Retail SF has partnered with 1,150 mom and pop stores in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District to add more healthy and affordable food options to its food swamp.

In Baltimore, new programs have moved farmers’ markets to the city center. These programs have also implemented new measures that allow food vouchers to be used at these markets to encourage the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income seniors. 

Meanwhile, The Food Trust has been working in a food swamp in Philadelphia to provide education in schools and communities about cooking healthy meals. They’re also advocating for initiatives that let SNAP recipients get more for their money when they make healthier food purchases. 

In the food swamps of Washington, D.C., a group called D.C. Central Kitchen is stocking shelves of corner stores with fresh-cut fruit and ready-made meals with healthier ingredients. Another collective, called D.C. Urban Gardeners Network, has been making a push for more agricultural gardens throughout the city. 

Food swamps are a pervasive and complicated issue in neighborhoods throughout the United States, and social workers are continuing to study their causes and explore new remedies. If you’re interested in helping resolve food swamps, food deserts, and more consider earning an online bachelor of social work from Malone University Online. Our program provides field instruction, giving you the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience. Working alongside our exceptional faculty, you’ll gain the mentorship and guidance you need from seasoned professionals with years of real-world experience.

Emotions and Politics: Our Role to Undo Damage of Hateful Politics

Photo Credit: Common Sense Media

When I first read the news about four Congresswomen being told by the President of this nation to go back to the countries they came from, my heart sunk and I had a huge knot in my stomach. The image of every kid I have ever worked with and still work with and children I know, immediately with came to my mind—US born kids of color, kids who are immigrants —who could internalize the President’s comments as not belonging or deserving to be in this country. Those whose self-esteem, self-worth and sense of self could be damaged as well as the kids and adults who could replicate the President’s behavior and become bullies at school, work or their communities, something we have seen since he took center stage during the 2016 election cycle.

The night I heard a group of people at one of Trump’s rally chant “send her back,” referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, I thought of a group of kids between 6 and 12 years old who were part of a mental health psychoeducation group I co-led, who during the 2016 election cycle had displayed symptoms of anxiety and depression over what they were hearing the new President could do to their families.

I vividly remembered the fear they expressed after President Trump had been elected, of their parents being sent home. I wondered what these children would think and feel if they heard those comments to the Congresswomen by the President and by the chanters. I wanted them to know they belong, they are loved, they matter, our diversity matters and there are many more people who love them and welcome them than others who may not.

For many of us who have been told to “go back to your country or where you belong,” there has been incredible pain we have had to overcome over feelings of not belonging, feelings of confusion, frustration, isolation, and insecurity, among others.

Twenty-four years ago, while in high school and after migrating from Honduras, I was told this phrase over and over again. Back then, I didn’t quite understand the charged meaning of that phrase but the manner, and anger the person displayed when she told me to go back said it all and it evoked a feeling of not being welcomed. It didn’t feel good, it felt threatening and I was terrified to go to school.

Luckily, I had a supportive family to go back to, other friends who looked and sounded like me and many others who expressed welcoming feelings, care and kindness. I rose above those comments, made it through high school and by the end of high school the person who had bullied me wrote a kind message on my yearbook noting that she was glad she had gotten to know me. When I was finally able to understand why someone would say something so hurtful, I came to realize that my former classmate had learned that behavior.

To hear this same racist rhetoric, two decades later by no other than the President, a figure who should symbolize a positive role model and exemplify the American values of unity, acceptance, tolerance, collaboration, inclusiveness, was astonishing, disappointing and infuriating.

The President’s Tweets reminded me of the long work we still have ahead to educate communities on topics like our right to protest as an American freedom, our right to advocate and elevate our voices when we disagree on policies, our rights as women to stand up from the sidelines and be a part of political discourse.

We have our work cut out to gain our democracy back, a democracy where we can both love our country and being an American but still denounce policies we disagree with. This election cycle let our fear and anger fuel our fire to fight for a new and inclusive leader, one that welcomes difference of opinion without attacking, bullying, minimizing and threatening those who oppose him, a leader who is not a threat to our democracy and the values we are teaching our children, a leader who we proudly want our kids to emulate.

Now, part of our role is undoing the emotional damage the Presidents politics of hate has created, particularly with our kids who are shaping their views and behaviors based on what they learn at home, school, their environments, and media. Our role is going back to the essential dinner conversations at home to understand what kids are saying, thinking about and how they may be internalizing and interpreting the information they hear in the news. Kids and adolescents depend on us to make sense and meaning out of information. As long as we are having conversations and checking in, we can create opportunities to debunk myths and misinformation.

For the rest of us, it is more important than ever before to be in community; to take to the streets, to advocate and organize when necessary while taking care of our own emotional wellbeing and seeking support from a professional when the politics of hate and division impact our mental health.

Call to Action

This petition is a collaboration between Social Workers United for Immigration and Social Workers Unraveling Racism with contributions by Hope Center for Wellness, Gardner Associates, and the support of Social Work Helper, Latin American Youth Center, American Federation of Teachers, Undocublack Network,  and CASA. The petition was part of a week long campaign of mandated reporters denouncing government child abuse and demanding action.

Please sign and/or share our petition located at http://chng.it/dc2HnCQNT5. Please, take this small step to help us make a difference.

New Release – ReMoved 3: Love is Never Wasted

Photo provided by Remove3: Love is Never Wasted.

Kevi’s story, though fictional, allowed me to paint for you a visual picture of how much it hurts to have a mother leave you all alone. It invites you to yearn with him—to share his longing to capture a woman that you know you probably never will. It shows how wildly untameably beautiful such an enigma is to her son, with her hair dancing in the wind and the scent of her teasing in and out of his existence.

Mostly, it helps you understand that there’s more to the story than just her. For kids like me, who were raised by many parents, it’s not just about our bio moms, you see. Sometimes, it isn’t even mostly about that mom. It’s also about this foster mamma who feels warm and soft and safe. It’s about how you never want to live without those feelings or her arms around you again.  

Maybe it’s about that foster daddy that you just aren’t sure about. He might hurt you like all the other daddies you’ve ever known. But, maybe he won’t…

Through the Author’s Pen & Own Experience of Foster Care

My mother’s purse was her survival kit. She never forgot it.

She often forgot us. But she never forgot it.  

Inside that purse, she carried an envelope. The envelope held all the things one would normally file away in the safety of their home. Instead, she carried those things—the few markers of our meager existence—in a manila in her handbag.

I suppose this was the only way for her to hold onto anything in a life where change usually happened in a moment’s notice. It wasn’t uncommon for us to ditch all of our possessions when the police discovered us living in a condemned or abandoned building. Also, as a battered woman, Mamma always had to be prepared to run on the days it seemed Daddy might actually kill her.

The purse and the envelope may have been an insignificant thing to anyone else, but for a kid like me, it proved that everything outside of it could be taken in an instant. It signified my mother, how she’d come to be, and the struggles of her life.

That’s why I made the biological mother’s purse a significant part of the story in ReMoved 3. As I wrote “Love Is Never Wasted,” I tried to infuse it with those things that would make it feel real to others who had walked a similar journey. I sought to put in specific feelings and moments that kids in foster care would really connect to.

As a foster kid, you often find yourself torn between families because each one holds a piece of what you need. You long to understand your biological parents and to know what it was like when you were budding in your mother’s womb. You have to know because, on some level, your body still remembers. The body can’t forget the place it was first fed.

Let’s not overlook, though, that you need more than roots to grow. Our bodies instinctually know this as well. We must also feel that we are safe, that nourishment is always available, and that the sun can shine most every day.

Photo provided by Remove3: Love is Never Waste

Ideally, our kiddos would get all these needs met from the same person. Sadly, that is not always the case. For the 400,000 plus kids in the U.S. foster care system a solitary caretaker will not be found to meet all their needs. Our best hope for these kids is that love can be absorbed from multiple sources. We hope that, collectively, they get enough of what they need from the world around them to grow healthy and strong.

Like Kevi’s story, my own life was changed by having multiple temporary parent figures. Though not ideal, this piecemeal parenting experience is what taught me how to love.

There were the moments that my birth mom snuggled me in bed. In the submission of sleep, she would occasionally relax and offer some warmth. These memories of cuddling my mom inspired the scenes of Kevi snuggling his birth mom in the film. Even the direst situations usually have some moments of bonding.

When my mother didn’t have any affection to give, my big brother stood in the gap. He frequently acted as a caretaker, comforting me, protecting me, and feeding me on the days everyone else forgot to. Because of my big brother, when my new little brother entered the world and cried out for protection, I knew how to answer that call.

Unfortunately, I could only answer it slightly better than our mom did.  You see, I was only six. Then seven. By eight, I felt like I was dying. My enchantment with my mother began to wither, along with my body and soul. I called out to the universe for something to take me from the daily pain that she and my father put me in.

Foster care was the answer I received.

Sadly, foster care brought more pain. It’s difficult to describe the feelings that come from being ripped from one’s life source, especially when that life source is also robbing you of life. Regardless of her failures, though, she was still the first person who had held me. Now, I found myself miles from her familiarity. I frequently asked myself if anyone could love me in this strange new place, where nobody looked or acted like me and Mamma.

Some of them couldn’t love me, it seems.

Yet, some of them could and did. Some of them even did without any expectation of return. Most of them who loved me were only able to hold me for a moment in time. No matter how fleeting my time with them was or how heartbroken I was upon leaving, these people became the beautiful springtime of my memory. From each moment I got with them, I would continue to flourish and grow; although, I wouldn’t necessarily see that at the time.

Thousands of uncertain days would pass under the gloomy cloud that we call foster care. Though I acted it out differently than our character Kevi, I was a mess during most of those days.

But a new day would eventually come!

I would grow up. Slowly, I would discover that my life had been changing. As an adult, I would finally find that it was all my own. With my newfound sense of freedom and control, I would choose to become the wife to a husband who loved me selflessly.

Of all the guys I could have chosen, including the kind who may have felt more familiar, how did I know to settle on one like him? The faces of several good foster fathers smiled distantly behind the man I had chosen to spend my life with.

After years of being loved in a way I’d never felt loved before (by my husband Doug), I would become a mother. Despite the years of worry that I’d be a parent like him or her, I found that I was actually more like her and her and him. Tortured childhood and all, I was brimming with love to give, thanks to those who had poured love into me.

This forced me to ask an important question: How could a girl, who had been miserably failed by the people who gave her life, find herself building a completely different world than the one she grew up in?

The answer was clear. I had gotten to this place because an alternate reality had blown into my childhood. It had changed me. Its name was foster care. For me, foster care wound up carrying the faces of seven different homes over seven years. When I was 15, its name became adoption.

Ironically, this system of child protection that had starved me is also the very thing that helped me thrive. Foster care brought so much internal destitution, but it also brought moments of witnessing healthy, selfless, loving, human interactions.

I hope “Love is Never Wasted” reveals that even small moments with a child can show him he has a choice in how he lives his life. Because of my time in care, I now knew that there was not just one possible way to be. Throughout my foster care experiences, I had, here and there, tasted the essence of something sweeter and more fulfilling than my past life. I became hungry for more of it.

I now exist as living proof (hidden behind my stories) that love always offers nourishment and that a little bit of it can go a very long way.

A lot of it can make miracles.

A little bit of love carried me out of my tortured childhood. A lot of it led me to the place I am today and a little boy named Kevi.

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