Saturday, November 22, 2014

Choose Peace as Protest in Ferguson

        This week, maybe as soon as Monday, there will be a decision in the Ferguson case. I encourage you all to spread the word to "Choose Peace as Protest." What would the impact be for a community to hug each officer every time they met them. If during protests there were lines to hug officers. As hugs are offered how does one hold onto hate with the force of love surrounding them? What is the impact of 50 hugs a day? 100? 200? I bet this will be create more impact than riots and anger. Please pass flowers, give them to the officers....cut out hearts for the officers....spread love and acceptance by our actions...#Peaceforprotest #hugacop

What will you do to spread peace instead of fear?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Missing the Boat with Donald Sterling and Athletes...21st Century Solutions

     Here is how a social worker would work with the Donald Sterlings or other offending athletes.  I am addressing negative behaviors of the athletic community, but the same can be said of any community (celebrities, corporations, or CEO’s). Financial consequences and short bans from playing usually accompany misbehavior. Are these consequences effective? Social workers know they are not.

     Consequences are given by direct authorities of the athletic community or by our judicial system. These consequences usually center on fines and suspensions. Suspensions can be anywhere from one game to a lifetime suspension, but lifetime suspensions are rare. The NBA donates there fines to charities, but let’s be specific. How about when these offenders receive fines, they are required to pay a charity(s) directly associated with their offense? The NBA is the first to start this with Sterling's fines going toward promoting anti-discrimination and tolerance.  The NFL chooses only four charities (the Lombardi Cancer Research Center, Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund, ALS Neuromuscular Research Foundation, and the Player's Association Assistance Trust Fund), none related to actual violence, which is usually the reason of the offense. Why are the fines not given to evidence based programs for violence prevention or intervention?


Who has the power in these situations and what can they do about negative behavior?

   1. Judicial System Judges have discretion in their sentencing. Advocate for sentencing befitting of the act. Get creative with sentencing.  Develop sentencing guidelines with advocacy groups of the associated issue. There is a 35%  conviction rate of athletes accused of sexual assault compared with 77% of the general public according to the Los Angeles Times writer Maryann Hudson. If Judges could give alternative, meaningful, sentencing this might be higher.  
   2.  Sports Commissioners (i.e. NBA’s Adam Silver, NFL’s Roger Goodell, etc.) can tie in behavior clauses into contracts.  Commissioners need to meet as a group and make decisions about what clauses will be consistent with every contract. No negotiation with violence clauses.  They should be a part of every contract. The commissioners can develop a website to include fans as to the distribution of fines athletes receive. If the issue is violence, organizations can post their evidence based programs and fans can vote. Make the organizations part of the solution.
   3. Sponsors – There are some sponsors who drop athletes from their endorsement deals, but what about those they keep? Riders in contracts about negative behavior can allow endorsement deals to be void when athletes break the law. Sponsors can use the media attention to support their product because they reinforce values and ethics towards non-violence. The sponsor can give the remaining contract of the athlete to the corresponding charities and publicize their work. Or include the public by changing the profit of a footwear product of the athlete's to go to charity. Write this behavior clause in every contract.
   4. Other Athletes – Positive and negative peer pressure. Turning jerseys inside out is great team solidarity.  What about in the locker room? Taking other athletes aside to discuss how they handle stress, encourage counseling, or exert social pressure about what is not acceptable behavior for a person, can be effective ways of addressing the situation.  The most important thing is back up your words with behavior.
   5.  Fans – Fans are powerful. Organized bans of fanfare buying, writing letters to sponsors saying you will not buy X until action is taken, or organizing campaigns on social media addressing unacceptable behavior can make a difference. Money and perception tied together is an avenue to create change. Make your voice heard through social media outlets for alternative sentencing and sanctions impacting these athletes and their owners. Send shout outs on Facebook, make memes on Tumblr or tweet (#nomorekobejerseys) when you choose NOT to buy something because of negative behavior.

When Women Athletes Attack
     There are many less women who are in sports committing violent acts, but there are a few. When a female athlete commits a crime what happens to her? Tonya Harding committed a crime of clubbing Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. What was her consequence? She was banned for life from competing in the United States. Have you heard of any consequence this severe in football, hockey, or basketball? No. Extended prison sentences are the only thing holding back professional male athletes. 


     Below is a chart encouraging alternate sentencing for athletes. This excludes sentencing guidelines for assaults, sexual assaults, DUI manslaughter, and other behaviors punishable by prison time.

Volunteer Activity or exercise
Learning Outcomes
Acts of poor sportsmanship
AYSO soccer coach, finance and create a video/website/app about good sportsmanship
everyone plays, balanced teams, and positive coaching, prevention for future generations
Animal Abuse
Pet shelters, working with Animal Cops/Rescue, finance and create a documentary about animal abuse
Learning empathy, seeing the devastating effects of abuse and neglect
Assault – Male to Male. or Female to Female
Anger management classes, counseling, group therapy, finance and become a part of an advocacy group to address violence of youth in a school system, create anger management app
Education and empathy training, prevention for future generations
Assault – Male to Female, or Female to Male
Attend a 40 hour DV training, attend counseling,  group therapy, Anger management classes, Advocate with NASW about policy changes for DV in the national agenda, Finance and participate in a  documentary about an aspect of DV, become a board member of a DV prevention program,
Education and empathy training, prevention for future generations
Develop a video about consequences of driving drunk, hear from parents and friends of people who have died from drunk drivers, develop course for other DUI drivers with hands on experiences (donating virtual reality equipment etc.) Start a foundation for distribution of a free Breathalyzer.
Educate self and community about dangers to drinking and driving. Empathy and understanding of consequences.
Volunteer at the NAACP, volunteer at homeless shelters,
Develop curriculum for team based learning about racism with specialists, attend and facilitate program to companies about diversity, exposure to diverse situations across the "ism" spectrum, fund and develop free apps addressing diversity acceptance for kids
Education and sensitization of diverse populations, empathy development, prevention for future generations
Substance Abuse
Start a AA, NA, or CA group and continue it for a year, volunteer at homeless shelters, create free lectures and YouTube videos to community about struggles with use and abuse
Community support, personal understanding and recovery support
Use of drug enhancements
Run a support group for long term drug enhancement users. Create a website or app about the negative effects of this drug for kids, give reports on books about these drugs on a blog.
Personal experience with long term effects deters further use, prevention for future generations
    Technology adds to constructive alternatives to consequences and tracking of positive behaviors. All volunteer work can be tracked by GPS and taking photos on Snapchat, then sending them to a caseworker, athletic organization, or parole officer. This prevents people from hiring other people to go for them.  Many other ways of  If you have any additions, please place them in the comments section or suggest them on websites of owners, athletic organizations, or sponsor pages. Everyone can be proactive on any level. If we all acted on one of these, violence would be addressed through proactive means in sports. #athletesaccountable

Monday, May 5, 2014

Don't Mess with a Jedi Master

A not so long time ago, in a galaxy not too far away…five adult bullies decided to take a golf club and beat up on a young adult male with a cane. Clearly, these aggressors thought of the young man as an easy target. They stalked him after his college class to an empty parking lot. The motives for this beating were unclear. Clarity did come to these perpetrators of violence though. You see their perceived pray is the instructor or should I say Jedi Master, of our light sabering group.

                                             A few of us at a light saber training session

Yes, this young man has crippling arthritis in both knees and hips. Damp weather is crushing and pain meds are a consistent companion. The cane gives him balance and helps alleviate some of the pressure of walking. He chooses to overcome his pain with his passion, Star Wars. This Jedi Master does not come by the name lightly.  Shii-Cho, Makshi, Soresu, Ataru, Shien, and Jar’Kai are all forms of fighting mastered by this Jedi. He practices these forms weekly with his training ‘the art of light saber fighting’ to us fledglings. Yes, light saber technology is now at the point of feasibility for training, unlike a flying broom. If you get hit, you hurt, sometimes a lot. (You can get one Here!)

My initial response upon hearing he was in this situation was one of concern. That is until I heard the outcome. Five guys and a golf club attacked this young man. Yet, this Jedi Master was the wrong person to choose as a victim.  As the attack ensued, the perpetrators soon found out they were the flies and not the spider. His attackers fled with significant injuries from a wooden cane. The Jedi Master has a bruised ribcage, but significantly less damage than the snap of broken bones. The police were impressed by his defense.

                                The Jedi Master dueling another Jedi, both with two sabers

Culture is changing, geeks and nerds are not as vulnerable anymore. Technology has shifted the scales of what is cool and what is not. I don’t see many kids bullying each other with Xbox controls or Minecraft applications. Technology can empower populations as never before. We just have to think outside the box. How can we empower our client with ‘X’ issues? How can we empower the perception of powerlessness? Technology offers these options. What options have you created for your populations?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Social Work Internships Optional?

 law student social media interns

Disturbing whispers spread across social media about making Social Work field internships optional.  Even more significant is the petition circulating to advance eliminating field placements. There was even a thread about if we really need internships in my dissertation class. Social Justice Solutions (SJS) posted an article supporting internships with subsequent support from educators outside our profession. Why is this even a question?   

After reading all these articles and posts it occurred to me, the reason for this push may be two fold. The first is lack of research on efficacy about internships in the social work profession, but I covered this in my response post on SJS. Here is an excerpt:

“There may be no quantitative research suggesting the efficacy of field placements in social work, but if asked, there are thousands of qualitative stories supporting the method. We only need to look at other professions where field placements are as essential to the curriculum as the content itself. Medicine, psychology, the sciences, and teaching, support internships through research.
I do agree we need to research field placements in social work as to “why” they are effective. Assessing standards of practice, critical and creative thinking abilities, self-regulation, value and ethical shifts, or diversity awareness have tremendous potential for research. There may well be a day when every profession has a field internship to integrate theory and practice.
One advantage missing in social work research, present in the other areas I mentioned, is funding. As more resources for research become available, the field of social work will blossom in their pursuits of evidence based practices. Social workers have a focus on their populations, and not research, partly because finances are not available to make a livable wage. Research is not on the agenda if most of our profession is a pay check or two away from our client populations.”

The second issue may be in the push to streamline education into an online or blended format. Education has never been more accessible to diverse populations. Adults now have access to earning a degree with flexible time options for education. Now here comes the rub.  In higher education’s push to increase education options, has this been at the expense of quality education?
Internships are not convenient. They cannot be done online. Squeezing in a 16 or 24 hour internship is difficult for anyone. Add full time work, kids, a partner, extracurricular activities, and for some this is the formula for a superhero or a choice for a different field. 

I empathize, I do. In graduate school, I had a partner, a baby, worked part time, and some months bills didn’t get paid, all to earn my MSW. We qualified for food stamps. I held 4 part time jobs, with a partner and two children during my PhD. However, I still believe we cannot afford to let go of internships. The benefit of my internship experiences started the foundation of my practice. Even though it was 21 years ago, I can still refer back to my internship for learning. I would not be the same practitioner without my undergraduate and graduate field experiences. My professional practice would not have the depth it has now. 

For me there is no question about field practicums. I would be a shadow of who I am professionally. I would not be the same person.  Don’t compromise the profession for an easier, softer, way.

Reference to Article:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Social Media: What is the policy where you work?

Why do you need a social media policy? There are two reasons you need a policy, risk management and ethical practice. How soon do you think it will be before someone records a therapeutic session, a group, a conversation, or a meeting (without your consent) and it ends up on social media? Some states only need consent of one person in the recording. The recording can be removed, but if at any time it goes viral it will never be off the Internet. Malpractice is a broad area. When you send something out through social media outlets, how do you vet the impact of this information? Cases of social media and ethical misconduct are already surfacing. New ethical dilemmas present themselves with new technology. What happens if we are on the Internet and find our client has posted an inappropriate video? People are videotaping themselves harming children or participating in unlawful and high risk situations. A social media policy is needed to protect the client, the social worker, and the organization. 

Wherever you are working, go to your supervisor, dean, or director and ask for the social media policy. This policy should include standards for employees and digital boundaries for clients. The consent for treatment should outline social media expectations and limits. Clients should know what to expect about social media behavior of their social worker. An explanation of the social worker, organization, and client's social media behavior expectations should be explicit. Use of video and audio recordings, computer behavior, and phone usage should be outlined. Teenagers may not think it is an issue to post about their therapy or another group members behavior. Digital boundaries need to be defined for each population. 

These are areas to review about your social media policy:
   When was it drafted?
Social media innovation and laws surrounding it, change on a regular basis. If your draft is over one year old it needs to be updated.

   Which areas does it include? This is a list of areas to consider.

a.      Cell phone privacy (passwords, theft management, texting, e-mails, social media involvement through apps)
b.      Security of confidential information at home and at the office on digital devices
c.       HIPAA or FERPA considerations?
d.      State laws versus federal laws
e.       Personal social media behavior negatively affecting the organization
f.       Client social media behavior

   Do the rules expand into your personal life? There are some ways organizations can limit your personal behavior on social media. Identify which of these areas are lawful and which are not.

   How does it protect you? What happens if you are the target of a social media attack or incorrect information is posted about you online? Have a policy and procedure addressing the event of a negative social media instance. This policy should address individual and organization negative publicity.

    What happens if you don’t follow the policy? What are the consequences to each infraction? Is there a method to revise a policy when it becomes out of date? What if you have an unintended breach of ethics due to technological ignorance?

     How legal is it? A policy can say anything with good intentions, but it still may not be legal. Obtain professional council about your policy. 

The Canadian Association of Social Workers recently released a “Social Media Use in Social Work Practice” manual. This manual is the start of defining ethical behaviors specifically for social workers using social media. 

Share examples of how your organization implements their social media policies.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Technological Advances to Grieving and Closure

     Losing people we love is never easy. Since the advent of video cameras, families have used televisions to display streams of memories during wakes and memorial services. Often accompanied by picture boards, mourners had a way to remember times, places, and experiences of their loved one. Complicated by distance, illness, or finances, some mourners never get the chance to say goodbye in this way. Grieving the loss of a loved one can be complicated. While technology is not new to the field of grief, we are now exploring more digital options connected to technology allowing for client centered grieving options.

     Virtual attendance at a wake or funeral can allow people who may not be able to attend, but wish to say goodbye, the opportunity for closure. Skype or other live streaming programs can allow for multiple possibilities. Many funeral homes are opening up digital options, for a cost. Another way to enable this feature is for people with smart phones at the funeral to ask the director for their Wi-Fi password enabling Skype or Face time on their phones. This may offer a low cost option to those which cannot afford the funeral home’s expensive offer.
     Facebook has an option to memorialize accounts when people are deceased. Hearing from people who still have access to their loved one’s account, the response has been positive. The clients I have go back to look at their loved one’s pictures and write on their “wall” when special events or holidays occur. They see other posts and feel as if people still care. In a very basic way these people are mourning as a group.
     Online books can be created at sites such as This company works with newspapers to create an online obituary. People can create a memorial site with pictures and create a guest book. The messages left on the site can be made into a book.  Family and friends can not only search by name, but by memorial sites based upon categories (i.e. decades, universities, firefighters, etc.) The site even offers resources for grief support. 

     Options for grief support are changing rapidly. Sofka, Cupit, and Gilbert (2012) have created a book of collected works called “Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe: For Counselors and Educators." This book explores how technology has transformed how people grieve. There is relevant information on ethical considerations, the digital divide, support networks, and education around grief and death. Understanding these resources can help our clients grieve in traditional and non-traditional ways. How have you used some of these resources with your clients?

(2012). C. Sofka, I. Cupit & K. Gilbert (Eds.), Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe: For Counselors and Educators New York: Springer Publishing Company, LLC.