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May 2017
Vol. 62, No. 5

Social Work in the Public Eye

Slate.com interviewed NASW member Shane’a Thomas, a licensed clinical social worker who works as a psychotherapist at Whitman-Walker Health, a Washington, D.C., community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS care and LGBT care.

Thomas’ primary focus is with young people who identify along the LGBTQ spectrum, and who have experienced a trauma of some kind.

The story says Thomas connects her work with those patients to her own process of self-discovery.

“They don’t have another place to talk about their bodies and being queer,” she told Slate.com.

Thomas sees between 16 and 18 patients usually on a weekly basis.

Her days are spent talking and listening, but she also goes through different activities with each of them, sometimes engaging in structured exercises to help them grapple with past traumas, sometimes drawing on a white board, and sometimes just sitting in silence, the article says.

People often come to see her because they’re feeling isolated. Thomas works to help clients overcome that experience, but she knows she can’t do it alone.

She sometimes encourages her clients to participate in events in their communities in an effort to see themselves in others.

“If I can’t help you, I want to find out who can help you,” she said.


An article posted on NJ.com says undocumented immigrant parents in New Jersey and across the country are desperately seeking solutions and legal protections for their U.S.-born children.

Some are considering the extraordinary step of signing power of attorney documents that would give friends or relatives the ability to make decisions on behalf of their children if the parents are no longer here, the article says.

The story quotes NASW member Emily Perez, a licensed social worker in Newark. She said the idea of having to place your children in someone else’s care — even temporarily — can take a huge emotional toll.

“It’s pretty extraordinary due to the fact this has become a reality for a lot of families in a very short time,” Perez says in the story. “It’s not just going to cause damage to that child in the moment, it’s going to be a ripple effect as they grow.”

She also said it can be devastating for the parents, who will worry about their children’s welfare and wonder if they left them with the right person.


Oregon high school dropout rates are among the highest in the country and the state’s graduation rate is among the lowest in the nation, according to an editorial written by NASW member Kelly Skellenger for the Hillsboro Tribune in Oregon.

 A pair of bills pending in the Oregon Legislature would change that by directing the state education department to hire and place more social workers in schools, Skellenger wrote.

Oregon falls well below the School Social Work Association of America-recommended ratio of one master of social work (MSW) to 250 students, said Skellenger, chairwoman of the NASW Oregon Chapter’s Legislative Committee.

The Portland resident said research indicates that 18 percent to 20 percent of students have mental issues significant enough to cause impairments in major life functions.

“However, only one in five students receives adequate professional help,” she said.

“School social workers serve as the frontline in the battle against debilitating mental health conditions,  not only for our schools but also for our society,” she said.


In Hawaii, a House bill is being proposed that would mandate that all those with barber, beauty operator and instructor licenses complete a one-time, three-hour training program on intimate partner violence awareness and education, according to an article posted on the Hawaii Tribune-Herald website.

Current license holders would complete the training when they renew their license.

NASW member Sarah Warren, a Hilo-based licensed clinical social worker, supports the idea because she said it could be helpful to have “more people who can call (domestic violence) what it is,” the article says.

One-third of women and one-fourth of men nationwide have experienced violence from an intimate partner, according to information from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the story states.

“Most of the people who come to me don’t really name it as abuse,” Warren says in the article. “It’s more like they’re having problems in their relationship and once they’re in the door, it becomes really clear. So I think it’d be helpful for as many people in a woman’s life to have that mirror to (show her) the dynamics that she may not be seeing or naming as abuse.”


Correction

In the March “Social Work in the Public Eye” profile of Joy Cheng, the item should have stated the following information: The student profiled in the story was not a dishwasher. He completed a paid internship at the French Pastry School in the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. After graduation, he became a student at the French Pastry School, and as part of his school program had another paid internship at a French bakery. After graduation, the student was hired full time at the bakery.

 
 
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