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Licensed Social Workers Do Not Mean More Qualified

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Recently, I came across a Boston Herald article questioning why 34 percent of the Boston Division of Children and Families (DCF) were unlicensed social workers. The tone of the article suggests that unlicensed workers are not qualified to perform their duties while indicating that licensed social workers equated to a higher standard.

As a former Child Welfare Investigator, those who follow Social Work Helper is well aware that I am a strong advocate against the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW or equivalent) becoming the standard for all social workers especially in the public sector and child welfare. Many hear the word licensed and assume it means in compliance or adherence to a certain standard, and it does if you are providing mental health services. Until the LCSW, a doctorate in psychology was needed for diagnosing and treatment. Social Work Licensure Advocates for the LCSW changed that dynamic and have helped to make mental healthcare services more accessible. However, each state develops their own licensing requirements which often varies from state to state.

As it relates to the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or the Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) under Massachusetts’ licensing law, it means the individual social worker has a master degree in social work, and he/she is licensed to diagnosis clients with a mental health disorder and/or provide treatment to help improve their outcomes after being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Additionally, Massachusetts provides licensing for Bachelors level social workers. However, this is not the standard in North Carolina or the majority of states.

Currently, most Child Welfare Agencies require at minimum a bachelors degree in Social Work or related field. However, by requiring social work licensure, I believe it places additional financial burdens on social workers working in traditional social work roles while the Council for Social Work Education fails to address the barriers and challenges those in the public sector face in pursing a social work education.

Both Child Welfare Social Workers and Police Officers are given powers by statutory law. However, child welfare agencies are not required to be accredited and maintain minimum training and standards certifications like police departments despite recommendations by the United States Government Accounting Office (GAO). Although studies show a social work degree is the recommended degree for a child welfare setting, studies also recommend accreditation as the best course of action to improve outcomes for children and families. Having licensed social workers do not guarantee their course work was specifically for working in child welfare nor does it institute transparency, accountability, program evaluation, and minimum standards of care as well as creating standards for the Agency’s administration of policy.

Many social workers are deterred from pursing a social work education due to the barriers and oppressive polices against older, working practitioners, and/or the underpriviledged. Although I had a BSW degree and working as a Child Welfare Investigator, I had to quit my job and work for free at another human service agency in order to be in compliance with the internship requirements. Social Workers are finding themselves without health insurance and in economic turmoil in order to comply with a licensing standard that is geared towards clinical practice and not macro/public service.

The Division of Child and Family Services and other child welfare agencies act under the authority of federal, state, and local statutory laws to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect, and dependency. These agencies are also charged with making recommendations and monitoring the fitness of parents once a determination has been made following a family assessment or investigation. As a result of this statutory authority, licensing law advocates have been unsuccessful in eliminating the licensing public sector exemption for child welfare and human service agencies. However, they have been successful in creating this mandate in the private sector.

Governor Deval Patrick Addressing the Media on DCF

Governor Deval Patrick Addressing the Media on Division of Children and Families

As a Child Welfare Investigator, I brought a knowledge base of almost 14 years of interview and interrogation experience in addition to a Bachelor of Social Work. Later, I pursued a Master degree in Social Work with a concentration in management and community practice.

However, without doing an additional two years in post graduate doing therapy, I am not eligible for licensing in the State of North Carolina. Because someone can go straight to undergrad, then to graduate school, and then work an additional two years post graduate doing therapy for less than minimal wages to get a LCSW in the State of North Carolina, it does not make them more qualified as a child welfare social worker. It makes them more privileged.

Child Welfare social workers act as brokers when treatment services are needed or recommended. We connect families with community providers and resources who are trained to provide those services and make expert recommendations on their progress or lack of progress.

Child Welfare Services must coordinate between schools, police department, hospitals, and other community providers in order to obtain information and coordinate services while maintaining case documentation and hourly billing for reimbursement from the federal government. Unlike private sector project managers, child welfare social workers must complete this high wire act with limited resources and access to technology while dealing with a load of bureaucracies in poor work environments. Child Welfare Social Workers live and work in fear because the bulk of your time doing triage and cases with low activity often get re-prioritized due to high caseloads and staff shortages.

When I investigated cases, the police investigators relied on my evidence and case gathering to determine whether charges should be filed because social workers are more educated and are the experts in these cases. Social worker have both education and training in many aspects police investigators do not. Yet, often the police investigators that I interacted with had higher salaries than I did, received over-time pay or comp time in excess of a 40 hour week, and most only a high school diploma or at best a bachelor’s degree despite our jobs being classified as hazardous by both the county and the State.

If there is a tragedy, the media is asking the wrong questions, and Agencies are not going to steer you into asking the right questions. Child Welfare and Human Services Directors answer only to their Board of Directors, and they operate independently of the county or State unless State legislation has addressed this. State oversight is limited because Child Welfare Agencies predominately operate by mandate of Federal law as adopted by State law.

If you want to know why something happened, find out the case number ratios for each social worker and the amount of hours each worked. See how many children a social worker has on his/her caseload and their risk level which determines the amount of times each social worker must visit each child monthly. Look at the administrative time logged for each social worker which provides insight into actual days work,  time in meetings, time spent in case supervision, and training records. You will find the numbers won’t add up to what is humanly possible.

Do you automatically assume that each case only has one or two children in the same household or go to the same school? Eight-teen cases don’t sound like a lot, but you could easily have over 55 children with moderate to high risk levels. Moderate risk requires bi-monthly visits and high-risk requires weekly visits. Low risks require monthly visits, but they are often not enough to keep a case open for services.  No matter how many children on your caseload, you don’t stop getting cases. 

It is not uncommon for kids to leave for summer camp or go visit relatives especially when they are not in school, and a courtesy request home visit made to another Agency in another state could take months to occur. States are not connected, and sending out an alert on a missing child equates to an email and a report to law enforcement which often don’t go anywhere due to being out of their jurisdiction for investigation.  I believe the cases in Boston will expose systems failures if the right questions are answered. 

Ask for the same records and standard operating procedures, you would seek if you want to know if a police officer or police department was malfeasance and whether proper in-service training was up to date. Under current federal mandates, it is statistically impossible for the best qualified social worker to adhere to every standard and best practices. Front-line staff often take the fall while policy and system failures are not being properly identified.

Where are the supervisory case notes by each supervisor who is suppose to meet weekly with their subordinates to discuss all the children on their caseload? Are the checks and balances clearly defined by supervision and the administration to account for the whereabouts of children falling under the scope of child welfare services, and how is it monitored? 

I challenge the media to ask the right questions. In the video below, the Governor addressed allegations relayed by the school superintendent after the fact. I could write another article on the improvements needed between child welfare social workers and teachers. Social Work investigators’ caseloads are tremendously exacerbated because teachers are not trained on the differences between abuse/neglect and poverty. However, I will have to address that at another time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6H638unwi0[/youtube]

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Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

          
71 Comments
Hope Coates Hope Coates says:

That’s correct

I love this. These echo my thoughts exactly. Well put.

I couldn’t agree more. I have a BSW only and have been practicing medical social work ever since. I’m more than qualified to do the work. I’m disgusted that after years in the field most hospitals are requiring MSW’s for medical social work or LCSW’s. Having post graduate degrees does not make one more qualified, only experience does that.

I only have a Dipsw and took a career break to meet family commitments..now I find that instead of being able to do a refresher course or CPD I have very little opportunity or path to go down to get on the SW register. The very people who care enough to do a great job in an essential service, are being frozen out by red tape and bureaucracy. Sad times…

Susan Cobas Susan Cobas says:

This is how it works, a social worker is assigned multiple cases, many times more cases then they can handle unfortunately. The only time a social comes to the foster home is when they hear of a need to do so. Otherwise, you will see your case worker just before 18 years of age, releasing you on your birthday. Then you are on your own.

I worked 7 long years to get my BSW and MSW and I consider myself a Social Worker – I’m about to take my LMSW !!!and now work in the mental health profession !!!! I get weekly supervision

No wrench Jon Lucas. Just an opinion. I am actually a PT, whom decided to pursue SW. I have been laughed at by SW, LCSW, etc. They say you arent gonna make make money. I laugh back because I am doing this to make a difference, and can wear several hats.

Tamara Buggs Tamara Buggs says:

It’s about money. Local and state government requires education on the bachelor level along with lots of experience. More are mandating Masters and experience. SWs are going in debt with no financial compensation to live and pay school loans. SWs don’t start off too much more than what has been stated to be a living wage and raise increases are minimal.

As someone who has worked 30 yrs in child welfare at public agencies and who has had her LCSW since 1997…these are my quick thoughts–I believe the LCSW has made me more credible with community partners, has inspired me to continue to learn…go to training (CEUs), it hasn’t brought me more pay and the agency doesn’t value it but I do–my guess is the LCSW may help me get another job when I retire from this one :). I believe the license can and does raise my standards and expectations for others’ work in the field. I supervise foster care workers. In glad I have the license–I encourage others to get it and I wouldn’t give up my years in child welfare for anything–with all the crap we have to deal with–we (CW workers) rock!

Amanda Cross Amanda Cross says:

I view it as license to bill insurance…

I was licensed but let it go. It was far too expensive to keep up.

Lisa Marie Lisa Marie says:

I’ve had my MSW for over 7 years. I work in Child Welfare agency where it is not required to have a master degree. I would not be ‘More Qualified” if i were to be licensed. I receive a minimum of 20 hours of training per year which the majority is CU qualified. I don’t see spending the money for licensure as a benefit for myself or the clients I serve.

I have my bachelors in human services but couldn’t find work with it. They offered positions to individuals who have the certificate rather than the degree.

Nancy Jean Nancy Jean says:

I agree with you Social work helper. Nurses have an RN to MSN track that takes nurses with an associates degree straight to a masters degree (completely bypassing the BA degree and the expense of a university education). I agree that the LCSW credential is mostly about money. Those who can afford to pay someone for private supervision will get an lcsw 2 years after receiving the masters. The cost to pay someone privately is usually around 20k. To get an LCSW for free you would have to work for an employer that has a licensed LCSW supervisor on staff.Normally your salary at a place like that would be below average because supervision is seen as a perk and is often used as a rationalization to pay you less. In my opinion, a LSW with two years post masters experience is just as experienced as an LCSW who just got there paperwork signed. More programs should be available to give social workers the opportunity to obtain LCSW status without having to work for pennies or pay someone privately.

out of ten doctors only two re sick but out of ten social workers eight re mad

In my home state BSWs are not required to be licensed, only MSWs need to be licensed to become LMSWs (or LCSWs) if the individual chooses to do so based on whatever agency the MSW chooses to work for and their intended overall career goal(s).
Where I am currently living, the state requires a BSW to be licensed. It’s a long process (two years) most agencies do not want to hire just a BSW they want a LBSW (licensed bsw) and are not willing to hire a BSW. You don’t get additional pay…it really just seems like a way for states to get money. A BSW and a LBSW have the same schooling and unpaid internship with supervision from a MSW, the only difference between a LBSW & BSW is just extra supervision through work, taking an exam, and paying $$ that’s it and it’s draining and frankly, ridiculous.
A BSW in a state that requires licensing can’t get work without a license, can’t get a license without work. A license doesn’t show that someone would be better at performing a job than the latter. Maybe one day the states that require licensing for BSWs will see the struggle it imposes on struggling recent graduates. Then again maybe it’s an issue with the system that social workers need to fight to change.

We need to share and spread this article and make a change.

The profession had lost its voice and integrity because we don’t advocate for the profession Makes me SAD. NASW stand up for the professionalism of social work…. .

Jon Lucas Jon Lucas says:

Not to throw a wrench into your statement Keisha, but part of my work is supporting the workers who write the grants, and none of us are in this for the money.

lol medical and lawyers do all kinds of free work BEFORE they are doctors or lawyers same with BSWs and MSWs…all of their unpaid work is done while they are getting their degrees…if you dont want to pay for supervision hours then find an agency that has one…unless you live in straight rural
areas there are some available not saying its easy but anything worth getting isn’t

If you go into social work for money…. You are writting proposals, grants, etc…. Not worrying about LCSW… Helping people is the goal.

Jon Lucas Jon Lucas says:

I’m a “clinician”. Which I guess, on some level, that’s what I’m doing. But I don’t feel as if that adequately describes what I’m able to provide

Nancy Jean I often hear social workers being compared to nurses, doctors, lawyers licensing analogy. So, when will social workers start making that kind of money? Even nursing programs offer accelerated degrees and second degrees to encourage other disciplines to enter and stay in the profession. Then their clinical hours count towards their license. None of these are options to social workers and it creates barriers for those with less financial security, older, or unmarried.

I belive its optional. So dont complain if you dont use that option. Oh yea also that issue of reciprocity…

Umm..sorry but not all professions do unpaid internship…I don’t see a medical student doing free work…lawyers aren’t doing free work…why…police officers, nurses, etc…why…because of the risks…well the same risks apply for anyone working towards a BSW or MSW….we are speaking of a low paying career…
Also, there are other degrees that equate to a BSW…you have the less desirable, psychology majors, and the more desirable, sociology majors, and human service majors…BSW and MSW holders should not be able to monopolize the market especially with the shortage of workers. Not enough schools offer this program to monopolize anyhow…

Maria Sofia Panitsidis Actually, I said, “Because someone can go straight to undergrad, then to graduate school, and then work an additional two years post graduate doing therapy for less than minimal wages to get a LCSW in the State of North Carolina, it does not make them more qualified as a child welfare social worker. It makes them more privileged.”

Not everyone has a job with proper supervision to get the hours needed therefore they are doing unpaid work to get hours. Plus other professionals have the light (high pay) at the end of the tunnel. it’s sad to complete all those hours for $15hr

For those who may be confused, the commas indicate separate issues and the licensing process being one of them. Please, re-read the article for clarity as well as the included links.

Charles Barr Charles Barr says:

Yea. There’s no internship for an LCSW. Not sure where that rant was going. Any licensure process has growing pains and can be difficult to manage . For instance physical therapists had to shift to all PTs getting their doctorates and those grandfathered in had to meet some pretty crazy requirements but they understood the larger picture. I sure hope we move along like other professions and increase and better our standards.

you do unpaid internships as part of bachelors and masters level college work like many other professions do so idk why youre crying…the licensure process isn’t perfect but if after all youve done to get through school and finish and all if a sudden the licensure is a big deal then youre the problem

Randy LeBar Randy LeBar says:

I’m from Michigan. My internship was unpaid. I paid an outrageous amount for testing and I get paid almost next to nothing because the county I work in would rather put its resources into inflating its ego than pay the people who do the actual work what they deserve. The whole system is a racket, its a scam to hurt the people who actually give a damn. If I wasn’t so loyal to the agency I work at I would have left the field a long time ago but I love my agency too much

Moe Mick Fin Moe Mick Fin says:

And in Nebraska you cannot call yourself a social worker with out being licensed…So unless you are licensed you just have a BSW or MSW degree

Nancy Jean Nancy Jean says:

I agree with Larissa, you don’t see laymen people calling themselves nurses because they correctly changed a bandage or handed someone the right amount of Tylenol. It takes more than just mimicking the work duties of a profession in order to earn the title. Social work is no different. You should not be able to call yourself a social worker just because you mimic a subset of a social workers job duties. On the other hand, I believe that each social work license and certificate should represent a different set of expertise . Nurses have their titles in tiers such as “certified nurses assistant, licensed practical nurse, registered nurse “. Social workers should have something similar so that people understand that a layman, a CSW, LSW, and LCSW all represent a different level of skill and capability.

Moe Mick Fin Moe Mick Fin says:

Nebraska and many other states have title protection..Even though people may call themselves social workers and are not no employer can..My beef is that we don’t make more for being social workers…

I guess my confusion is with what states make you take unpaid internships for licensure? Again I can only speak for NYS but I had to do unpaid internships as part of my masters degree but not my licensure. If that’s the case than that’s kind of ridiculous.

No my beef is with the licensing process, unpaid internships, people have to quit work to work for free, inconsistent licensing policies from state to state, ceu cost being passed on the worker etc. The licensing process has done a lot of damage as implemented. But for an evidence based profession, no one is collecting the data to prove or disprove it. For example, How many people are having to drop out of school because of the hardship unpaid internship require while preventing people from working paid employment? No one is collecting this data and other data because it will not fitting into the narrative of current policies working. Charles, I have no problem articulating what my beef is.

I don’t call my dental hygienist a dentist and she doesn’t complain about it.

I am right there with you Drema. I will have my bachelor’s in human services this spring.

The solution is simple. Case managers don’t need licensure. Bsw or msw can practice generalist social work without s license I don’t really see an issue. There is your title and that is not an issue. In NYS those who work in clinical settings and in hospitals typically need to be licensed. Agencies are pushing for licensure for insurance purposes. Not sure how it works in other states.

Charles Barr Charles Barr says:

It doesn’t always. But it improves the over all quality of the type of social workers produced. The LCSW has, in fact, improved the social work profession. Just like the MSW has strengthened the profession. It sounds like your beef is more with the policies of child welfare than with the LCSW. I’m sure glad doctors and other legitimate professions have testing and standards.

But you just posted an article that calls those of us who worked hard for our masters degrees and our licensure “privileged” so who is splitting hairs.

So Jon Lucas.. What are you called?

Jon Lucas Jon Lucas says:

To add on to my comment… The NASW doesn’t represent me, even when I was a member of the Peace and Social Justice specialty concentration. I paid their fees and saw no benefit, and other than being a gatekeeper for special kinds of certification, I’m not sure what purpose they serve.

Jon Lucas Jon Lucas says:

I’ve got my MSW at a child welfare agency and my title doesn’t include the words Social or Worker.

Until this profession finds a way to be inclusive instead of fighting over who can call themselves a social worker, we will all suffer. We need numbers to increase outcomes for our clients and ourselves. This statement divides and does not help with a solution in my opinion.

It is critical if you want to make the big bucks! At least in New York and California.

Jon Lucas Jon Lucas says:

I’m of the opinion that licensing has been incredibly detrimental to the profession. It’s pigeonholed us into doing predominantly mental health work, which is important. However, a Social Worker can do so much more. Our unique understanding of human behavior, social environment and other factors make us uniquely situated to address a whole range of issues from mental health to community development.

Plus, lots of agencies do not want to pay more salary for those licensure!!

I completely understand where this is coming from in a child welfare agency. Individuals who do not have licenses should not be called social workers. Just my opinion though

Drema Fowler Drema Fowler says:

It’s frustrating and not cheap to meet the demands. I was homeless since 14, I seen many struggles and vowed to be the one who helps someone else not be like I was. So it’s also heart breaking to me I can’t be there to help.

We should be making it easier for people like you to stay in the profession instead of kicking you by adding so many barriers to earning an advance degree or accelerated degree taking in account your prior degrees while you work. However, even after meeting those expectations, many social workers can’t afford licensing fees, supervision cost and the ceu cost which is being passed on to the social worker.

Drema Fowler Drema Fowler says:

I love this article, I went to college earned a bachelor’s in behavioral health and human services, I really wanted to help the homeless and families, I can not because I need further accreditation as my degree isn’t enough.

Licensed Social Workers do so much more than “therapy” and I learned more getting my Masters than ever as undergrad. And have used my education and experience in every job. Those commenting here seem to have a problem with licensed social workers.

How does any of this equate to helping a social worker..we should not be divided by license or non licensed, I agree we are not better just different as an LCSW. I respect ALL social workers, as I have worked in the profession without a license for seven years. It seems that we are punished by equating our skills to only therapy. I love social work, and happen to have diverse interests in many areas. I got my license because I was encouraged to by a mentor and I often think about how this has opened doors for me, but I think we all need to be respected and paid more, license or not. Articles like this are not helpful to our profession.

I have updated the article to reflect the many places LCSWs can be found other than private practice, but if thats all you got from the article… it saddens me.

Mel Hartsell Mel Hartsell says:

I have a BSW AND MSW. I chose not to be license because not a focused in therapy. I still have the same education licensed social work have. I’m not less of a social worker. I’m heavily in favor of title protection, but not just for those with licenses. I’m a social worker without a license and I’m as qualified as every other social worker and as deserving of this title.

I know that a lot of people will be resistant to looking at this issue from a different perspective. I don’t expect everyone to see things from my perspective. As far as social work, I speak my truth, and I try to be respectful of other’s truth. Social Work has been fed a steady diet of licensing and title protection, and I realize my views are not mainstream. However, a graduate social work degree should not be required for an entry level social work job. In comparison to other male professions operating under statutes (specifically Child Welfare), law enforcement require a high school diploma. Yet public sector social workers have graduate degrees making less and often with no comp time or overtime. Instead of comparing social worker vs social worker, as a women dominated profession, we are all getting the short end of the stick. My article which I wrote specifically address Child Welfare and I hope that it is viewed in that context. I am a strong advocate for title protection as long as social work education is willing to eliminate barriers and oppressive policies preventing working practitioners from pursing a social work degree. An SW shouldn’t have to quit his/her job and go into financial hardship in order to advance in your already chosen profession.

Interesting article. I have a new perspective to consider.

This perpetuates the disrespect for Social Work. The author has not been working as an LCSW or shows poor understanding if he thinks we are all in private practice. Hire licensed, trained social workers. Pay them what they are worth and limit caseload to effective size. If the welfare of people was as important as banking, retail etc, we would have better outcomes…..not perfect….better!

from someone who worked hard to earn a lcsw what a bizarre statement. LICENSES in any fields arent a gurantee.

Hmmm not sure how I feel about this.

Action

Social Work and Helping Professions Must Take Action to End Child Separations at Border

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Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) led more than 190 House Democrats in introducing the Keep Families Together Act, H.R. 6135, legislation to end family separation at the U.S. border.

On June 8th, 2018, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Congresswoman and Chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus Barbara Lee (CA-13), Congresswoman Susan Davis (CA-53), Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), and Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37) released a joint statement on the Trump Administrations zero tolerance policy which is separating children from their parents as an immigration deterrent strategy.

“The Trump Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents is terrifying and frankly, abhorrent. Reports indicate that very young children– who are already fleeing dangerous conditions at home including domestic violence – are being taken from their parents. Families are often separated by hundreds of miles, and children are being housed in inadequate facilities. As social workers, we understand the profound impact that family separation has on a child’s developmental growth and on our society. These heartless policies instill a sense of helplessness and despair in children and could result in long-term trauma and health repercussions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that the separation of children from parents, and detention in DHS facilities that do not meet the basic standard of care for children, pose a significant threat to their long-term health and well-being. Their findings have led them to recommend that children in the custody of their parents should never be detained or separated from a parent unless a competent family court makes that determination.

Every passing day of separation has grave consequences for these children’s well-being. These are innocent children who have done nothing wrong. Forcing them to suffer at the hands of the US government is inhumane and un-American. We are taking all actions possible to end this brutal policy and reunite children with their families”, says social work members of Congress.

A release issued by the National Association of Social Workers also stated the “zero tolerance immigration policy that would prosecute families who attempt to cross the border and forcibly separate children from parents is malicious and unconscionable”.

In an effort to end child separations at the border, the Keep Families Together Act was developed in consultation with child welfare experts to ensure the federal government is acting in the best interest of children. The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Children’s Law Center, Young Center for Immigrant Rights and the Women’s Refugee Commission.

Key Elements of the Bill

  • Keep Families Together:  The bill promotes family unity by prohibiting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances.  In these limited circumstances, separation could not occur unless parental rights have been terminated, a child welfare agency has issued a best interest determination, or the Port Director or the Chief Border Patrol agent of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have approved separation due to trafficking indicators or other concerns of risk to the child.  It requires an independent child welfare official to review any such separation and return the child if no harm to the child is present. It imposes financial penalties on officials who violate the prohibition on family separation.
  • Limit Criminal Prosecutions for Asylum Seekers: The majority of the parents separated at the border are being criminally prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry.  This bill restricts the prosecution of parents who are asylum seekers by adopting the recommendation of the DHS Office of Inspector General.  The bill delays prosecutions for asylum seekers and creates an affirmative defense for asylum seekers.  It also codifies our commitment to the Refugee protocol prohibiting the criminal punishment of those seeking protection from persecution.
  • Increase Child Welfare Training: The bill requires all CBP officers and agents to complete child welfare training on an annual basis. Port Directors and Chief Border Agents, those who are authorized to make decisions on family separations, must complete an additional 90 minutes of annual child-welfare training.
  • Establish Public Policy Preference for Family Reunification: The bill establishes a preference for family unity, discourages the separation of siblings, and creates a presumption that detention is not in the best interests of families and children.
  • Add Procedures for Separated Families: The bill requires DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated.   Such procedures must be public and made available in a language that parents can understand.  In cases of separation, it requires DHS to provide parents with a weekly report containing information about a child, and weekly phone communication.
  • Establish Other Required Measures:  In order to inform Congressional oversight and promote public understanding of the use of family separation, the bill requires a report on the separation of families every six months.

In addition to Senator Feinstein, the bill is also cosponsored by 31 senators, including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

We must urge Congress to allow a vote on this important piece of legislation to help minimize trauma being inflicted on children and families. Sign the petition to support the Keep Families Together Act here.

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Immigration

Inhumane Immigration Policies: Separating Children from Parents

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United States Attorney General – Jeff Sessions

As of May 6th, 2018, new harsher immigration policies have been implemented with the sole intention of instilling terror to act as a deterrent to other immigrants attempting to enter the United States, regardless of the reason.  This comes as a result of “zero tolerance” policies enacted under Jeff Sessions.

Sadly the most vulnerable, the children, are impacted the greatest by this policy when they are now being routinely separated from their parents at the border while the parents of these children are being portrayed as criminals and being called animals by the President of the United States.

Kirstjen Nielsen has equated their attempt to enter the United States as the same as an individual that breaks into your home and has their child taken away as a result. The reality is far different. While a large number of individuals come because of economic push factors many of the individuals entering, particularly those with children, are fleeing violence and are legally seeking asylum in the United States for themselves and their children.

One woman from Honduras described the heart-wrenching experience of giving her 18 month old son to immigration authorities, and even strapping him in his car seat for them, despite following the proper protocol in presenting herself to immigration authorities to seek asylum. More than 600 children have already been separated from their parents in the first few weeks since the new policies were enacted.

Even before these new policies were officially implemented, there was another case several months ago involving a woman from Congo and her child who were separated at the border for four months, despite passing a credible fear test, and were later reunited as a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

These immigration policies are meant to maximize suffering of those entering the country in order to act as a deterrent to future immigrants. This is in stark contrast to our values as a country, as well as our legal responsibilities.

The American Bar Association has condemned this new policy, citing increased inefficiency in the immigration court system as well as the psychological trauma of separating children from their parents. Sadly, many of the policies surrounding immigration have been archaic and draconian even before these new changes, including toddlers representing themselves in immigration court unless they have the ability to pay for a lawyer.

As social workers, we know the impact of early childhood adversity, and the NASW has spoken out against this new zero tolerance policy. Many of these children have faced great adversity prior to coming to the United States including witnessing or experiencing physical and sexual violence, living under threat due to violence in their communities, or being targeted specifically because of who they are—aside from the possible trauma experienced on their journey to the United States.

Research demonstrates the incredible resiliency of children in being able to bounce back from adversity, and one crucial component to that is in having one stable adult in their lives. This current immigration policy seeks to traumatize the families and potentially takes away the one resiliency factor the children have.

What can we do to help? There are several agencies that are working to help this population that you can connect to. It is crucial to apply pressure on elected representatives and vote in upcoming elections.

Most importantly, we must fight against the notion that it is ok to dehumanize immigrants.

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LGBTQ

Delaware Legislature Sends Anti-“Conversion Therapy” Bill to Gov. Carney’s Desk

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Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, hailed the Delaware General Assembly’s passage of Senate Bill (SB) 65, legislation protecting LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous and discredited practice known as “conversion therapy.”

The legislation was sponsored by State Senator Harris McDowell and State Representative Debra Heffernan, and Governor John Carney is expected to sign it into law. Once signed, Delaware will join 13 other states and Washington, D.C. with laws or regulations protecting LGBTQ youth from the harmful practice.

“For young people across Delaware, this legislation provides vital and potentially lifesaving protections from the damaging, dangerous and discredited practice known as ‘conversion therapy,’” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride, a Delawarean. “While Delaware has made historic progress on LGBTQ equality, we can and must do more to protect LGBTQ youth from rejection, stigma, and harm. SB 65 is a critical and significant step in that direction. We thank the Delaware General Assembly for their support of this vital legislation and we look forward to Governor Carney signing it into law.”

“We thank those members of the General Assembly who voted to protect LGBTQ children against the dangerous and harmful practice of conversion therapy, and especially prime sponsors Senator Harris McDowell and Representative Debra Heffernan and their legislative aides for their leadership,” said Equality Delaware’s Mark Purpura. “We look forward to Governor Carney signing the bill into law promptly.  We are also thankful to have had the opportunity to work together again with the HumanRights Campaign on this important issue. We need to keep the momentum going across the country to end this despicable practice once and for all.”

There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, and Hawaii all have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice. A growing number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections, including cities and counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Wisconsin. In addition, lawmakers in New Hampshire recently passed similar legislation which currently awaits the governor’s signature.

According to a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional if state lawmakers fail to act.

HRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

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Culture

Girls Who Run the World at London ComicCon 2018

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Geek culture has a rocky history with women. But now, women are rocking geek culture. Historically, women have faced invisibility (not the superpowered kind), exclusion, active hostility, violence, and sexualisation.

This is across video games (the communities surrounding video games), films, TV, and comic books – from sci-fi, superhero and fantasy genres. Geek culture does not ‘cause’ gender inequality. However, it does facilitate and shut down particular attitudes.

The stories we tell teach us who is important – and who is not. And now, women are taking charge of their own stories.

MCM London Comic Con

Orange is the New Black stars Tiffany Doggett (Taryn Manning) and Flaca Gonzalez (Jackie Cruz) spoke about the importance of centering women’s stories, particularly untold stories. The hit Netflix series focuses on a women’s prison, and the actors admitted that they have learned a lot about the conditions faced by incarcerated women during the filming process. There is also space to unpick gendered issues around race and class. “If you don’t see it, create it”, Jackie added, speaking of her extracurricular endeavours with music production.

Then, there were the wrestlers.

EVE  is a self-described “ground-breaking feminist-punk-rock wrestling promotion”: a pro wrestling group for women. ComicCon hosted a debut screening of Empowered, a documentary by Lea Winchcombe showcasing Rhia O’Reilly and Candy Floss. Unashamedly feminist and political, the documentary considers the challenges of being a female wrestler (stereotypes, naysayers and balancing home life), with the buzz of parading around the ring being “glamourous and outrageous”.

On being a role model for her daughter and others, EVE founder Emily Read laughed, “I am the hero, I am the strong one”.  They have opened up wrestling classes for women which build their confidence and self-esteem (irrespective of being novice, casual, professional or old hat). “Women have a place, women have a voice, and women kick ass!” she concluded. The author of this article may very well have shed a tear.

On a less physically exerting note, geek writer/actor/creator Felicia Day happily spoke about her work and creative projects alongside motherhood and her hair. Many members of the audience seemed to share with Felicia the same heartfelt and almost tangible importance of having a female role model within the industry to look up to. Felicia humbly acknowledged the praise and assured us that female representation in geek culture is changing. This was a repeated message at this year’s ComicCon – and a very believable one.

Photo Credit: GoGCast 156: Interview with Patricia Summersett and Victoria Atkin | Girls on Games

Voice actors from Pokemon, South Park (yes, April Stewart confirmed that Wendy is very well received by female fans) and Assassin’s Creed participated in discussions about their gender (of course, only as one element of the colorful spectrum of conversations).

Victoria Atkin and Patricia Summersett of the Assassin’s Creed games spoke about how “challenging” things can be in the industry – particularly to find female characters that aren’t one of the two common tropes of  “sexualised” or “butch”, but “somewhere in the middle”. They discussed wanting to be role models for women in a world where there can be little representation, with a standard gender ratio which appears to “almost compensate for having a female lead”. (Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy and Justice League, I’m looking at you – the good old ‘one woman in a group of four or five men’ trick).

Victoria and Patricia positively, and somewhat bravely considering how women can be treated for speaking up, critiqued their industry to a somewhat male-heavy press audience. These women want to be, and indeed, they are, changemakers – whilst acknowledging the hopeful message that, already, “It is changing”.

Away from the interview room in Comic Village, there was a whole host of women proudly showcasing their own work. This included everything from personal stories about one’s cat (and other pets), adventure tales, tea and romance, magic, fairies and fantasy, space and Japan. Worth a special mention in this mix was the interweaving of gender, sexuality, and race in the creations. Sexuality we may consider another time.

Olivia Duchess showcased a stall solely dedicated to beautiful, tender artwork of Black girls and women. Having been drawing since 2015, Olivia explained that “When I was growing up, I didn’t anyone who looked like me… I didn’t see a lot of Black characters,” (Susie Carmichael from Rugrats got a special mention). She continued, with a modest shrug, “I’m trying to be the change I want to see”, as though unaware of her brilliance.

The interplay of gender and race was also witnessed in other ways – for example, Letitia Wright (Princess Shuri from Black Panther), discussed the importance of  Black female presence in her film, not least the range of “strong female characters”. She agreed with an audience member, “The women were an amazing entity”, before going on to talk about the value of a “Disney Princess with cornrows”.

There was a woman so overwhelmed with emotion at meeting the badass Black Panther science princess, Letitia Wright, that she was trembling with joy. After a quick photo, she took my hand intently, asking: “Do you understand? Do you understand what this means for Black people?”

Her face was full of magic and the power of visibility. I don’t know how one heart held so much in a moment.

This theme was repeated by IvyDoomKitty in her panel on mental health with Janina Scarlett. She spoke about how she had never thought the representation of women was important in geek culture until she saw it. Before then, she was satisfied with the norm of the male superhero. Then she saw DC’s Wonder Woman: an unfurling, a stirring. A hunger revealed. As Dr. Scarlett said, in her discussion about seeing oneself in these stories, “equality sends a very powerful message that everyone is equal and everyone matters”.

I felt it too, this ComicCon. A sense of … something, resonating, muscular and powerful, yet somehow delicate and bright. The kind of visceral sensation that glows in your belly and makes you grab a stranger’s hand and ask them:

Do you understand?

ComicCon, I think you did understand. You gave women – all kinds of women – space, made us central and elevated our power.

Superwomen are here to stay. See you next year!

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Immigration

NASW says plan to separate undocumented immigrant children from their parents is malicious and unconscionable

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Photo Credit: Reuters

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A “zero tolerance” immigration policy that would prosecute families who attempt to cross the border and forcibly separate children from parents is malicious and unconscionable and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will press lawmakers to rescind this egregious action.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 7 announced the zero tolerance policy for immigration into the United States. In announcing the policy, Sessions continued an unacceptable tendency to use language designed to demonize undocumented immigrants. For example, he characterized the parents seeking to escape extreme poverty and violence as “smugglers.” This paints the unfair picture that parents are criminals – not asylum seekers fleeing terrible conditions that include death threats against their families.

The “family separation policy” means that all adults will be referred to criminal court for prosecution and their children will be held in the same facilities as minors who came to the United States without their parents. Also, parents may not know where their children are placed.

This awful Department of Justice policy is fully supported by the White House and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). NASW adamantly disagrees with this approach to border security and urges a policy which strengthens and upholds families regardless of their country of origin.

The decision to separate children from their parents as soon as the parent crosses the border into the United States is both harmful and inexcusable. More concretely, the policy directly imperils the health and safety of immigrants.

It is wholly un-American to weaponize children as a deterrence against immigration. It is telling that officials from the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) visited four military bases in Texas and Arkansas to determine whether they could be facilities to house immigrant children. This demonstrates the Trump Administration has a large-scale plan to increase prosecutions of adult undocumented immigrants and deliberately separate children from parents.

The government intends to send parents to detention facilities run by DHS while their children would go to holding facilities administered by HHS.

A plan to temporarily house children on military bases is alarming. However, it is even more concerning when we realize that the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) lacks the resources and capacity to safely oversee the influx of children that is sure to result from this ill-advised family separation policy.

HHS and ORR have been criticized in the past for placing children at risk. A 2016 independent investigation found that more than two dozen unaccompanied children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved, or forced to work for little or no pay.

The investigation revealed that HHS did not complete thorough background checks on many adult sponsors, all of which led the Chicago Tribune to describe ORR as the “worst foster parent in the world.”

NASW highlights HHS’s problems to show how the emotional trauma inflicted on children removed from parents for reasons unrelated to abuse or neglect may be further exacerbated by placement in unsafe settings. ORR will now be asked to absorb perhaps tens of thousands more children into its overburdened system. The family separation policy is not only irresponsible but reflects a willful disregard for the safety and well-being of these children.

NASW unambiguously rejects the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. It is reprehensible that government officials at the highest levels believe that separating parents from their children is acceptable public policy.

More than 700 children have been taken from their parents since October 2017, including more than 100 children under the age of four. There is ample research demonstrating that family separation can cause long-term trauma leading to mental, physical, and educational development problems in children. For this and other reasons, this policy cannot continue.

We agree with members of Congress who have called for immediate hearings to require all heads of the Justice Department, DHS and HHS to explain and justify such an inhumane policy.

NASW also urges Congress use its constitutional authority to insist the Trump Administration rescind this ill-conceived mandate. We encourage all agencies and elected officials seek a safer future for these children by developing policy that protects them from the harms of separation from parents who violate U.S. immigration policy.

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Health

Women Sleep Less than Men, New Survey Finds

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When it comes to quality of sleep among Americans, men seem to outperform women, a new survey from the Better Sleep Council has found. The male participants of the survey often bragged about getting adequate amounts of sleep, while the women were considerably less likely to get a good night’s rest.

The Sleep Gap between the Sexes

The survey found that a vast majority—84 percent—of female participants found that sleep is important to their health. However, compared to men, the women fell short of getting recommended amounts of sleep each night. The male participants earned a positive 72 percent score for sleeping well at night. This is only slightly above the 70 percent score average American adults of both sexes received from the researchers. Overall, both men and women were lacking enough sleep.

The researchers found that men got better sleep because they tended to engage in more positive sleep habits. More than a third of the male participants slept alone, thus reducing distractions. More men minimized stress levels, followed strict bedtime rituals including on weekends, and didn’t consume caffeinated drinks after lunchtime, leading to overall better sleep than the women.

Women experienced considerable barriers to uninterrupted sleep—mainly their loved ones. Women were more likely than men to let kids or pets sleep in their beds. Such distraction-causing bedtime habits caused women to miss sleep more. Women were also considerably more likely to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Mounting Evidence for a Sleep Epidemic among Women

Other surveys have also found women to lack more sleep than men. A 2007 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that women are more likely than men to suffer from sleep disorders. Women with children are often the last to go to bed at night, resulting in less sleep.

Both men and women require at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, according to guidelines set by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep deprivation is linked to a number of adverse health conditions among both sexes, including increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and mood disorders like anxiety.

A study of 71,000 female nurses who regularly got less than 5 hours of sleep at night found that the sleep-deprived women were more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular problems compared to those who slept 8 hours a night. Women who are most likely to lose sleep were corporate women, who worked long hours at the office and commuted a lot, often losing out on sleep in the process. It’s estimated that more than a third of American working women are seriously sleep-deprived.

Why Women Sleep Less

Scientific research indicates several reasons why women lack sleep compared to men. As mentioned above, lifestyle is a major contributing factor. Women often work long hours and when they come home, they are tasked with looking after children. Working mothers don’t go to sleep until their children are asleep and the school bags for the following day are packed. Women prioritize the needs of the family over their individual need to sleep well.

Other biological factors may also play a role. Female sex hormones tune body clocks to wake up earlier compared to men. The menstrual cycle can also play a role, particularly menopause. Pregnant women experience sleep disturbances, which can continue even after the baby is born (mostly because of the crying baby).

Certain diseases, such as restless leg syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and obstructive sleep apnea, can keep women awake at night as well. Another factor is the bed partner, which is likely to be a male who snores and moves around a lot in their sleep.

Medical professionals recommend that women address this issue head-on and actively sleep at least 20 minutes more than the healthy 7 hours a night. Developing good sleeping habits is at the forefront of tackling this particular gender-oriented problem.

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