Child abuse and neglect is a widespread and costly problem in the United States. Approximately 3.9 million children were subjects of maltreatment reports to child welfare agencies in 2013. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child abuse and neglect cost the U.S. $124 billion in 2012.
In order to help children facing maltreatment, researchers and clinicians first needed to address the heart of the problem. The relationship between the parent and child is key, argues Kristin Valentino, William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, in an article published recently in a special section of the journal Child Development.
More than 90 percent of maltreated children are victimized by one or both parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “My position is that child maltreatment, in most cases, can best be understood as a problem in the parent-child relationship,” Valentino says. “Thus, we should focus on enhancing the parent-child relationship in our intervention efforts.”
Two broad kinds of relational interventions between parents and children are available to researchers and clinicians. In her article, Valentino examines brief models and long-term models, both designed to improve not only how well parents understand their children and how to react to them, but also the child’s attachment security. The latter plays a critical role in supporting positive development, including coping skills, emotional and behavioral functioning, peer relationships and even physical health.
Children who are neglected, abused or otherwise mistreated often develop emotional problems, Valentino says: “Up to 80 to 90 percent of maltreated children develop what is known as disorganized attachment. This classification is one type of insecure attachment and is associated with the worst outcomes including severe problems in emotion regulation, school achievement and the development of psychopathology.”
Valentino reviews the pros and cons of brief and long-term intervention methods, and conclusively recommends a tiered approach wherein families are provided with brief interventions first, and subsequent long-term approaches if needed.
“Given limitations on resources and funds to support treatment in the child welfare system, this approach would allow us to provide services to more families, and to identify families who should be referred to more intensive programs in a targeted manner,” Valentino says.
Valentino is a clinical and developmental psychologist who conducts research with families through Notre Dame’s Shaw Center for Children and Families. Her current research focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of a brief relational intervention for maltreated preschool-aged children and their mothers in a randomized clinical trial design.
The article, titled “Relational Interventions for Maltreated Children,” is featured in a special section of Child Development that addresses how best to address the developmental needs of different at-risk populations of children and families. The special section contains a set of papers from 12 sets of specialists in order to provide expert recommendations that are useful to both clinicians and policymakers.
What #NeverAgain Means for Workplace Violence for Helping Professionals
What does the #neveragain movement mean for workplace violence for helping professionals? Social Work Helper hosted a free live discussion with security expert and threat management specialist, Hector Alvarez, on workplace violence prevention and tips.
In early March, Christine Loeber, a social worker and executive director of a veteran treatment facility, was one of three women held hostage and killed by former client and combat veteran, Albert Wong.
The Napa County Sheriff’s Department reports Wong, age 36, shot the three mental health workers in the head with a rifle before self-inflicting a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Psychologists Jennifer Golick and Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, who was also pregnant, were the other two victims of this horrific incident.
It is believed that Wong was released from services based on information provided by a family member of one of the victims. This incident may seem like an isolated incident, but a quick google search will show how often social workers and other helping professionals are constantly being threatened, hurt or killed by a spiraling client, and those incidents only represent the newsworthy incidents.
According to the OSHA’s Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare & Social Service Workers, professionals working in this sector are at the greatest risk for workplace violence. In the guidelines, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported 48% of all non-fatal incidents of workplace violence, assaults or violent acts occur in the healthcare or social services. They also report social service workers (social workers, child welfare, and caseworkers) are 7 times more likely to become victims of violence than those working in the private sector.
Watch the replay using this link: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/what-neveragain-means.
Why the United States Needs a Woman in the Presidency
Even had Hillary Clinton prevailed in the 2016 presidential contest, the United States would still have arrived late to the promotion of a woman to the highest executive office. And since Clinton lost, the United States has yet to enter this game. In 1960, Sri Lanka became the first country to be governed by a woman, but this was hardly a sea change because women did not enjoy more widespread success until the 1990s.
More than three-quarters of all female presidents and prime ministers have arrived in office in the last two decades, and the female ranks have grown faster since 2010. Nevertheless, the numbers have contracted in recent years. Currently, only six percent of all executives in power around the world are women; and a remarkable 61 percent of the world’s countries, including the United States, have never been governed by a woman.
Why has the U.S. failed to elect a woman to the presidency? In my research, I engage this question by examining global patterns of women’s executive office holding. In addition, I assess what happens when women are prevented from taking the helm, why it matters, and how this shortfall can be changed.
Why Female Executive Leadership Matters
The dominance of the American Presidency and the masculine traits often associated with and assumed necessary for office holders in American executive institutions pose significant challenges for women. What is more, many issues, like military and foreign affairs, are seen as masculine issues and often associated with the Presidency. Add to this the short supply of women legislators, governors, and presidential candidates (usually no more than one woman competes for a major party nomination) and it becomes difficult to imagine the executive glass ceiling cracking anytime soon.
What difference does it make that the United States has yet to elect its first woman president? Most basically, it matters because the election or appointment of a female executive facilitates women’s political empowerment. Overall, women executives create important opportunities for all women in society. Specifically, women leaders can propose and implement policies that promote gender equality and empower many more women.
Although we must take into account important factors in addition to gender – such as partisanship, party dynamics in the legislature, and the executive’s institutional authority to propose and advance legislation – women executives can in one way or another facilitate policies favorable to women’s advancement. And they can advance other women to power in cabinet positions, judgeships and the like.
Finally, when women hold presidencies or prime ministerships, they influence the public’s attitudes by providing important symbols of female political empowerment. The reality of women in power challenges prior presumptions about politics as a “man’s world” – and this change in the sense of what is appropriate and possible in itself helps create a more equitable society.
How can the United States and other lagging countries finally have a female leader? The following steps could help.
- To expand the pipeline, create more programs that prepare a diverse array of women to run for office at all levels of government.
- Increase the active recruitment of female candidates for offices at all levels by politicians, civic groups, and other leaders.
- Change institutional structures that constrict the political pipeline – for example, by instituting new party rules that require women’s representation on nominating ballots, at political conventions, and in appointive government offices.
- Build institutions that facilitate collaborative governance and women’s political inclusion, such as multi-party parliamentary systems where slates of officeholders can be designated without each having to win the popular vote directly.
- Heighten awareness of the sexist attitudes and stereotypes women still face in politics and create programs to combat such discrimination.
- Organize and advocate around issues especially relevant to women – including sexual harassment and violence, pay equity, reproductive rights, paid family leave, and women’s political incorporation. Place such concerns squarely on the policy agenda and make sure they are advanced, not just issues disproportionately relevant to men.
- Support organizations that mobilize rising numbers of unmarried, millennial, and minority voters, who often back more progressive women candidates and issues.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost to an unqualified and deeply flawed Donald Trump, despite the advantages she had in fundraising, family ties to power, name recognition, party support, and vast political qualifications. Had Clinton won, her path to the White House would not have been especially revolutionary, given her standing as the wife of a former president. Still, a win for her would have allowed the United States to join the company of the 74 countries that have had at least one woman in their executive.
In the future, given the high visibility of the U.S. presidency on the world stage, a woman serving in this office could signal to the world that females belong at the center of the democratic political sphere and might also stimulate enhanced levels of public engagement in politics worldwide.
Achieving full political empowerment for women takes more than electing a female president, but the difficulties women have faced in achieving presidential power in the United States reveal that women the world over still have a way to go to overcome their political marginalization.
The time for a woman in the highest U.S. office will surely come all the same. Although the highest glass ceiling remains unbroken in the world’s most powerful nation, it is not impenetrable – just as it is not unbreakable in other countries around the globe.
What Americans Think about Poverty and How to Reduce It
The 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty attracted little attention in 2015, and the 20th anniversary of welfare reform was barely noticed the following year. Although poverty tends to be overlooked by elected officials, policy experts, and the media, it remains a large and chronic social problem. According to the U.S, Census Bureau, 43 million Americans are officially poor, and millions more live just above the poverty line. Poverty has a big impact on health care, education, criminal justice, and other social realms and policy domains.
Given the relative silence at the elite level, I worked with three undergraduate students to review a variety of U.S. national opinion polls concerning poverty. We wanted to know what ordinary Americans think about poverty and efforts to ameliorate it – and whether their views had changed much over the last two decades. Our research was recently published in the Public Opinion Quarterly and includes suggestions for better questions researchers should ask in the future.
Current Public Opinion
The American public is generally sympathetic to the poor and supportive of greater government efforts to fight poverty. On the standard feeling thermometer questions – where people are asked to indicate degrees of warmth about various groups – scores for the poor are unusually high. Americans say they feel more warmly toward the poor than toward liberals, conservatives, the Tea Party, big business, or unions. When it comes to explaining poverty, Americans are more likely to blame it on forces beyond people’s control than on lack of effort. They recognize that many of the poor work but earn too little to escape poverty.
What should be done about poverty?
- Most Americans agree that government should “take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.” That responsibility includes guaranteeing every citizen “enough to eat and a place to sleep.”
- In 2016, over half of respondents to a Pew poll said that dealing with the problems of the poor should be a top priority for the President and Congress; an additional one-third said it should be an important priority. Poverty was a higher priority than climate change, tax reform, or criminal justice, but ranked somewhat lower than education or jobs.
- Most Americans think the country is spending too little on assistance to the poor. Only a small fraction, 10 to 12 percent, thinks too much is spent, while almost half believe that the poor lead hard lives in part because government benefits are inadequate.
- On the other hand, public support drops when questions refer to “welfare” or “people on welfare” – and the gap is especially large when spending is at issue. Few Americans think we should spend more on welfare.
An important additional point: Although our project was designed to describe public opinion more than explain it, we did see evidence that racial attitudes and welfare attitudes could be linked. Many whites feel that blacks on welfare could get along without it if they tried and that blacks as a group are not as hard-working as whites.
Most Americans are frustrated with past efforts to reduce poverty. A 2016 Gallup survey, for example, found dissatisfaction among 81 percent of respondents with how the federal government handles poverty. Similar results were found when questions were worded more broadly – to encompass efforts by the entire nation and not just government.
What Has Changed and What Has Not
Over the last two decades, Americans seem to have become more aware of the working poor, and more willing to believe that those living in poverty are having a difficult time even with government assistance. Also, blacks are somewhat less likely to be viewed as lazy.
But for most poll questions that have been asked repeatedly, the answers have been fairly consistent. It still matters, a lot, whether questions refer to welfare or to poverty. In that sense, the historic 1996 reforms – with their caps on spending for public welfare assistance, greater work requirements, tougher sanctions, limited eligibility for legal immigrants, and time limits – do not appear to have changed the public’s mind very much. “Welfare” and “welfare recipients” still have negative connotations.
Implications for the Future
Overall, Americans continue to have mixed views about poverty, and policymakers can use polls to justify either more efforts by government to ameliorate poverty or fewer efforts. Policymakers and citizens who want to do more will need to focus on the poor overall, not just welfare recipients. And it might also help to highlight success stories – where government efforts have helped people climb out of poverty – to counter the public’s pessimism.
As we reviewed the survey data, we were struck by the need for polling organizations to ask new and better questions. “Welfare” and “assistance to the poor” could refer to many things, and it would help to know much more about how the public feels about specific programs. In addition, asking questions about blacks and whites but no other important social groups seems outdated.
Finally, pollsters and researchers should try to learn much more about the public’s dissatisfaction with efforts to fight poverty. Do people consider all anti-poverty programs to be equally ineffective? Do they believe the national government has been less successful than state governments, charities, and churches in fighting poverty? Answers to these kinds of questions could help policymakers decide how best to help millions of poor Americans who remain vulnerable and need assistance. Americans sympathize, our data show, but remain conflicted about what can and should be done.
From Civil War Letters to Instagram: Social Media Trends Are Nothing New
It might seem new, and maybe narcissistic, that people feel the need to share their lives with the world – tweeting about what they had for breakfast and sharing videos on Instagram of their kid getting a haircut.
In a new book, Lee Humphreys, associate professor of communication at Cornell University, argues that the act of documenting and sharing one’s everyday life is not new – nor is it particularly narcissistic. “The Qualified Self: Social Media and the Accounting of Everyday Life” puts our mobile and social media use in a historical context, and shows how pocket diaries, photo albums and baby books are the predigital precursors of today’s digital and mobile platforms for posting text and images.
“Like social media accounts, these are shared and circulated and commented on. They are not just about the self but they are about other people and their lives,” said Humphreys, who studies the social uses and perceived effects of communication technology. “What people are doing with social media – how they’re using it to communicate, to understand themselves – is quite an old practice.”
The book stemmed from Humphreys’ empirical study comparing a Civil War diarist to a U.S. military blogger in Afghanistan. During the Civil War, the letters and diaries soldiers sent to their families provided an important source of news for the larger community back home. They would routinely be circulated around town and printed in the local newspaper. “There was this sense that they were writing for a potentially broader audience than just the addressees of the letter,” Humphreys said. “And of course the blogger did a similar kind of thing.”
She also analyzed the content of tweets and so-called “accounting diaries” from the early 19th century – and found similarities there, too. Both have entries that consist of a few words or sentences that catalogue daily activities and events – such as a morning trip to Starbucks or who stopped by the house that day – and these accounting diaries would commonly be shared with friends and family.
“We see people sharing everyday, mundane moments as a way of reinforcing social ties,” Humphreys said. “That was certainly the case historically and it’s one of the main reasons why people share things like that on social media today.”
However, one thing dramatically sets apart how we account our daily lives now: the fact that social media companies commodify people’s activity. “They have a financial incentive to get you to post and share, because the more you do, the more they can learn about you and the better they can sell to you,” she said. “And there’s more content for other people to look at, as well.”
In contrast, Kodak, for example, printed the photos that a family would put in its scrapbook; the company had access to the photos but didn’t commodify them. “This is a very different role for corporate entities,” Humphreys said, “to have not only access to our media accounts but also the ability to use that information and couple it with other forms of data to sell us things.”
Gay, Bisexual, Sexually Abused Male Inmates More Fearful of Prison Rape, More Open to Therapy
There is nowhere to escape in what often is referred to as a “sexual jungle,” especially for the most vulnerable. However, “Zero tolerance” toward prison rape is now national policy thanks to the Prison Rape Elimination Act passed by the United States Congress in 2003. Although this law changed how Americans think about prison rape, few studies have examined how inmates perceive rape and if they feel safe in prison. Even less is known about how their perceptions influence whether or not they ask for mental health treatment while incarcerated.
The most recent National Inmate Survey of 2011-12 of 92,449 inmates age 18 or older shows that among non-heterosexual prison inmates, more than 12 percent reported sexual victimization by another inmate and almost 5.5 percent were victimized by a prison staff member within the past 12 months. In comparison, 1.2 percent of heterosexual prisoners were sexually victimized by an inmate and 2.1 percent were victimized by a prison staff member. These rates are even higher for those with mental illness. About one in 12 inmates with a mental disorder report at least one incident of sexual victimization by another inmate over a six-month period, compared to one in 33 male inmates without a mental disorder.
Using data from more than 400 male inmates housed in 23 maximum-security prisons across the U.S., researchers from Florida Atlantic University conducted a novel study to examine the factors related to fear of rape in prison and the likelihood of male inmates requesting mental health treatment while incarcerated. They focused specifically on prisoners at risk of being sexually victimized in prison: gay or bisexual inmates and those with a history of childhood sexual abuse.
A key finding from the study, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, is that sexual orientation and a history of childhood sexual abuse are significant predictors of male inmates fearing rape as a big threat in prison and voluntarily requesting mental health treatment. Findings from the study reveal that nearly 38 percent of gay and bisexual inmates and 37 percent of inmates with childhood sexual abuse fear rape as a big threat.
Compared with straight inmates, gay and bisexual inmates are approximately two times more likely to perceive rape as a threat and three times more likely to voluntarily request mental health treatment in prison. Inmates with a history of childhood sexual abuse are more than twice as likely to perceive rape as a threat and almost four times more likely to request mental health treatment than inmates who did not report a history of childhood sexual abuse. Notably, this finding is inconsistent with previous research that has shown that there is no significant relationship between childhood sexual abuse and feelings of safety among male inmates.
“The consequences of perceiving rape to be a threat in prison are vast and could contribute to violence among inmates as well as negative mental health ramifications such as increased fear, psychological distress, chronic anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide,” said Cassandra A. Atkin-Plunk, Ph.D., co-author and an assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry.
Inmates incarcerated for two to five years are nearly three times more likely to perceive that rape is a big threat compared with inmates incarcerated for less than two years. Inmates in prison longer than 18 years are nearly four times more likely to voluntarily request mental health treatment in prison. The researchers also found that Black inmates are twice as likely to seek mental health treatment in prison compared to White inmates.
“Knowing that gay and bisexual inmates and inmates with a history of childhood sexual abuse are more likely to fear rape and seek mental health treatment, prison staff can target outreach and treatment efforts for this vulnerable sub-population,” said Mina Ratkalkar, LCSW, MS, lead author and a licensed clinical social worker pursuing a Ph.D. who conducted the study while she was a graduate student at FAU. “Our study shows that these sub-groups of inmates are receptive to treatment, and our findings have implications for both practice and policy in the United States.”
The sample consisted of a nearly equal number of men in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Black inmates made up about half of the sample, with White inmates comprising about one-third of the sample. Nearly one-third of the sample had previously been in juvenile detention and about one-quarter were incarcerated for the first time in the adult criminal justice system at age 18 or younger.
About 16.4 percent of the sample identified as gay or bisexual. About one-fifth of the men (73) reported a history of childhood sexual abuse, and about one-third of the men reported having received mental health treatment outside of prison.
NASW Highlights the Growing Need for School Social Workers to Prevent School Violence
WASHINGTON, D.C. – School social workers play a critical role in schools. They serve as the liaison between school, home, and the community. The underlying premise of school social work services is based in strengthening students’ academic progress by removing barriers to learning including meeting their basic physical and emotional needs.
Any form of school violence, including the mass shootings at schools around the country such as the recent incidents Florida and Maryland, prohibit students’ sense of safety and their learning. School social workers work to prevent mass killing in schools as well as guide schools in recovery after a crisis has occurred. Today more than ever, there is a growing need for school social workers to help prevent school violence and to support students in moments of crisis.
Unfortunately, school social work positions across the country have been eliminated or replaced by other professions. Due to extensive financial deficits and constraints, as well as competing priorities, local education agencies are often unable to hire enough school social workers to adequately meet the needs of the student population. In many instances, school social work services are eliminated altogether.
School social workers work in preventing school violence. They are trained to understand risk factors and warning signs of violent behaviors. They are knowledgeable in classroom management and behavior intervention and can assist teachers and school personnel in identifying concerning behaviors of students and developing supportive intervention plans. They are experts in research-based school discipline policy development that can increase school connectedness and decrease incidents of school violence.
School social workers work to provide support after a crisis. They are extensively trained to manage and deal with crisis and are equipped to assist school administrators and teachers. School social workers are experienced in delivering difficult and sensitive information and can assist in developing messages that are age-appropriate and culturally sensitive. In addition, they can lead the development of strategic plans that prepare other school personnel to respond adequately during the times of chaos and crisis.
School social workers can link students and their families to community resources. They are well-informed regarding relevant resources in the community and online and can aid in connecting students and families to the appropriate resources during times of crisis.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) advocates for ratios in its latest revision of the NASW Standards for School Social Work Services that reflect the need for an increase in social work positions across the nation in all schools:
School social work services should be provided at a ratio of one school social worker to each school building serving up to 250 general education students, or a ratio of 1:250 students. When a social worker is providing services to students with intensive needs, a lower ratio, such as 1:50, is suggested (NASW, 2012).
Violence in schools has increased dramatically over the past decades and is seen by many as a public health issue. School social workers aid in the prevention of school violence and provide much needed services and support after a crisis has occurred. NASW strongly urges the funding for an increase of school social workers in schools across the country to adequately meet the needs of students and decrease school violence.
NASW is in partnerships with coalitions that are working to support school social work positions. We urge our members and the larger social work community to contact their elected officials to advocate for school social work positions in schools. For more information contact NASW Senior Practice Associate Sharon Dietsche, LCSW-C, LICSW, at [email protected].
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