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Obama’s Contributions to Social Change Will Leave a Lasting Legacy

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History is already attempting to rewrite Obama’s presidency. Over his eight years in office, Obama never exuded anything less than class, intelligence and an apparently endless appetite for hope and optimism. He frequently spoke about the progress toward a more perfect union and never publically condemned the colleagues who chose to hold him back.

Our former President spent most of his second term under siege from an uncompromising, myopic and greedy political party that controlled Congress and its purse strings. Perhaps no American president has had to endure so many vicious attacks on his character and “agenda,” most of which is planted firmly in the realm of common sense.

Look Beyond the Propaganda

During his time in office, Obama attempted to:

  • Sign a comprehensive infrastructure bill that would have rejuvenated America’s failing roads and other essential construction projects.
  • Sign a bipartisan transportation and housing bill.
  • Sign bills requiring equal pay for women and an overdue increase in the Federal minimum wage.
  • Sign a law that would limit offshoring and outsourcing, to keep American jobs in America.
  • Sign a law that would rehire 400,000 teachers, police officers, paramedics and firefighters.
  • Sign a law reforming student loan to make it more manageable and less punitive.
  • Sign a law that would have extended unemployment benefits for the most desperate Americans in times of hardship.
  • Sign a law that would have guaranteed millionaires pay similar tax rates as working Americans.
  • Sign a law that would have repealed subsidies for Big Oil.

If you’ve relied on television for your news — or even the major outlets with a digital presence — you’re probably familiar with tragically few of Obama’s efforts to reverse a generations-old trend toward ever-worsening inequality. He wanted to build an America that actually chose to rise to our potential instead of squandering it.

But Republicans stopped all of it from happening. They said they were halting the slippery slope toward tyranny — and they said it with a straight face.

What did we get instead? Eight years of Obama standing before the nation begging for a reasoned conversation about how to fix the middle class and create a government and nation that works for all of us, rather than only working for the rich. Eight years of Republicans saying “No.” The above is only a tiny sampling of GOP efforts to sabotage Obama — there are hundreds more examples.

None of this is to say Republicans — or even “conservative thinking” — is necessarily the problem here. The point is this: When evil wants to halt real social progress in its steps, the GOP is the tool it most frequently uses to do so. The Democratic Party might be out of touch these days, but the GOP is a deadly tumor that’s slowly killing us.

The ‘Signature’ Issue: Obamacare

No accounting of Obama’s tilting at the windmills of progress is complete without a word about The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” It’s his signature accomplishment, after all.

And yes, it’s complicated. Portions of it aren’t quite working as intended, but the goal of the law was to insure folks who’d never previously had insurance, either because their genetic code disqualified them or because they couldn’t afford it. By these standards, Obamacare has been a remarkable success. Twenty million Americans now have health insurance who did not previously have it, despite Republican efforts in Congress to literally steal the money meant to pay for it all.

You can’t be an informed citizen and still believe the ACA is some kind of albatross around the neck of America’s economy. It’s not socialized medicine. Hell, it’s not even universal healthcare. But it did move the Overton Window in a big way. The Overton Window is that magical spectrum that houses all of the ideas mainstream America is willing to entertain at any given time. Thanks to Obama’s presidency, the Overton Window now includes the concept of universal, unconditional healthcare. Other nations took the lead, and America took a while to catch on, but now we’re there.

Whether our current administration follows the painfully obvious bread crumb trail toward the only healthcare fix that makes any kind of sense today — a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system — is the only unanswered question.

Missed Opportunities

After we spend a couple more years toiling under the American Taliban we call Congress, Americans are probably going to start missing Obama in a big way. His story is a frustrating one, given where things are headed, but his actions speak far louder than bluster, outrage, vitriol and smear campaigns. If you look at his record objectively, you’ll see a man who frequently stood alone against impossible odds on your behalf and mine.

And yes, it’s a touch tragic. In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama writes elegantly and sadly about the compromises implicitly expected of a would-be politician. He admits:

“I can’t assume that the money chase [of seeking reelection] didn’t alter me in some ways … Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means … [who] reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate … I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population — that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve.”

Reading these words hurts when they were written by a man who campaigned relentlessly on the idea of hope and change. It’s here that Obama’s only real failure resides, but it’s not an upworthy, sexy or outrageous topic, so we don’t talk about it. And Republicans don’t talk about it either, because they’ve made a science of taking the kind of bribes Obama spends his time here lamenting.

Instead, we get politicians like Chris Christie who use oxymoronical phrases like “feckless tyrant” to discuss Obama in front of a live TV audience. Bluster and hatred has attempted to overshadow the real story of Obama’s presidency.

And that real story is called measurable social progress. In addition to laying the groundwork for a brand-new healthcare system, Obama also managed to:

  • Oversee a 5.4% drop in unemployment over the course of six years.
  • Pass a $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment package to see the middle class through the Great Recession.
  • Be instrumental in the LGBT community’s fight for equal rights and the official recognition of same-sex marriage.
  • Lay the groundwork for U.S. energy independence by the year 2020 and become a world leader in a 200-country climate change accord.
  • Help keep immigrant families together by expanding work permit programs.
  • Impose consumer protections and reform efforts on Wall Street.
  • Reduce the United States’ unconscionable use of torture.
  • Normalize our relationship with nearby Cuba.
  • Impose stricter fuel efficiency standards on American automobile manufacturers.
  • Take better care of returning veterans with a $78 billion G.I. bill.

The list goes on, and anyone who’s honest with themselves couldn’t possibly remember this man’s time in office as a failure. In fact, in the uncompromising light of these encouraging facts, even the phrase “missed opportunity” starts sounding a little quaint and hysterical.

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Emergency Management

Lessons in the Current Puerto Rican Disaster

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A man tries to repair a generator in the street after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

Those who have worked in disaster areas know that coordination and transport can be difficult, but with the USS Comfort leaving Puerto Rico after admitting less than 300 patients when there is unmet need isn’t a great sign of success. Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017. The Comfort, which is essentially a floating specialty hospital arrived in Puerto Rico on October 3rd.  November 8th, the Comfort was restocked with supplies but then departed shortly thereafter for “no apparent reason” after providing outpatient services to somewhere around 1500 patients, according to the DOD.

…”I know that we have capacity. I know that we have the capability to help. What the situation on the ground is … that’s not in my lane to make a decision,” he said. “Every time that we’ve been tasked by (Puerto Rico’s) medical operation center to respond or bring a patient on, we have responded (Captain of the USS Comfort to CNN).”

The death count is still hazy, and there is difficulty in confirming how many died during- or as a result, of the disaster.  One group is doing a funeral home count because information is difficult to obtain. CNN has found through a recent investigation that the death toll appears to be more than 9 times the official government report. 

Coordination on a micro, mezzo and macro level must come from multidisciplinary sectors to problem solve. There are many good people working to rebuild Puerto Rico, but there is far too much apathy, throwing up of hands, and of course, corruption.  Many of the Social Work Grand Challenges are highlighted in Puerto Rico alongside the UN Global Goals.

The Whitefish linemen are making $41-64 per hour to restore power to Puerto Rico’s Grid, but the US government is being billed for more than $319 per hour. Whitefish just called a strike because they have not been paid. This, of course, is having a terrible impact on those who are in the most need.

Where do you come in?  We tend to think of trauma on a psychological level: family members and friends who are missing, grief, anxiety, and depression due to home and job loss as well as connecting with those close to you, each processing the trauma differently.

On the mezzo level, we are working with smaller groups and institutions, of which there are many in disaster or mass casualty events.  Local churches, schools, nonprofits and local chapters of larger scale organizations attempt to unite in the local area to help speed services to those that need it most.  Often this is where many of the challenges lie.  Each organization has their own protocols which may not match up with larger scale efforts of the government or international organizations.

On a practical level, resources are often short on a disaster scene- there are not enough clinicians to meet with clients individually, at least not for more than a few minutes at a time. We revert to what the American Red Cross refers to as “Psychological First Aid”.  Human networks through nodes (like shelters) provide a sense of community and belonging when all is lost, with individuals acting as brokers between networks that previously didn’t have ties.

Ground efforts can be supported by a drone equipped with a camera to see if there is a possibility of reaching a scheduled neighborhood by car, saving countless minutes that matter.  The aerial shots from 3 days ago may no longer be relevant. The water may have receded but now a home has landed there, blocking road access.

The volunteers mapping from satellite images can instantly beam their work from anywhere (tracing homes, schools, possible military vehicle parking areas or temporary helipads) while teams on the ground stare at a water covered road, unsure of what is beneath. Life saving choices are made with options and all levels working together. This is how neighborhood Facebook groups saved lives- they were the eyes on the ground in their own neighborhood that identified who was in the most danger.

Facebook may no longer be the hippest new technology (we are nearing the decade and a half mark) but it is arguably the most ubiquitous and well supported (crashes rarely). Many survivors could make a post but were unable to call or text from the same device. An important component to the multi-level view is the understanding that macro tools like mapping serve micro and mezzo levels.

Being a survivor in an active disaster can quietly morph into anxiety, depression and survivor’s guilt.  Being able to participate in practical support efforts can boost the well being of survivors as well. Friends of friends of friends and influencers in social networks have proven to be incredibly powerful.  It’s what happens when “mixed networks” collide.

As we move to a macro level, there’s a realization that there is a great deal of organic movement in even the best planned days for rescue effort workers.  Do you stop here where the need is great (and went unreported) even though it’s blocking you from reaching the mapped area that your team has already scheduled? This is where technology for good can make the difference.  Depending on your training and background, you may make a different choice.  Who is in charge of the government response, and how do we help change course if it is failing?  How do we know if the efforts match our resources?

The simple answer is that we are there to communicate it with others, on all levels—including the virtual one. This may mean volunteering for rescue efforts, collecting tampons in your hometown, or using your own technology for good by mapping for workers on the ground that are not sure what lies beneath—you are helping to ensure their safety and mental well being.  In turn, you get to pass that knowledge into your own networks.

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News

Opening Paths for Europe’s Children: Best Practices and Transitions from Introversion to Extroversion

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Photo Credit: LamiaReport.gr

The Social Welfare Center in the Central of Greece Region at the Ministry of Labor, Social Insurance & Social Solidarity is one of the leading regional social structures taking the initiative to re-open conversation on the investment and need of alternative children protection based on the promotion of foster care, adoption, and deinstitutionalization in child welfare.

On November 20, 2017, a coalition of specialized and distinguished professionals from the European Region, such as Jane Snaith, CEO Family for Each Child (Igale Lapsele Pere) from Estonia, Marina Hoblaj and Alisa Fistrek, Forum for Quality Raising of foster children (Forum za kvalitetno udomiteljstvo djece – udomitelji za djecu) from Croatia, Mary Theodoropoulou and Tatiana Gorney, “Roots” Research Center (NGO) from Greece, “Eurochild” participated in the “Opening doors for Europe’s children” campaign. This brain trust of professionals and specialists shared their lived experience and knowledge in this crucial field in order to engage and stimulate public concern for alternative child protection.

Additionally, they discussed some of the best practices being used abroad to encourage other professionals, social workers, social care workers, etc. to adopt them and incorporate into their practice in order to start shaping a different approach, mentality and organizational culture for those making and implementing policies on the day to day life of children. On the grounds of the current and abundantly quite rigid national legal framework, reformation is needed to define the comprehensive disadvantages of the foster care and adoption process in addition to addressing the shortage of multidimensional help that has plagued the profession for all these years.

In the context of exchanging views on the necessity of a more extroverted social perception establishment in the Greek territory, a special workshop was held for all those interested in better vocational training. Professionals working with children need support in their professional lives in order to fulfill their day to day work to secure, defend, and emphasize on fundamental children and youth rights.

Not only had they already implemented to intensify already fruitful and constructive endeavors towards deinstitutionalization and family care under the current circumstances, they still keep to facilitate and invite public concern to establish rapport on a crucial issue in question akin to a modern and fair pretention.

Social Welfare Center of Central Greece Region is a public legal entity akin to the managerial mechanism of three social structures which encompasses the Department of Child Protection of Fthiotida, Department of People with Disabilities of Fthiotida, Department of People with Disabilities of Evoia. This social welfare entity is the state’s main bracket in the above-mentioned territory.

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Human Services

Disruptive Leadership: Maximizing Inclusion, Invention, and Innovation in Human Services

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“Disruptive leadership” is an approach to management that entails new ways of thinking, creative problem-solving, and utilizing innovative techniques to approach major issues in unprecedented ways. It involves building products, markets, and networks that jolt the status quo. In an increasingly competitive environment, human services leaders stand to benefit from generating and investing in groundbreaking ideas.

Through disruptive leadership, human services managers can maximize inclusion by consciously elevating voices that have often been unheard, diversifying perspectives in human services management. A disruptive leader seeks solutions outside of the norm, presents new ideas, and broadens the reach and scope of agencies and programs. Disruptive leadership, through inclusion, invention, and innovation, drives greater impact, outcomes, and overall quality of services.

Proposal Review Criteria

Workshops, Panels, Papers, and Poster proposals will be assessed based on their relevance to the conference theme and human services management practice, contributions to the knowledge base, and strength of evidence (e.g., theory, single case, multiple cases, time series designs, control or comparison groups, and statistical significance). Proposals will also be assessed based on the extent to which they can help ensure social workers and human service professionals drive greater impact, promote conscious efforts related to diversity and inclusion, and encourage innovations in products, markets, and values networks. Additionally, presentations should address at least one of the conference sub-themes highlighting the domains of The Network for Social Work Management’s human services management competencies summarized below.

All proposal submissions should be 500 words maximum with an abstract of 50-100 words.  Presenter contact information including credentials, workshop title, aims, objectives (e.g., knowledge or skills outcomes), and optimal number of participants must be included and are not included in the word counts. All accepted presenters must submit electronic material such as Power Point Slides or a paper before the conference.

Each proposal must indicate the following:

Sub-theme (choose one): Leadership, Strategic Management, Resource Management, or Community Collaboration.

Audience Track (choose targeted audience levels/tracks): Aspiring & Emerging, Middle & Senior, or Executive.

Proposals are invited in the formats listed below:

60-Minute Workshops: Workshops are designed to introduce the audience to strategies, methods, skills, or practice orientations. Workshops may include demonstrations and time for skill practice and acquisition.

60-Minute Panels: Panelists present a series of up to three papers focused on a common theme exploring multiple perspectives and experts. The panel is organized by a primary presenter who will introduce the topic and panelists. Each panelist must submit an abstract (as described above) for their topic, including the names of other panel members.

Individual 30-Minute Presentations of a Paper: These are 20-minute presentations allowing for 10 additional minutes for questions and discussion. Presentations on similar topics will be paired so each session will include two individual presentations.

In your proposal application, please indicate if you are willing to present your material as a poster presentation if it is not accepted for a session presentation.

Poster Presentations: Poster sessions will occur at scheduled times, with the authors present to discuss their work. Posters will also be available for viewing at other times during the conference.

SUBMIT: ALL proposals must be submitted online to the Call for Proposals submission portal.

NOTIFICATIONS of acceptance will be made by March 1, 2018. All selected presenters will need to confirm acceptance and submit a résumé or curriculum vitae by March 9, 2018. Presenters must register and pay for conference attendance.

All presenters will receive a discounted registration fee. Fees for presenters are: Early Bird Registrations (deadline March 24, 2018): 2-day $225, 1 day $175; Regular Registrations:  2-day $275, 1 day $200. If you have any questions about submissions, please e-mail Program Committee Co-Chair Tom Packard at [email protected]

PROPOSALS ARE DUE January 22, 2018

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