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The city of San Francisco has more than 7,000 homeless people, and 35% (2,400) of these are women between 20 and 50 years old. Homeless women face challenges such as being overlooked, disregarded, ignored and looked down upon. Also, homeless women are far more likely to experience violence of all sorts, than American women in general, when living on the streets.

According to ”The Experience of Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women: A Research Report 2005”, a study of 800 homeless women in several Florida cities, the most significant risk factor for violent victimization as an adult, is a pattern of physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a child. Many young girls are destined to become homeless adult women, as they have been permanently scarred by their childhood victimizations and have an extremely warped sense of what is normal and acceptable in their relationships to men.

The study shows that the homeless women endured various combinations of victimization, homelessness and other traumatic life events and that in many cases, these experiences led the women to feel inconsequential, worthless, isolated and alone.

Many homeless women are homeless because of violence. This does not make homelessness easy to resolve, but it does, we think, make the resolution all that more urgent. And it is important to find the right way to approach these very vulnerable women.

Individual women and girls are invisible in a very different way compared to homeless men. The majority of the services and programs set up to help the homeless is made in response to the larger homeless men population.

As a result, service providers have noted that many women, as a minority in mixed shelters or housing programs, feel unsafe in these environments. The staff at these homeless shelters or programs may also not be able to address the specific challenges women face or be able to provide a safe space.

Axel Honneth a German professor and philosopher known for his recognition theory describes recognition as an important factor for the individual’s ability to develop self-esteem and self-respect. Recognition is about respecting the individual. Without recognition, you will feel invisible and inferior. Honneth describes recognition in the three spheres: the private sphere, the judicial sphere and the social sphere. According to Honneth, women, if they fail to gain recognition and emotional support, they risk losing a positive self-image.

Blossom Locker Room Project

The latest initiative from Blossom Project is to establish a locker room for homeless women in San Francisco.

The idea behind the project is to provide a locker room for homeless women, a secure place to store their personal belongings in. In addition to providing secure storage, the Locker Room will provide a safe space for women who are homeless to find a community to interact with and help address life’s challenges. Empower the women to gain control over and take responsibility for their own life and situation.

The locker room itself is more than just a place to store belongings – it is a physical space that is conducive to establishing a connection between the caseworker and the homeless women. The importance of this relationship cannot be overstated – it is symbiotic, and restores a sense of hope. It is a way to respect the women, see them as equal dignity and also empower the women.

Blossom Project is in the process of securing funding and working with City of San Francisco and other organizations to find an appropriate location for the project.

Feel free to reach out to Tine Christensen and her team if you would like to volunteer or get your company involved in supporting homeless women in the Bay Area.

Tine Christensen medical social worker, with wide experience working with cancer patients and a passion for how to be aware and developing the social work area. "We wont always know whose lives we touched and made better for our having cared, because actions can sometimes have unforeseen ramifications . What is important is that you do care and you do act." Charlotte Lunsford

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Child Welfare

Bipartisan Task Force Hosts Discussion on Effects of the Opioid Epidemic on the Child Welfare System

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The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force teamed up to host a dinner highlighting the effects that the opioid epidemic has had on the country’s child welfare system. This epidemic has impacted countless lives throughout the country and has already had a specifically insidious impact on children.

“The opioid crisis is devastating families and our already over-burdened child welfare system,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “We have learned so much from the crack cocaine epidemic and how it affected those in the child welfare system. Now, we have to apply those lessons to the epidemic at hand. Last night’s bipartisan dinner was a step in that direction and I look forward to working with my colleagues in both caucuses that participated tonight on this incredibly important issue.”

More than 20 Members of Congress from the two caucuses came together Tuesday night to work with experts — individuals who grew up in the child welfare system and individuals who have dedicated their life’s work to children in the child welfare system — to identify tangible ways Congress could assist the overflowing child welfare system and also take meaningful action in bringing this epidemic to an end.

“I was pleased to join my colleagues last night at a bipartisan dinner that addressed our country’s opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Marino, Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “This epidemic has affected countless children in the foster care system and it is up to Congress to come together to find a solution to end this horrible tragedy in our nation. I look forward to having more productive discussions on this issue and will continue to work tirelessly with Congress to ensure that our children are protected from this crisis.”

Ideas presented ranged from reforming law enforcement’s ability to respond to on-scene overdoses, to overhauling relapse protocol in court orders, to creating an entire cabinet position to address the issue of drug epidemics in our country. Experts and Members were quick to caution that there will be no one quick fix to this expansive issue, but agreed that conversations like the one held last night will bring us closer to a better future for these communities affected by this epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on communities in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Congresswoman Kuster, the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. “That impact has been acutely felt by families and children who so often bear the brunt of substance use disorder. I’m pleased that the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth have come together for this constructive conversation about how we can better support children as we take on the opioid crisis.”

“The opioid epidemic continues to destroy communities and families across my home state of New Jersey and throughout our nation,” said Republican Chairman of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, Congressman MacArthur. “More and more children are ending up in foster care because of this crisis and straining our already burdened child welfare system.  I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth to combat the opioid crisis and help children impacted by it.”

The dinner featured three panelists, all of whom have been directly impacted by the child welfare system, addiction or both. Linda Watts serves as the Acting Commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and provided detailed analysis regarding her work at both an administrative level as well as in the field.

Angelique Salizan is a former foster youth who is currently serving as a legislative correspondent in United States Senator Sherrod Brown’s D.C. office and a part-time consultant for the Capacity Building Center for States, an initiative of the Children’s Bureau. China Krys Darrington has been a trainer for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program since 2010 and a provider of Recovery Support Services through XIX Recovery Support Services since 2007.

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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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Child Welfare

How to Support Foster Children

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When you choose to become a foster carer the rewards can be great. Supporting a child through a difficult period in their life, watching them grow and develop into a well-rounded individual; it’s understandable why so many choose to pursue this worthwhile vocation.

However, as with any profession, it does come with some downsides. Primarily helping some children to cope with the trauma and stress that being in foster care can evoke.

So, how can you best support a foster child in a meaningful way? One that will be beneficial to the both of you.

Listen

Feeling like the most overlooked member of society can have a damaging and long-lasting effect on foster children. Meaning that the simple act of offering them an ear to vent their worries, experiences or anything at all can be extremely positive. It establishes you as a point of reason in their life.

You can’t always solve the issues that are brought up during these moments. Nor should you try, but it is worthwhile simply being there to hear. Because, at the end of the day, your foster children deserve to be listened to.

Celebrate

Birthdays. Christmas. Halloween. Important events can often go overlooked as a foster child. So, taking the chance as a foster parent to celebrate these milestones – no matter how little or big – can be the change that a child needs. Simple things such as helping put up a Christmas tree could be a moment they will remember for a long time to come.

And at the end of the day events like Halloween and Birthdays are fun – something every child needs a little more of in their lives.

Playdates

Your support is vital, but often the support of peers can also be invaluable for the wellbeing of those children in foster care. Setting up playdates – even for older children – can be a great way to help them interact and enjoy time with children their own age.

Older children or teens may be unreceptive to you making playdates for them. But, arranging ‘coincidences’ of kids their age coming over can always be an alternative solution. What they don’t know…

This can also be beneficial for any of your own children that may also be in the house. A disgruntled foster child can be a distressing presence in the home, so balancing this out with a familiar friend and playmate is often needed to offset this. All of the children in your home can benefit from socialising with others both in and outside your own home at times,

Getaway

Sometimes life can get a little too much when you are forced to come and go through a number of foster homes, which is a reality for many foster children. A day out – not even an expensive day out or holiday – can be a bright spot in an otherwise overcast moment in their lives. The zoo, beach, museum and even the park can be an adventure.

It’s not always clear what a child is going through, nor will they always express their emotions in healthy ways. Removing them from the environment which creates these feelings can be a relief in many cases.

Help with School

On average, foster children tend to do worse academically and behaviour wise in school than other children. The reasons are often self-explanatory, but it is something which you can positively influence whilst they are under your care.

Helping with homework, actively engaging with teachers over what you can do further to help and encouraging after-school activities are some ways to do this. Goals should be set, but ensure they are realistic and rewarded when surpassed.

Overall, being a foster parent is a big task but one that can bring so much enrichment to a child’s life. As a solid figure in their life, you can help ensure the rest of their life is more positive than the start. Supporting a foster child can be a challenge, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you see a positive effect on the life of a child.

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Child Welfare

Parental Medicaid Expansion Translates into Preventive Care for their Children

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When low-income parents enroll in Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) state expansion program, their children have considerably better odds of receiving annual preventive care pediatrician visits, according to a new analysis by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University.

This “spillover effect,” explained in a study published online today and scheduled for the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, demonstrates that the potential benefits of Medicaid expansion extend beyond the newly covered adults.

“These findings are of great significance given the current uncertainty surrounding the future of the ACA and Medicaid expansions authorized by the law,” said senior author Eric T. Roberts, Ph.D., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “Lawmakers crafting policy proposals that could curtail Medicaid benefits or eligibility should recognize that such efforts would not just limit the receipt of health care services by low-income adults, but also by their children.”

The ACA provided states the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to all low-income people at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. So far, 31 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid coverage.

Roberts and his colleagues identified 50,622 parent-child pairs from data collected in the 2001 through 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, a nationally representative survey administered by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that includes detailed information on family structure and demographics, including health insurance status and health care use.

They discovered that children of parents who had recently enrolled in Medicaid had a 29 percent higher probability than children of unenrolled parents of receiving their well child visit, which is recommended annually for children age 3 and older, and more frequently for infants and toddlers.

During the visits, the children are examined for growth and development and given immunizations, and their caregivers are guided on proper nutrition and child behaviors. Studies have shown that children who get well child visits are more likely to receive all their immunizations and less likely to have avoidable hospitalizations. The U.S. has persistently low rates of well child visits, particularly in low-income families.

“There are many reasons that parental Medicaid coverage increases the likelihood of well child visits for their children,” said Roberts. “It could be that insurance enhances the parents’ ability to navigate the health care system for themselves and their children, increasing their comfort in scheduling well child visits. Medicaid enrollment could be a sort of ‘welcome mat,’ in which eligible but previously uninsured children are enrolled after their parents gain coverage. It also could be that parental Medicaid coverage frees up more money to provide preventive services to their children, because even copays can be a deterrent to medical care among low-income people.”

Maya Venkataramani, M.D., is lead author on this research, and Craig Evan Pollack, M.D., M.H.S., is a coauthor. Both are from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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Child Welfare

Systems Perspective and the Myth of the Self-Made Man

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As a social worker, we spend a good deal of time looking at systems, and systems work means we can’t only focus on what’s “wrong” with the individual in our office. Our focus can’t simply be what can this person do to move toward more emotional happiness? We need to always be considering how living in the world and engaging in relationships with other systems and other people play a large role in what this client does, how they think, and how they feel.

My job isn’t to just locate the unhelpful belief my client has about their self-esteem or retrain how they respond to a negative thought. When doing systemic work—even with just one person—I need to look at how race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, and gender play a role in my client’s life. I need to look at how that client’s family system, school system, government system, community systems, and more played a role in shaping my client.

As basic as this is, it’s important to note that It’s a fairly un-American way of going about things.

The Big Lie of Individualism

We’re taught that we should hold up the self-made man. We celebrate that guy to no end in movies, plays, songs, and stories. It’s our enduring myth.

We, social workers, see the monstrosity in that idea—pleasant and attractive though it is. We know that human beings can only grow and thrive within relationships, not apart from them. We know that nothing is self-made. We know that we are working from day one of life to attach to others.

We need to push back on the “self-made man” myth because it’s racist. It’s sexist. It’s heteronormative.

And it’s killing us.

And since I work mostly with men I want to be very direct because it’s literally killing us as the suicide rate for men is incredibly high: five times greater than for women. And we apply words like “strong” and “hard” when we’re describing masculinity? Something is missing. The weaker sex, the special snowflakes, are the ones who are supposed to need help. Not us.

Social workers disagree about many things and we have lots of ways we think are the best way to help any given client, but one thing we can all agree on when it comes to healing is that the relationship does a great deal of the work. It can begin to heal trauma, mental illness, and the “worried well.” It’s the way in, it’s the way through, and it’s the way out of suffering. It’s not the only thing, but it’s part of everything. Death is in the separateness, the lack of relationship.

And name your –ism because that’s about separateness too. We can’t fully heal a white person without moving through white supremacy together and we can’t help men without addressing the patriarchy. We may not call it out or by these names, but to connect with someone in their suffering is to refuse white supremacy and masculinity.

We need to keep doing what we’re doing, but we need to go further. We’re healing the people without healing the system and we can only thrive so much within a sick system.

Moving Ourselves Toward an Ego Dystonic State With the World

In a mental health session, our work is often to connect our client with other people. Often this happens through the therapeutic relationship with us first, but ultimately, it’s done so they can connect with the other people in their life. Doing this on an individual level is important, and as difficult as it is (and it is difficult), it’s really the bare bones of our work. Because what we’re doing, if we stop there, is helping people build up coping strategies to survive in a broken system.

So we have to stop and ask ourselves if in our work we are challenging the system that our clients live in and, not for nothing, that we’re living in too. Now, this can be a controversial stance for some people. It sounds “agenda-driven” and done unskillfully it is just that. But for those who feel they are thriving in this patriarchal, white supremacist world, do we have any choice, ethically, but to aid them in shifting their lens?

For too many of us, we have come to see this world as ego syntonic and we need to push toward discomfort in ourselves to see the world as it is. And that will move us toward change.

A Child Welfare Example

Let me take my work in child welfare as an example. Most of the parents I’ve worked with over the years are well-meaning and loving people. Many of them are involved in child welfare because they had hit their children in order to discipline them. Many of them feel this is ok. Many of the child welfare workers think it’s ok to physically discipline a child. We even have different words so we separate “abuse” from “physical discipline” and we jump through hoops to try to define “excessive corporal punishment” as separate from “physical discipline”. Many parents have no hesitation telling me that when their child gets out of line they need a slap, a spanking, a something that lets them understand limits, but that this is discipline and not abuse.

And in the course of this conversation, I usually hear the inevitable, “It happened to me and I turned out ok.”

And right there is the thing that I’m talking about with these systems. You “turned out” in such a way that you think it’s ok to hit a child, your child. And this is the proof that you didn’t turn out as “ok” as you think. You grew up with something violent being normalized.

But that’s our society. That’s the society that collectively calls sexual assault “locker room talk” and elects a president. That’s the society where powerful, talented men are allowed to produce and direct movies for years without consequence for their sexually abusive behavior.

Systems work is helping people see that things they take for granted could be wrong. Knowing

  • That there are not simply two genders.
  • That race is not encoded in our DNA.
  • That women are not genetically more nurturing.
  • That there are no such things as boy and girl toys.

Knowing all that means we have to fundamentally shift our way of thinking, our way of feeling, our way of living—day to day—in this world. And we may need to fundamentally, though not radically, change the way we approach therapy.

Merging the Therapist and the Advocate

Great things can come from our work with individuals, couples, and families. We can support people in relieving a lot of pain and finding healthier ways to interact. We move people through trauma, out of depression and anxiety, and to better navigate relationships. We help people live within our broken world—which is no small feat. Part of our happiness can only come by becoming more open to uncertainty which is all we really can be certain about.

But can we do more or does our job end there?

I believe we can. Not by “pushing an agenda” or preaching, but by becoming grounded in a strong analysis of the patriarchy, in racism, and in anti-oppressive work. With this analysis, we understand ourselves differently and we understand others in a new way. We see more easily how reactive our clients can be while not realizing they’re being reactive. We are so skilled at reaching for feelings or for picking out the latent content. We see through all of the mental healthy stuff, and we bring it into our work. But, we can see through the racism, the gender norms, the patriarchy, the homophobia and bring that into the work as well? The stronger we are in our own analysis the more able we are to help clients see when they’re reacting to a system instead of their own desires or someone else’s needs.

Most of us just aren’t so good at doing it yet. So many of us separate this work: “I’m a therapist in the office, and I’m an activist when I’m outside.”

That’s great. It is. But we need to find a way to merge the two. To make them inseparable.

Can we repair an airplane while we’re flying it? Can we change our systems while living in them?

Well, first off, we have no choice. We can’t step outside of it because it’s the air we breathe.

With everyone we meet, whether client, friend, lover, or family we need to be grounded in our awareness. We need to support the people we care about, our clients or otherwise, and do all the great engagement and interventions we learned in social work school and beyond—but we have to have an eye on the system. The system they’re in. The one we’re in. The whole shebang.

We need to not preach. We need not be so agenda driven that we miss the humanity of the client or clients sitting in our offices and their suffering. Our need to end the patriarchy cannot be at an individual client’s expense, of course!

But in session and out, we need to be on the lookout for moments to open our own and others’ eyes to the sickness that we are living in. The sickness that lies and says this is the only way to be.

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Human Services

8 Best Practices for Sending Text Messages in the Social Services Industry

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This could be a long and very tedious article. It could be. After all, any communication sent via text message (also called “SMS” or short message service) may fall under a whole slew of rules and regulations, depending on the context of the message.

In the U.S., there’s the TCPA (or Telephone Consumer Protection Act), there’s HIPAA – designed to protect sensitive client data – and there are even regulations imposed by the CTIA, which is a trade association representing the wireless communications industry.

A thorough discussion of any of the above would have most folks drifting off to sleep or giving up on text messaging in no time. Luckily, this isn’t necessary.

By adopting a series of simple, common sense tactics, your organization can use text messaging to connect with your clients without inadvertently breaking the law and exposing yourself to class action suits and fines from regulatory agencies.

Here are 8 tips to get you started…

1. Send messages only to people who provide you with the permission to do so.

While communicating via text message is the way to ensure your contacts see your messages (99% of text messages are opened and read), it can also be a pretty good way to infuriate them, should they not be expecting such messages from you.

Why?

People have an intimate connection with their cell phones and mobile devices and are very sensitive as to what they perceive as spam on them.

So a good rule of thumb is to only text people who have provided you with permission. Our clients have found that more and more people are happy to do so since text messaging is fast becoming the preferred communication channel for a growing number of people.

2. Have contacts sign a simple permission form.

Although it is unlikely that you will be challenged on this (after all, you’re going to be sending helpful, personal communications related to your agency and not commercial messages selling ringtones or Viagra), it’s always a smart idea to have clients sign a simple form that you can keep on file to prove that you have received the necessary permission to contact them.

An example of the wording used on such a form might look like this…

3. Personalize your messages & introduce yourself!

This is even more important if you communicate only sporadically, since your client may forget who’s on the “other end” of messages originating from your number (if your client adds you as a “contact” on her phone, then all incoming messages will be attributed to you and this is no longer a concern, but there’s no guarantee s/he will do so).

Not only does this virtually eliminate the chance that any such message be mistakenly identified as spam, but it strengthens relationships and builds goodwill.

For example, a message like this…

“Reminder: Job fair at community center this weekend, 10 am – 5 pm.”

Is extremely generic, appears automated, and does nothing to build and foster relationships. On the other hand, this message…

“Hi Mark. Sarah from the Employment Agency here. We talked last week. Just wanted to remind you about the job fair at the community center this weekend.”

… Is highly personal, and not only ensures the client is never going to mistake the identity or intention of the sender, it also boosts goodwill and emphasizes the sender’s commitment to the recipient.

4. Only send messages of value.

Don’t bombard clients with messages that aren’t of critical importance to them. Only contact them when necessary – when you have something important to say.

Sometimes this requires a little “thinking outside the box,” since it isn’t always evident that what’s important to you isn’t what is important to your client.

5. Do not include sensitive client information in your text messages.

Standard text messages are not HIPAA compliant.

Just like you’d never send confidential information in a standard email or leave it on a client’s voicemail, you should never send sensitive, confidential or private client information via text message.

The power of text messaging lies with its simplicity, widespread adoption, and extremely low cost. The fact that’s it’s a low-tech solution that works on phones long considered obsolete and doesn’t require the installation of 3rd party apps or software is a huge bonus too.

Implementing a texting solution that allows the transmission of secure client data to your clients would invariably require a smartphone, internet access, the installation of an app and possibly access to a secure portal to retrieve encrypted messages.

In other words, such a solution would require significant input from your client, restrict access only to those people who can afford smartphones and data, and as a result eliminate almost all of the benefits associated with simple text message communications.

As a result, your text messaging should be used for simple, non-specific communications and for making contact.

Today, if you can’t reach your contacts with voicemails and emails, you will be able to reach them with text messages, even if your intention is only to request that they get back to you on a different, secure communication channel, where such information can be exchanged.

6. Send Your Messages over a Long Code.

Text messages are sent over two mediums…

  1. Shortcodes: A 5-6 digit number used primarily for commercial purposes and bulk texting.
  2. Long codes: A standard 10 digit number which appears for all intents and purposes to be a “regular” phone number.

To ensure your messages are not perceived as commercial or are blocked by your contacts, send your messages over a long code. To the recipient, it appears for all intents and purposes like the message originates from a personal device, which helps emphasize the personal element of proper SMS communication.

7. Update Your Client Data When Required

When a client has a new phone number, it’s important to update your records immediately. Messages sent to numbers that have been retired and then re-assigned to a new customer (who hasn’t provided you with consent to contact them) are considered to be spam.

Don’t panic though; you are allowed a single communication with the owner of a newly assigned number and most numbers are retired for up to 3 months before being assigned to a new customer.

8. Use Complaint Messaging Templates

When using bulk texting, ensure your outgoing messages automatically include the required options for compliance (i.e., opt-out instructions like “reply STOP to end” should be appended to all messages). Most bulk messaging services include compliant templates.

In Summary…

Capitalizing on the power of text messaging for your organization doesn’t need to be a frightening or intimidating process. Simple common sense and adhering to the aforementioned points will allow you to reach your audience in a way that’s convenient, easy, and accessible, and you’ll never have to worry about your messages being missed or ignored again.

Legal disclaimer: I’m not an attorney, nor do I play one on T.V. This article should serve as an introduction to text messaging and should not be considered an alternative for professional legal advice. Please conduct your own due diligence before adopting any text messaging program for your organization.

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