Social Work in the Public Eye (January 2011)

Laurel HealyThe Sarasota Herald-Tribune highlighted the important work being done by the Cancer Support Community Florida Suncoast. Social worker Laurel Healy was interviewed for the article.

The organization’s mission is “to help people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of support, education and hope,” the story stated.

The center recently moved to a new facility in Sarasota. The 5-acre campus has more than 2 acres of gardens bordering a 600-acre nature preserve, the story explained. More than 60,000 visits have been made to the center and its satellite locations throughout the area.

The article stated there are no doctors at the Cancer Support Community. Instead, it has a staff of about two dozen professionals who help people heal before, during and after a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The story noted that everyone who comes into the Cancer Support Community meets with Healy, a licensed social worker and clinical specialist.

“I assess their needs as an individual and talk with them about what programs are available,” she was quoted as saying. “For the most part, people feel their lives have gotten out of control when they get a diagnosis of cancer. So we work with them to recognize what they can control and give them hope. We are looking to empower them, to give them courage and strength. We educate them about what questions to ask.”

Healy went on to say that the center offers monthly and weekly support groups that offer attendees a chance to express the emotional aspects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“Some women have their whole sense of femininity tied to their physical experience,” Healy said, “but I think the devastation they feel really comes from the diagnoses. Everyone is devastated by that.”

One of the most troubling issues cancer patients experience arises when they are well again, the article explained.

“A lot of times, after people are finished with treatment and have a good prognosis, everyone around them expects them to bounce back and be exactly as they were before the diagnosis,” Healy said in the story. “And that very often does not happen, and so we provide a place for people to talk about that and for their caregivers to do so as well.”


Catherine PearlmanA CNN ongoing series called “Stop Bullying, Speak Up” featured a opinion article written by Catherine Pearlman, a social worker who also works as an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University in New York City, where she is a doctoral candidate.

The article explained that Pearlman is also founder of The Family Coach, a business that specializes in helping families resolve everyday problems.

Pearlman stated that most parents believe their child would never be a bully.

In her work, she said, she sees parents teaching their kids how to be respectful of others. However, “It’s not as simple as that. We live in a time where it’s easy to isolate ourselves from all sorts of people in society we might otherwise regularly rub shoulders with. Increasingly kids don’t need to go out in the world to work out social interactions — they can do that in silent text and instant messages, their online behavior invisible to busy parents who might normally be helping to guide them.”

Pearlman emphasized that it is not enough to teach children manners.

“Parents need to make a direct effort to teach empathy,” she stated in the article. “Empathy, in simple terms, is the ability to place oneself in another’s shoes, to feel another’s suffering vicariously. When children do not develop empathy, they act solely in pursuit of their own desires. While this may be pleasurable to the child, the lack of consciousness of others’ feelings is not good for society and may make kids more inclined to bully.”

Pearlman cited a University of Cambridge study on an empathy rating scale that found the development of empathy is closely related to parental supervision.

“Furthermore, adolescents who report that they would help victims of bullying exhibited high empathy,” she said. “Another study on cyberbullying and parental perception of their children’s experiences by researchers in the Netherlands shows that parents often underestimate their children’s involvement in bullying.”

Pearlman said parents need to actively teach empathy to their children.

“For starters, parents should take the time to talk to their children about what they — as a family, in their community — can do to help make the world better,” she stated. Helping those less fortunate is a good start, she explained.

“As parents we don’t get a do-over,” she wrote. “It does no good to look back and wish you had done something different. Before you get the call from school or the police that your child was involved in bullying, teach your child about empathy.”


The University of Texas at Austin announced in a news release that Roberta Greene (no photo), a professor at the university’s School of Social Work, has been named to the Barbara Jordan 2010 Charitable Trust Board of Trustees.

According to the school, the trust was established in June as the legal and financial vehicle for organizing the Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation as a 501(c)3 organization.

Greene holds the Louis and Ann Wolens Centennial Chair in Gerontology and Social Welfare.

According to the foundation, Barbara Jordan accomplished many firsts as an elected official. She was the first African American to serve in the Texas Senate (1966-72) since Reconstruction, the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress (1972-78) from the South, and the first to deliver the keynote address at a national party convention.

After leaving Congress, she taught at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor to a civilian, by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Jordan died in 1996.


Sheryl Brissett-Chapman (no photo) was quoted by Petula Dvorak, columnist for The Washington Post, in a story about the challenges of growing up in poverty.

Dvorak referenced an earlier Post story that highlighted recent U.S. Census data. It revealed that three out of 10 children in the nation’s capital were living in poverty last year.

“Thousands more were on the edge of poverty, which is defined as an income of $22,000 for a family of four, according to Census figures,” Dvorak stated. “And the ranks of the desperate and near-desperate were growing in the suburbs as well.”

She said that in the District of Columbia, there were about 7,000 more black children living in poverty last year than there were two years prior.

Brissett-Chapman, executive director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Md., noted in the article that being extremely poor grinds down a child and that poverty gets into the brain and literally under the skin.

The story said studies show that increased levels of cortisol, a chemical produced in the body as a result of stress, can seriously affect a child’s brain development, stunting memory and disrupting learning patterns.

It goes on to point out that poor children in one study were found to have elevated levels of cortisol in the morning. When the children attended a high-quality, small-group day care center, the cortisol levels dropped. By afternoon, they were similar to the morning levels of their middle-class counterparts, the article stated.

“So, essentially, being poor costs a kid at least half a day in the classroom just to get the brain back to normal,” Dvorak wrote.


Kathleen ManygoatsThe Albuquerque Journal reported that social worker Kathleen Manygoats was one of 12 New Mexicans honored with a 2010 Distinguished Public Service Award in the state.

The article noted that Manygoats is a member of the Navajo Nation and is the director of behavioral health for the Albuquerque Indian Health Center. It highlighted the fact that Manygoats was a recipient of the 2010 Annie Dodge Wauneka Award recognizing American Indians in public health service. “She works with tribes and community programs and serves on local, state and national committees,” the article stated. “She co-founded the first Native American Task Force on behalf of Native American social workers.”

Manygoats has served the New Mexico NASW Chapter as president and has received the chapter’s Social Worker of the Year honor as well as a lifetime achievement award. She currently serves on the chapter’s Conference Planning Committee.