Social Work in the Public Eye (July 2010)

Judy HicksJudy Hicks is the third social worker from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to be named the Social Worker of the Year by the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers, according to a PR Newswire release.

The award recognizes Hicks’ contributions to children and families affected by life-threatening illnesses. She accepted the award, sponsored by the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, at the annual APOSW conference held in Anaheim, Calif.

“Pediatric oncology social work is a specialty discipline committed to enhancing the emotional and physical well-being of children with cancer and their families,” the article explained. “Social workers at St. Jude are specially trained in counseling to help patients and family members adjust to the changes that result from the diagnosis of a catastrophic illness. Examples of this might include: helping parents to talk to their child and siblings about the diagnosis; counseling parents and patients about managing everyday life with the demands of treatment; and helping families learn new ways to manage stress.”

Fran Greeson, director of social work at St. Jude, said: “We are all very proud of Judy for receiving this award and for the many professional contributions she has made to social work and the field of pediatric oncology. She is an exceptional clinician whose dedication to her patients and families shines through daily in her clinical practice.”

The APOSW is an international organization devoted to advancing practice, extending knowledge and influencing pediatric oncology policies and programs.


Kathy Kater Kathy Kater was quoted in a story in the Utica Observer Dispatch in New York. The story focused on young people and appearance anxiety. For teens, tweens and even elementary-age children, physical appearance is a top concern, the story explained. If parents begin early and convey consistent positive body-image messages, their children can better avoid eating disorder problems in the future.

The article noted that a 1991 study found that 42 percent of first- through third-grade girls wanted to be thinner, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Another study that year found that 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.

“Statistics like these suggest that a cultural bias toward thinness is leading our youth to value a particular size at a very young age. Parental guidance is more important than ever,” the story stated.

“I think the struggles affect kids at a much younger age,” said Kater, an author and licensed clinical social worker. “I don’t think the way kids struggle is all that different [than years ago], the struggles are just more pervasive. Kids can’t escape the pressures.”

Kater said she believes our culture is overly concerned with whether or not kids have the “right” look, and possessions.

“This turns up the emphasis on appearance so much earlier,” said Kater, who practices in St. Paul, Minn.

“Our culture’s focus on fat and size leads to an unrealistic image of what people should look like,” the story stated.

“As soon as you start worrying about size, then body image issues arise,” Kater said. “You may see actions to change the body, unhealthy eating or exercising patterns. This can lead to disordered eating.”

Kater advises parents to focus on healthy eating and being active, for both themselves and their kids, and avoid using size as a goal.

“In doing this, size is identified as something we’re able to manipulate or control,” she said, adding that weight is actually more similar to cholesterol or high blood pressure, which can be influenced but not controlled.


Dawn Anderson-Butcher“We can have some influence over our weight by doing two things: satisfying our hunger with wholesome foods at regular intervals and being active most days.”

A study by Dawn Anderson-Butcher on the online safety practices of teen bloggers was cited in a HealthDay article published on Business Week .com. The article explained that most teen bloggers play it safe when online and most use blogs to maintain friendships and have positive discussions about teenage life.

Based on a month-long review of teen content on a popular blogging website, the finding may help relieve parents’ concerns that teens are participating in violent, drug-laced or sexual discussion while online, the article stated.

“There’s a lot of hype about the use of online technology and the abuse of it, but here we found that it seems that it’s just another example of typical adolescent behavior,” said Anderson-Butcher, an independent social worker and associate professor in the college of social work at Ohio State University in Columbus.

The findings by Anderson-Butcher and her colleagues were published in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, the article stated.

For the study, the authors analyzed a month’s worth of quotable content posted in 2007 by 100 American teens on the social networking website and recorded how many times teens remarked on different types of behaviors.

About three-quarters of posts studied were from females, and their usage was uneven, with some adding posts daily while others blogged just once or twice a month.

Teens complained and expressed negative feelings to some extent, the article pointed out. “Sixty-five percent blogged about being bored, while others discussed feeling blue (30 percent), feeling angry (28 percent), and/or feeling like they didn’t fit in (22 percent). The age-old reluctance to do homework was a subject raised by 16 percent of the teens, while concern about bad grades was mentioned by 11 percent.”

But the study found just 8 percent who said they had cut class, 6 percent who said they had used alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, and only 1 percent who mentioned engaging in sexual activity.

Most of the teens used blogging to discuss positive events and typical teen behaviors, the article stated: “Video game playing was the prime topic for 65 percent of the teen bloggers, followed by TV-viewing (45 percent), homework (40 percent), after-school non-religious activities (38 percent), Web surfing (29 percent), and religious activities (22 percent).”

The research did not examine whether or not the particular website used in the study — which is relatively unrestricted — influenced the teens’ content.

Anderson-Butcher said in the story that the study shows that the teen blogging sphere is not the social threat some have suggested.

“Contrary to what many people might assume, the kids we looked at weren’t describing problem behaviors very often or rambling on about negative interactions,” she said. “They were just talking about their day in ways that we might have talked about ours on the phone when we were kids.”