Social Work in the Public Eye (October 2016)

Judith SchagrinThe Atlantic magazine offered an in-depth interview with NASW member Judith Schagrin to explain how the foster care system works and to help clarify misconceptions.

Schagrin, who is the assistant director of children’s services for the Baltimore County Department of Social Services in Maryland, said she started in social work in 1979 and has been at the same agency in different capacities for the last 33 years.

The article notes that she oversees the county’s foster care and adoptions program, which includes the approval process for foster parents and ensuring that children don’t linger in the foster-care system.

“People think of child welfare mostly in terms of physical abuse, but it’s really mostly neglect,” Schagrin is quoted as saying. “There are still the children that are terribly physically abused — arms broken, belt marks, sexual abuse. There’s a lot more to all of these stories, but it is the culmination of years of neglect, mental illness or substance abuse.”

She said the county does not remove children because their parents are mentally ill or because they are substance abusers; there is no law against bad parenting.

“We remove them because their care has been seriously compromised, and we’re not able to assure their safety,” she said.

She also explains in the article what keeps her motivated after all these years.

“It’s incredibly corny to say, but there’s absolutely nothing like looking into a child’s eyes and knowing that you’ve made a difference,” she said. “Or hearing from a young person 30 years later, ‘Are you the Judith Schagrin who saved my life?’ Or, ‘You’re always someone I knew I could trust.’”

Macie SmithNASW member Macie Smith was quoted in an article posted on the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health website.

Smith is the program development and training manager for the school’s Office for the Study of Aging, or OSA. It not only administers its own programs and services, it also partners with an array of other organizations and agencies that focus on aging.

Working with Leeza Gibbons’ Care Connection and Lexington (S.C.) Medical Center staff, OSA also contributed to the development of a training program for a key component of the new Columbia Center, the article says.

The Helping You Grow Stronger (HUGS) program is a network of ambassadors who have experience as family caregivers and are available and accessible to share their wisdom with others new to caregiving.

The story notes that these ambassadors are volunteers who are certified through Leeza’s Care Connection and Lexington Medical Center to provide virtual or in-person contact with caregivers who may feel lost, afraid or alone.

“Families in need want to know that someone else has walked in their shoes and has practical resources to help support them on their caregiving journey,” Smith says in the article. “These volunteers are a team of hope and help who can offer an authentic lifeline for others who are called upon to serve as caregivers.”

A new website helps people in recovery find sober roommates.

Jesse SandlerNASW member Jesse Sandler, an addiction therapist, co-created

It allows members to create profiles, search for sober roommates that match their priorities and message other members, according to an article published by Westside Today in Los Angeles.

“One of the most important components in maintaining sobriety is your living environment,” Sandler was quoted as saying. “When people in recovery move out of rehab or sober living facilities, the worst thing they can do is go back to the toxic living environments they were in before they got clean. The second-worst thing is to live with people who are actively using. And the third is to live alone, which breeds isolation.”

Sandler got the idea for after years of seeing his clients—as well as several family members who are in recovery—struggle to find sober roommates, the article says.

When Sandler realized there was no place for them to easily and privately find like-minded roommates, he decided to create one.

The article says the response to the service has been overwhelming. It says in its first two months, the community grew to nearly 1,000 members, and already boasts multiple success stories.

Laura Gomez-HortonFox 7 News in Austin, Texas, interviewed NASW member Laura Gomez-Horton for a story about how the YWCA in Austin was holding two support-group sessions to help people better cope with traumatic events occuring in the nation.

Gomez-Horton is an LCSW and the clinical director for the YWCA in Austin.

“A lot of times we isolate ourselves when these sorts of issues happen… We don’t know who to talk to, who’s safe to talk to about this” Gomez-Horton said.

Every time a violent event occurs in the national spotlight, “people feel traumatized by it, whether it was directly to them or they are watching it through TV or social media,” she said. “Every event affects us and the only way to start moving forward is to start talking about it.”

Gomez-Horton says in the interview that people need to understand and acknowledge each other’s pain and where it comes from.

“We have to come together as humans and talk and acknowledge that we create hurt, and just as we create hurt, we can create healing,” she said.