Social Work in the Public Eye (January 2010)

Lori WeinsteinU.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., announced that Lori Weinstein has been selected as a 2009 Angel in Adoption for her outstanding advocacy of adoption issues. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute honored Weinstein and 190 other Angels at an awards ceremony in Washington.

Weinstein was noted for her 21 years of service to Montgomery County Child Welfare Services, during which time she assisted more than 160 children in finding permanent and loving homes. Angela English, administrator for Montgomery County Child Welfare Services, said in a statement that Weinstein "has dedicated her professional career in child welfare to adoption with a great deal of enthusiasm for the work."

According to the Department of Health and Human Services for Montgomery County, Weinstein, as a senior leader in adoption work, has provided direction for many colleagues and student interns from the various area colleges and universities. "She is dedicated to finding children permanent homes and she works tirelessly to ensure that the clinical needs of the children on her caseload are met," the nomination letter stated. "She is quick in decision-making, with sensible reactions in difficult circumstances. She is capable of handling difficult situations with thoughtfulness and maturity."

The Angels in Adoption program is CCAI's signature public awareness campaign and provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor the good work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the U.S. and abroad.


The St. Petersburg, Fla., City Council will welcome Steve Kornell (no photo), a school social worker in Pinellas County, after he earned enough votes to beat fellow newcomer Angela Rouson in a District 5 race, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

When he takes office this month, Kornell will become the first openly gay person elected to office in St. Petersburg. It's a significant milestone in a city with a large gay community that has faced opposition to pride displays under conservative leadership, the story stated.

"The thing about making history is fine," Kornell said in the article. "But this campaign was really about the future of St. Petersburg and that's what I plan to focus on for the next four years."

The story noted that Kornell has an extensive background working with city recreation centers, running both Childs Park and Shore Acres. He wrote a grant that still brings in millions of dollars for teen programs. He hopes to help prevent crime and increase youth activities and jobs. He also advocates using Penny for Pinellas money to put solar panels on city buildings.


Brian AndersonBrian Anderson, Mississippi College social work program director, was recently selected as the Mississippi Social Work Educator of the Year. According to Mississippi College, the honor came at the 38th annual Alabama/Mississippi Social Work Education Conference.

"I was definitely honored to receive the award and proud to be part of the social work profession,'' Anderson said in a statement released by the school. "I will use this as an opportunity to continue to do the work in the community. This is definitely a great accomplishment.''

More than 200 conference participants got the opportunity to hear Anderson make a presentation about social work at the meeting on the Jackson State University campus in October.

A graduate of Mississippi's Tougaloo College, where he played on the basketball team, Anderson also received a master's in social work at Louisiana State University and a doctorate at Jackson State. He served as a volunteer coach of the Callaway Chargers boys' basketball team that won the state 4-A championship at the Mississippi Coliseum in 2009. The professor's latest award is based on active involvement with the Alabama/Mississippi Social Work Education Conference, scholarly activity, community service and leadership and his involvement as a model of professionalism for social work students.

The school also noted that, earlier this year, Anderson received the "Invisible Giants'' award from the Mary S. Nelums Scholarship Foundation. Nelums retired in 2007 as a social work professor at Jackson State, the year the foundation began. The award celebrates the accomplishments of young men who quietly work to improve life in their communities.


Economic abuse between couples was the focus of a story produced by the Public News Service. The article referenced a study by the Allstate Foundation on ways couples can sometimes abuse each other through economic means, which is a form of domestic abuse.

The article also quoted Katherine Campbell (no photo), who operates a private practice. She said arguing about money sometimes is normal for couples. What is wrong is when one partner tries to use the pocketbook to control the other.

"It's not always about the punch in the face; domestic violence is also about the way the abuser controls the person being abused, and finances are a big way abusers control their victims," Campbell was quoted as saying.

The story referenced an unnamed poll in which nearly half of respondents said one of the biggest barriers to leaving an abusive relationship is lack of financial security. Most people believe these tough economic times have made it more difficult for victims, and Campbell said economic downturns can increase the severity and the frequency of all kinds of abuse.

Campbell said calls to shelters are up, and moving into an apartment requires more money than many women have.

"To leave an abusive relationship you have to have the tools to do so, and that's a lot of money they may not be able to get together, especially if their abuser is controlling the money," she said.

Campbell said if you are in an abusive relationship where your partner is controlling you financially, you should seek help. She said there is a way out, and social workers can help.

"Domestic violence is not something anybody deserves," she said. "Social workers can help women see when a situation moves from arguing to abusive, then assist them in developing ways they can stay safe."


Joelle McCormick (no photo) was quoted in the Newberg Graphic (OR) in a story about treatment for victims of sex abuse.

One of the consequences of child sexual abuse is that victims can grow to be adults suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the article stated.

In the same way that military personnel returning from combat have been documented to relive traumatic experiences, or be set off by apparently harmless gestures, so can people who've been sexually abused as children, the story explained.

McCormick, a licensed clinical social worker for her county and in private practice, said there are telltale signs of abuse but treatment exists and can be effective.

A common sign that a teenager is or has been abused is extreme sexual behavior, McCormick said in the story. While the stereotype is that victims of child sexual abuse turn into promiscuous adults, it's also possible for them to completely forgo any sexual contact. While teenagers normally discover sex with others their own age and at their own pace, for victims of sex abuse "that normal experience is robbed of them," she said in the article.

Lower grades, fears of going places alone and difficulty sleeping are other signs, McCormick said. "That can look like ADHD when really it's trauma, because the symptoms are the same."

Through therapy, the victim is encouraged to take "their power back and (be) able to fully place the blame on the offender," McCormick said.

Those who suffer from PTSD will be taught how to detect triggers, the precursor signs of a crisis. "It's not that the triggers are going to stop," McCormick said, but the client will be given skills to cope with the triggers so that they are better equipped to shorten the effects and diminish the intensity.

Victims are at their weakest when they feel they don't have control. "They want things to be predictable, they don't want to be surprised again," McCormick said, because "(the abuse) wasn't about pleasure, it was about power and control."

While McCormick practices a form of talk therapy, she said there are multiple tools available to therapists.


Elizabeth TalbotTwo members will help lead the first-ever master of social work program offered in South Dakota, which is the only state in the nation that does not offer master's level training in social work education. But grassroots efforts by the NASW South Dakota Chapter and other supporters helped convince lawmakers last March of the need to offer an MSW program in the state. Before, social workers who wanted to advance their education had to cross the state line, said Chapter Executive Director Joan McMillin. Students who received MSWs usually did not return to South Dakota to work, she noted.

To help offset this trend, lawmakers agreed to fund the state university program. The advanced degree is expected to be offered to students for the first time this fall.

It was recently announced that Elizabeth Talbot (upper right) will serve as director for the newly established master of social work program at the School of Health Sciences of the University of South Dakota. Talbot served as the director of the Deborah AdenMSW program at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota for the past three years. Before that, she was assistant professor with the Graduate School of Social Work at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill. She received a Ph.D. from Loyola University in Chicago.

Deborah Aden (lower right) will serve as director of field placement. Aden previously was director of field placement for the BSW program at University of Sioux Falls. She has also worked in the community as director of a nonprofit agency primarily serving victims of domestic violence. She received her MSW from University of Nebraska-Omaha.

McMillin said there are already more than 300 inquiries about the new MSW program from potential students.