Social Work in the Public Eye (February 2016)

Nancy FitzsimonsFor Minnesota’s disabled adults, freedom to be intimate is rare, according to an investigative series published in the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis.

It noted that the physical and legal barriers of these citizens are sometimes reinforced by the widely held perception that people with disabilities are asexual or are too helpless to consent to intimacy, advocates said in the story.

NASW member Nancy Fitzsimons, a professor of social work at Minnesota State University, Mankato, was quoted as saying, “We are denying people [with disabilities] a fundamental part of being human — the right to have intimacy and connectedness. We do this because it makes us uncomfortable, without ever asking what’s right for them.”

The story says: “Across Minnesota, disabled adults complain of having to overcome constant hurdles to engage in romantic activity and sustain loving relationships. The obstacles include arbitrary curfews, lack of transportation, and segregated housing that cuts them off from mainstream social life and opportunities to date. Often, the barriers are imposed by group home operators that place safety above intimacy.”

Too often group homes err on the side of overprotection, the story says.

Fitzsimons said sex remains a taboo subject in many residential settings for people with disabilities, which makes them more vulnerable to abuse because they are unsure about setting boundaries.

“We think we’re protecting people with disabilities by not talking to them about sex, when, in fact, we’re only making them easier targets for abuse,” she was quoted as saying. “You can’t put a bubble around people.”

Josefina AhumadaAn article showcasing minority women in Arizona who leave exceptional contributions to society includes former NASW national board of directors member Josefina Ahumada.

She was highlight in the Arizona Sonora News, a news organization by the students of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

“The beautiful thing about working with people is walking alongside people, sharing what you know, watching that person develop and find their own sense of power, find their own voice, and then they go and do what they need to do,” Ahumada says in the article. “Activism that helps facilitate others’ empowerment — that’s the beauty of it.”

The article notes that Ahumada’s activist work began at the Los Angeles County Health Department when she was 6 years old. During the polio epidemic in early 1950s, Ahumada, accompanied by her mother, volunteered at immunization clinics.

Ahumada, who is currently field education coordinator at Arizona State University School of Social Work, was a member of Comisión Femenil, a feminist organization, while in graduate school at UCLA, the article states. She, along with other members, wrote a grant and developed a child care center for working women.

In 1975, Ahumada moved to Tucson and has since mobilized LGBT rights, women’s rights, and Latino rights in southern Arizona, the story says.

Ahumada, who has also served as the NASW Arizona Chapter president, was noted for many events and rallies that she has organized, as well as her community involvement, which includes her work at the Pima County/Tucson Women’s Commission, Wingspan, Southside Presbyterian Church, and Planned Parenthood.

Christopher CampauNASW member Christopher Campau was quoted in the Huffington Post in part two of a three-part series about the recovery movement in North Carolina.

A student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Campau has been in recovery from a substance-use disorder since 2006, the story says.

Campau is one of North Carolina’s most dedicated recovery advocates who shares his story publicly, the article says. He also is part of a statewide movement that is changing public perception and public policy when it comes to recovery.

“Advocacy is important so that we can help individuals in recovery live up to their full potential in terms of education, careers, upward mobility in those careers, and pathways to citizenship,” Campau is quoted as saying. “To really advance this movement at the state, local and national levels, we need to see more sustainable funding sources, real strategic planning, and have people in recovery in positions of real power.”

The first part of the series notes that in September, the recovery program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington hosted its inaugural “Celebration of Recovery” event. It included a panel discussion and open house featuring students in recovery from UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte and North Carolina State.

How does a person talk to their children about war, terror attacks and other acts of violence? That was the question posted in a story on after the violent terror attacks that occurred in Paris.

William Dá, which covers western Massachusetts, sought the advice of NASW member William Dávila, vice president of clinical services for the Center for Human Development in Springfield, Mass.

Dávila suggests that adults address their own emotions to violent acts.

“Make sure that you are not emotionally stressed to the point of trauma, then help your children,” Dávila says in the article.

Kids are often more resilient than adults, having fewer life experiences or memories to relate to a particularly violent event,” he adds.

Dávila advises readers to limit their very young children’s exposure to media coverage of the Paris attacks. He recommends that parents watch media reports with their children, and “don’t be afraid to change the channel.”

The article says Dávila urges adults to talk with their children about what they see and what they feel, and to be open-minded and listen to what children have to say.

He also says to reassure children that steps are being taken against such violence, although that you, too, acknowledge uncertainty but continue to go about your own life.

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