Social Work in the Public Eye (June 2008)

Anne HenleyAnne Henley was quoted in a story published in The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., about the upcoming closing of two programs that help child custody cases because of budget constraints. The programs helped calm volatile emotions during custody cases, the story stated.

Family Solutions offered the programs — Safe Exchange and supervised visitation — for nearly five years. During that time, the state-licensed agency near Spotsylvania Courthouse has lost considerable money on both programs, the story stated. Director Henley said her agency lost several thousand dollars last year alone.

"The programs are so valuable, you can't really measure it by figures," Henley was quoted as saying. Since November 2003, both programs have served hundreds of children.

Safe Exchange offers a neutral place for custody exchanges, allowing separated parents to drop off their children without seeing each other. Before the program, the judge sometimes ordered parents to exchange their children in public places or sheriff's offices because they couldn't see each other without fighting. He heard about Safe Exchange at a judges' conference and was amazed at its simplicity. He brought the concept home, and Henley, a licensed clinical social worker with a private agency, took on the project, the story pointed out.

She saw benefits right away, and people came from as far away as Maryland to participate in Safe Exchange. It cost participants $20 per exchange, and Henley increased prices to $30. But she worried that if she kept increasing the price, parents couldn't afford it. Liability insurance and staffing cost more than the agency earned. The program requires trained, experienced monitors willing to work on weekends. Henley said she couldn't hire just anyone.

"I mean, these parents can't even be in a room together," she said.

The supervised visitation program provides neutral supervision when the court says a parent can be with their child only if another adult is around.

"This is where we keep the child safe, not just physically but emotionally. There are a whole host of reasons that people come here," said program manager Toni Armstrong.


Insight, the newsletter of the Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) organization, reported that Mit Joyner (no photo) was installed as the new chair of the LBBC Board of Directors in December 2007.

LBBC is dedicated to empowering all women affected by breast cancer to live as long as possible with the best quality of life.

The article noted that Joyner began working with LBBC in 1995 and was honored at its 2003 annual gala.

She is a professor in the undergraduate social work program at West Chester University, vice president of the Council on Social Work Education, a member of the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors and the bank director for DNB First.


Lisa SalvadoreLisa Salvadore was quoted in the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa, about her efforts to promote mental health court systems in her state. The story explained that the mental health court in Rock Island County Circuit Court is still being fine-tuned after nearly a year since it started.

The relative handful of mental health courts in the state that specialize in this new method gear toward keeping people with mental health problems out of jail, the story stated. In the experience of court officials and police, mentally ill people too often are labeled as criminals, even though they never would commit a crime if not for their disorders, the article stated.

By voluntarily enrolling in mental health court, defendants get three things that have the potential to help them stay out of trouble: evaluation, medication and supervision.

For Rock Island County Associate Judge Ray Conklin, the door to the court he started must be left open to outsiders because no one is yet an expert.

The story noted that Conklin plans to be among more than a dozen people involved in the Rock Island County mental health court to attend a June seminar in DuPage County that will be the first of its kind.

Salvadore is a licensed clinical social worker with the DuPage County Health Department. She said she returned from a national convention on mental health and was so eager to share what she learned with other mental health courts that she began organizing a statewide effort to meet. She expected to hear from about 50 people statewide who work within the eight mental health courts. "We haven't started taking official registration yet, but we've had well over 150 responses to our advanced survey," she said. The goal of the all-day seminar is to share experiences and network with other courts. As the longest-running mental health court in the state, DuPage seemed like a natural fit as host for the first-time seminar.

Sharing specific courtroom protocol is welcome at the seminar, Salvadore said in the article. If the day of networking goes well, she said, the specialty courts could form an official alliance."We've talked about a statewide mental health court association," she said.


Judy TottyJudy Totty was quoted in the Tulsa World in Tulsa, Okla., about how appreciative people are of the Tristesse Grief Center's weekly child-loss support group. The nonprofit organization provides comprehensive grief support services for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Totty leads the child-loss support group of 13 people.

The group started after a few parents who were coming to the center for individual grief counseling expressed interest in starting their own get-together, Totty said in the article.

"Grief itself is not a disease," she said. "There's no pathology involved." However, the article stated, grief can cause lack of sleep, loss of appetite, decreased concentration and lessened cognitive abilities.

A benefit to being part of the group is the awareness that people going through this aren't alone, Totty said. Some parents aren't even sure they'll survive the death of their children, so to be with others who feel the same way can be helpful.

Totty often passes around handouts to precipitate discussion. Mostly, though, it's a time to share, "an open forum," one participant said in the article. "It's a 90-minute period for the members to talk about trials and joys they've experienced since the last meeting. Sometimes there's laughter, sometimes tears, often both."

"We're all from a different background," said another. Both said they feel comfortable talking in the group about their loss and their life thereafter, perhaps even more so than with their family.

In the group, the losses have involved everything from auto accidents to disease, substance abuse to suicide, Totty said. But when it comes down to that, "none of it really matters at all — they're all in this together." Feedback since the group started has been quite positive, Totty said.

"They're pretty adamant that no one can know how they feel unless they've lost a child," Totty said. "Parents aren't supposed to bury their children. We expect our parents to grow older, we expect to lose them. We just never think our children are going to be gone before us."