Social Work in the Public Eye (February 2015)

Joy LieberthalNASW member Joy Lieberthal, a Korean adoptee who was raised in Mount Vernon, N.Y., is included in an NBC News article about identity issues that many Korean adoptees experience.

The article says America first became an adoption terminus for Korean orphans at the end of the Korean War in 1953, and more than 107,000 Korean children have been adopted into American homes.

Lieberthal, who now works as a clinical social worker at The Juilliard School in Manhattan, came to the United States from Korea in 1976 when she was 6 years old. She says in the article that she knew very little about being Korean as she was growing up, but she credits her adoptive parents for trying to instill a Korean sense of identity in her.

As a child, she attended Korean school and Korean church services, but was always reminded that she wasn’t quite one with the Korean community.

“The first thing they would say is, ‘What’s your Korean name? Why don’t you use it? You should be proud of it,’” she says.

As a sophomore at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., Lieberthal says she found she was able to talk about race, culture and identity through the black community, but was also aware that she didn’t quite fit in there, either.

Lieberthal’s interest in her Korean identity was awakened after attending an Asian party near campus, the article says. But a trip to Seoul, South Korea, after graduating from college changed Lieberthal’s life. There, she reunited with her birth parents and volunteered at the orphanage where she had lived as a child.

“In my late 30s and early 40s, I feel like I have become truly bicultural,” she said, adding that “on the inside” she is still becoming more Korean.

The article says experiences like Lieberthal’s helped lay the groundwork for younger Korean adoptees to explore their own identities. The Korean adoptee community is still one of the largest in America, although adoptions have dropped drastically over the past 15 years — from 1,994 in 1999 to 138 in 2013, the article says.

With so few Korean adoptees coming to America these days, Lieberthal says she worries that the identity of being a Korean-American adoptee could become obsolete.

“What I hope the legacy of Korean-American adoptees is,” she says, “is that we’ve elevated the level of conversation of what it means to be Asian, Asian-American, Korean, Korean-American.”

Frank L. GreenagelNASW member Frank L. Greenagel says he is concerned about substance abuse in the military — particularly prescription drugs — and wants to help shape military policy to address what he calls a “massive problem.”

Ten years after being discharged from the Army, Greenagel is back in fatigues working as a behavioral health officer with the Pennsylvania National Guard, says an October article in USA Today. He counsels soldiers with substance abuse problems and post-traumatic stress disorder, and says a large part of his job is to identify soldiers who have an abuse problem or are developing one.

Along with helping the soldiers into recovery, Greenagel will also help to save their military careers by educating top leaders about addiction and abuse.

“The saddest cases are the ones where the soldiers were put on prescription drugs by the military and then it became a problem,” he says in the article.

During the 10 years he was an ex-soldier, the article says Greenagel kept busy running a recovery house at Rutgers University; pursuing a master’s degree in public policy; chairing a task force in New Jersey to curb youth heroin and opiate use; starting his own counseling center for drug abuse; and keeping up with various speaking engagements.

Greenagel says his work at Rutgers has been national news in the addiction field since 2009.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that prescription drug abuse is higher in the military than among civilians and is rising.

Nora Ephron once wrote that when your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you, says an article in the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.

Debbie GranickNASW member Debbie Granick, a St. Louis-area clinical social worker, was interviewed for the article, which examines which year of parenting is the most difficult. The longest year may vary by gender and temperament, the article says, but a fair number of parents of daughters have warned that there’s a special kind of torment that happens around the ages of 12 to 14.

Granick, who has two daughters, ages 12 and 14, and a 16-year-old son, says early adolescence can bring on frustration and power struggles that affect both parent and child. It can leave a parent feeling dispirited and questioning where they went wrong, as their child barely seems to tolerate their presence anymore.

“You went right!” Granick says in the article. “It is their developmental role to challenge everything you’ve taught them. You have raised a developmentally appropriate child, and you should look at some of the ways in which they are difficult as signs of success.”

She suggests to pick your battles, and remember that children need the most love when they are the least lovable.

“You can revisit an episode later, outside the heat of the moment, to try to discuss a problem from another perspective. But you don’t have to correct everything,” she says.

As tricky as adolescence is, the article says some people may argue that hardest year of parenting is during the first year of the child’s life, or maybe the “terrible twos.” Granick says it’s the age you are least prepared for.

“(It’s) when their behavior is most not what you had in mind,” she says. “It’s when you are put in the position of having to be (the) person you least like.”

Toddlers like to test limits once they discover they are distinct and different people from their parents, she says, and the ages from 5 to 10 could be considered the golden age of childhood as a certain level of smoothness exists in routines.

Selfies, photographs that people take of themselves to post online, have become a social media phenomenon, says an online article from News 13, the ABC affiliate serving Asheville, N.C.

The special report examines the psychology of the selfie, saying they are usually harmless fun. But it also poses the question, “When does the selfie become excessive, superficial or downright dangerous?”

Tara ChandlerLicensed clinical social worker and NASW member Tara Chandler says selfies give the perception that things are good, but she says excessive selfie-taking is a warning sign. Chandler works with teens and young adults who are often searching for a sense of belonging. She says one young person told her about taking hundreds of selfies in one day, which concerned her.

“That’s a child struggling to connect with the real world in a real way,” Chandler says, adding that she has seen selfies blur the lines of perception and reality.

“That is their way of saying, ‘Here I am. Here I am having fun. Here’s my fantasy world. Here’s the image of me having fun. Here’s the life that I want to have, whether I actually have it or not, here it is.’”

The article says that although excessive selfie-posting can be a cause for concern and indicate inner struggle, it can also be a sign of making an effort toward self-improvement. If someone is posting selfies at a gym, for example, it could be a good accountability tool for them.

For parents concerned about their children’s selfie-taking, Chandler recommends being friends with your kids on social media and monitoring what they’re posting. She says it helps those parents have a better understanding of what their children are dealing with.

Baby boomers will turn 65 years of age at a rate of 10,000 per day through the year 2030, according to an article in the Daily Record in Parsippany, N. J.

The article says the need for caregivers grows as boomers age, and it looks at the issues older people in Morris County, N.J., face — such as paid care being difficult to find and unpaid care straining family members. These issues and others are causing concern among geriatric professionals in the community.

Andrew LapidesThe article says that few people know the struggles that unpaid caregivers go through better than NASW member Andrew Lapides, a licensed clinical social worker with the Morris Guild of Psychotherapy.

“I can count on my hands the number of people in Morris County who do what I do,” Lapides said. “The problem is government is very limited in providing care. So dealing with the problems of older people usually falls on the family.”

In the article, Lapides cites a statistic from the National Council on Aging that says by 2030, a total of 15 million older adults will suffer from some mental disorder, including depression, anxiety and dementia.

“Often, for instance, dementia and depression will mimic each other in the elderly. Then you have the complexity of multiple compounding medical diagnoses, on top of strained caregiving systems, particularly for informal caregivers,” Lapides says. “It’s not easy to do this without having the support of a psychiatrist. It’s next to impossible. We are not prepared here in Morris County for the number of older adults who are going to need help even in the near future.”

Lapides works in partnership with psychiatrist Matthew Barnas to provide home services for older people with mental health issues. He says baby boomers voice their opinions, and he expects they will put pressure on the state and county to provide a lot more mental health services than what is currently offered.