Social Work in the Public Eye (May 2014)

Edy NathanDealing with personal grief over the loss of a loved one can be an overwhelming experience that children may cope with differently from adults.

In an online article in New York’s Broadway World, NASW member and grief expert Edy Nathan shares her list of do’s and don’ts when helping children cope with grief.

Nathan’s tips appear in her article titled From Helpless to Helpful: 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Grieving Children. The article says that Nathan’s list allows an understanding of the children’s process while providing specifics about what can be done to help.

“Reach out to support systems, attend groups, and understand that grief is an individual process,” Nathan said. “No one grieves or mourns in the exact same way.”

Some of her dos for grieving children include:

  • Permission to Grieve: Allow the child to show that they are in an active state of mourning, and give them permission to do it in their own way
  • Curiosity and Care: Be curious about what the child is experiencing. Ask lots of questions, yet with care.

Some of Nathan’s don’ts include:

  • Time for Mourning: Since grief is individual to everyone, know that children will not grieve the way the parents grieve. If you see them playing, don’t stop them, as they may be working out some of their grief in their language or comfort zone
  • The Truth, Please: Saying “Daddy is in a very restful sleep” or “You will see your dog in your dreams” implants a false belief that can cause undue stress and fear for your child. No matter how old your child is, using metaphors for death that liken it to sleep often creates a fear of sleep. This can lead to anxiety and depression for children.

Sabrina ShraderAs a child growing up in McDowell County, W.Va., NASW member Sabrina Shrader attended Head Start, a federally funded program that helps low-income children with nutrition, education and social services needs.

The program was one of many discussed at a roundtable hosted by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., in February, which Shrader attended.

According to an article in the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, the roundtable discussed the importance of keeping government social programs that can be used to help working people. Shrader, who is an Upward Bound program assistant at Concord University, said in the article that the only book she had at home while growing up was a Bible.

“I remember going to Head Start. They had lots of books and healthy food to eat,” she said. “Head Start helped me. But these programs are getting cut today.”

Shrader supported Rockefeller at the roundtable, saying she is glad there is somebody who believes in keeping programs like Head Start.

“Kids are our future,” she said. “If our state is going to get better, that is what we have to do.”

Sandra NettlesMost people have deviant thoughts, but they think about the consequences of acting on those thoughts, NASW member Sandra Nettles says in a news interview. Sex offenders don’t.

Nettles was interviewed by 12 News in Phoenix for a segment profiling the recent arrests of several sex offenders. Nettles, a licensed clinical social worker, said sex offenders use their accessibility to children to their advantage, and pornography is usually the gateway to sexual crime.

“From there, they move on to do something that’s a little edgier, then a little edgier, then a little edgier, until they are way out there,” she said. The segment says it’s not possible to keep your eye on your children 24/7 to protect them, and Nettles offers some suggestions.

She says socially inept people are the ones who normally commit these crimes. “They don’t have good stable relationships with another adult person,” she said. “That’s a sign you want to watch out for.”

She says it’s not healthy these days to trust anybody, and the best thing parents can do is to educate children to the fact that there are predators; there are people that would use and abuse them.

Ernest Garrett III St. Louis native and NASW member Ernest Garrett III will become the first deaf superintendent of the Missouri School for the Deaf since its establishment by the Missouri Legislature in 1851. According to an article published by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education selected Garrett for the position, which will start July 1.

He is the immediate past president of the National Black Deaf Advocates Inc., which gave him the 2009 Advocate of the Year award, and the recipient of the 2011 Lasting Impression award from Special School District of St. Louis County.

Garrett earned master’s degrees in science and social work, with a school social work specialization, from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. He is pursuing a research doctorate in management, with a specialization in leadership and organizational change, from Minnesota-based Walden University.

Chase BannisterEating disorders are the most lethal of all mental illnesses, and LGBTQ persons are at a remarkably high risk for these disorders, says NASW member Chase Bannister, a licensed clinical social worker in North Carolina and a certified eating disorder specialist.

Bannister was quoted in an article by the Windy City Times in Chicago, and said one of the reasons LGBTQ persons are uniquely affected is because of a concept known as minority stress, which has to do with the societal pressure, stigma and shame that is put on a community against its will.

The stereotype of someone with an eating disorder is affluent, straight, white females, but in reality eating disorders do not discriminate, he said, and gay men are particularly at risk.

“Gay males make up approximately 6 percent of all males in the United States, yet up to about 42 percent of males who identify as having an eating disorder are gay males,” Bannister said.

Lesbians are also uniquely affected by eating disorders, he said, much more so than what was originally thought.

“It’s been a societal convention that lesbian women are protected from eating disorders or have been protected from eating disorders as a matter of course,” he said. “That is, they’ve been a part of a community that has philosophically rejected any unilateral concept of femininity, of feminine norm, or beauty, or a thin ideal attributed to women.”

Because of this previously held belief, little meaningful research has been done that is focused on the lesbian community, he said, adding that researchers also have largely ignored the transgender community.

Eating disorders remain a growing problem across the board in the United States, Bannister said.

“We have really created a perfect storm for making sure eating disorders stay around for a very long time,” he said.

The article says Bannister is somewhat optimistic that the transgender community will be included more in future eating-disorder studies, but overall there is a lot more research needed that focuses on all segments of the LGBTQ community.