Social Work in the Public Eye (February 2014)

Erica SirrineStudent members of the Social Work/Psychology Student Association at Warner University in Florida can practice social work skills while receiving some benefits from being a member, according to an article on

NASW member Erica Sirrine, division chair of arts and sciences at Warner University, guides the club from time to time and offers suggestions and support for members.

“It is very rewarding to teach such an amazing group of students,” she says in the article. “I am humbled and inspired by their commitment to caring for others, especially the vulnerable and oppressed in our society.”

Members of the group — which is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education — get together to discuss ways they can be of service, from helping charities gather gifts to visiting nursing homes.

“One of the greatest benefits of attending a CSWE-accredited social work program is that graduates are eligible to enter a master’s of social work program with advanced standing, shortening the course of study for the graduate degree by up to one year,” Sirrine said. “This saves students a great deal of tuition money at the graduate level and makes pursuing a master’s of social work degree more affordable.”

She says helping students learn skills that will enable them to help those in need is very fulfilling.

“It is such a privilege to teach students who desire to change our world for the better,” she said. “I am amazed to witness how they naturally view diversity as a strength, desire to advocate for the oppressed and vulnerable, and wish to make a lasting and positive impact on our society.”

Bill DonahueGun owners in Maine may face mental health screening, and NASW member Bill Donahue was interviewed about the issue for a USA Today video segment.

Maine State Police issued 7,500 concealed weapon permits in 2012. Donahue says within that 7,500, there are people who have obsessive thoughts about hurting someone.

“Twenty-five percent of the population has a diagnosable mental illness in a year,” he says in the video. “Most people who act violently are not seeking treatment.”

When it comes to putting a database together to screen gun owners for mental illness, Donahue says this provides a false sense of security because it’s likely that most people in the database are not dangerous. The database would flag those with a history of mental illness and those who have been committed, but “most people that are committed are not dangerous to others,” he says. “Identifying who is going to be violent is very difficult.”

Donahue, who has worked in mental health for about three decades, says accessible care is the way to cut down on gun violence that is tied to mental illness.

“We should make mental health treatment as accessible as regular health treatment,” he said.

Karen BullockNASW member Karen Bullock says in an article in the Chicago-based magazine The Christian Century, that race, religion and a sense of the role of the family all play into end-of-life decisions for African-Americans.

“And you cannot disentangle them,” she says.

Bullock, professor and head of the Department of Social Work at North Carolina State University, says elderly African-Americans have said things to her like, “A higher power will deliver me,” and “I have a daughter, why would I need an advance directive?”

The article cites a survey on end-of-life issues by Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, which shows that blacks and Hispanics are twice as likely as white Protestants, Catholics and people of no religious identity to insist that doctors do everything possible to stave off death, even in the face of incurable disease and great pain.

Bullock has tried to address end-of-life issues with a faith-based approach, the article says, by partnering with churches to talk about advance directives and decisions about aggressive treatment, palliative care and hospice.

While hospice may be the “gold standard of care at the end of life,” Bullock says, minorities are not easily convinced.

“I could talk about a good death, but I couldn’t convince them that medical providers were truly going to act on their behalf.”

People who overcome adversity by relying on their faith in God are unlikely to change that in their last days, she says.

“They believe death is not the end for them and they will pass on to a better place.” They also view suffering differently. “Suffering is not being able to feed your family,” Bullock says. “Lying in a hospital bed is not suffering.”

Marnie GrodzinNASW member Marnie Grodzin never thought she’d end up in charge of the American Eagle Harley-Davidson Annual 2014 Champions for Children Gala.

But according to an article in Lantana Living, in Texas, Grodzin’s volunteer career began about 12 years ago, when she visited the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County to donate some of her son’s toys. Her social work skills were immediately put to use.

“I needed to donate toys, searched for a children’s organization online and the CACDC popped up,” Grodzin says in the article. “Dan Leal, the executive director, greeted me at the door and asked me a few questions. Once he learned I was a social worker, there was no turning back. I started volunteering my social work skills from that moment.”

Over the years, Grodzin says she became more and more involved with the center, leading to her position as chairwoman of the 2014 gala, which she is co-chairing with Susan Dawson.

Last year’s gala raised more than $200,000 for the center’s programs, she says, and the goal is to increase that amount this year. Just as important as raising funds, however, is increasing awareness of child sexual abuse and all the center offers in that respect, Grodzin says.

“People need to know exactly what it is and how it serves our community. Kids don’t live there. It’s where kids who have been sexually abused can tell their story ONE TIME in a safe location,” she says in the article. “It’s where all professionals in the prosecution process — detectives, case managers and attorneys — work together in one location to bring the perpetrator to justice. It’s where abused kids and their non-perpetrating family members can receive free counseling and services to assist them in healing."

Sam HickmanThe West Virginia Gazette reported on a protest that took place in December, where more than 50 people gathered at a McDonalds restaurant near West Virginia’s state capitol building to protest the minimum wage paid to fast-food workers.

According to the article, NASW-West Virginia Executive Director Sam Hickman participated in the protest, and displayed a graphic that showed the relation between education and earning the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Hickman said social workers participated in the rally as part of NASW-West Virginia’s ongoing collaboration with West Virginians United for Social and Economic Justice, a coalition of religious, community, labor and professional organizations.

“Some people seem to think that poverty is ‘catching,’ but it is not a chronic disease,” he said. “The remedy for poverty is quite simple: pay a reasonable wage for a hard day’s work.”

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