Social Work in the Public Eye (June 2013)

Dennis BumgarnerNASW member Dennis Bumgarner was featured in an article in Indiana’s Journal & Courier, when he gave a presentation called “The World of Young People Today” during a Youth Worker Café networking luncheon sponsored by the Indiana Youth Group Institute.

Bumgarner, a licensed clinical social worker, says it’s important to understand how environment shapes the lives of today’s youths.

“One aspect of the world they live in today is that children are more alone than they ever have been, an average of 3.5 hours a day,” Bumgarner said.

He also points out that cultural stimulation is up, while adult supervision is down — a bad combination. “At a time when there is more pervasive cultural stimulation, there are fewer and fewer adults in the lives on young people to help buffer them from that stimulation,” he says. “So many kids don’t have a regular adult presence in their lives, the TV is on all the time, and violent and sexual images are just a mouse click away.”

Bumgarner said in terms of developmental readiness, an 8-year-old child should not view or have access to explicit sexual material. “They’re simply not developmentally ready to understand that kind of input or images.”

Bumgarner said he hopes people took away from his presentation the notion that if they work with a young person who displays troubling behavior, the child may just be exhibiting natural responses to the world they are experiencing.

“We created this world, and they respond in very predictable ways,” he said. “Our job is to try to infuse their lives with more adult presence and interaction.”

Debbie ObermanNASW member Debbie Oberman, a licensed clinical social worker, was interviewed for an article in Connecticut’s Record-Journal about the effects the Boston Marathon bombings had on people in the area. Oberman, who has a practice in Waterbury, Mass., specializes in treating trauma. She says in the article that everyone who came to see her on the Tuesday after the bombings talked about the tragedy, and it was also the subject of her trauma group on the day it happened. “People are having a very difficult time with it,” she says in the article. “People should talk about it, talk about their anxieties. Between Newtown (the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings) and Boston, people are getting overlays of PTSD. People get triggered.”

Even though the city was on high alert after the bombings, and officials cautioned residents to stay vigilant at public gatherings, Oberman says fear shouldn’t run people’s lives. “Terrorists do things to terrorize. We can’t give in. We can’t give our power away,” she says.

Cheryl Hurst New Jersey’s News 12 interviewed NASW member Cheryl Hurst in March as an expert on the topic of bullying. The segment, called “Behind the Bullying,” says Hurst is helping people understand the mentality of a bully after a string of violent bullying incidents in the Bronx started raising questions. The news segment includes an Internet video of two elementary school-aged girls allegedly being forced to fight by a group of older girls. This video of the incident, which occurred in the Bronx borough of Pope Park, is an example of the violent form of bullying that has taken place in the borough and throughout the country over the past few years, the segment says. “(The) things that happen in school — snide remarks, mean looks, physically pushing, punching — it does feel like it’s becoming more violent. But I’m going to have to say it’s been a problem for a really long time,” said Hurst, a licensed clinical social worker.

The mind-set of a bully is a complicated one, Hurst says, and usually a bully will not feel like they are safe. “Sometimes they have strong issues with their own self-esteem,” she says. “They feel like they have no control in their life so they try to control someone else’s life.” Hurst adds that there is no easy fix to the problem of bullying, but says adults have to work diligently to make sure that both the bullies and the bullied feel safe and secure.

Emily Whitehead Bleyl NASW-Utah Executive Director Emily Whitehead Bleyl is one of the women selected in Utah Business Magazine’s 30 Women to Watch program. According to the magazine, the program puts the spotlight on women who are leaders, entrepreneurs, change-makers, mentors, and examples to the men and women who work in their industries. Bleyl, a licensed clinical social worker, is one of the few social workers to receive the honor, the publication says. “I believe that a successful leader builds bridges instead of fences and has a long-term vision of sustainability and good practices,” she says.

The magazine chose Bleyl for her efforts to develop programming and legislation to support, enhance, and grow the social work profession in her state. “I most enjoy the almost daily intersection of policy and practice, and working with and on behalf of professional social workers,” she says. “I enjoy being part of a profession with a rich tradition of activism, service and social justice.”

Bleyl developed the NASW Committee on Social Justice, and developed and published the Utah Social Work Licensing Handbook. She is one of the founding members of the Utah Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and a policy panelist for the NASW National School Violence Policy Statement.

Bleyl also serves her community as executive director on the University of Utah College of Social Work Admissions Committee; the J.E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School Board; the Swim Utah Board; and the Steiner Aquatics Advisory Board.