Social Work in the Public Eye (February 2017)

Meagan Geurts

Local voters in Wisconsin’s Dane County were still in a state of shock from Republican nominee Donald Trump’s surprise win in the presidential election.

In the politically active county, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took 70 percent of the votes over Trump.

Most people who didn’t expect the election results were overwhelmed mentally, according to a article that quoted several mental health professionals.

NASW member Meagan Geurts, a licensed clinical social worker in Madison, Wis., said many of her clients are feeling anxious about the president-elect’s plans based upon his campaign rhetoric.

“They’re a little more anxious and nervous about what this is going to mean for some of them personally and then for our country long-term over the next four years and beyond,” she was quoted saying.

Many of Geurts’ clients told her they were feeling distraught and have been pushing aside their own personal problems to talk about their election blues, the article says.

“The sentiment that my clients have had is that it feels trivial to talk about their own issues with everything that’s going on in our country since Donald Trump has become the president-elect,” Geurts told


School counselors and mental health experts who work with teens say anxiety is increasingly present in many young people’s lives, according to an article in the Highlands Ranch Herald in Colorado.

NASW member Lauren Kerstein, a licensed clinical social worker in Greenwood Village, was quoted saying, “Our world is very anxiety-provoking. And high schoolers are being exposed to it in a much different way because of social media and being able to access information 24/7.”

Mental health counselors, parents and students say the barrage of social media and technology is making teens more anxious, the article says. The story also offers coping suggestions.

Kerstein said it is important for teenagers to recognize they have control over their emotions.

“We don’t have control over a lot of the environmental factors but we do have control over emotions,” she says in the article. “Once a person believes that — as painful as it is — they can begin to take steps towards making a difference.”

That difference could be in simply talking to someone about a feeling, the article says.

Julie Patton

NASW member Julie Patton is one of the founders of Race and Reconciliation, a local group in Pensacola, Fla., that has spent the past year engaging citizens in discussions on racial and social inequality.

An article in the Pensacola News Journal noted the group was hosting an upcoming workshop featuring lectures from local leaders and an open discussion about understanding issues of diversity, supporting both racial equality and law enforcement.

Patton is a licensed clinical social worker with the University of West Florida. She began trying to create more dialogue between races in August 2015 after several instances of black men being killed during confrontations with law enforcement officers across the country made national news, the article says.

She wrote an opinion piece in the News Journal about race and policing, and invited the wider community to write her back with their thoughts. From that effort, Race and Reconciliation was formed when respondents decided to start hosting regular meetings and discussions.

The group has hosted two workshops in recent weeks, one addressing the causes and effects of inequality, and another discussing the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Will Francis

Will Francis is the government relations director for the NASW Texas Chapter. He was quoted in a story by KOXE in Brentwood, Texas, about proposed legislation that would entitle parents to all written records held by the school district regarding their child’s “general physical, psychological or emotional well-being,” according to news reports, with the exception of any information related to child abuse.

Unless students are planning to harm themselves or others, social workers believe “the client ultimately should be the one disclosing personal issues about themselves, no matter what the client’s age,” especially when the issues deal with sexuality and gender, Francis said.

Francis also joined Monica Faulkner, the director of the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing, in authoring an editorial that ran in the Dallas Morning News network.

It stated that trained social workers are best suited for the state’s Child Protection Services but they are underpaid and devalued, which is causing them to leave the agency.

“The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has suggested that the pay for CPS workers be substantially increased,” the editorial says. “The agency has also taken strong steps to remove hostility in the work environment.”

“We all should support these efforts and ask the Legislature to allocate funds for salary increases,” Francis and Faulkner wrote. “Policymakers should also require an overhaul of training content, supervision models within offices, and caseloads that align with national recommendations of 12 to 15 cases per worker.”