Social Work in the Public Eye (July 2011)

Barbara HeffernanBarbara Heffernan was profiled in the Weston-Redding-Easton Patch (Conn.) for a story that explained how she helps people as a licensed clinical social worker and licensed alcohol and drug counselor.

“I treat people with anxiety, people with trauma issues, people who want to live happier lives,” Heffernan was quoted as saying. “I’ll help people work through current problems, help them recover from childhood wounds that are still affecting their present day functioning.”

The article pointed out that, unlike psychiatrists, psychotherapists do not prescribe drugs. Instead, they attempt to solve problems through cognitive behavioral therapy.

Heffernan said that she felt a calling to social work after working several years in finance.

“I really began to look at the people around me and think about which people had jobs that I envied,” she told the newspaper. “I felt that a career counselor or a psychotherapist who deal directly with people to help create positive changes in their lives — that’s something I really wanted to do.”

Heffernan, who has an MBA from Columbia, went back to school for a social work degree.

She said people come to her with a range of issues, from family transitions to childhood abuse.

“Some of the issues are very difficult,” she told the newspaper. “There are some very intense situations. People ask me, ‘How can you do that work?’ I tend to focus on the strengths of my clients, strength that allows them to live through what they lived through. Seeing that side of human nature - how you can go through such horrible things and still come out as a good, loving person, is really a wonderful thing. I love my job.”


The Brainerd Daily Dispatch (Minn.) profiled the remarkable career of Louise Seliski, who has devoted 33 years to helping thousands of battered women and children in the Brainerd area.

The story noted that Seliski plans to retire soon as the founder and executive director of the Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center.

The story noted that Seliksi had chosen her own field placement for her MSW studies: “a six-month project that would seem daunting for anyone: start a battered women’s shelter,” the story said.

After years of efforts to gain funding, a shelter was opened to its first family in 1978.

“While the shelter was supposed to house six women and children, Seliski said often they had as many as 25 people,” the story stated.

“I’d rather have a woman sleep on the floor than get herself killed,” Seliski told the newspaper.

In 1995, a new shelter was built. It houses 20 women and children at a time. It serves about 100 women and about 130 children a year.

“Sadly, Seliski has seen too many women and children who were later killed by domestic violence after leaving the safety of the shelter,” the story stated. “She said eight women and two children — Alex and Brandon, for whom the child safety center is named — have been murdered during the shelter’s existence.”

Seliski and others raised about $450,000 to fund the creation of the Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center. It allows a safe place for court-ordered, supervised visitations and safe exchanges of children between custodial and non-custodial parents. The center facilitates about 1,200 supervised child visits each year.

Seliski said retiring was a difficult decision. While there were many challenges to face during her 33 years of working with battered women and children, Seliski said there were many rewards.

“The reason I can do it is because of the women and children I’ve worked with who are leading better lives,” Seliski told the newspaper. “I always believe in the goodness in people. The greatest thing I would like to see is the shelter shut down because we don’t need it anymore.”


Reeta WolfsohnHow to improve your life by understanding how finances work was the focus of a story in the Charlotte Post (N.C.) .

The article explained that North Carolinians are carrying more than $22 billion in credit card debt — one of the nation’s sixth-largest balances, according to Equifax.

Reeta Wolfsohn, founder and director of the Center for Financial Social Work, was quoted in the story.

She said money too often is handled during an emotional state of mind. She explained that financial know-how can change lives for the better.

“Traditional financial literacy is very much information-driven,” she was quoted as saying in the article.

One graduate of the center’s program, Ursulette Huntley, was quoted in the story. She said the training does indeed help; she became program director of Unlimited Future, a business incubator for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Huntley told the newspaper she helps people who have little money go into business for themselves. She said that a key lesson she learned was examining money habits she discovered while growing up.

“I can remember being a kid, my mom writing checks before actually going to deposit her paycheck,” Huntley was quoted as saying. “So, it’s like, OK. I can go ahead and spend my money, whether I really have it or not.”

Wolfsohn told the newspaper that marketing plays on consumers’ emotions.” I talk about, ‘Take control of your money and gain control of your life,’ because there’s a very close connection between emotion and money,” Wolfsohn was quoted as saying.


Ken NortonKen Norton was profiled in a story in the Winnisquam Echo (N.H.) highlighting his recent trip to Northern Ireland. He was keynote speaker at a Belfast conference on suicide prevention and consulted with different groups in suicide prevention efforts.

Norton is the director of Connect, a suicide prevention program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-New Hampshire.

The article explained that the Connect series has grown into a designated National Best Practice Program that has been showcased across the U.S. “Norton has also worked extensively on the issue of military and veteran suicide prevention with the New Hampshire National Guard and Veterans Administration Hospital in Manchester and has provided training and consultation nationally to the Department of Defense Centers of Excellence,” the article stated.

Northern Ireland is seeking to replicate a community-based approach similar to the Connect program in addressing suicide prevention.

The country “is very progressive around their suicide prevention efforts,” Norton was quoted as saying. He noted that officials there embrace the idea that it is vital to work across systems and communities to properly address suicide prevention.

During his visit, the story noted, Norton met with key people in the country’s suicide prevention efforts, including the minister of health, the governor of the Belfast prison system and a member of the legislative assembly.

Norton said he hopes to continue a mutual exchange of learning with Northern Ireland officials.