Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More Heartbreak, More Sadness

Just as I think that we cannot take in any more tragedies, senseless killings, continued animosities, extreme racism and terror attacks, we are struck again: Dallas, Orlando, Minnesota, Paris, Istanbul, and Nice. Some of these acts of violence are political terrorism. Some may be attributed to the result of untreated mental illness.  Some may be influenced by social structures.  And some may be the result of a combination of factors. We are constantly searching for ways to address the causes of these horrific acts of violence. We look for ways to deal with our own sense of powerlessness, to find common humanity in the face of terror, to understand and yet be vigilant.

Sometimes we feel that the problems are so huge, so global, so deeply rooted that we despair at our sense of personal, professional, and community helplessness. What can we do in the face of these continued indescribable events?  We search for meaningful answers and actions. 

The Chapter has as one of its priorities, written into the Strategic Plan: "promoting Racial Justice, Eliminating all Forms of Racism and Oppression." We search for ways to realize these goals, through our legislative priorities and continuing education programs.  Yet we feel there is much more to be done.

We are reaching out to you, our members, to help us identify creative ways of taking action.  We welcome your ideas and your offers of help as we search for action steps in the form of programs and submissions of articles for our monthly newsletter, FOCUS.  Let us come together as individuals and as a profession as we grieve these many losses.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Freedom Massachusetts Coalition

The MA Chapter enjoys a strong reputation of supporting legislation that promotes social and economic justice issues.  One of these bills has to do with lifting discrimination against transgender people.  We share the following position with our colleagues at the Freedom Massachusetts Coalition:

"In Massachusetts, no one should have to live in fear of discrimination based on their identity – that’s a simple idea that we can all support.  Sadly, under current state law, there are no explicit protections against discrimination for transgender people in most public places like parks, hotels and restaurants."

That’s wrong, which is why NASW-MA is proud to be one of the many organizations that have joined the coalition working to update our state’s non-discrimination law to fully protect ALL people from discrimination. 

On Thursday, September 17th, please join Freedom Massachusetts and other coalition partners at an important State House Lobby Day!

For more information, visit:  http://freedomMA.org/LobbyDay

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Student of the Year Award

August 2015 marked the debut of an initiative between NASW-MA and the Accredited Schools of Social Work in MA.  This month, Smith College School of Social Work rolled out its announcement of the NASW 2015 Student of the Year Award.  The award was presented to the student who met the following criteria:

-          Had demonstrated exceptional professional commitment and dedication to social work values through student leadership, field practice, and academic projects 
-          Was active or interested in NASW’s work to strengthen the social work profession

Ms. Sarah Brady, MSW, an active NASW member, received the 2015 Award.  At the graduation ceremony on Friday, August 14th, Dean Marianne Yoshioka was congratulated for her ingenuity in bringing this first of its kind award to the Massachusetts academic community.  Along with Dean Yoshioka, Peggy O’Neill, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, and her team of faculty who judged the nominees for this award were grandly acknowledged by Executive  Director Carol Trust, who presented the award.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tragedy in Vermont

Our social work colleagues in Vermont experienced a heartbreaking tragedy this weekend with the shooting death of a Department of Children and Families social worker. With very preliminary information, we know that the social worker was shot outside the DCF office, allegedly by a DCF client who lost custody of her child(ren).

The Child Welfare field has always been a challenging one.  Social Workers and other child welfare staff are expected to deal with complex social, environmental, psychological, and mental health issues that affect society’s vulnerable families.  These multifarious problems can be short-lived or chronic, and it is up to the child welfare community to deal with them, address them, solve them.  With this awesome responsibility, society must do its utmost to give child welfare the support, resources and mobilized attention that the job demands. 

For this reason, NASW continually supports manageable caseloads, professional training for staff, and every effort to fully fund and staff child welfare agencies with the necessary resources. 
Please see the statement from our colleague in Vermont below:
The Vermont Chapter of the National Association for Social Workers (NASW-VT) expresses its heartbreak and sympathies after Friday night's fatal shooting of a Department for Children and Families (DCF) employee.  

Employees of the Department for Children and Families do immensely difficult work with children and families experiencing complicated and often extreme hardship. Every day, these workers do their best to navigate sometimes-impossible challenges in an environment of scarce resources. This work helps ensure the safety and wellbeing of communities throughout Vermont. 

While we know that incidents such as these have been known to occur to child protection workers across the country, it is impossible to prepare for or fathom the devastation that a crime such as this causes. NASW-VT expresses our deepest sympathies to the family of the victim of this crime. We stand in proud solidarity with child protection workers across Vermont and across our country in the wake of this unspeakable violence. 

Eilis O’Herlihy, LICSW
Executive Director, NASW-VT

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Today, Chapter President Chris Hudson and I meet with staff of the Attorney General’s office to discuss the Chapter’s major professional legislative priority: Revision of the Social Work Licensing Law.  Since this bill specifically focuses on consumer protection, we knew the A.G.’s office would be interested.  The public hearing for the bill is November 10th, and we are rounding up folks to give oral and written testimony.  Just to summarize, the bill would revise the present Social Work Licensing Law such that anyone calling him/herself a social worker would need to have graduated from an accredited BSW or MSW School of Social Work.  This means that when someone knocks on a client’s door and identifies him/herself as a social worker, the client has the assurance that this person is truly a professional with training, credentials, and supervision to back up his/her title.

If you are interested in joining the Chapter in seeing that this crucial consumer protection bill gets passed, let me know.  I’ll be waiting for you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Conversion Therapy Ban

Yesterday, MA Chapter testified at a State House hearing to support House bill 97, A Bill to Ban Conversion and Reparative Therapy.  I was joined by President-Elect Allison Scobie-Carroll, LICSW and Francie Mandel, LICSW, both of Children's Hospital Boston.  The bill is a first step toward preventing the use of abusive conversion therapies on minors. The hearing room was filled with proponents and opponents who often gave contradictory interpretations of the same statements from the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. The phenomenon is a universal one: something is said and the listeners or readers give that something their own interpretation.  Join the human experience.  Below, please see the entire NASW-MA testimony:

"Dear Senate Co-Chair Jennifer Flanagan, House Co-Chair Kay Khan and Honorable Members of the Committee,

Thank you for this opportunity to testify before you on HB 97 The Conversion Therapy Ban, an Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors.

My name is Carol Trust.  I am the Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers-MA Chapter (NASW-MA), the largest professional social work organization in the state and the country.

NASW unequivocally opposes the practice of any forms of conversion or reparative therapy, along with the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the Pan American Health Association. Services that purport to "cure" people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), issued a statement calling on governments, academic institutions, professional associations and the media to expose practices known as "reparative therapy" or "conversion therapy" and to promote respect for diversity. The statement asserted that "Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure."

At its Annual Convention in 2009, the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.  The resolution was based on the APA’s Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which reviewed decades of research and found insufficient evidence that such treatments work.

Instead of telling clients that they can change, therapists should help them find ways to become more comfortable with their sexual orientation. It also advises parents and guardians to avoid treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder.

It is sometimes remarkable to sit back and think about all of the changes and developments that have occurred in the medical world.  The treatment for heart disease, for example, has evolved over the past 30 years.  And so has our understanding of GLBT development.  It was in 1973 that homosexuality was eliminated by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder.  Just like one does not choose to be straight, one does not choose to be gay, lesbian, or transgender.

What these teens need is understanding and acceptance. And real therapy, particularly by social workers. One of the things that make social workers unique is that we work so closely with families and have the pulse of what is going on in the client’s home.  We work with clients who have histories of all kinds of trauma and abuse.  We know the damage that can be done when anyone, but particularly an adolescent, whose developmental task is to figure out who he or she is in the world and gain comfort with that role, is expected to be someone that he or she is not.  GLBT youth are more vulnerable to bullying, depression, and suicide.  Many of these GLBT young people feel isolated, and receive messages about their sexuality that creates self-loathing.  This might manifest itself by the young person having anger outbursts, flunking out in school, or cutting herself on the back of  her legs so no one can see. (I should point out that this is not a suicide attempt, but a way to release stress.)   Therefore, the thought of an already vulnerable teen being put into the hostile environment of conversion therapy whose goal is to force him or her to be someone they are not is a recipe for disaster.  And it is ironic to call such an experience therapy.

Treatment by social workers involves starting where the teens are at and helping them accept themselves and eliminate shame and self-loathing.  Part of therapy means being empathic and non-judgmental and working on the goals that the client wants to work on.  We do not persuade people to be someone or something that they are not, which is what is practiced by conversion therapy. Licensed Independent Clinical Social workers establish a therapeutic contract with the teen in which it is clear that we are equal partners in reaching the goals. 

Another factor that makes social workers unique as therapists is that we are mindful of cultural differences.  We honor and respect the values of different cultural and racial groups and try to understand the perspective of people who do not come from mainstream culture.

I want to close my testimony with the following quote from the Family Acceptance Project:
“When we hold our baby in the nursery for the first time, no one tells us that our baby might be gay. By the time we know who our children are, we may have hurt them in many ways. No one teaches us how to help and protect our gay … children. We may think we can help by trying to change them – but we need to love them for who they are.”
      (From Family Acceptance Project, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, San Francisco State University, 2009)

Massachusetts has always been in the forefront  in education, healthcare, and high technology.  I urge you to make Massachusetts among the leaders of the states that repeal conversion therapy.
Thank you very much for your time.

Respectfully submitted,
Carol J. Trust, LICSW
Executive Director
NASW-MA Chapter"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

#stopracism Twitter chat

The issue of racism, racial disparities and police treatment of individuals who come under their watch is a highly relevant issue.  On Thursday, July 16th at noon, NASW will hold a lunchtime Twitter chat to discuss how the association and social workers are working to address racism in the United States, especially after the June 17th mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. The chat will feature NASW South Carolina Executive Director Carla Damron, MSW, ACSW, and NASW Social Justice and Human Rights Manager Mel Wilson, MBA, LCSWC. Damron and Wilson will discuss how social workers in South Carolina responded to the shooting and what NASW is doing on a national level to address racism. We also want to hear what social workers are doing in their communities. Use the hashtag #‎stopracism to join the Twitter conversation.  We hope you can join!