Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Partnering for Safety

On November 19, 2010, the Chapter with its partner, the Boston University School of Social Work held the 2nd State Wide Leadership Summit on the subject of Maximizing Social Work Safety in the Workplace. Although the subject is worrisome and scary, representatives from the public and private human service agencies as well as the schools of social work spoke with such a sense of commitment and dedication to the topic, the atmosphere in the room was transformed from fear to dedication and possibility.

The room was filled with professionals from every public agency under the auspices of the Massachusetts Secretariat of Health and Human Services: Youth Services, Corrections, Family and Children’s Services, Elder Issues, Public Health, Mental Health as well as representatives from the Private and Public Massachusetts Schools of Social Work and a number of the larger private Child and Adult Serving agencies.  It was indeed a great example of a true Partnership.

Out of the meeting has come a number of practical and recommendations that are in the process of being implemented.  These include: a web site hosted on NASW MA Chapter's home page that will be complete with numerous resources for agencies developing Safety Plans; a commitment from NASW to file safety legislation in January; the beginnings of a plan to train a cadre of social workers to provide state wide training in safety procedures and a commitment to work with National NASW on getting a Policy Statement on Safety in the Workplace accepted.

This Summit marked the fruition of two years of work by a super Chapter Task Force.  I feel very fortunate and energized by all of my colleagues who serve on this Task Force. Together in partnership we will continue to promote this topic and ensure the implementation of these important changes. 

Carol J. Trust

Friday, November 12, 2010


’ Wrong Side of the Bus’ is a movie featuring a seldom addressed theme: the person who sees an injustice but rather than flee or fight as Freud conceptualized, chooses to stay and stand by... The main character, a white psychiatrist,  trained in Cape Town, South Africa and then emigrated to Australia because he felt he could not live in a country that was ruled by Apartheid  principles is haunted by feelings of guilt that he did nothing to question or act against the racist rules of the South African government.  The story follows him as he returns to Cape Town for the 40th reunion of his Medical School classmates.  He is searching for some kind of reconciliation or forgiveness for his ‘do-nothing’ stance.  From everyone:  his classmates; his mother’s former nurse; several black ladies he randomly meets in the audience of a renowned theater and finally the guide (and a former inmate) at the prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years.

Regardless of these individuals’ responses, ranging from full forgiveness to indifference to his haunting guilt, the protagonist just cannot let it go.  He wants it to disappear.  He wants to be free from the torment that he did nothing to raise a hand against a sickening law and its noxious consequences.   His guilt dominated and controlled his life. I came away from the film with a growing annoyance for this highly trained educated man.
And as I talked with my film going partners, I began to see the relevance of the bystander concept to social work practice. Often I get calls from social workers asking or even complaining that NASW is not doing anything or enough to end homelessness, or reduce the cuts to social service programs or to stop managed care and insurance company cuts in reimbursement rates to clinical social workers. On a different level, I hear that one’s therapy progress is stuck, going nowhere. “I still feel terrible that I didn’t do more for my mother when she was alive’ or that ‘I didn’t tell someone about the abuse.’

We all can be affected by what we didn’t do or didn’t do enough of or what we did that we are ashamed of.  Somewhere along the line some of us got what I consider a ‘distorted’ idea that we, the social work profession, can always be the problem solvers, the fixers, the guilt relievers. Another way of looking at this could be:  We do the best we can as transformers or contributors to positive change, but that many times, we do not get the results we hoped for. Sometimes, we do nothing on one issue because we are involved in others just as meaningful.  And other times, we may just watch.  We indeed are bystanders.  It is this latter stance that I wish to address, particularly for those of us who have clinical backgrounds.

 I came away thinking that this person well never rid himself of his guilt.  He is, in a way, hard wired to feel guilty.  It is his default position.  And that what clinicians (and those of us in the field that worry about what we haven’t done enough of) may have to do is help ourselves and others just ‘be with’ those old, persistent feelings and on a parallel track, proceed with our lives in the areas where we can make a difference.  So we didn’t intervene when that bad thing was happening and we think we should have? We just watched or held back? The challenge or assignment for us could be; Let it go to free our energies for what we can do now. I many ways, life is so complicated and immense that we have always been occasional bystanders, we will always be bystanders and we definitely are bystanders right now.

Carol Trust

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Be Picked

Pick Me! Pick Me! 

This is a big week throughout the country. With elections in every state, candidates galore, and folks exercising their right to vote. I am always fascinated with the number and range of people who throw their hat in the ring to run for public office.  Regardless of the problems that face them, or their motivation, these candidates are unwavering in their commitment to serve. It is truly  impressive.  I get caught up in the excitement surrounding the elections.  Who will win?  Will they live up to their pre-election promises? 

On the local level-the very local level, the Massachusetts Chapter of NASW will shortly be joining the swirl of election activity.  I get just as excited for the MA Chapter candidates as I do about the Massachusetts State elections. I can’t help it. I love contests and I love to share in the excitement.

So, dear NASW members, I am bringing you into the action.  The Chapter’s Nominations and Leadership Identification Committee, which you elected over the last two years, is in the process of identifying potential candidates for the Chapter’s slate. Chapter election will be this spring and the Committee is in the midst of its ‘Talent Search’.  I am opening the search to you, our members.  We are looking for a few good men and women to throw your hats into the election ring. Running for and being elected to  a leadership position in your profession is an awesome event.  You are declaring, publically, your interest in being part of the process that influences the direction of the social work profession.   This is your change to get in the game, rather than observe from the bleachers.

I am, here by calling on that part of you that urged you to be a social worker. That part of you that said “I want to make a difference.”  Here is your chance.  You have until November 15 to let us know that you are interested in being considered.  The open positions are posted on the Chapter website.  http://www.naswma.org/displayemailforms.cfm?emailformnbr=145243

Get out of the bleachers and into the action.  Have your chance to “Be Picked.”

Carol J. Trust