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:

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!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Rules That Same-Sex Couples Can Now Get Married Nationwide

On Friday, June 26, 2015, a huge step towards equality was made with its  same-sex freedom to marry decision. Before the decision, a majority of the American public already believed that same-sex marriage was a right and more than 70% of Americans lived in a place where same-sex marriage was legal.

We are thrilled that this decision had its origins in Massachusetts where 7 brave and bold couples brought the issue to the Massachusetts Courts.  These very couples were early recognized for their bravery by the Massachusetts Chapter when they received the 2005 Public Citizen of the Year Award.  This is a wonderful example of true activism which is totally aligned with Social Work’s tradition.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Day at the State House: giving and hearing testimony

Wednesday, June 24, hearing room B2 was filled with mental health clinicians and advocates.  Two bills of specific interest to the social work community were being heard.  The first bill was one filled by SEIU Local 509 on behalf of Clinicians United.  The bill would create state action immunity for providers (Private Practice Mental Health Clinicians), who choose to engage in joint negotiations with insurance providers on issues such as: reimbursement rates; determination of medical necessity; and other conditions of coverage.  NASW testified in favor of this bill.  We are working on several levels  (locally and nationally) to increase the reimbursement rates of clinical social workers  and this bill is in line with NASW’s goals.

The second bill,  SB578 - An act relative to mental health certified peer specialists would direct MassHealth to cover mental health services provided by certified peer specialist. The testimony given by people who have experienced mental illness in their own lives and got better with the help of peer specialists (along with different forms of therapy) was compelling and substantive. What eye opening experiences they shared!  The social work community would certainly agree with the findings that the use of peer specialists has become an accepted and proven practice in the provision of mental health services in many states which also reimburse for their services.

Keeping mental health issues in the conversations, hearings and testimonies at the State House is clearly alive and well.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Guest Blogger Gary Bailey: "Black Like Me... NOT! Rachel Dolezal and the Myth of (Her) Blackness"

Written by guest blogger Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSW
Reprinted with permission from The Huffington Post

Earlier this month I watched with shock and dismay as what has now come to be referred to as the "Pool Party Brawl" which occurred in McKinney, Texas. The video that went viral shows Officer David Eric Casebolt briefly waving his handgun at young partygoers who approached him as he tried to subdue a bikini-clad 15-year-old African-American girl, Miss Dajerria Becton. The officer ultimately immobilized her by putting her face down on the ground whilst straddling her and ultimately placing a knee on her back. Playing out before my very eyes was a collision of racism and sexism.

This week has brought another collision of sorts that is playing out in the media and involves both innate racial identity and the co-opting of a racial identity. Ms. Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP, was outed in the media by her parents and adopted siblings as someone who was passing as an African-American woman, but who, in fact, was White. Certainly, many young White people identify strongly with African Americans and African-American culture. A White person running a chapter of the NAACP is not a problem either; the history of the NAACP itself is that the majority of the original founders of the NAACP over a century ago were actually White people.

The issue at hand is that a White person who is pretending to be Black, and is running a branch of the NAACP is indeed the problem. Of more concern is Ms. Dolezal's lack of honesty and integrity, and the collateral damage she has done to the community she claims to want to be a part of.

The incident in McKinney, Texas for many people, was yet another example of the ways in which young African-American children are viewed as "older" and in the eyes of many and as less than. Watching the images of that scantily clad young African-American girl, with an older white male astride her, was startling and had deep historical connotations that hard as she may will never be the lived reality of Ms. Dolezal. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart quotes Dolezal's brother Ezra saying, "Back in the early 1900s, what she did would be considered highly racist." Capehart goes on to say, "Blackface remains highly racist, no matter how down with the cause a white person is."

In her book "Killing Rage: Ending Racism," scholar, feminist, and social activist bell hooks states "Whether they are able to enact it as lived practice or not, many white folks active in anti-racist struggle today are able to acknowledge that all whites (as well as everyone else within white supremacist culture) have learned to overvalue "whiteness" even as they simultaneously learn to devalue blackness."

As a clinical social work practitioner for more than 35 years, the complexity of family dynamics is very seldom lost upon me and indeed what we are seeing with the Dolezals are some deeply rooted family issues. After watching the abuse and humiliation of that young African-American teenager last week, I would say to Ms. Dolezal that though she might have compassion and empathy for what it means to be Black in America, that her 15-year-old self would not have suffered the indignities as were meted out to Dajerria Becton in McKinney, Texas. No way, no how. And that is the major difference between a truly lived experience and the co-option of a people's experience.

Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSW, is a Professor of Practice at Simmons College School of Social Work, as well as former president of the NASW-DC Chapter and former president of the NASW-MA Chapter.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Calling All DCF Alumnae Staff

Calling All DCF Alumnae Staff,

It was several decades ago that I was hired as a “child welfare worker” with DCF, formerly known as the Division of Child Guardianship (DCG).  I was recruited right out of undergraduate school, with excitement and trepidation under my belt.  I was going to do good work for kids.  I was going to save them from sadness, badness, and madness.  I was going to make my parents proud of me and I was going to buy my first car with my new salary.

For the first week, I shadowed several veteran child welfare workers, none of whom had social work degrees.  I was supervised by several different supervisors, all of whom had MSWs and who patiently explained how to take a history, be nonjudgmental, and complete my paperwork as soon as I got back to the office.  There was Jim Pisciotta and Joe Pare and several other MSW supervisors and managers who helped us inexperienced, uncredentialed, and skill-free recruits keep kids safe.  I was clueless, thinking all I needed was good intentions and a big heart. The supervisors were more intentional, attempting to help us non-social workers understand that it takes much more than a big heart to address the problems that our families faced.  There were histories of alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence, and birth defects- none of which I had experienced growing up or even faced in my later teen years.  I was, indeed, a greenhorn, in foreign territory.

And almost 50 years later, we have pretty much the same situation, with folks coming into the child welfare work world with good intentions and hopes to “do good.”  Many do have social work degrees, and, for these folks, the work is a professional challenge.  For those who have no social work background (where one learns about the complex environmental, social, and biological variables that influence a family’s inability to keep their kids safe and happy), well, they totally struggle even with highly trained social work supervisors.

Child welfare is very serious work.  It is just the kind of work that calls upon one’s social work training, education, and field work.  And that is why NASW-MA has filed legislation that requires anyone who calls themselves a social worker to have a social work background- a BSW or an MSW.  I know how I and my fellow “unprepared recruits” struggled to do the best we could with our variety of non-social work undergraduate backgrounds.  Even with the talent of our social work supervisors, we still had little to offer our families and kids.  NASW-MA will be working with DCF and other child welfare advocates and educators to bring the best trained social work staff to a most valuable human resource: the children and their families.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Honoring Marylou Sudders, NASW-MA member

This week included one of those celebratory events that live on in social workers’ minds as one of many successes. This week, we celebrated the appointment of the first social worker to become the Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services.  It was the profession’s time to shine as we acknowledged Marylou Sudders.  For those of you who were not present at the happening, I am posting my remarks so that you get a flavor of how wonderful Governor Baker’s appointment is to all of us.

“Good afternoon – social workers, friends of social work, legislators, and Madam Secretary, Marylou Sudders. My name is Carol Trust and I welcome you to an Oscar-level event.  The winner?  Our own Marylou – Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Who is this Marylou?  NASW member, model of inspiration to social workers, exceptional tennis player, and lady who needs little sleep to make big things happen.  Your extended family, the National Association of Social Workers and the MA Chapter of NASW (the 3rd largest chapter in the country, out of 55) is beaming over your appointment as Secretary, not only because you’re one of us, a proud social worker, but because you are an extraordinary example of how social workers display that winning combination of clinical savvy, organizational acumen, and strategic muscle. You know well how public policy issues effect people’s private, personal problems.  You know well that social work requires more than a big heart.  It requires intuitive qualities, diplomatic presence, unstoppable advocacy, and statesmanship tenacity.  You are all of those and more.  Your outstanding achievements and skills are remarkable.  Your positive “can do” attitude, professionally and personally, is memorable.  As an innovator, and tireless advocate, you are respected by peers and legislators.  In short, Marylou, you dazzle all of us in this room and beyond.  The MA Chapter is thrilled to have you in its family of distinguished members.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What Are We Celebrating?

It seems like this year’s month of March is number one on the hit parade for events to don your party wear.  The celebrations are continual.  First, we have March, which has been designated as Social Work Month.  March is also the beginning of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the National Association of Social Workers.  Closer to home, the Chapter is celebrating Massachusetts-specific events: the Annual Awards Celebration, where extraordinary social workers and public citizens are recognized for their outstanding contributions to clients, the profession, and to social and economic justice campaigns; the appointment of Marylou Sudders, NASW member, as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  NASW, along with Boston College’s and Boston University’s Schools of Social Work, are hosting a reception at the State House, to acknowledge our champion of social work values in her new position; and at the end of the month, LEAD, the MA chapter’s annual Legislative Education and Advocacy Day, where social work students and professionals roll up their sleeves to lobby on the Chapter’s priority legislation.

Traditionally, I am not enthusiastic about celebrating many national holidays: Mother’s Day?  My birthday?  Valentine’s Day?  I say, “Be nice to me every day, and I will return by appreciation every day as well.”  As for celebrating social work, I share the same sentiment.  I do cherish the profession I chose.  I celebrate every day, in quiet and expressed ways, that social work is a marvelous career.  It connects me to people regardless of my mood or my daily assignments: my staff, the NASW members who call for advice, to share a problem or complaint, or a non-social worker who is looking for information and direction.  On certain quiet days, I look at my phone and say, “Ring, ring, will you?!” if the phone has been too silent.

Thank you, social work, for this great gift of involvement, satisfaction, and challenge.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bother me!

I recently received a phone call from a long time (30+ years) NASW-MA member who was surprised that I answered my phone with the usual “Hi, this is Carol.”  “Is this really Carol or her voice mail?” she asked.  I had the sense that getting directly through to me was like calling the White House and having the President answer the phone.

I was surprised at first, and then wondered if one of the reasons I don't get as many phone calls as I used to when I was a staff person might be because members may feel that they won’t get me directly, or they don't want to bother me with what they may consider a simple or silly question, or that maybe they should know the answer and don't want to appear uninformed or dumb.

Hogwash to all those reasons, I say.  I (and my entire staff) want to hear all of your concerns, every question, even if you feel they may be dumb, and we want you to call, email, and fax.  And if you insist on feeling that you might be bothering us, then bother away.

All of the staff at the chapter office, as well as our four wonderful Regional staff persons, are waiting for your calls, your questions, your comments.  We are here to serve you.  So call away.  And I, especially, expect to hear more from you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Message for All Times

This month, the Chapter had to cancel its Martin Luther King, Jr. Forum on Racial Justice because of incredible inclement weather.  Everyone was disappointed.  The speakers were prepared to present, the room at Wheelock was ready to receive us, and the caterer was on call.  The event has been postponed until the evening of Tuesday, May 19th.  We’ll be notifying folks through FOCUS, the website, social media, and email blasts.

Although the event was cancelled for weather, transportation, and parking problems, we had several requests to reschedule as soon as possible— on another night in February or on the anniversary of King’s assignation in March.  Rescheduling postponed events is always a challenge in choreography: getting a date that all the confirmed speakers can make, getting the space on the night that the speakers are available, and avoiding scheduling conflicts with other Chapter-related events that have been scheduled months ahead.

Despite these minor considerations, it is important to keep in mind that King’s message is one that is timeless— one that is as relevant yesterday, today, and tomorrow as it will be in the future.  Social and economic injustices that we have experienced in modern times are so complex, multi-sourced and long standing that simple, one-dimensional solutions will not adequately address these societal failures.  What we can do is start the dialogue about what we can all do to end their continuations.

This is what social workers are good at; bringing people together to address the hard questions, the uncomfortable ones, the ones that generate frustration and anger and where we can all get stuck, by blaming, simplifying, and retreating into disappointment, when the solutions do not come easily.

The Chapter will be engaged in keeping the MLK, Jr. perspective and message alive and fertile through the upcoming forum in May, through our Continuing Education programs and courses, and in implementing our Strategic Plan.

We look forward to seeing you at the May program and, in the meantime, please contribute to the conversation through Letters to the Editor in FOCUS, on our social media platforms, and through this blog post.