Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Is it 2012 Already?!

A year ago, I was asked to be the 2011 blogger. Although the writer in me loved the idea, the new professional was admittedly terrified. I wasn't sure I'd have enough to write about, that I'd be self-aware enough to recognize my mistakes, and that I would be brave enough to admit to them so publicly.

And somehow, approximately 50 posts later, here we are. This blog has given me a space to share the experiences I've had in my first year post-MSW, it's allowed me a forum to express my NASW-aligned beliefs, it's presented me the opportunity to ask you all for advice, and it's forced me to reexamine so many of the things I thought I knew.

In the year of weekly blog posts, I've earned my LMSW, watched marriage equality pass in NY, lost my first job due to restructuring, and have become increasingly aware of how important the social work community is, in all its incarnations.

The latest edition of The New Social Worker Magazine has just come out, in which I've shared my New Year's Resolutions. I hope they will encourage you to make your own and to begin and live your 2012 in the best possible light.

More though, I hope you know how important you've all been as I've chronicled my past year here. Some of you have commented, some of you have emailed privately, some of you have simply clicked to let me know when you've found something cool, interesting and/or funny. Regardless, you've been participants in my life. You've taken moments from your own busy schedules to peek into my world and for that, I am both incredibly humbled and unspeakably grateful.

In Social Work Solidarity, Your 2011 Blogger, Kryss

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Online Friendships/Social Networking

I know, I know, I am totally out of the norm... not posting last Friday (I was spending the day with the incredible Susan Mankita, L.C.S.W.) and today isn't Friday, but I really had the urge to update now, so forgive my being 6 days late or 1 day early, depending how you look at it. I've just been so recently majorly impacted by social networking that I couldn't help but come to this networking site and write about it.

Saturday night, my dog had an emergency and it began a 3 day whirlwind of panic and fear for me as he spent the days in the ICU. Every bit of my energy and every bit of my strength was being telepathically sent to him. My days were filled with calls to the vet, visits to see him and to put my hand into his incubator cage and nights were filled with sheer terror at the very real possibility I'd lose him.

I can truly say that the only thing that held me together was the world through the internet. A breed specific website I'd joined when I rescued him gave me comments of hope and well wishes with folks from everywhere checking in for my updates. Emails came from those who had heard about the situation. Most of all, facebook allowed me to spend my hours typing with people who loved and supported me during a time when I was too afraid to speak the words but when I needed others more than I could articulate.

I got lucky, very very lucky. Nikko rallied and got to come home. But I was also incredibly lucky to have been held up by incredibly supportive people.

Please please keep in mind how helpful the internet can be in trying times. Although it's known for being full of porn and useless videos of kittens and celebrity gossip, it is also a place to reach out and a place to reach back. With the holidays here, please remember to ask for the emotional support you need and to give the extra you may have, it truly can change (or save) someone's life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Public Speaking

Today I gave another presentation to a group of students at Columbia University, this time within their Nursing Department. My presentation is called "LGBT 101" and when I first created it, it was a Powerpoint with slides and was pretty basic. As I have continued to give this talk though, I'm becoming increasingly thrilled with the level at which students have been open to talking and making it more of a conversation and discussion than a lecture. Much of this is due to the media and the political campaigns happening, no question, but it's bringing up some great points and counterpoints. The presentation was initially scheduled for 45 minutes and grew into almost 3 hours of story sharing, example discussions, and I really feel we all left the room a bit more enlightened than we'd entered.

I really hope to continue to be asked by companies, organizations, and schools to present on this topic, I truly enjoy spreading current and topical information to those whose ignorance is easy to correct when their minds are open to learning!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Outside the Box

I was chatting with a fellow social worker the other day who spends her off time taking belly dancing classes. We got to talking about her love of dance and how much of my free time is spent within the theater community and it's led me to wonder what other fields and areas social workers feel connected to.

In the generations past, it was expected that a working person (typically male) had one job in one field at one company until retirement. As companies and loyalties changed, it became more acceptable to switch companies, but there still seemed to be an assumption that a person had one career. Now though, when the economy may not allow us the "American Dream" in terms of property ownership or giant nest eggs, more folks than ever are finding a different version of their ideal life, one based on happiness more than on possession.

It certainly makes it interesting to figure out what to put on one's personal business cards, doesn't it? If I were to include everything, I suppose mine would say, "Professional Social Worker/Writer/Educator/Associate Producer/Public Speaker/Activist/Advocate/Blogger/Columnist" and whew, the business card would need to be the size of a full sheet of paper!

What would YOUR business card say if it included everything you do?

Friday, November 25, 2011


What a week/weekend of traditions for so many! Please take a moment to share your traditions with us in the comment section below.

As for me, I spend the week in Ohio, where I grew up. Now that I live out of state, I travel first into Columbus to reunite with dear friends from undergrad and beyond, flitting from friend to friend and (luckily) favorite restaurant to favorite restaurant. Then I head up to Northeast Ohio on Tuesday so I am ready for my favorite holiday tradition of the year; co-running a soup kitchen.

We make everything from scratch, so it takes all day Wednesday and the entire morning Thursday to prepare the foods; dozens of turkeys, hundreds of pounds of potatoes peeled and mashed, real pumpkin meat and scented spices for the pies, loaves and loaves of bread baked. We've had mostly the same volunteers for quite some time now so it's also an annual reunion of sorts. I've watched adults' kids grow up, those same adults have watched me grow up, and every year it becomes even more fun to work as a well-oiled cooking/baking machine.

Thursday afternoon is the day we serve to those who choose to come to us and deliver to those who do not, as well as the local fire and police departments of 3 towns. It's beyond wonderful to get to provide something for those who risk their lives to provide safety to us. Thursday night is dinner with my fictive family, followed by an early morning (4am) drive to the airport.

To round out my tradition, I typically arrive back in NYC around 7am, head home, and proceed to "take a nap," which almost always results in my waking up 6-8 hours later.

What about you? What do you do each year?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Professional Associations

There have been lots of conversations in the past months about Unions and Professional Associations. Sometimes they stem from the political issues of voting on whether to curb the abilities of Unions for public service workers, sometimes from students who aren't sure whether spending the bit of money they have on a membership is worth the cost, and sometimes from those who are job seeking and wonder whether they ought to attend a meeting.

Where do you all stand? Are you members of NASW? Do you have other Professional Associations? Do you encourage others to join? Why or why not?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

Tough to know what to write on a day like today... this is often the place where we discuss the trials and difficulties of our work but on a day like today, it seems inappropriate. No matter how tough our work is (and no one's arguing that), we still get to come home every night, sleep next to or down the hall from loved ones, pet our dogs, order our take-out, and wind down with our favorite tv shows.

How lucky we are to be in the position to help others who are more in need than we are. How lucky we are to be able to do so without being shot at or bombed. How lucky we are to fall asleep each night without fear that we won't wake up again. How lucky we are that we get to vote, to follow our choice of career paths, to own property, and to shower under hot, clean water.

While the stress each feels is real because it is real to him/her, I hope everyone is taking extra time today to thank the military personnel of past and present for protecting us all. I hope you're remembering to show gratitude to those who sacrificed by supporting their soldier from here at home. I hope you're remembering to appreciate the gift each soldier gives us and that, regardless of your political opinions, you'll remember to give silent thoughts/prayers/nods to each person who stands guard somewhere in the world so that we are able to get up each morning and return to our work.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Job Searching

With so many people out of work, I thought we ought to bring that up here.

What are your experiences job hunting? Any tips or tricks to share? Rants or raves on the subject?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Life Goals Lists (aka Bucket Lists)

Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t blog last Friday. It wasn’t because I had posted something on Wednesday but rather because I was doing something I never thought I’d be able to, crossing off one very specific item from my life goals list.

I’m not sure if it’s the “type A” side of me or if it’s the Piscean dreamer, but I’ve had this list (which some of you may call your “bucket list”) since I was about 5 years old. I’ve never differentiated what goes on there since any of them, at the time of their addition, felt lofty and potentially impossible. In a way, this list is a bit of a time-line of who I was/am.

For example, one item on my list is “memorize my locker combination” which I likely added around 6th grade when, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember those 3 numbers. check Later additions include, “be accepted to college,” “get into my #1 choice for grad school,” and “finish a semester with a 4.0 GPA.” check, check, and during my final semester of grad school, finally, check Some items happened completely out of order too, like “speak at my graduation,” something I added at age 17, when I realized how many of my favorite sitcom characters were commencement speakers on their shows. Having graduated high school at age 18, that one seemed impossible, yet I was lucky enough to have achieved it at age 27 when I finished my MSW.

One of the earliest items I'd written on my list was to see my favorite musician perform. It’s been on my list for 21 years and, considering that he had retired in 2000, seemed to be another impossible goal to attain. Even when he signed a performance deal in Las Vegas in 2009, I was acutely aware of just how far away Vegas was from my apartment.

Last week, I crossed that goal off my list.

Yes, exactly 1 week ago, I was sitting 6th row, center, watching my musical idol perform. To be honest, it was incredibly therapeutic. There I was, listening to songs that had spanned much of my life, songs that had played in the background of my heartbreaks and travels, my friendships and experiences. Not only did I get to relive those moments, I did so while considering that there may well be other seemingly impossible goals that, well, aren’t so impossible at all.

I could write for days about the trip and about every second of the performance, but what I’m more interested in is hearing from YOU! What is on your life goals list? What items have you crossed off? Which are you halfway through?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Does Anyone Else Feel This Way (Or Have Ideas For Those Who Do)?

Dear Abby advised LONELY IN A CROWD, a holistic health practitioner who feels lonely and needs someone to talk to about his own feelings. 

He says, in part:
DEAR ABBY: I have been a holistic health-care and healing practitioner for 10 years. I love my work and being in a helping profession. I'm the one who is always there for everyone who needs help. A good portion of my work is as a counselor, teacher and shoulder to cry on.

My problem? I'm lonely. I have multiple health issues and struggle with money. I need someone to talk with about me and how I'm feeling. Whenever I find a counselor, member of the clergy, teacher, etc., I end up being the counselor, teacher, listener, whatever.

Read the rest at:


and let me know your thoughts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Just wondering what you all are hearing/feeling about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, which are taking place throughout the USA and the world.

(for those needing a quick overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street )
The NASW President has written the following letter on this topic:

10 Things Social Workers Have In Common With The Occupy Wall Street Protests
Robert Schachter, DSW, LMSW
Executive Director
National Association of Social Workers,
New York City Chapter (NASW-NYC)
October 11, 2011

A lot has been going on three blocks from the NASW-NYC office at Zuccotti Park, located at Liberty Street between Broadway and Church Street, since the middle of September. At its core it is an encampment of protesters but has also become a destination for support demonstrations, including a recent 10,000 person march of union members, community groups and ordinary New Yorkers.

Inspired by the Wall St. protest, similar encampments have been springing up in cities throughout the country including San Francisco, Washington, DC, Seattle and Los Angeles. It is common for the media to ignore demonstrations, even when they are massive, so it is noteworthy that they are paying attention.

According to the website, occupywallstreet.org, Occupy Wall Street “is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions.” As stated on the site, “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1% . . .”.

What exactly the objectives are may depend on who is being quoted or what news coverage is reflecting, but it is reasonable to discern that the demonstrators are determined to hold financial institutions and corporations, as symbolized by the phrase “Wall Street”, accountable for the current financial crisis that began in 2008 and the growing economic inequality in the United States.

While there are likely to be differences about the best way to seek change, there can be little doubt that many Americans, and New Yorkers more specifically, share the concerns of the protesters about the impact of the economy on individuals and families, the lack of accountability for the crisis, and the prospect of any beneficial change in the near future.

For social workers, the worsening economic conditions of the past three years have only added to the significant challenges faced by the communities that the profession serves. Whether explicitly articulated by Occupy Wall Street or not, the following 10 points reflect common realities that the protesters, New York’s communities, and the social work profession have collectively experienced:

1. The country has been experiencing the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression in the 1930s, caused in part by extraordinarily risky investment practices that put major financial institutions at risk of collapse, with world-wide impact.

2. The federal government has been far more willing to bail out the financial sector than to help low income people and a vulnerable middle class. Attempts to tighten regulations on risky investments are being resisted by the financial sector and by many in Congress.

3. The United States has engaged in two enormously costly wars in the Middle East without raising revenues to pay for them. The total cost over the past 10 years has been estimated at $2.5 trillion.

4. The President and Congress agreed to cut $2.5 trillion in programs over the next 10 years, with more cuts being considered. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other important social programs are being targeted.

5. We now have the highest poverty level in US since 1993, with 46.2 million people living in poverty in 2010, or 15% of the population. This is up from 11.7% in 2000. In New York City the poverty rate is 20%.

6. Unemployment in the US is over 9%, and this number is much higher when those who have given up looking for a job is considered. Joblessness wreaks havoc on individuals and families, both economically and in terms of mental health, including the experience of sustained stress and depression.

7. New York’s lawmakers passed a budget in the Spring that includes $10 billion in cuts that fall disproportionately on low income communities, including a $2.85 billion reduction in Medicaid. Proposals to raise significant revenues through taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers were rejected.

8. Nationally, health insurance premiums rose 9% in the past year in spite of passing a national health reform law, a law that assures higher profits for insurance companies. The number of uninsured is now 49.9 million.

9. The principles of democracy are undermined by the influence of corporate wealth in the political arena, resulting in both major parties being dependent on their contributions, making the possibility of significant change less likely to come from electoral politics (as important as this is). That the US Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of unlimited corporate spending on campaigns is further evidence of the threat to electoral democracy.

10. The social work profession itself is at risk as services and social work jobs are cutback for communities that are suffering from the current economic conditions. Given the current state of politics today, with a focus on cutbacks with no new revenue, the social work profession will be significantly challenged while the need for services increases.

The bottom line for us is that the real needs of people are not being addressed. And there are a lot more issues involved than what has been enumerated above.
There come times when protest and demonstrations play a critical role when other institutions are not up to the task, as evidenced by what has been unfolding across the Middle East. If Occupy Wall Street continues, it can prove to be a valuable moment for our future.

Social workers will make their own decisions as to whether to join with the protesters and the demonstrations that may continue. Demonstrations carry certain risks, even when the intention is to be peaceful, but those risks are often necessary to seek change.

Please weigh in with what you see happening with these issues and Occupy Wall Street.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dual Degrees

I've been hearing lately that more and more social workers either return to school for a degree in another field or earn dual degrees (such as MSW/JD program -Masters of Social Work and Law degrees).

Any thoughts or experiences with such? Do you think this is awful because we may lose social workers to other fields or does the social work background enhance those other fields? Have YOU done this?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Is It Genetic?

Just about 18 months ago, I had the lucky fortune of being able to sit around a table with a handful of relatives, spanning 4 generations. As we flipped through handed-down photo albums and tried to identify the people in the yellowed photos, I was writing down the memories being shared about each person. I began to notice a pattern; this side of my family tree had a surprisingly large number of people involved in social work.

It's caused me to wonder whether there may be some predisposition to our field. I'm not thinking just about who has attended a collegiate program or who has a license, I'm also considering who was known around the family (or around town) for being the go-to problem-solver, the one to turn to with problems, the one who took in the orphans, etc.

Do any of you have other social workers or those who were known for being "helpers" in your families?

Friday, September 23, 2011

What Makes a Social Work Supervisor “Great?”

A new school year has begun and thus begins another round of interns for me. For the first time, I have social work interns, which I am really excited about, though I also have more nursing students and I am thrilled to improve upon the experience I gave to last year’s students. In NY, anyone supervising social work interns must complete a 2-semester course on supervision in field instruction (SIFI), which I attended the first session of last week, before the interns began.

Let me be very blunt… in the first SIFI class, I couldn’t figure out why I had to be there or what the teacher could teach me, considering that this class was meant for beginners. I have a teaching background, after all, and I’d mapped out an entire plan for my students months ago. I’d considered my personal experiences in internships, I’d chatted with former classmates about their internship experiences, I’d read articles about supervision, I’d made sure the internship binder I’d created was labeled and had proper tabs and was color-coded, I had their ID badges laminated and set out on my desk the day before their first day. I.Was.Set. …

Until the students arrived.

Suddenly, I found myself being asked logical questions for which I didn’t have all of the answers. I was given paperwork from the school that asked for information I didn’t have. The assignments in the binder didn’t match up as perfectly as I’d hoped to the clients’ choice to come to our agency at any given time. In short, I went from feeling on top of the world, Madame Preparation, to feeling like I was starting the race from 10 feet behind, Mrs. Oh… I Hadn’t Thought of That.
Well, we’re now a few internship days in and things are beginning to settle down. Anxiety levels are dropping for all involved and the students are beginning to ask questions and follow them up with ideas on how to make things better than the answer provided to them. Clients are becoming more familiar with new faces and are starting to open up. Those fancy binders I worked so hard on are now becoming living works, being altered and tweaked as life requires.

But no matter the ease we’re baby-stepping into, I remain humbled by the experience. So I write to you all this week with my mouth shut, ready to listen to what the genius SIFI professor has to teach me, ready to listen to what my quick-thinking interns teach me through their experiences and questions, and ready to listen to your thoughts on what makes a supervisor great.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What About Us?

Over the past decade or two, many companies have been playing around with the traditional 9-5 working hours to gain a feel for what makes sense both for the company's bottom line and for its employees. Flextime, self-regulated vacation time, and 4 10-hour day work weeks have become more common, and many are now considering having one or more of those options to be a necessity when seeking work.

Some companies have reported that such options create happier employees, which makes them more loyal and more productive, which is worth it to the company in the big picture.

Could such ever work in Social Work? To be honest, there's a huge part of me that likes the idea of working Monday-Thursday and having 3 day weekends, even if it meant 10 hour days for the other 4. There's an even bigger part of me that likes the idea of flextime allowing me to not start work until 10 or 11, even if it meant working until 6 or 7.

For me, this sounds awesome... but then, I say that as someone who doesn't have to pay for after-school care for children and as someone who is naturally a night owl.

What do you think? Would your personal life be improved or suffer if your company began such protocol? How do you think it would impact your clients?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Your Dream Job


I just finished reading this article, “How to find time to pursue your dream job while making money in order to support it” by Carolyn Kepcher, a major force in the business world and famous for being on “The Apprentice” as a judge with Donald Trump.

It has me thinking about us and about how much our jobs are what we want and how much is what we feel forced to settle for. It’s tough not to be realistic; the government pays us very very little for doing our jobs well, which will save them a ton a ton of money. Our budgets continue to get cut so jobs are tough to find and it’s tough not to just feel grateful to be offered a job at all in this economy. We’re told every day to do more with less and suddenly, working with a coworker you don’t absolutely hate or actually getting a 12 minute lunch break almost feels like a dream.

But what was your dream job before you took your first job? Before your first internship? Before you were snapped into the realities of this field? Did you hope to change your community? Did you want to become a supervisor? Maybe we can’t have every bit of what we wanted when we were too na├»ve to understand the realities of this profession, but maybe we can work together to find ways to help each other achieve at least some piece of that initial dream. Maybe it’s too broad a goal to change your community, but maybe you can schedule a volunteer time to help clean up the local park. Maybe politics or the economy or a million other things mean a rough road to becoming a supervisor in your company, but you can supervise interns from a nearby university. Maybe you can mentor a new social worker or supervise kids in an after-hours program at the nearby youth center.

Maybe there’s something you can do to help others find a way to incorporate a piece of their dream and somehow find a piece of yours in the process. The only way to know is to try!

Friday, September 2, 2011

How Would I Have Handled This Client?


I just finished reading this story, sent to me by the blogger. When I was in my first MSW elective course (Social Work and Women), I wrote a paper on endometriosis. This woman’s story has me thinking about it again.

How would a social worker have seen this person, had she been a client? Had she been thought of as the medical doctors first did, as an attention-seeking teen? Would she have been trusted as misdiagnosed or would she have been diagnosed with a mental disorder like Munchhausen? Later, would she have been counseled and cheered for her bravery or would she have been diagnosed as depressed, perhaps prescribed an anti-depressant?

Much like medical doctors, social workers often have over-sized client loads, and we’re taught to be on the lookout for certain red flags. We’re taught that, when we hear hooves and see a flowing mane to look for the common horses, not for the rare zebras. Kristi was a zebra… someone vibrant and wanting to live, someone craving activity and happiness and someone whose body didn’t allow it.

Cleveland Clinic estimates approximately 5.5 million women in the US have endometriosis. 30-40% are infertile. There is no cure. As I write this blog, I cannot help but wonder how often social workers and other mental health professionals have misinterpreted suffers literal and metaphoric cries for help.

Unlike cancer or addictions or grief, there is no chance of a cure and time doesn’t make the pain subside. Funding for this illness is small, so it may be a while, but I hope a cure is found and the endo sisters of the world may someday find peace… and I hope social workers are able to be part of their support system in the meantime.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Please Be Patient

Kryss is currently stranded, in a hotel out of state, due to Hurricane Irene. Her weekly blogs will resume this Friday, 9/2.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Therapy for All?

Somewhere, among all the professors I had in the MSW process, someone told me that they believed all social workers should be in therapy. At the time, I thought the person was joking as the idea of a therapist seeing a therapist seemed silly. Now, I wonder if there's truth in that and, if so, whether we make easier or more difficult clients than non-social workers.

For example, is it better to come in with a guess as to our own GAF score or is that something we can never presume to know because we are too close to the subject? Are we more or less likely to self-diagnose or to attempt to justify or explain away our behaviors?

What do YOU think? Should all social workers be seeing a professional? Should all professionals be warned about taking on social workers as clients?

SW 2.0 Column Sneak Peek - Virtual Clinical Practice

Folks, I'm really excited to be profiling Nancy Smyth, LCSW, Ph.D., and Mike Langlois, LICSW. Both Nancy and Mike practice what is commonly called virtual social work or virtual clinical practice. They both use a variety of computer games and interactive online spaces, such as Second Life, in their social work practice.

For example, here's Nancy talking about the power of virtual placemaking with the International Transgender Hate Crimes and Suicide Memorial in Second Life:
The power of virtual immersive platforms becomes really clear when you find a place in a virtual world that really uses the environment effectively. The International Transgender Hate Crimes and Suicide Memorial provides an excellent example of such a space. To start, the memorial is a peaceful, visually appealing place: a beautiful building and surrounding green space, with the sound of waves crashing at the shore. The dark granite walls, reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, lend a somber tone to the space and the feeling of being in a protected enclave.

Upon entering the building you encounter an alter filled with pink and blue candles. This is the memorial for transgendered people who have died from suicide. Each candle has a name associated with it and when you click on the candle a description of what happened to that person comes up in the chat. I clicked on quite a few of the candles: the tragedy of these deaths comes through loud and clear. Nearby the altar is a box where you can submit a request to light a candle for someone.

Read the rest of Nancy's post here.

Here's Mike explaining Gaming Affirmative Therapy:

You can watch Mike talk more about gaming affirmative therapy here.

What do you want to learn about virtual clinical practice? In what ways can these practices help our clients, or respond to our clients already using these technologies in new ways? How can social workers incorporate virtual clinical social work into their practice?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Workplace, Longer Life…

I just finished reading this article and it got me thinking… what am I doing, heck, what are any of us doing, to make our workplace happier?

Around my office, we find little ways to enjoy the day or to help others enjoy the day; treats brought to work, offering to pick up coffee for each other, that sort of thing. We do pretty well with being understanding when someone has a sick child or when a person’s train has made them late. Sure, we still have our disagreements and there are times we probably want to throttle each other, but it’s a pretty nice set of women to work with.

In a way, I suppose we’re lucky in this field. So many professions are based on numbers, on who gets the sale, on who’s up for promotion to partner, etc. In our field, most of us don’t have positions with such competition, so we’re not as required to be as cutthroat. We don’t need to seek out each other’s weaknesses for exploitation or to be afraid someone else will steal a rich client if we take a sick day. I really love that about this field.

In what ways do YOU and your coworkers help to make for a happy workplace?

Friday, August 5, 2011


I don't know if it's my insatiable love of learning or some level of insanity, but I've been researching PhD and DSW programs. I love the idea of learning more, the structured environment with deadlines and such speaks to the side of my "type a personality," and I feel like it might be wiser to pursue now, before I'm too busy with the rest of life to have the time.

But here's where I've discovered is the difficulty... programs seem to only want students with at least 3 years post-MSW, some require an LCSW, and few offer coursework that doesn't require you to leave your paying job in order to attend classes.

Some argue that they're both unnecessary in the field of social work, that there's no real benefit in earning either unless you plan to become a tenured professor. They say that it doesn't take a doctorate to be a therapist, a case manager, or the other often-common positions in our field. They say the salary boost doesn't make up for the extra student loans and that programs seldom offer scholarships or grants to cover the costs.

After hearing so many nay-sayers, I wonder what you all think... does a social worker with a doctorate earn more or have more clout where YOU work? Do YOU have a doctorate? Have YOU considered it?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Changes Around NYC

Whew! There have been some big changes happening around here since I last blogged... we've had temperatures over 100* and same sex marriage began to take effect!

First, thank goodness for all of the communities throughout the country who have been setting up cooling centers, giving out bottles of cold water, and otherwise doing whatever they're able to help keep the fragile members of their neighborhoods healthy during this time of extreme temperature! It's so wonderful to see people stepping up to help just because the need is there.

Second, as it's no secret where I (and the NASW) stand on the issue of same sex marriage, YAY for this! As more states legalize equality, I'm interested to see how our profession changes. Will our textbooks include more chapters on marriage therapy within same sex couples? Will our children & families texts have sections on same sex parents? Or will research show that there isn't much difference between couples and families of the same or opposing genders? Will more schools offer a focus in LGBT issues the way some offer for women's studies, gerontology, adolescents, etc.?

In the past two weeks, a city known for its size, its garbage piles, its supposed rudeness experienced 2 major threats to its people in terms of weather and bigotry. As someone living in the midst of it, I can tell you only what I saw. I witnessed elders playing in fountains with children in an attempt to cool off. I observed businesses handing out free ice water to overheated commuters. I viewed LGBT people become legally wed. I looked on while heterosexual people cheered for the newlyweds.

Perhaps the sidewalks feel tiny and the crowds massive, perhaps there are garbage piles, perhaps New Yorkers are more blunt and less hesitant to use curse words in regular speech, but certainly there is a sense of pride and of love here in NYC. I hope you feel it wherever you are!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Kryss is busy helping with the safety of senior citizens during the NYC heatwave which is bringing temperatures over 104* (heat index is over 115*). She will return next week with a new blog entry. In the meantime, here is a great interview by a fellow social worker, Suze Orman.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Bucket List

Hi All! I am beyond thrilled to be back, but I have to tell you, even more thrilling was crossing a goal off my list (to relax more often). It reminded me of this recent article: http://www.socialworkersspeak.org/cheers-and-jeers/doing-the-bucket-list.html

So now I’m wondering about bucket lists… from the time I was about 6 years old, I’ve had a “life goals list.” I’ve kept it written down and have added to it and crossed things off. It’s funny to read what my priorities were at different ages and it’s been a nice gift to myself that every goal has been attainable. Whether it’s “have my own room” or “complete a Master’s degree,” it’s been very rewarding for me to achieve and, to be honest, finally having my own bedroom at age 19 (first college apartment) felt just as monumental as graduation day. There’s just something about reaching a new milestone!

The longer I am in this post-school world, the more I realize how important this goal-setting process is. From our first moments post-conception through our final graduation, we have goals that are set for us; how many weeks along we’ve reached as a fetus, at what age we began to toddle, each report card in grade school, each term’s GPA in college, graduation. And then the abyss… or rather, the potential to feel as if everything else is just one day after the next. It’s been tricky for me to get the hang of, I won’t lie.

Here I am now, learning… learning to create new challenges and goals for myself, learning to find ways of not measuring myself by quarters or semesters or report cards or GPAs, learning to strike a new balance. For example, on my first day back from vacation, my goal was to meet with each staff member to check-in and to return emails and phone calls. Sure, I could have let myself be overwhelmed with the mounds of paperwork, but I could step back and recognize that as a goal for another day. At the end of the day, I walked out with all three of those goals met. I didn’t save the world or alter anyone’s life, but I felt pretty accomplished. Now? Well, now it’s onto that mound of paperwork! Tomorrow? *shrug* I’m thinking either sky-diving or reorganizing the office supply closet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Must I Un-Friend Facebook? Exploring the Ethics of Social Media

The ethics article in the Summer 2011 issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER addresses ethical issues related to social networking.  Is it possible to be a "blank slate" therapist in the era of social media?  Is it desirable or necessary for social workers to remove themselves from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites?  What are the ethical implications of NOT staying up-to-date and current on these technologies, which may be a big part of clients' lives?  Is there a happy medium?

Read the article at http://bit.ly/nPhATM and post your comments here.  We would like to hear your thoughts.

Linda Grobman, ACSW, LSW

Summer 2011 Issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER Magazine Available Now!

Happy Summer 2011! Congratulations to all new social work graduates! The digital edition of the Summer 2011 issue of The New Social Worker magazine is now ready to download. It is available, free of charge, in PDF format, directly from The New Social Worker Web site.

To download the Summer 2011 issue, go to:

Then click on "Download." If the file opens in your Web browser, just click on "Save a Copy" or "File>Save Page as" and save the file to a location on your computer's hard drive.

If you have difficulty with the above link, here is another download link:

Articles from this issue are also available on our Web site (http://www.socialworker.com) in Web format.

Also, don't forget that THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER is now available in a full-color, high quality PRINT edition! If you love the feeling of holding your very own print copy of your magazine in your hands, you can purchase print copies of this issue and previous issues from:

Here are some highlights from this issue:

• Student Role Model: Cristen Cravath (in PDF version only)

• Ethics: Must I Un-Friend Facebook?

• Field Placement: Making the Workplace (or Field Placement) Work For You

• Featured Article: Peace Corps Master's International Program

• Tips for Making Home Visits in Child Welfare

• Understanding Care Coordination

• Beyond Housing

• Turtles

• SW 2.0: I Want You To Be Part of This Experience: Kickstarter

• Congrats to Recent Social Work Grads!

• Kryss Meets Career: 10 Things I've Learned in My First Post-MSW Job

• Book Reviews

...and more!

Did you know that when you read THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER in PDF format on your computer, you can click through to items as you read about them? Most URLs and e-mail addresses throughout the magazine are clickable. Give it a try!

Please visit our advertisers for this issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER. They are:
• Temple University Harrisburg—http://www.temple.edu/harrisburg
• Child Welfare Information Gateway—http://www.childwelfare.gov
• Erikson Institute—http://www.erikson.edu/dualdegree
• USC School of Social Work—http://msw.usc.edu/newsocialworker
• Licensure Exams Inc.—http://socialworkexam.com

If you are looking for a professional social work job, or looking to hire a social worker, be sure to visit our online job site, SocialWorkJobBank.com (http://www.socialworkjobbank.com) today. Employers now have new options to post jobs to additional job boards in our network and to take advantage of monthly job posting specials.

Please let your colleagues, classmates, and/or students know about THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER, and the fact that it is a FREE social work resource. You can subscribe free to receive notifications of future issues  at http://www.socialworker.com/home/menu/Subscribe/

Friday, July 1, 2011

Following Through

As frequent readers discovered in my June 10th blog, I confessed to not being so great at taking time away and I pledged to work at correcting this.

With that in mind, I am taking a vacation... my first since I began this position in November, 2010.

Granted, I'm still me, so of course, I'll be spending a great deal of time with one of my social work (and life) mentors and I'll be reading a couple of books and writing their reviews for The New Social Worker Magazine.

But I promise, I'll make sure to spend some time on a jet ski, to put my toes in the sand, and to sleep in :)

There will be no post from Kryss on July 8th while she enjoys her vacation, but she plans to resume her weekly posting on July 15.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


This week is a big week here in NYC. It's Pride Week, a week full of pro-LGBT activities and events, a week full of public displays of love, a week full of hope. It's also a week when the NY Senate is likely bringing same-sex marriage to a vote. They need 32 votes to allow it. Right now, there are 31 confirmed votes in favor. There are a few undecided voters, who are being bombarded with urging from both sides and the rest are Republicans, known to vote against such, who are likely considering what vote fits with their beliefs and their career goals. Needless to say, love and what defines love is on the minds of many here in New York City this week.

And then I stumbled upon this; http://www.thekidsarelistening.org/

This website sums up everything, in my opinion. In addition, there is a place on the main page for people to sign a pledge. The pledge reads:

"Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I'll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I'll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that "It Gets Better."

From there, a person can sign this pledge, identifying themselves as a legal/court professional, a social service provider, an adult, or an LGBT youth. There are also options to become more involved in your community's equality movement.

I don't know what each of you readers believe and I feel that we're all entitled to whatever beliefs we hold true, as long as they don't harm others. I also believe in the NASW Code of Ethics. In both cases, this lends only to equality. We cannot believe that it does not harm youth to say bigoted words, we cannot believe that it does not harm society to have laws making a group of people less than another group, and we cannot sit back and do nothing when we know this is happening.

Our Code of Ethics says this;

Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical disability.

(NASW Code of Ethics, 105.c.)

I hope that you will stand with me in the promotion of equality and of speaking up for the LGBT youth whose voices aren't yet strong enough to speak for themselves.

EDIT at 10:56pm, 6/24: NY becomes the 6th state to legalize same sex marriage. May there be 44 others close behind.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Did You See This?!

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter "Melanie" is finishing her master's degree in social work. She's excited about pursuing her future career; however, when we tell our friends about her, we get disappointing -- and sometimes, hurtful -- responses. Some samples: "Whose idea was that?!" "You know she's going to starve, don't you?" "Oh ... they don't make much money," and, "I'm sorry!" These comments come from people with whom we've had warm relationships for years.

We know our daughter won't be rich. That's not her objective. We're proud of Melanie's choice and how hard she has prepared. We think she'll be a wonderful social worker. We have always been supportive of our friends' children and their choices. Is there a way to respond to these people without being rude? -- PROUD PARENTS IN DES MOINES

You should be proud. You have raised a daughter who will make an important contribution to the lives of those she touches. When someone makes a thoughtless comment such as the ones you mentioned, tell them what you wrote to me: "We're proud of our daughter's choice and how hard she has worked to prepare. We know she'll be a wonderful social worker." Period.

Read more at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ucda/20110618/lf_ucda/starinhisgirlfriendseyestriggersboyfriendsjealousy;_ylt=ArW9RsGTN8OH7d6mN1cizS3NbbUC;_ylu=X3oDMTNxMnBhcXY4BGFzc2V0A3VjZGEvMjAxMTA2MTgvc3RhcmluaGlzZ2lybGZyaWVuZHNleWVzdHJpZ2dlcnNib3lmcmllbmRzamVhbG91c3kEcG9zAzcEc2VjA3luX3BhZ2luYXRlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDc3RhcmluaGlzZ2ly

Friday, June 17, 2011

Technology and Social Work

This week, I bought a new phone... my first smart phone, my first android. And I don't have a clue how to use it.

Apparently, according to the manual, it can do everything from checking my work email to syncing my work calendar to making breakfast for me, if I know how to program it to tell it to do so.

I'm all for technology. I'm all for automating things so that what once required 3 photocopies of a form can now be done completely electronically. I'm all for internet searches saving me from a trip to the library. I'm all for webinars and video conferences and call waiting and the whole deal. Probably (hopefully), at some point, I will be all for these fancy pocket computer phones... once I figure this thing out.

But it leads me to wonder about technology and social work. As a staff member on socialworkchat.org, I have loved and gained benefit from twice weekly chats with professionals far more advanced in a field I was just beginning. I have loved message boards that helped me decide where to apply to social work school, websites with test prep information, and blogs like this one. We have so many technological resources now than at any other time in social work history.

But is this a good thing? In a profession that is often based on tone of voice and body language, is it good for us to spend so much time using a screen to obtain information and to bond or is this preventing us from spending as much time face-to-face with others?

What technologies do you use? What are you hoping comes in our social work future?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SW 2.0 Column Sneak Peek - Mother's Red Dress Film

UPDATE (6/16/11): The archived chat from last night can be found here.

Folks, the next sw 2.0 column (archives here) will focus on Kickstarter, a really cool web site that helps one raise funds for creative projects.

Here's a peek at one of the projects using Kickstarter to be profiled in the article, a social issue film called Mother's Red Dress that explores how one family attempts to cope with the effects of domestic violence:

There are only a couple more days to support this film on Kickstarter! If you are interested in learning more you can chat with John Paul Rice, one of the filmmakers, live tonight at 6pm PST (9pm EST, click here to chat), or visit their Kickstarter page.

I hope you are as excited about this project as I am and look for the article coming soon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Confession

Last week was the first week since I was asked to begin blogging here that I didn't write. Last Friday, for the first time since I started this 1st post-MSW job 8+ months ago, I took a vacation day. It made me realize that I am not very good at practicing what I preach.

In many industries, vacation time is easy; someone else fills in the paperwork, someone else crunches the numbers, someone else removes a gall bladder, someone else mops the floors. In our field though, we're not so easily interchanged or separated from our clients. Many times, our clients don't want to share their secrets and their stories with anyone except us, the person they have built trust with. Many times, that leads us to work through our personal pain, our desire to relax, or to skip the vacation time with loved ones. We fear leaving our clients, our coworkers, our offices, our paperwork. So we stay. We work during times of divorce, too soon after medical procedures, far past the hours we are paid, and we miss out on making memories with others in our personal lives in order to help clients heal from the painful memories they've made.

It's a bit like being a superhero; putting the world first, saving the universe one client at a time, right? Realistically though, it is perhaps the worst thing we can do for our clients and for the world.

We work in a field with little pay, little public support, often little community support, high crime, high risk, high stress, and with too-heavy workloads. It's not surprising that our burnout rate is so high. But maybe the vaccine for that is to try to be our own advocate when it comes to vacations, meal breaks, and healing time. Maybe we need to step up for ourselves, even when it goes against our initial instinct, and force ourselves to step back, to breathe, and to regroup.

As I said, this isn't something I'm by any means an expert about, but I'm going to try harder and I hope, by writing about it here, and with this new awareness, that I'll get better at it as I go along.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Future

As a new social worker (or rather, a new MSW/LMSW... I'd argue that most social workers have been such since their youth, they just didn't have the credentials yet), I'm also new to the experience of being an intern's supervisor.

When I began my current position, I requested and submitted intern request paperwork to several schools. I loved the idea of getting to assist others as they learn and grow in this profession. Due to unexpected circumstances, I ended up with 3 interns, none of whom I had more than a few days notice about before their first day. They're finishing now (after about 12 weeks), but I'm looking back and attempting to figure out how to better prepare future interns to succeed.

Much like one's first clients, I worry about first interns. I understand that, as humans, we all learn from experience, and through trial and error. As a social worker and a teacher of sorts, I wonder whether that's unfair to the first. I think about my own internship experiences and I recall worrying about whether I was ready to counsel, to treat, to even speak to a client.

It's a tricky thing, the way professions like ours work. On one hand, we always want the most experienced doctor/therapist/teacher, on the other, we understand that the cycle of allowing others to gain experience is part of life.

I sort of hoped, as I pondered while I wrote this, that I'd come to some grand conclusion of how to best prepare my future interns, how to miraculously obtain decades of supervision experience, or even how to reassure them that they're able to handle it all as they complete their internships. I still don't have any of those answers other than that, perhaps part of the growth is in asking the questions.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Branching Out

Tonight, I watched the documentary Becoming Chaz, the film chronicling Sonny and Cher's daughter Chastity as he became legally and surgically their son Chaz. Although the film's purpose is to cover the transition period, it also showed viewers a window into his romantic relationship with his female partner, the way each of the couple explained the transition to their families and friends, and the way the media covers such topics. It really got me to thinking about how wonderful it'd be if everyone saw such a documentary, or at least if every social worker did... especially those who believe they'll never work with a trans person.

As social workers, we spend a great deal of time in school and then, when we're done, we're required to spend time in CEUs, many of which we choose based on their location, the times they're offered, and/or on how closely they relate to our specific job tasks.

I wonder how many of us think outside the box. How many choose CEU classes based on something that has nothing to do with their jobs? Who chooses the classes on children when they work with elders? Who chooses a course on teen moms when their job deals with hospital patients? Much as many may deny it, for as busy as we all are, I think it's only natural to sometimes feel that the CEU class you have scheduled for an evening after you've worked a full day is annoying or a burden. (Quite frankly, I wish we as social workers had more free time and more free money so we could be properly pampered and less inclined to burn out.)

So I encourage you to branch out. I'm not suggesting you spend your spare pennies on more CEUs than you're required to take, but consider alternatives. Watch a documentary. Attend a benefit. Visit an art exhibit. Read an article, a book, or new research. Choose something you know nothing about and remove at least the most surface level of that ignorance.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What They Aren't Saying But Are DEFINITELY Thinking...

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-Things-Your-Boss-Isnt-usnews-493657782.html?x=0 This article is called 10 Things Your Boss Isn't Telling You.

In the article, the author discusses things that your boss might not write on your evaluation or call you into a meeting about but that are effecting her/his view of you and your ability to do the job.

This leads me to wonder, what do you wish you were able to tell a co-worker? What do you wish someone would have told you sooner? How might you have benefited had you had the information sooner?

Friday, May 6, 2011

What is a "Mother?"

As Mothers' Day approaches, I am reminded of a scene in the Broadway show La Cage aux Folles in which the characters debate what constitutes a mother. One character essentially states that a mother is the person who gives birth to you, the other argues that this isn't at all his definition. He counters that a mother worries about the tiniest threads of your life, someone who senses that you need them without being told, someone who puts you first, and as someone who loves you more than all of the loves you've ever had in your life.

As social workers, we frequently deal with family units and we practice under the Code of Ethics, which acknowledges differences and demands that we be both sensitive and open-minded regarding the differences of others.

For as often as single mothers on tv sometimes are shown discussing how she is both the mother and the father, it's interesting how rare it is that media shows other versions of "mothers."

That said, I hope everyone will take a moment this weekend to thank the mothers in your life. Whether they are biological parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, a trusted female who isn't a blood relative, a father who served as a mother-figure, a pair of mothers raising a child together, or any other type of person who takes on a maternal role, each one deserves acknowledgment and thanks... after all, where would we be without them?!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Keeping in Touch

How many of you are still in touch with your social work classmates? With social workers you no longer work with? Whom you’ve met at conferences, rallies, sit-ins, meetings, or CEU classes?

It seems like an odd conundrum to me, socializing with fellow social workers. On one hand, the work we do is often completely emotionally draining. We often give so much of ourselves that we either burn out or need to be taught skills to avoid burning out. Logically, why would we want to think or talk social work in our precious free time? On the other hand though, we are people who hear the world’s problems on a micro, mezzo, and macro level each day. We get sworn at and spit on. We fight City Hall. We struggle to pay our own bills so we can make donations to those in greater need. Who else could better understand why we do this than each other?

This past Tuesday, I had the incredible pleasure of spending the evening with two of the social workers I admire most of all. Collectively, we had almost 100 years of social work experience (admittedly, 97% of that didn’t come from me). Together, we dined and then saw the incredible Broadway show La Cage aux Folles, which is, in a sense, a very “social worky” show. (Based on the film, The Birdcage, the show involves a gay couple who own a transvestite nightclub and their son, who is marrying the daughter of a very conservative and homophobic politician. The story unfolds in how they each relate to each other and how those relationships impact the way they each see the world.)

Heading home from that evening, I got to thinking about the classmates I adored whom I’ve somewhat lost touch with, the former colleagues I’ve always meant to call, and the others I’ve met along the way. It’s tough, keeping in touch with everyone from every event, but perhaps, thanks to text messaging, facebook, skype, and other options, we ought to make more of an effort. After all, who else understands us better than we do?!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Body Art in the Workplace

As social workers, we're taught (and our Code of Ethics mandates) that we are to focus on the person, to overlook one's skin tone, gender, socioeconomic status, relationship history, drug use, and behaviors and to use strengths perspectives and goal orientation to assist our clients in reaching their goals, regardless of our personal opinions of their choices.

Do we do this with our coworkers, subordinates, and superiors?

I was just reading this article http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,223178,00.html about Body Art and Tattoos in the Workplace an discovered that "about half of people in their 20s have either a tattoo or a body piercing other than traditional earrings, according to a study published in June in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology." In the article, which was written in 2006, an interview subject suggests that we're "about 10 years away" from living in a world where bosses don't bat an eye at body modifications. Considering the publication date, this means we're only about 5 years away. Does this seem realistic to you?

What does that mean for social work? When you think honestly, would you hold a boss in different esteem if s/he had visible piercings or tattoos? Would you choose to hire someone who had them? Do YOU have them? If you do, are they intentionally covered during working hours? Should they be?

So many questions... I can't wait to read your thoughts!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Frustration... Grrrr!

I must admit something to you all... I'm frustrated.

I'm frustrated by how many times I read news stories about children who are abused for years without a teacher/neighbor/friend reporting it, I'm frustrated by the lack of safety provided for social workers, I'm frustrated by the lack of chosen learning in uncomfortable or uncommon areas among social workers, and I'm frustrated that it sometimes appears that no one else cares.

Granted, I know the latter can't be true. I know that I'm among a professional group who have chosen this profession because we do care. I also know that much of the former may not be technically true either, or at least that it isn't so cut and dry. I know that agencies don't have more safety precautions because they simply cannot afford such, not because they don't care. I know that social workers may be uneducated or out of date on some topics because there are just too many topics to remain consistently updated on. I know that reports go unmade because people fear being wrong or they're afraid of the repercussions of filing a report.

I just feel like there has to be a better way. We live in a world where we can connect with each other through the click of a mouse, where we have access to communication with the leading experts on most everything! Rather than having to know about social work websites on our own, we can shoot a quick email to Susan Mankita or to Linda Grobman (the gurus of socialworkchat.org and The New Social Worker magazine, respectively). We don't need to know every detail about how to proceed with a client who has a transgender child, we can hit up Kim Pearson's facebook page (Executive Director of TYFA -TransYouth Family Allies). I don't know if a self-defense class could ever be counted for CEUs, but I'd venture to guess it'd be a great substitute for a gym workout for those who are working to stay fit.

My point here is this... let's all be more frustrated, let's get ridiculously frustrated even. Because we're social workers and by nature, by formal education, and by the way we work every day, frustration = results.

I encourage each of you to think about where your professional, personal, and safety knowledge is lacking and to get frustrated enough that you take a step or two to fill in those gaps.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Safety and Social Work

I just got finished watching an episode of the new show “Body of Proof,” a new show about a brain surgeon turned medical examiner and how she works with the police to figure out how her patients have died.

In this specific episode, one of her patients is a social worker. While I won’t reveal the ending, the episode considers how safe the victim was and whether any of the social work clients or coworkers may have caused the victim’s death. (to watch the episode for free, click here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/229614/body-of-proof-helping-hand#s-p1-so-i0 )

This episode is just another thing that has me thinking about social workers and our safety. On one hand, we know that we’ve chosen a career field that may put us in harm’s way. Some of us remove children from parents who have a history of abusing others, some work in crime-ridden areas in hopes of helping teens leave gangs, some work nights with violent sex offenders, and most of us work in areas that cause others to lock their doors when they drive through.

Sometimes, I think about the bouncers at the nightclub doors, the police officers who stand next to doormen at ritzy apartment buildings, and about the security guards in the shopping malls. I wonder whether social workers aren’t considered less important, less valuable than a club-goer, a rich Upper East Sider, or a pair of department store earrings. I wonder why we are required to pay small fortunes and take daunting tests to be permitted to work in our fields but there are no options (or even requirements) to complete self-defense training. I wonder why we learn how to protect our clients from their addictions, their abusers, their fears, and their relapses, but we’re not taught how to protect ourselves.

I freely admit that I don’t have the answers for these problems. I don’t know how to afford a police detail or even a trained security guard for agencies that are already barely making financial ends meet. I don’t know how to require documented ID from every senior citizen who wants to attend a center without the risk of losing the undocumented and the most private of seniors. I don’t know where the money would come from to double staff so that no social worker makes a home visit alone.

It just seems wrong to me that we simply accept things as they are. It seems wrong that we let our coworkers and ourselves continue on this path of crossing their fingers before each work day and of hoping that the system has created an intake form that will truly give us warning when a client is dangerous. There has to be more that we can do.

I hope you’ll share your ideas, tips, and solutions. Be safe, Everyone!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Line Between "Social Worker" and "Person"

For those who don’t know, I am the Program Director of a social service agency that serves low-income senior citizens in a housing community within Queens, New York (NYC-area). On a daily basis, I am surrounded by seniors who have raised their children, who have fought in our wars, who have spent 50+ years working, and all of whom have a small enough income to qualify for housing assistance.

Of course, I have my beliefs about that situation as a whole (which I’m sure most of you echo), but the question of this post is focused on the difficulties in drawing the line between work and self.

Although I live on a social worker’s salary (and have a social worker’s amount of student loan debt), I have chosen to live a life that sacrifices in some areas (roommates vs. living alone, for example). This allows me to have a bit of extra money sometimes. While I work as hard for my money as the next person, and while I fully believe in the freedom to spend as the earner so chooses, I sometimes feel guilty for spending on luxuries when I know how little my clients have. In some ways, it’s a wonderful encouragement; helping me to remain focused on contributing regularly to my retirement and savings accounts in hopes of procuring a more financially lucrative future for myself when I become a senior. In other ways though, I struggle with finding the line between nurturing myself in ways I have earned and feeling a sense of remorse when spending money on items I don’t really need.

Am I alone in this? If not, how do you all combat this juxtaposition?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Politics, Education, and You

I just read these articles




and it got me to thinking...

How many of our social work school programs teach up-to-date information on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population? How many of us take it upon ourselves to regularly update our education on the issues that are specific to this group?

It's estimated that 1/10 of the population falls into this category, so the odds are pretty tiny that a social worker could practice for 30+ years and never encounter an LGBT client or a client dealing with stress related to an LGBT family member or friend.

One of my favorite things to do is to provide trainings on LGBT issues, to help educate social workers and anyone who wants to learn to become more familiar with everything from the politics to the correct terminology. On socialworkchat.org, we sometimes discuss these issues as well and we know that NASW believes in treating all clients with an equal level of respect.

So I ask you, Reader, how much do you know? How prepared would you feel if a new client rapped on your office door and wanted to talk about these issues? More importantly, what are you doing to become better educated on a regular basis?

(I'm happy to help anyone with questions and will let you all know when our next socialworkchat.org chat topic will be focused on this population, so please ask your questions and contribute to the discussion by commenting below!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Inspiration and Encouragement


This article came out recently and discusses a social worker, Sarah Cox, who is a member of a volunteer team seeking out teenage prostitutes to help them into a safer situation. (She's seen in photograph 8 in the article) Sarah and I completed our MSWs together at Barry University not so long ago.

Reading this and seeing how my classmate and friend continues the principles we were taught not only inspires me to do more, to do good, to do better, it also encourages me to look outside the population I work with daily and to consider other groups or people I may be able to aid.

What inspires and encourages you, Social Workers? What reminds you to step up or to speak out?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Social Work in Our Personal Lives

Does Social Work creep into your personal life? Isn't that a guarantee?!

As social workers, people with a skill-set for problem solving, for compromise, and for hearing what isn't being said, are we in a position to be better partners in romantic relationships? Are we better parents? Better friends to have?

Are we destined to always feel a tad frustrated that we're always the ones who remains calm in an argument with a loved one, the person who looks for the real reason behind the emotion, the person who hears the "I'm scared and trying to protect myself by pushing you away, please don't let me" in the awful words being said. I wonder if it's easier for social workers to date each other, if the communication is more open, if the partners are better at finding the truth behind the words.

Are we, by nature of the field we've chosen, more naturally introspective? Is that a requirement of being a truly great social worker? Are we more likely than non-social workers to journal, to see a therapist, or to find productive ways of dealing with our emotions?

Could being a social worker be detrimental to our personal lives? Could our skill-set cause us to spend too much time trying to improve on things that may not really need to be focused on? Can it lead us to becoming the martyrs or the doormats of the world? Can it cause us to be less able to walk away from a bad relationship because we see the potential in the abuser, the alcoholic, the unmotivated?

Where's the line between using one's clinical skills and self-preservation?

(Disclaimer: These are all questions I ponder and questions I can't wait to read comments on. But for those who know me, no worries, this isn't indicative of something going on in my own life) :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Save Our Senior Centers

I know that my posts come every Friday, however this is too important to wait...

There is a huge risk that Title XX funds will be eliminated in a vote next week, which financially support NYC area senior centers. If this happens, 105 SENIOR CENTERS WILL CLOSE and up to 10,000 older New Yorkers will lose their senior center.

We know that being active and having access to nutritious food allows seniors to live longer, healthier, happier lives, and this puts their lives in jeopardy. (To view a video of my senior center, which is at risk, and to see the faces of those who benefit from what senior centers provide, click here: http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,741816640001_2041380,00.html)


NYCers- Please come out to a rally to support our seniors and to encourage our politicians to vote to protect the Title XX funds. The Rally takes place Friday 3/11, 12:30pm, at HANAC Ravenswood Senior Center 3435A 12th St. Astoria, NY 11106

For those not residing in the NYC area, please print and sign a letter of support -found at the link below- and list my office as your address. (3435A 12th St. Astoria, NY 11106)

For a list of what else you can do: http://cscs-ny.org/advocacy/titleXX-budget-cut-section.php

For a list of which senior centers will close if the money is eliminated:

***Please forward this as often as possible and invite others to attend and send letters to help spread the word.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kryss Shane, L.M.S.W.


I know I normally post the week's blog entry earlier in the day, but today I was busy... taking the LMSW test. And I passed.

So, while it may take me some time to change business cards, replace the nameplates on my office door and desk, and to get used to my new signature, I thought I'd share a few tips for those who are preparing for their own test date.

1. The practice test is seriously crucial; it prepares you to understand how it works and several of the questions are almost identical to the practice test, so seeing their reasoning behind the answer (and knowing whether you can correctly answer the question) is huge… and very reassuring to find a question you already know when you’re mid-test.

I took it a week before I was going to test to get a good feel of whether I was ready, almost ready, or nowhere near ready and needed to spend the $30 to reschedule. For me, it was better to use as a measuring tool than as a study guide.

2. Study guides recommend that a test-taker be prepared for questions that deal with what you should do first or next, given a specific scenario. The key word (first or next) is written in capitalized, bolded letters. Pay attention. Most of the time, it comes down to 2 totally wrong and 2 maybe right answers. Of the 2 that might be correct, they’re probably both things you’d do but because it asks for an order, you can normally figure out which of the 2 makes sense to do 1st vs. 2nd, which gives you your answer.

3. Pay attention to the depression commercials, there are expected to be a few questions on what drug is used to treat what illness, but they’re meant to be basic so you’ll likely know the answer if you’ve seen the commercials for Paxil and such.

4. Some of the questions have wordy scenarios (“a social worker at another agency where you used to work works now with a supervisor of your colleague at an agency where you are applying…”) It helps to give the people names to keep track of who’s whom (“Jen who works at ABC Corp. now works with Stacey, who supervises Amy at XYZ. I am applying to work at XYZ.”)

5. There may be a few questions where the answer choices contain words or diagnoses you might not recognize at all. Rather than freaking out, narrow it down based on eliminating the answer options that you do know and words you have heard of that are clearly not correct. If the only answer remaining is the mystery word, it's likely that you can trust it because it couldn’t be the other choices.

6. The strategy that worked for me was to go through the test and mark anything I wasn’t sure about and just move on. I didn’t waste any time on those or worry about whether I should know the answer or whatnot. I went through and answered the ones I was certain of and marked anything I wasn’t completely sure of. That way, I could knock out what I knew and feel like a rockstar as I went because I knew. It also lowered my stress about the marathon that is 170 questions. From there, I went through each of the marked questions, which accounted for about 30. It was far easier for me to answer these now since a) I’d gotten used to the way questions were worded on the ones I did know well and b) tackling 30ish questions felt far less daunting than 170. Then I repeated this over and over, leaving me with fewer questions each time and spending more time on each. That way, for the last few, instead of feeling frustrated, I could focus on how much time I had left and knowing that it was the last bit before I was totally done.

7. At the end, you have to answer a survey about your test center before they tell you whether you passed. The feeling in your stomach that makes you kind of want to vomit right before you click to find out is, I’m pretty sure, normal.

8. Make sure to read the print out that the test center gives you as you leave, it has important info on it about what you need to do next and it’s a record to keep until you have your license in a frame on your wall.

PS Another great tip or two? Check out the preparation chat sessions at socialworkchat.org so you can have a review/learning session in your own home and, if you're lucky enough to live near Susan Mankita in South FL, take her prep class! (Thanks to all who studied with me during chat sessions and to Susan for all of her prep assistance -among a million other things)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Money Money Money Money... Money!

How does a University choose what to make a part of their mandatory curriculum, what to make optional, and what isn’t even offered in their course offerings book?

Personally, I’ve never understood why I needed to learn the circumference of a trapezoid, as I have yet to ever use such in my life. (In full disclosure though, my math score on the GRE left something to be desired.) After talking with many friends in the social work profession, I continue to be surprised by how many money mistakes are made, mostly out of never being taught otherwise. Why there isn’t a mandatory class on this, I’ll never know.

While I don’t claim to be an expert, I thought I’d share some information here, for those who wish to become better educated on the subject. (For those wanting even more, fellow social worker Suze Orman is a great place to start as her show/books/website are full of info!) The following list comes out of many conversations with many social workers who too often realize their financial mistakes too late.

MISTAKE #1: Starting Off On the Wrong Foot

After being a middle school kid with an allowance, a high school youth with a part-time job, and a broke college student, it’s no wonder that many begin first jobs with a desire to spend some (or lots) of that money as soon as it starts to come in. However, the sooner wise financial choices are made, the smaller the chances are that you’ll find yourself at age 30, 40, or 70 and having to return to the financial life of ramen noodle dinners.


MISTAKE #2: Postponing Saving For Retirement

One of the most important pieces of information I ever received was to begin to plan for retirement ASAP. It sounded silly to me, while in my mid-20s, to think about something 50+ years away, but it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Investing in a retirement account works on something called compound interest, which means that, the earlier you begin to save, the more the money grows on its own for you.

Here’s the actual math for you, both on why compound interest is awesome and why it pays (literally!) to start early: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2006/05/23/how-compound-interest-favors-the-young/

For more info on why it’s important to begin saving in your 20s: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/MoneyInYour20s/ToGetRichStartSavingInYour20s.aspx

For info on how to save while you’re a student, unemployed, or aren’t making much for other reasons: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/SimpleStrategies/HowToInvestWhenYoureBroke.aspx

MISTAKE #3: Thinking You Have to Make Major Money to Thrive

It’s pretty well assumed that none of us became social workers for the money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a wonderfully happy life or save for big purchases (a home, a vehicle, a vacation, etc.) if you make wise financial choices.

An article on getting by and thriving on 32,000/yr: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/StockInvestingTrading/Getting-by-on-32000--MSNMoney.aspx

MISTAKE #4: Being Too Romantic or Shy to Discuss Money with Your Potential Mate

It’s long been said that money is the cause of many break-ups, which often happens because couples aren’t up-front about their finances. Granted, it’s far more fun to discuss a romantic getaway (or to go on one) than to talk about how it’ll be funded, but knowing where both people stand is crucial to figuring out whether you are as financially compatible as you are emotionally/physically/intellectually matched.

Great articles on money + love:



MISTAKE #5: Believing Money Myths

Tax information, interest rates, and banking rules all change over time, yet some money beliefs seem to transcend, causing people to believe what they’re told and then acting on wrong information. Here are a few myths vs. facts:

10 Bank-Breaking Money Myths: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/basics/08/financial-myths.asp

20 Dangerous Money Myths:

As you can see from the links and the information those pages link you to, there is a ton to learn about money. It can feel quite overwhelming at first, but the more you know, the more powerful you are in terms of your current and future finances. With so many books, websites, and other media based on financial education, there’s someone out there for us all to learn from, in whatever financial style suits us each best. Personally, I’ve found the aforementioned social worker Suze Orman is a great source of information and inspiration. Her weekly tv show on CNBC has taught me a great deal over the years (I even appeared on it once!), and I continue to refer to her books “Young, Fabulous, and Broke” and “Women and Money” as I’ve transitioned from undergrad to grad school, from student to unemployed, and as I’ve begun to earn my first salaried paychecks.

I know that this isn’t the typical “easy reading” blog entry you’re used to from me, but I hope it’s been a helpful post. In the spirit of both social work and money management, I will close this in the way that Suze Orman’s ends each episode of her television show:

“People first, then money, then things… now you stay safe.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Social Work Valentine

The 2/13 9pm EST live chat on www.socialworkchat.org was themed for Valentine’s Day and was centered around the participating social workers sharing thoughts on what cards they’d write if they were to write one to Social Work. In the spirit of the week, I’ve decided to share mine here and encourage you all to share your own in the comment section below.

Dear Social Work,

You are a field that doesn’t lend itself well to giving an “elevator speech,” so people regularly have no true idea of who you are. Your elusive nature causes you to be regularly ignored on television programs and in film, though others sometimes masquerade as if your work is within the confines of their own jobs. You are sometimes confusing and often cause me to turn to peers for guidance on how to handle you. I’m pretty sure that my mother thinks I could have chosen a safer option, or at least one that affords me a more lavish lifestyle. Sometimes, when I come home, there is nothing less I’d rather think about than you, though sometimes you refuse to let me rest. People regularly question why we’re together. They suggest that I might be crazy, but thanks to you and that gorgeous DSM of yours, I know I’m not… though I admit, I’ve recognized pieces of myself (and almost everyone I know) in so many of your pages.

No matter where I am or what time of day it is, I am aware of your presence in my life. Occasionally, I contemplate leaving you for another, but then I realize that it would be a silly notion to think that I could really just up and leave. At the end of the day, I know one thing for certain; we’re enmeshed. You are a part of everything I do, everything I believe in, and everything I fight for. You are my reason for getting out of bed in the morning (Monday-Friday, at least), you are my reason for falling asleep at night (good Lord, you’re exhausting).

I just wanted you to know that, for reasons sometimes even I can’t explain, I’m glad we found each other. I anticipate a long future together, one that’s full of 3-minute lunches between clients, getaways to the steps of Capitol buildings, and more surprises than I can even imagine.

Thanks for everything,


Friday, February 11, 2011

Aches and Chills and Coughing, Oh My!

It officially feels like flu season to me now… why? Because I officially have the flu. There’s nothing like that feeling of aches/chills/fever/cough/stuffy head/everything ever mentioned in a cold medicine ad feeling that makes me just want to stay in bed until my body’s back to normal. But now that I’m in a position that isn’t as easy as calling in a substitute server to pick up my shift or emailing the professor to request the notes for the lecture I’m missing, I wonder how others feel about being sick in the workplace.

Is it better to be a person who never misses work and hunkers down, risking contaminating others and making the illness worse? Is it better to take time off to rest and heal and risk the boss wondering if you’re a big baby? Is it better to use up those sick days at the beginning of the year if that’s when you need them or is it better to try to hold off just in case you need them later?

While I know that most agencies don’t have a set-up to work from home, I sometimes wish it was an option for us all. In this age of technology, it only makes sense that, if half of the classes we took to get this degree were available online, shouldn’t at least half of our work be available that way too? Of course, I’m not advocating for anyone to hang a shingle with the agency logo when they’re sick at home, but sometimes I wonder if paperwork couldn’t still be completed online, allowing the person to heal and quarantine him/herself while still being productive. At the same time though, I wonder if doing such would lead already overworked people to continue to work from home during healthy times.

What do you think? If your agency offered an option to complete some of your work from your personal computer, would you do so only when you were ill or otherwise couldn’t be at the office or would it compel you to work additional hours on top of your regular schedule?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Are You?

When I was a child, I would have bet you all the money in my piggy bank that my second grade teacher’s first name was “Mrs.” and that she lived in the school. (Between you and me, I’m pretty sure she slept in the reading nook and dined on feasts of chocolate milk and spaghetti with the other teachers after the school buses took the students home.) I simply couldn’t imagine that my teacher was anything other than my teacher.

Now, I find myself wondering whether I see myself in the same way and whether, as social workers, we’re ever “just social workers.” For example, today my morning felt hectic due to a dog who wanted more attention than I had time to give and having to wait a longer time for the shared bathroom than I’d planned into my morning schedule. When I came into the office, it wasn’t easy to suddenly drop that rushed feeling and become the calm social worker I’m expected to be. It makes me wonder how many moms and grandpas and partners and pet-owners there are among us Social Workers and how often we all carry our morning baggage in with us, unbeknownst to those around us.

Maybe this is bigger than that though. I suddenly find myself reconsidering everyone around me… maybe “unfriendly-grocery-store-cashier” is also “single-mother-of-four-working-too-many-hours-and-sleeping-too-few.” Maybe “super-rude-customer-service-man-who-kept-me-on-hold-for-45-stinking-minutes” is also “wife-just-served-surprise-divorce-papers-this-morning” or “layoffs-mean-he-is-now-required-to-do-the-work-of-two-people-for-the-same-rate-of-pay-he’s-always-gotten.” What about our beliefs as social workers, activists, and helpers? Was Martin Luther King, Jr. ever “man-going-to-the-store-to-buy-milk” or was he always “activist-man-going-to-the-store-to-buy-milk?” Are we ever just parents, just partners/spouses, just friends, or just anything? Maybe the same innate traits that led us to become social workers emanate from us no matter what we’re doing. And, if this is true, are we ever truly able to put ourselves completely aside or are we always viewing our surroundings and clients through our own colored lenses?
There’s a quote I love, from a man I’ve never heard of (Delbert Stapley), “We see things not as they are, but as we are.” I think of it often, in all types of situations, and I find it applicable here. Perhaps we should all take a moment and figure out who we are, both to the world and to ourselves. I wonder if such introspection might make it easier to understand how others choose to approach us.

Until Next Week,
~ Wishes-she-could-just-stay-home-with-her-dog-sometimes/Wonders-why-work-can’t-start-at-noon/LGBTQI-activist/Former-midwesterner/Your-Social-Work-Blogger

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