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Webinar presentation

On December 9, 2010 I will be presenting:

Passages: A Lifetime Perspective on the Developmental Tasks of Adopted Persons (#2006)
Presenter: Jae Ran Kim
Date: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Time: 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM (CST)

Jae Ran Kim, distinguished adoption presenter, reseacher and AHA Advisory Group member, discusses the model created by psychologists David Brodzinsky, Marshall Schecter and Robin Marantz Henig to illustrate how the developmental tasks of adoptees differ from those of non-adoptees, and how these unique differences manifest throughout the adoptee’s lifespan. Kim also discusses ambiguous loss, a construct originally hypothesized by Pauline Boss, author of Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unsesolved Grief, and how it impacts the lives of people within the adoptee community.

For more information on how you can register for this webinar, click here.

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Part 2 – Discriminating against parents of color in the child welfare system

This post was published on Harlow’s Monkey blog in April 2008.

ShatteredbondsIn trying to figure out how to begin this post on communities of color and child protection issues, I found it difficult to know where to begin and where to end. Trying to finger the exact places and times that the child welfare system discriminates
against communities of color is like trying to pick out which piece of hay in the haystack is to blame. The issues are so intertwined that it is impossible to sort through.

The discrimination occurs on micro, mezzo and macro levels; everything from the federal legislations that either purposely targeted communities of color or structurally supported hidden bias against these populations to the individual
social worker whose inexperience or bias resulted in discriminatory treatment. Most of the time, it’s a combination of many levels of discriminatory interventions by the child welfare system and society at large.

To begin, I feel it is important to clarify some definitions and themes that you will often see in discussions and research about communities of color and child welfare:

  • When we talk about research we need to keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation. One thing often miss-communicated in articles about child welfare is when a correlation becomes misrepresented as causation. For example, there is a correlation between being poor or in poverty and having
    child protection interventions. This does not mean that being poor or in poverty causes child protection interventions; it means that of those people involved in child protection there is a stronger likelihood of being poor or in poverty.
  • Over-representation refers to a group’s percentage or number is larger than other groups. An example of over representation would be the number of African American men in prison in the U.S. in 2003. Of the 1,316,415 men in prison that year, 586,300 were African American versus 454,300 white males. African American men are overrepresented.
  • Disproportionate refers to a higher percentage in a given circumstance than in the overall population. An example of disproportionate would be that African American children were 21.4% of the children in foster care for the state of Minnesota in 2003– despite the fact that African American children made up only 5% of the overall population.

There are two important books that are must-reads for anyone interested in examining the historical and current practices of child welfare discrimination towards the African American population. These are Dorothy Robert’s Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare and Children of the Storm: Black Children and American Child Welfare by Andrew Billingsly and Jeanne M. Giovannoni. I believe every single social worker who works in the child welfare system should be required to read these books.

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A discussion about race and relationships

Tonight I’ll be a guest panelist speaking about the role of race in interpersonal relationships in a post-show dialogue for the play, Cowboy vs. Samurai, produced by Mu Performing Arts at the esteemed Guthrie Theater. I’m looking forward to this play and to the discussion afterward; not only am I interested in interracial and multiracial families from a research and academic perspective, but it affects me personally as well. Join the cast of Cowboy vs. Samauri, Professor Rich Lee from the University of Minnesota and myself for the discussion. If you miss tonight’s performance and post-show discussion, there will be another post-show dialogue on November 24th with author David Mura and Asian American scholar SooJin Pate.

Information on the show (you can click here for more info)
The Guthrie Theater presents a Mu Performing Arts production of Cowboy Versus Samurai
by Michael Golamco
directed by Randy Reyes

The lives of the only two Asian Americans in the tiny town of Breakneck, Wyoming, are turned upside down when the beautiful Veronica Lee, a Korean American teacher from New York City, moves to town. Cowboy Versus Samurai is a romantic comedy that re-imagines the Cyrano de Bergerac story in which the “nose” is race. This production features actors John Catron, Sun Mee Chomet (Macbeth), Kurt Kwan (Mu’s production of Yellow Face) and Sherwin Resurreccion (M. Butterfly).

A brief history of child removal/child protection (part 1)

This post was first written in February, 2007 on my Harlow’s Monkey blog.

Seesaw_1 One of the first things that a social worker who focuses on child welfare issues soon realizes is that the practice of child welfare is fraught with several inherent value and ethical conflicts.

At the core of this conflict is the question of whose rights take precedence: the parent or the child.

Over the past 200 years, our society has struggled with this conflict. Thus, at some points in history we will find that the rights of the child are considered more important; at other times we see laws and policies that support the rights of the parents.

We tend to think that child abuse happens squarely within the context of a nuclear family and often, we blame those who are responsible for the day to day care of said child or children. But I agree with Pecora, Whittaker, et. al (2000) who also place the responsibility for care of children in the hands of society at large – on the community, social and institutional levels. With that perspective, we might claim that any society or community that does not provide safe housing, adequate nutrition and education or violence-free environments as committing child maltreatment.

Shireman (2003) points out that on an institutional level, for example, our society is guilty of maltreatment when “schools, legal authorities, or institutions designed to care for children and families fail to provide adequately for all children.” To me, this includes the structural discrimination that negatively targets certain populations. I’ll delve into this further in my next post, but think of things such as equal education, housing, medical care, finance, employment, etc. that have/continue to purposely discriminated against some populations. If we are structurally contributing to suppressing the opportunities for targeted populations, and those children suffer as a result, then we are guilty for the maltreatment of those children.

This is not to say that individual parents should not be held responsible for the care and treatment of their children; but I believe that our institutions and policies also need to be responsible.


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Thinking about privilege

I have a pink copy of this t-shirt that I wear regularly. As you can imagine when I wear it at school, I get smiles and comments such as, “I should get one of those!” When I wear it out in the community, I don’t get such unabashed love but neither do I get the kinds of reactions others have received. Then again, that’s largely because my community is not homogeneous (I’m avoiding the “D” word, as I explain later). I often find that people are resistant to talking about privilege, especially those who have it and don’t like feeling guilty at real or imagined finger-pointing by those of us who talk a lot about privilege.

My son attends a charter school and I am on their “diversity” committee. I put “diversity” in quotes because I find the term so over-used and loaded in meaning. Despite how I feel about the terminology, though, I am passionate about helping the school become a compassionate and inclusive school for everyone, students and staff – and not just referring to the typical markers of race, ethnicity and gender but the many ways that we “other” others because “they” are different from “us.”

During our last meeting, I was given a copy of this list of privileges that many of us have. I’m a big fan of Peggy Macintosh and her well-known Knapsack of Privilege, but in many ways I like this one even better. This list created by author John Scalzi really highlights how many privileges we have – even those of us who are not white, male, or middle class. I’m a Korean American woman, and I have many of the privileges so eloquently stated in Scalzi’s blog post. I encourage you to read it for yourself.

I’m excited that the white privilege conference is going to be in my home town this year.

Rage against the machine*

* with apologies to the band (I was college undergrad when the band was popular)

I thought I’d cross-post some of the blog posts I wrote on my other blog about child welfare. My other blog is focused heavily on adoption, so I wrote several posts to help articulate some of the broader contexts that influence and impact what happens specifically regarding the adoption process in the United States. This post from March 2007 in particular reflects my experience working for a large public county child protection/child welfare program.

Titanic_2

It’s a precarious position for anyone who tries to be an agent of change within any institution. It can be difficult to balance the needs between individual people and systems that were created to help and instead have become so bureaucratic that it is a wonder anyone is helped at all.

When I was in graduate school for social work, we were often told that social reform and social justice were as important to the profession as the ability to empathize and help. Truthfully, however, the field of social work is quite polarized.

I would say the majority of the people in the field (and most of them are women) came into the program because they wanted to "help people"  (I could go into a whole separate post about how women are valued in our society and why that created an over-representation of women in the "helping professions" because that deserves an investigation as well. But I’ll leave that for another day).

Many of my colleagues spoke passionately about how their personal spiritual beliefs "called them" to the field.Well, I have no argument with that because in a way I also feel "called" to my work, though not by a sense of spiritual duty. My "calling" if you can call it that, was based on many goals;  first, I did not want to participate in a profession that was based on the production, marketing or selling of consumable goods. Secondly, I wanted to try to be an agent of change within the field and represent as a voice not included in the existing framework (as both a person of color and as an adoptee). Third, I strongly felt I could contribute to critiquing and challenging the current paradigms of practice and research.

I think "helping people" is a nice goal too. And I believe that it is very important. But in my view, having only a tight focus on "helping people" is limiting. We can "empower" people to change their lives on a singlular basis and I believe that is all well and good. But without looking at the rest of what is happening in the forest, we might be encouraging people to try and work within an overall system that is set up to fail them and send ’em right back to your doorstep.

We give a lot of lip service to the abstractions of  "social reform," "social justice," and "empowerment." But it would be more accurate to say that a great deal of social work involves social control more than our obligation to empower the people we serve. And, in fact, I have difficulty with the concept of "empowerment" because as one of my insightful fellow grad students once stated,"empowerment is a gift we bestow on our [clients]." We’re speaking about privilege here, because as social workers we have the power and control (backed up by our government and agencies) to make people do certain things in order to receive services. Right, we don’t just believe in the welfare state – people need to prove or earn their way to services.

What we are really about is telling people how to fix their lives the way we think it should be fixed, as arbiters of whatever framework of morality we believe.

The result is a push-pull between "worker" and "client" (on a tangent, let me just say that I really despise the way social work has chosen to appropriate business/market economy language – as if the people who use services are free to choose among a buffet of options).

The push-pull in adoption services is balancing the needs of prospective adoptive parents and the children who become adopted. I’m not selling goods, but I’m definitely selling ideologies. In order to make prospective families and children in foster care appealing to each other’s social workers, we use marketing strategies. Wednesday’s Child or Thursday’s Child as many "markets" call them are features of foster care children in newspapers. Just like the puppies and kitties they feature for adoption on other days. We use brochures and flyers and videos of the kids to show prospective adoptive parents. And prospective adoptive parents are asked to make brochures and flyers about themselves so the children’s social workers can determine if they look like "a good match." Many adoption agencies have web sites where prospective parents can look at featured children and read a little blurb about the child. If that doesn’t seem eerily like shopping on the internet, then you are not being honest with yourself.

It’s one part marketing and one part matching services like an on-line dating service would provide. Which begs the question: who is the real "customer" in this transaction? The prospective parent, or the child?

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Secrets

One of the regular blogs I subscribe to in my RSS feeder is PostSecret. If you haven’t heard of PostSecret yet, it’s a blog hosted by Frank Warren (who has also written numerous books), and according to his web site, PostSecret is “a community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” Each Sunday he publishes “Sunday Secrets” a blog post of postcards that people send in to him.

The internet is the perfect environment for this kind of secret confessional. I read Sunday Secrets each week because I know I’ll find at least one card that really speaks to me. This past week there were two of them that as a child welfare scholar I found moving.

The first one, pictured above, spoke to me because I think that people outside the field believe that child protection workers enjoy taking kids away from their parents. While I am sure there are some punitive and cynical child protection workers – in fact I’ve met some and worked with some – I have never met a worker who finds pleasure in it. I have seen them express heartbreak over having to consider whether they need to remove a child from their parents. It is not an easy decision to make and I have to believe that if there comes a time when the worker does not agonize about whether the trauma of removing a child is worse than the trauma of leaving them there, then that is a sign that it’s time to put in for a transfer. It should never be a rote decision; even when using the “tools” of the trade – structured decision making forms and assessment checklists and the like – the decision to remove a child is often a mixture of art and science.

Because the other side of the coin might be represented in the postcard below. What I found sad about this postcard is that this person did not call social services on behalf of their nieces. This postcard leaves me with many questions. If the children were removed, would the author of the card be willing to take those kids? How involved is the extended family? Has the family been supportive of those children and the parents in the past or have all efforts failed? How long have the children been at risk?

The dilemma I have struggled with for a long time now is this: when we take a child away from their parents because we are afraid of their safety and well-being, then the state has made a promise that they will be treated better in another home. However, this is not being done very well. Foster care is not a substitute for a family. Institutions are often worse and many foster homes are merely small institutions. So the push in child welfare is to move the child to “permanency.” That means adoption. However, most of the kids do not get adopted. So where do we put our resources? Towards family preservation? Towards improving foster care? Towards tighter deadlines for termination of parental rights and adoption?

When I see this postcard above, I wonder why this person chose to do nothing and hope that some day, someone would call child protective services for them.

Presentation on using social media in the classroom and beyond

As promised, here is a link to the Prezi of our presentation at the Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting. Our presentation was about how to use social media – in the classroom (going beyond the closed technologies like Moodle or Web CT); as a recruitment tool for schools of social work, and for individual faculty professional development.

One of the things we found out is that while many schools of social work are talking about using social media and have added facebook pages or twitter accounts, that few of them interact with these technologies because they want to – more prevalent was the incorporation of social media because it is the “new thing” or because everyone seems to think organizations have to have a twitter now. But if it’s not used well, then what’s the point?I believe one of the strengths Ericka and I have is our extensive use and knowledge of social media prior to entering the academy.

Prezi is a new way of presenting that goes beyond the linear and more static presentation form of powerpoint or keynote. Here is the link to see the presentation for yourself. I believe you will have to sign up for Prezi to be able to make it interactive; if you are a student or educator you can get a free upgraded version but you can also sign up for a basic program and it’s free!. Enjoy!

Prezi of Moving Beyond Moodle

VOTE!


Please vote today!! Like many others, I get quite cynical sometimes thinking about our political system and the nastiness that often accompanies elections. But I don’t take for granted that I have the right to vote, and I’m encouraging everyone else in the U.S. to get out there and make your voice heard.