Last Blog Post: Health Disparaties Experineced by Youth

Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, I was unable to be present during the last group facilitation that involved reflecting on health disparities for different populations who experience oppression and injustice. Particularly, I chose to focus on childhood and youth trauma affects health across the lifetime. I wasn’t able to see the facilitation, but I learned and thought about it a lot after listening to the TedTalk by Nadine Harris.

It was shocking that exposure to childhood trauma can limit your life expectancy by 20 years.  I remember while working at community mental health as a family support worker, many of the youth’s diagnosis was hyperactivity, AHDH, or behavioral problems. I would often soon to find that they had experienced grave childhood trauma and abuse. It is so upsetting to hear about the adverse childhood experiences study, and how much your experiences are connected to your overall health. Even within my personal life, when I get really stressed out or am going through rough life transitions or events, I always get stomach upset problems, sleeping issues, and anxiety, but I do not always realize this is due to my experiences that are negatively impacting me. It is interesting to learn about the body and mind connection in relation to mediation and other methods of treatment that focus so much on this connection. And I think that health treatments should be incorporating this focus as well.

I thought it was also interesting that the speaker highlighted not only health problems, but also risky behaviors such as smoking. It isn’t that this person is engaging in “bad behavior” because they are bad people, but rather, they may need to find other ways in which to cope with the person’s stress and/or trauma.

I can’t imagine how the body is not built to experience this fight or flight response for long periods of time. That this system is constantly overworked. It not only is a disparity for youth, but it is a disparity for so many populations who experience injustices at a much higher rate than privileged identities. It is great that this CAE survey can be used to offer inter-disciniplinary care, whether that is holistic care, mental health services, medication, and education for patients and parents. I would love to explore more ways in which we can help treat this complex issue.

I also think about the childhood adverse experiences survey that is given to patients and the validity of the questions. It is probably hard for a single test to capture the experiences of one’s trauma, as there are many different kinds of trauma that one can experience. I think this survey is a start, but I would like to do more research on this test and how long and detailed the questions are!

Image source: Twitter user love_ming01

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Final Project: Entering, Engaging, and Exiting ACCESS Community

For my final project, I chose a mix option between open choice and storytelling. I will discuss the way in which I entered and engaged with a community I am not from, as well as the different levels that I advocated and empowered within my field placement. I will highlight a few of the projects I had the humbled opportunity to lead to shows my efforts to engage with the community and working within social systems.

There are many important steps all social workers must take before working with an individual or community, especially if they do not share the same experiences or identities as you. I have identified a few of the ones I think are most important personally and within the values of CSS. 1) First, you should identify your identities, positionality, power, and privilege. 2)Second, ask yourself what your intentions are for the prospected work and what the community gains from your work. 3) Next, do your best to learn about the community and build relationships. 4) Lastly, identify what you can do to address injustice and community needs, and constantly check in with yourself throughout to find ways to improve your approach.

I have included a link to view what these steps looked like for me before I ended this community. (Must be logged into umich email to view).

After learning more in 697 about ways in which us students enter, engage, and exit communities, I was able to see the faults within the system of field placement or short-term internships. Many students naively enter communities they are not from, learn as much as we can, and then leave. Of course, learning how to effectively work with clients will have it’s impact down the road. But, it seems that more of the benefits are on the student rather than the community benefitted from our service and support, and that is something I kept in mind while beginning to think about where to do my field placement.

When I was seeking a field placement, I had no idea what organization to choose, as I have many interests. One thing I have always wanted to learn more about was my Lebanese/Arab heritage. I only know what I have been told my relatives on my maternal side, as my grandmother who immigrated from Lebanon to the US as a child died before I could meet her. We enjoy cooking Arab food during holidays or random occasions. Other than that, I have a pretty disconnected understanding of this culture and have never taken the time to learn on my free time. I have always identified as white, but being Lebanese is also part of my background. I still struggle with the appropriate way in which to identify myself as so, without coming off as trying to use my heritage to mask my white privileged identity.

Anyway, I decided to go with ACCESS, (the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, widely known as ACCESS), because their mission and values aligned with mine. Although, I primarily wanted to jump out of my comfort zone and fully immerse myself with Arab and Muslim Americans at ACCESS and within a predominately Arab community. I had only visited Dearborn a few times as a child, but remember I was always so amazed at the rich culture that was missing from my home community.

Just to give a little background info, I work in the NNAAC department, which stands for the National Network for Arab American Communities. Our mission is to understand, meet the needs, and represent the concerns of Arab Americans at a local level, while also addressing these issues at a national level. We seek to politically, culturally, socially, and economically empower Arab Americans. We often work alongside other NNAAC members across the nation, and NNAAC is basically the national hub for capacity building with these orgs. We also have a grassroots campaign called TakeOnHate, that focuses on ending discrimination and hate crimes and inspiring a positive perception of Arab and Muslim Americans, and strive to make transformative changes to policy.

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Some ways in which NNAAC utilizes community and CSS social change is through grassroots organizing, lobbying, civic engagement, capacity building, volunteerism, and critical consciousness particularly politically and culturally.  It has been such an amazing opportunity to have learned so much and have the most welcoming and positive organizational culture and colleagues.   I did not know if it was right for me to lobby and organize for issues that impact Muslim and Arab Americans because I still had so much to learn about their culture and traditions. I check into my cultural humility to remind myself that all I can do is build relationships, learn, and share values. I will never know what it is like to be in their shoes as far as experiencing injustice and oppression. I made sure to check back to my entering community steps and insights.

One project I was asked to complete is Student Lobby Day, where undergraduate political science students from various Detroit colleges lobbied on issues they are impacted by and care about. All semester, we were asked to prepare the students for our TakeOnHate priority issues, getting them feeling more comfortable to lobby to officials. When I was asked to do this, it made me feel sort of guilty because I have personally never officially lobbied before, yet I am instructing students on how to do so, and speaking on these issues when many of the students have had experiences with these issues. It made me feel like, why should they listen to me if I am not the expert?

Prior to starting these tasks, the other student and I spoke with the organization about their experiences and what things we should discuss. It was an important step to hear about this from community members.This goes back to my original steps regarding entering a community, the same goes for engaging in new projects where you may not completely identify with the issues you are advocating with. We identified what the main outcomes of the training we would like to see, such as background knowledge and the issues and skills to effectively articulate those in a narrative.

I was also tasked with preparing materials and handouts to give to students, as well as a policy one-pager have students leave it with the official. It made me think back to the different citizen participation in communities where I sort of play a background role. Although I am given the microphone for a bit to facilitate this training before the event, when it came to hearing from the students and allowing them to engage in lobbying, I sat in the back to observe and was there for assistance if needed. I wanted to make sure they were given the platform at their comfortability, while also knowing they had my support.

The event turned out really well. The students and I discussed their experiences after each meeting and we strategized for the next. I had asked if they felt our training helped make them feel more confident this year, as last year the feedback from last years students was that they didn’t feel prepared enough. They had said our support definitely helped prepare them. It made me feel like this way of advocating was definitely a good place to be, especially being new to the community. We also took some time to discuss with the students their career vision and goals, and we were able to share our interests and how social work has many different forms.

Overall, it was an extremely humbling experience working with young people in which they were given the platform to speak on issues that impact their community. I think this is such an important way to advocate and we should always be striving to empower our youth and young people. I did not feel that any of the facilitation and assistance was one-sided, similar to Paulo Fieries model, we both shared experiencesbuilt relationships and trust, and learned a lot from each other. We all talked about how we walked away with so many new insights, such as how important it is to pay attention and communicate with your local government. So, not only was this event impactful for the day, it has also informed myself and the students on these skills and what outcomes and changes can be made if we become more active and critically conscious in our state and local government.

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The second ongoing project I had the pleasure of being apart of is collaborating with the League of Woman voters to register youth to vote for this year’s election. We registered over 1,000 students, many of which are still 17. Again, was an amazing experience. We went to schools all over Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, and I had made connections with so many youth different backgrounds. It is important to empower them so they know that their voices matter, and they can be leaders and agents for change. I am so excited to see how the voter turn out ends up this year, the 18-21 age group may be the biggest voting turnout age group this year! It is usually the elder age group that is the biggest.

Upon leaving ACCESS, which I know I will be extremely saddened to do, I will assure that the I leave a least in an assurance that the community benefited from my work, and rather, not solely me benefiting from the opportunity to work with this community.   I want to ensure that the work I did is sustainable, and is one way to ensure I attempted to address some needs of the organization and community. I will make sure to document the work I have, leaving my process steps in completing some of these projects. That way, it can be easily completed and improved once I am gone. Secondly, I can continue to support and outreach the concerns and interests of Arab Americans in my daily life.

School-to-Prison Pipeline: Case of Washtenaw County Schools

The issue of zero tolerance policies and the school-to-prison pipeline is a huge problem in the US. I remember growing up in Pinckney Community Schools and as I was reaching high school years the heroin problem got much worse. The school had an opioid crisis, a topic that hits close to home, and when parents demanded changes from the community one area they addressed was school policies. This may have also been when more schools were making these “zero tolerance” policies. I remember being surprised when I saw a fight result in the cops being called, and they would call the police if tobacco or marijuana was found. Previously, kids would be suspended for things such as this. Or fights would result in a 10-day suspension instead of 5-day suspension that I remember in my first year of high school. If the school had used conflict resolution or other punishments we talked about in the criminal justice presentation, it would have probably led to fewer kids being taken out of school and criminalized.

I thought the facilitation this group did was great. Analyzing each chosen school in Washtenaw County, and tasking each group to investigate it’s tolerance policies was a great activity and learning experience. In my undergrad when we worked for a mentoring program we used similar tactics, one of our youth would get suspended and we would often make a meeting with the administrators to go over the specific incident, and the policies that led to the punishment decision. Sometimes they would lessen the suspension after reviewing the incident again while comparing it with the policy handbook. I had not realized that schools put their suspension rates on their website or that it was a common practice to make it public. I wonder if policies within a local community implemented a requirement to disclose data such as this it would make schools would be more pressured to give students suspension over using other methods. In addition, I know that Michigan had meap testing (not sure what it is called in other states) and that schools would often be punished if they had low test scores. If schools were held accountable for their rates of suspensions in the same way they are for test scores, I wonder what the rates would look like then.

 

Image: http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/closing-the-school-to-prison-pipeline-6428605

Food for Thought: Food Justice & Food Insecurity

I really enjoyed working with this group, we all brought something different to the table that led to our success. I loved having brunch will you all on Tuesday mornings, and staying up to task, something that I struggle with pretty consistently on!

I wish we could have somehow pulled off the in person poverty simulation that I did in my SEED course. I am not sure how we would have been able to do it. Maybe we could have rented out the ECC room and asked our instructor ahead of time if we can be given more time to carry out the activity. That way it would have been more realistic and meaningful, rather than our computers. Either way, I thought the online poverty sim is a good resource for those who are beginners to social justice work and have not related to it in their personal lives. I do wish we could have somehow made our own online simulation so we could have added an intersectional lense such as how poverty may be experienced differently based on race, gender, and ability.

I loved our discussion and critiques about the simulation itself. It would be extremely helpful to send the organization who did the simulation a respectful critique of their simulation, and wondering if they would be open to changing it or making it a bit more realistic. I think it does a decent job at showing how many little daily stressors can throw you completely off track, whereas those with more financial stability would be able to address these stressors easily, such as getting your car fixed or going to the doctors.

Group Facilitation: Criminal Justice System

I really enjoyed this group’s presentation on the issue of mass incarceration and possible alternatives.

This topic relates to my life personally because my family and I have dealt with the CJ and JJ system numerous times throughout our lives. I have seen first hand how our white privilege and class has played in our favor by cutting down jail time or receiving probation over jail time, drug court, etc. When I found out the disparity between white and black men/women receiving drug court over harsher punishment I was shocked. I had not thought about analyzing the amount of individual’s receiving drug court versus harsher punishments as evidence for the inequality within the CJ system by race.  I thought the rates for incarceration of African american males are surprising as well, I had previously thought the rate for black men being incarcerated at least once in their lifetime was one in four, but I see after the stats that it has now reached one of three I believe. This is clearly showing that the rates of incarceration of black males are getting higher despite more media outlets showing this problem lately.

I always think about how unfair it is that having a “good” lawyer, rather than using a public defender, automatically puts you at higher chances to being let off easier or getting charges reduced or dropped. It makes me reflect on possible policy changes and what could be done to make the whole paid vs. court-appointed attorney structure more fair. But then I think about how many charges and situations my family and I have fought against in court and in return gotten lesser crimes, and I am not sure if I would be where I am today had we not spent the money on an attorney to fight myself and other family member’s cases. So it’s almost like I have a conflict between the unfair privileges that my family has used to get us out of trouble, how unfair this is as far as disparities by race and class, but then also wanting the same for those who can’t afford lawyers? Is it possible to have public defenders and expensive lawyers to be held at the same pedestal or have the same level of skills? How would we get rid of this whole system of the possibility to pay more for a “better” attorney and having better outcomes? Would we have to make the pay rate for all lawyers the same and paid by the state?

Either way, I am all for fighting the system in many ways. The CJ system is a way to keep citizens out of power and reaching their full potential, taking your money and criminalizing you, making your life extremely difficult, and not actually caring about how these methods of punishments rehabilitate people or serve “justice”. They do not rehabilitate people, they make their life even worse and further lead them to illegal means of attaining resources. I can go on and on about how much I hate our CJ and JJ system because it directly relates to my personal life and professional work, being in advocacy JJ work for three years I had seen so many youth treated unfairly by the system or seen how much the JJ system made their family’s lives way more difficult than before, and how it makes it so much worse for those effected by structural oppression and issues such as poverty.

I thought that instead of general discussion questions, learning about alternatives was a great move for the facilitation. I learned a lot, and even if there was something I thought I knew I still had learned additional details about it. I think there needs to be a change in our Criminal Justice system, especially within the prison industrial complex. Our states are wasting money away by harshly criminalizing people, even when the recidivism rates are extremely high. High recidivism rates show that whatever the CJ system is doing, is not working. We need to find other methods of this issue, such as the ones mentioned in this presentation. I think conflict resolution is really helpful. Abolition is definitely on my mind, and I have been thinking about it a lot since this facilitation. I think if we were able to come up with an answer for how to handle those who commit haneaous crimes such as rape and murder, than we will be able to convince the public and policy makers that this is a reachable goal.

I think many of these alternative practices can be implemented within schools as well. Many of these methods being used can also be used to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline, and hopefully abolish the zero tolerance policies in schools as far as criminalizing school offenses and punishing them. It was always to asinine to think that if you do something wrong in school, giving you time off school is a punishment, as if letting kids stay home from school wouldn’t be desirable as a high school student at least… I have seen schools who have implemented things such as conflict resolution, de-escalation rooms, meditation circles, etc, which I think are all alternatives for schools as well as in criminal justice as well. Again, it goes back to clearly defining on a federal or state level which crime punishments can be changed to these more holistic approaches, and which “haneaous” crimes should not. Making this clearly defined, and learning ways to leave out bias on race, gender, class, etc, would help reduce the numbers of incarceration and inequalities by race, class, and gender.

The prison industrial complex is a definite interest of mine. It is so hard to wrap my head around the fact that we have privatized prisons, and that the more people we are incarcerating, the more money those prison owners get, all while we are paying thousands of dollars to hold them there. I don’t get how this is something legal in the US and I wish to know how that process developed, meaning how we went from this being a government funded institution to private, how that decision was made and implemented, etc. I know a lot about the history of the Juvenile Justice system and why that was created, but I want to know more about the policy making in terms of privatization, and if there was any push back from the public. I wonder if we were to change this institution back to government funded how prosecution would look, and if that would end up being state or federal funded.

Featured image: https://socialecologies.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/the-prison-industrial-complex-the-american-way-of-destruction/

Group Facilitation: Gentrification

Although I was saddened to miss class the week of this facilitation, I was able to gain great information about the issue through the posted readings.

The data highlighted in the Health, Race, and Gentrification in Philadelphia were shocking. Black respondents in the gentrifying neighborhoods of Philly were 75% more likely to report fair to poor health and well-being. This is clear evidence that not only does gentrification effect one’s financial stability, housing, and resources, but it directly affects one’s health.Gentrification is a topic I am interested in learning about and seek to find ways to better assure developing cities are developing equitably.  It really makes me stumped on finding a way to do so when competing with high levels of power and million dollar corporations.

The next article by HUD had some pretty clear ideas to combat gentrification. I think the first is preserving affordable housing, this can allow residents to hopefully stay in their homes. The limitation is that amenities and businesses also have higher prices, which causes financial strain as well. I think there are many areas where housing is unbelievably high and that this issue affects communities across the globe. To me this is another reason why there are higher rates of cohabitation, meaning people living with roommates far beyond those living together after high school and our young adult years. There is nothing necessarily wrong with cohabitation other than those whose well-being would be better alone but cannot do so do to costs. The point is that the rising numbers of this type of household correlate to the higher housing costs. College housing is extremely expensive as well, and it makes the opportunity for students to go to college way harder. We even see it happening right next to the School of Social work as multiple “luxury” apartment complexes are built.

Anyway, I think their third idea is the most important. Investing in the community members, when we leave the residents out of developments, it shows they are not intending to develop it for them and rather for others. In detroit, any publicly funded construction development has a rule to higher 51% of their employees from Detroiters, but even with developments such as the Little Ceasars arena, they often will accept the fine rather than following this rule. To me, it shows they are not truly investing in all of Detroit because the city is nothing without it’s residents, and would rather another way to create segregated communities. If they would be trying to help residents get jobs as they will often portray to the public, it would show this least of respect to the city of Detroit. The topic of regional cooperation is confusing to me because I am curious what exactly the federal government would help with. I know an example of regional cooperation going on in Detroit is putting in a fast track from Detroit to Chicago, and to me I am not sure if that will help the residents directly. This is something I need to look further into because it somewhat confuses me!

One main way to combat gentrification that could have been included in those four points was assuring that the cultural foundations, values, and traditions are not lost with fast-changing cities.

The online app that shows the present or prediction of a city within the U.S. This is a great tool for residents and I wonder if people looking to move cities or statewide will use this tool and whether it will influence their decision to move into a gentrifying community. Even further, I wonder if an affluent family or individual prospecting to move would think about whether or not the choice would perpetuate gentrification.

I really enjoyed these readings and tools and I wish I could have seen the facilitation. I really enjoyed how you spoke about a case example of Philadelphia and a perspective on health disparities, and then giving the causes, history, and recommendations within the next article, and lastly, the online tool that can better inform citizens of this issue (I couldn’t access the fourth article).

Featured Image: https://whyy.org/articles/those-leaving-gentrifying-philly-neighborhoods-as-likely-to-move-up-as-down-study-finds/

Ethical Concerns in Fundraising

I really enjoyed the presentation last week and felt it was extremely relevant and helpful to the class and to us as social workers.  In addition, I felt that the 9 Principles of Community-Center Fundraising was really helpful as well.  Our group discussions included whether to use ‘bad money’ for good, or whether it turns the good cause into the bad. This ethical dilemma is one I bet nonprofits face all the time. When I think about my field placement with ACCESS, I could imagine how much it would cause an uproar with the employees and the clients we serve if we had accepted funding from a foundation or person who is racist towards Arab Americans or is against immigration rights impacting the Arab Community (for example, supporting the Muslim ban). This is similar to the situation we discussed with the LGBTQ group accepting funding from someone who is against same sex marriage. Some of our group members agreed that it is okay to use bad money for good, because that is better than using it for something “bad”. Although, when thinking about ACCESS, I still feel like this would never happen there. I am curious about this, and may ask my field supervisor about this.

I feel that this topic of bad money relates a lot to the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), and I hope to discuss this topic in my SW classes at some point. The NPIC is a system of non-profits competing for government and foundation funding that forces nonprofits to “professionalize, wherein they must focus on maintaining their funding sources rather than fulfilling their mission” (Samimi, 2010). This results in competing resources with other orgs, and sort of creating a nonprofit hierarchy of power and class. This is another ethical dilemma that was noted in the reading. Nonpfotis are not like corporations, their funds are “donated” not “earned” (although it often feels like it is earned through the skills of fundraising). I think foundation funding is often tricky, but that it could present an alternative to relying solely on government funding. With using foundation funding, it still comes with requirements that may cause org’s to change their mission or programs, which could go against their values. Samimi writes that funding bodies have power over community leaders, consequently leading to realigning their interests to maintain funding, which is what the non-profit industrial complex exuberates.

I feel that the SW ethical values should be the same for the ethics of fundraising and philanthropy. Fundraising should always be grounded in diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. My class (SW 663) about grant-writing, grant-seeking, fundraising, and storytelling had just had a lecture about ethics in fundraising, so it ironically paired nicely with the 697 presentation the following week.

We had talked about the ethics of fundraising and philantropy and also had a guest speaker on the topic. He was an African American male, who had graduated from UM, and got his first job as a grant specialist, and has now done grant seeking, fundraising, and grant writing for a few years. He explained that fundraising is relationship building, you have to find ways to build immediate relationships with donors. To do so, sometimes it takes “smooth talking” and “storytelling” to very rich people in order to gain their donations. He had noted that fundraising does not often reflect race and equity and that the fundraising field is flooded with white women. He said he often feels uncomfortable in spaces where he is trying to fundraise, often having to speak with donors who are very privileged and do not understand some of the issues he speaks about. He usually explains the nonprofit’s “heartfelt story” as well as his personal connections to the nonprofit’s story. He mentioned, “If you can make them cry, there’s a high chance you got the donation.”  He sometimes feels that he is often doing a lot of additional emotional labor as a black man that is not compensated for, and that people of color who plan to enter the fundraising and philanthropy field must be aware of this. I felt that this was an important thing to share since some students may be interested in going into the field of fundraising and philanthropy; and that students should be aware.

Other source: Samimi, J. (2010). Funding America’s Nonprofits: The Nonprofit Industrial Complex’s Hold on Social Justice. Columbia Social Work Review, 1. Retreived from: http://racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/2010NPIndudtrialComplex.pdf

Image source: https://thebiggestlieevertold.wordpress.com/