Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Choose Your Presidential Candidate

Find out which presidential candidates agree with your values. This quiz provides the answers to a variety of questions from presidential candidates without revealing their identity (Click "hide" on the left hand side. )

Monday, December 10, 2007

Schools to get new abstinence curriculum

Schools to get new abstinence curriculumA 14-year-old sex education curriculum is being removed from New Hanover County middle schools starting next school year.Classes will still urge students to abstain from sex until marriage, but the lessons will now come from the 2005 version of Sex Can Wait, one of only two abstinence-only curriculums that don't contain medical and factual inaccuracies, according to congressional analysis."It's a clear title; it sends a clear message," Jayne Emma, New Hanover County Schools health educator, told school board members on Monday. "It's very hard to find any criticism of Sex Can Wait."The abstinence-education program, which was developed at the University of Arkansas, has been nationally recognized for its accuracy and effectiveness.In December 2004, the Waxman Report on Abstinence Education found Sex Can Wait did not contain any misleading information about reproductive health, unlike other curriculums often used in federally funded, school-based abstinence-education programs.A panel of New Hanover County school and community representatives recently selected the state-approved curriculum out of nine programs it has been reviewing since April. The school board did not have to take action on the curriculum change.Emma said the district's "abstinence-only" education program, which is federally funded, has been under review for the past 18 months.Last December, the district's "abstinence-only" education books Sex Respect and Me, My World, My Future were called misleading in a report from NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, an abortion-rights group that supports teaching teenagers about birth control.Emma said parents often have been confused about what their students would be learning based on the current curriculum titles.Teen Aid, which is offered to sixth- and seventh-graders, touches on abstinence until marriage, friendships, effective communication, puberty, consequences of premarital sex and sexually transmitted diseases. Eighth-graders spend nine days learning from Sex Respect, which covers abstinence until marriage, differences in male and female sexuality, sexual decision making, differences between needs and drives, risks of premarital sex, saying "no," parenting and adoption.Both of the curriculums were last revised in 1993, Emma said.Sex Respect questions the protection that condoms provide against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. NARAL also found problems with other passages in the book, including: a statement that chemical birth control damages the inside of a girl's body; a comparison in one of the teacher's guides that likens using condoms to playing Russian roulette; and another teacher guide's statement that abortion is not the best choice because it makes the baby pay for the parents' decision.Information about the new curriculum will be provided at open houses to parents this spring and also will be available on the district's Web site."We think it's a great selection," said Dorothy DeShields, school board member.

Victory for better sex education in New Hanover County

NASW-NC was approached by Mary Lindsley of the ACLU to collaborate efforts in working toward better sex education in North Carolina. Mary's efforts are already proving successful, please take time to read the note from her below. We look forward to continuing to work together on this important issue!

The school board congratulated the staff representatives on bringing together a diverse community review committee to evaluate 9 programs. The review committee included Sarah A., Susan B., Kristin G., Betsy E., Katherine B., and some other volunteers. A big thanks to them for donating their time over the past six months to review 2-3 programs and then come together to build consensus on a recommendation. While the prevailing Sex Can Wait program was not the review committee's first recommendation, it is a great improvement over the problematic and potentially harmful materials being replaced. The top choices, as I understand, contained information on contraception that would have disqualified them under the "federal a-h guidelines" to receive federal Title V monies. If you believe that we should not have to lower our standards (and match $) to fit sex education into an unrealistic and potentially harmful framework, please contact the governor and request that he reject Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds or demand your local school district do so. Congratulations to New Hanover County! If you have any specific questions for the volunteers or the process of change, feel free to contact me and I can connect you to the right people or resources. Many organizations, including the NC Department of Instruction (DPI,) have helpful resources to assist in evaluations, reviews, or even the push toward the comprehensive sex education public hearing. We all can have better materials in our schools. See article!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NASW-NC Position Statement on Session Law 2007-193: Smoking in State Facilities

NASW-NC Position Statement
Smoking in State Facilities
Session law 2007-193 (formerly House bill 24)

The Center for Disease Control states that one quarter of all deaths in the United States are associated with tobacco use and considered premature; there is no combating the fact that smoking is unhealthy. Unfortunately, nicotine has highly addictive qualities and abrupt cessation will result in withdrawal (Hempel, Kownacki, Main, Ozonde, Cormack, Sandoval, & Leinbach, 2002). When considering a ban on smoking in state facilities, it is imperative to consider the effects of this withdrawal on everyone the ban will effect, including the mentally ill.
It is reported that smoking prevalence among the mentally ill far exceeds that of the general population and cessation rates are significantly lower (Lawn & Pols, 2005). Additionally, the state facilities that treat the mentally ill often act as a home for the patient for any given amount of time. Denying the right of the client to smoke in the place of their residence goes beyond the intention of this bill. The primary concern of the NASW-NC is the effect that abrupt, unanticipated smoking cessation may have on the intended treatment while at the state facility. Smoking has been documented as, not only an addiction, but a means of stress relief and a coping mechanism. Interrupting the normative behavior of smoking while addressing a mental illness can provide considerable obstacles for success.
NASW-NC cannot support a bill that denies the clients’ right to self-determine behavior, and also has potential to harm the client and their treatment goals. Social work as a profession is committed to providing client centered treatment. Although mental illness has medical aspects, social workers come from the bio-psycho-social-emotional-spiritual model and value the clients’ perspective. A blanket ban on smoking in state facilities would negate the importance of the clients’ point-of-view, particularly in regard to the mentally ill.
It is suggested that more time be taken to consider the effects of this ban on the physical and mental health of the individuals it will affect. Implementing smoking cessation into a treatment plan while offering nicotine replacement treatment could reduce the negative impact of this ban and would be supported by NASW-NC.


Hempel, A.G., Kownacki, R., Malin, D., Ozone, S.J., Cormack, T.S., Sandovval, B.G.,
&Leinback, A.E. (2002). Effect of total smoking ban in a maximum security psychiatric hospital. Behavioral Sciences and Law, 20, 507-522.

Lawn, S. & Pols, R. (2005). Smoking bans in psychiatric inpatient settings? A review of the Research. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 39. 866-885

NASW Government Relations Action Alert


The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to begin consideration of Medicare legislation on Wednesday, December 5th. It is very important that Finance Committee members hear now from social workers supporting three changes in Medicare law:

Remove clinical social work (CSW) services from the Medicare skilled nursing facilities (SNF) consolidated payment system, permitting CSWs to bill Medicare separately, the same as psychiatrists and psychologists, for services to Medicare Part A beneficiaries provided in SNFs.
Increase Medicare Part B payments to CSWs and psychologists by 5% starting on January 1, 2008. This increase will partially restore a Medicare cut for these clinical services that occurred on the first of this year.
Correct Medicare’s current discriminatory co-payment on outpatient mental health services from 50/50 beneficiary cost sharing to the standard 80/20 coverage for other Part B services. This “Medicare parity” provision should go into effect on January 1, 2008.

Please email your two Senators immediately and ask them to support clinical social work services in Medicare. Our suggested message is located on NASW’s website at: Medicare Support Letter.


The Senate Finance Committee will soon consider crucial legislation for clinical social workers within broader Medicare legislation correcting physician and other outpatient (Part B) payment problems. NASW hopes to score a major early victory for its Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI) by attaching provisions that will increase Medicare payment rates for all clinical social workers billing Part B independently as well as restore clinical social workers’ ability to bill independently for services provided to Medicare nursing home residents. One key SWRI component, known as the Clinical Social Work Medicare Equity Act (S.1212) has long been sought by NASW. Recently, NASW has sought relief for CSW payments under Part B, which were cut by 9% late last year by federal administrative action. NASW advocates that the Senate legislation increase CSW payments by 5% above their current level beginning on January 1, 2008. This special payment increase would apply only to psychotherapy and behavioral services that were cut on January 1, 2007 by 9 percent. In addition to the 5 percent increase in 2008, CSWs would receive the same percent payment change that Congress will authorize for all physician services in the program, currently a .5% positive payment update under the House version, HR 3162.


The House version of Medicare legislation, which contains the physician fee updates, already contains the three clinical social work service improvements described above. These benefit improvements are expected to be offset by cuts in managed care payments for Medicare. Early indications are that we are within reaching our legislative goals in the Senate since the House bill has already adopted them. It is vital that all Senators here the message to support clinical social work services now.
For further information, contact Jim Finley at NASW:

Monday, December 3, 2007

Easley supports new admissions policy

RALEIGH, N.C. — A candidate for North Carolina governor wants Attorney General Roy Cooper to weigh in on a new policy that requires community colleges to admit eligible illegal immigrants.
A policy issued last month removed the discretion community colleges had in accepting undocumented applicants.
State Sen. Fred Smith told Cooper on Monday that the policy appears to contradict federal and state laws related to illegal immigrants and established community college system rules.
Smith also says any changes need to be approved by the state Legislature.
The five leading major-party candidates for governor, including Smith, are opposed to the change. Democratic Gov. Mike Easley supports the new policy but is barred from seeking a third consecutive term.

Mothers Scrimp as States Take Child Support

Mothers Scrimp as States Take Child Support
The New York Times
MILWAUKEE — The collection of child support from absent fathers is failing to help many of the poorest families, in part because the government uses fathers’ payments largely to recoup welfare costs rather than passing on the money to mothers and children.
Close to half the states pass along none of collected child support to families on welfare, while most others pay only $50 a month to a custodial parent, usually the mother, even though the father may be paying hundreds of dollars each month.
Critics say using child support to repay welfare costs harms children instead of helping them, contradicting the national goal of strengthening families, and is a flaw in the generally lauded national campaign to increase collections.
Karla Hart, a struggling mother of four here, held out her monthly statement from the county child-support office.
Paid by the father: $229.40.
Amount deducted to repay federal costs of welfare: $132.18.
Her share: $97.22. “That extra money was a bill I could pay,” said Ms. Hart, 56, who has lupus and other serious ailments but against her doctor’s advice has started working at a day care center, in a failing effort to achieve solvency.
Reflecting a growing, bipartisan sense that diverting child support money to government coffers is counterproductive, Congress, in the Deficit Reduction Act passed in early 2006, took a modest step toward change. Beginning in 2009, states will be permitted to pass along up to $100 for one child and $200 for two or more children, with the state and federal governments giving up a share of welfare repayments they have received in the past.
The Bush administration has set a goal of increasing the share of collections distributed to families and reducing the amount retained by the government. But the drive to reduce the budget deficit has gotten in the way. As part of last-minute budget crunching, the Republican-controlled Congress in that same act reduced by 20 percent the child-support enforcement money it gives to the states, starting this fall. Many states say the effort to force them to pay more of the enforcement costs will impede collections and prevent them from passing more money on to needy families.
“There was a real groundswell toward the idea of giving more of the money, or even all of it, to the families,” said Vicki Turetsky, an expert on child support at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington. But that momentum has been stopped short, she said, by the financing change.
Ms. Hart was luckier than most mothers in her position because for more than eight years, under a federally approved experiment, Wisconsin gave all money collected from noncustodial parents to the families. When the experiment ended last year, she lost most of the check.
“My daughter told me this morning that she needed $9 for something at school, and I was like, ‘But I have to pay the rent,’” Ms. Hart said. “I gave it to her, and now I have to find that money someplace else.”
Barry A. Miller, the chief of the North Carolina child support office, said North Carolina, like about half of all states, passed no support money on to families. “We were seriously considering a change, but it’s doubtful we could do that now,” said Mr. Miller, who is also the president of the National Council of Child Support Directors. In North Carolina and elsewhere, lost federal aid may instead force cuts in personnel and enforcement.
On Nov. 15, 24 governors from both parties sent a letter to Congress asking it to repeal the cuts, arguing that they would hurt one of the government’s most cost-effective programs, which raises more than $4 in child support for every $1 spent on enforcement.
The intensified national effort over the last decade to establish paternity for babies born out of wedlock and to collect more support money, mainly from fathers, is often described as a great success. And indeed, collections have increased significantly, to some $24 billion in 2006 from $12 billion in 1996, helping many families avoid penury.
But for the poorest men and women, the story is mixed. Young fathers with little education or job prospects find themselves in arrears and facing jail time or the loss of their driver’s licenses as a result, making it all the harder to start earning and paying, said David J. Pate Jr., an assistant professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
One startling indicator of how pervasively the poor are affected is highlighted by Daniel L. Hatcher, a legal expert on welfare issues at the University of Baltimore School of Law, in a forthcoming law review article. Of the nation’s total uncollected child-support arrears of $105 billion in 2006, Professor Hatcher writes, fully half was owed to the federal and state governments to recover welfare costs, rather than to families.
When Congress set up the current child support system in the 1970s, recovering welfare costs was an explicit goal, with some experts arguing that it was only fair for fathers to repay the government for sustaining their offspring and that giving families the money was a form of “double dipping.” But experience and research have suggested to most experts and state and federal officials from both parties that the policy is counterproductive — driving fathers into the underground economy and leaving families more dependent on aid.
Today, said Ron Haskins, a Republican expert at the Brookings Institution, “I don’t think anyone thinks it’s double dipping, especially because one of the major goals is to get more money to the mother so she can stay off welfare.”
The major obstacle to change, Mr. Haskins said, “has usually been that it cost both the federal government and the states money.”
Studies of the Wisconsin experiment showed that when support payments were fully passed along to mothers, more fathers came forward and paid more of the support they owed, said Maria Cancian, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As families receive more support money, they are less apt to require public assistance, she and other experts say, making up for any short-term loss of revenues. And fathers are more likely to establish lasting patterns of payment and connection with their children, Ms. Cancian said.
Using child support for revenue collection “is penny wise and pound foolish,” she added.
Tonya Wenk, 24, of Milwaukee is so angry at the reduction in payments for her daughter that she and the father have applied to withdraw from the child support system. Ms. Wenk said the father, Lashun Gray, had always paid his required sum to the state and more in private.
Mr. Gray, 26, a forklift driver at a large store, said of the disappearing money, “It bothers me a lot.”
The federal government refused to extend the waiver that allowed Wisconsin to pay all money to families, but the state, despite a $27 million cut in federal aid, continues to forgive its own share of welfare costs.
That is why Ms. Hart, like others in Wisconsin, is receiving more than she would in other states. But this is small comfort to the ailing mother, who had to move to Milwaukee’s outskirts when the building where she rented an apartment was lost to foreclosure, must share a bed with a daughter and worries that she cannot buy a computer for her children in high school.
“The school says go to a library to use one, but we don’t have any transport to the library,” said Ms. Hart, who cannot even think of owning a car.
Going to work, she said, may have been a wash financially because her federal disability check and food stamps were reduced, as is her energy.
“As soon as I catch up, I’ll slow down, but it just keeps going,” she said. “I’m tired and worn out.”

Robeson Sex Education Classes an Issue

LUMBERTON — Robeson County health officials are campaigning for a comprehensive sex education curriculum in the public schools. They say such a curriculum would decrease the high teen-pregnancy rate and the number of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers. Robeson County ranks 11th in the state for its teen-pregnancy rate.
Last year, 446 girls in Robeson County between the ages of 12 and 19 had babies. There were 62 abortions among girls ages 14 to 19, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Currently, the school system’s sex education curriculum is abstinence-based.
Health officials want a program that would discuss a variety of issues, including safe sex, decision-making, refusal skills and consequences of certain behaviors, said Lashona Miller, a health educator with the county Health Department.
“It is all about prevention. Nothing deals with teaching students how to have sex,” she said.
Health officials began their campaign this summer. People who support a comprehensive sex education curriculum signed a postcard asking for such a program in the schools. More than 200 cards were mailed to the school system.
Last week, health officials started running ads in a local newspaper asking people to write or call the school superintendent, school board members and state legislators.
The Health Department received an $11,000 grant from the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of North Carolina to increase the community’s awareness of teen pregnancy in Robeson County and how comprehensive sex education can reduce the teen pregnancy rate and sexually transmitted diseases.
“The counties that do have that piece, they are making a difference,” said Kay Phillips, executive director of the coalition.
“The comprehensive piece is nothing more than a day about contraceptives, how they work and how they don’t work. It’s that simple.”
“We realize these young people are not going to stay teenagers,” Phillips said. “We want them to be responsible adults so they can be informed and knowledgeable.”
Robeson health officials formed the group CHATS, Creating Health Advocates Through Schools, to get information to the public. The group consists of health educators, parents, students and representatives from different agencies in the county.
It recently conducted community and student surveys about having a comprehensive sex education curriculum in the schools. Information from those surveys will be presented to the school board, Miller said.
“Hopefully it will be an eye-opener for them to do something about the issue,” Miller said. “We put so much emphasis on physical fitness and tobacco use that we forget about other issues, like how to reduce teen pregnancies. We don’t want to be left out.”
Calls to Superintendent Johnny Hunt were not returned.
School board Chairman John Campbell said he would be willing to discuss the issue with health officials after getting input from other board members.
“I know we have a problem with unwed mothers and sexually transmitted diseases,” Campbell said. “Abstinence is the best policy, and we wish that was something everyone would abide by. I am certainly receptive to what we can do legally to be more comprehensive.”
In 1977, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring the Department of Public Instruction to develop and implement a comprehensive health-education program for kindergarten through ninth grade.
In 1995, it amended that law to include sex education for the purpose of pregnancy prevention. One year later, the General Assembly added its Abstinence Until Marriage Act. It says that if a comprehensive sex education course is to be taught, one of the components must be abstinence until marriage.
Individual school boards decide what components of the sex education curriculum are taught in county schools. The school system must hold public hearings whenever sex education is being considered as part of the curriculum. Hearings also must be held when new material to the curriculum is being considered.
School officials can talk about the effectiveness and failure rates of condoms.
The state’s Standard Course of Study allows school officials to discuss the effectiveness and failure rates of birth control in the eight grade, said Sherry Lehman, of the state Department of Public Instruction.
“While we are an abstinence-until-marriage state, we do go beyond that,” Lehman said.
There are at least 12 school systems in the state that have had hearings and can be more comprehensive than what the statute allows, Lehman said.
The Cumberland County school system teaches abstinence only.
Discussing a curriculum
There would need to be some talk about what a comprehensive sex education curriculum should encompass before Robeson County schools could change its course of study, Campbell said.
“Some people think comprehensive includes handing out condoms … This is something that can’t be ignored. But, how to address it and embrace it is still debatable,” he said.
Campbell said a collaborative community effort is the key to combating teen pregnancy.
“The sex-education piece is just one of those pieces. … There is a part of our community that will remain ready to ignore it and just say no. It didn’t work with drugs, and it didn’t work in preventing teenage pregnancy, either,” he said. “There has to be an awareness campaign just like how we attacked any other health issue such as diabetes, heart disease and syphilis. It will require a comprehensive effort from many partners in the community, including our state legislators.”
A proposed bill submitted earlier this year would have amended the school health education program to include comprehensive sex education. However, the bill had opposition among the church community and others. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education, where it died.
State Rep. Garland Pierce, who was among the bill’s co-sponsors, said the bill was controversial because some felt it would give teenagers the green light to have sex. Also, it would cover alternative lifestyles such as homosexuality.
“The alternative-lifestyles issue was what killed the bill,” he said. “That is what scared people away from it. Some feared if the schools were teaching it, they would participate.”
But others argued it would give students knowledge to protect themselves, said Pierce, who is also a pastor.
“Girls are getting pregnant at an early age, and then there is the risk of getting a disease. … At some point you have to take your head out of the sand and see the reality. There are nearly 500 teenagers who have had babies in Robeson County. Either you learn it from the bathroom or from your friends, or learn it from the professionals who will teach you the real deal.”
State Rep. Ron Sutton, who also represents Robeson County, said he has no issues with sex education.
“It’s what you teach and who you are teaching it to,” he said. “Children should be allowed to be children as long as they can and not clutter their minds.”
He said second- and third-graders should not be taught about homosexuality.
“These are the kind of things that concern me,” Sutton said.
Sutton said if the matter came before the Judiciary Committee, on which he serves, a comprehensive sex-education curriculum would be closely scrutinized.
Pierce said parents can opt their children out of the class.
“Parents should be able to consent one way or the other,” he said.
Pierce said he thinks the issue will come up again.
“It is an issue that we need to deal with,” he said.
Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at or (910) 738-9158.