Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Group Homes

Lawmakers are considering cutting back funding for North Carolina's therapeutic group homes – a move that would likely place hundreds of children into foster care. The homes currently serve more than 1,700 children with severe mental health needs, such as those with bipolar disorder or a history of reckless behavior. The state budget isn't final, but plans call for reducing funding by $15.8 million in the first year and $22.5 million more the next. That would trim about 40 percent of the teens now getting care at levels 3 and 4, among the higher categories, indicating children with severe behavioral or mental problems. Critics contend such a move would be short sighted, saying the homes are better prepared than foster parents to handle a violent breakdown. “The first thing they're going to say is you need to come get this kid. He's not going to be attacking my son,” said Donald Grantham, director of operations for Omega Independent Living Services. “These kids can amp out any time. A lot of these kids will be on the street.”

But Leza Wainwright, director of the N.C. Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, said the state has too many children living in group homes who might thrive in foster care, a more homelike setting that any mental health expert would recommend. “It's the right thing to do,” Wainwright said, noting that foster home kids still get outpatient therapy. “They're living with a family that has been specifically trained to meet their needs and they're getting other services. The essence is the same.”(Josh Shaffer, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/21/09).

Monday, July 20, 2009

US Rep Sue Myrick announces ICE anti-gang unit in Charlotte

Myrick Announces ICE Anti-Gang Unit in Charlotte

(Charlotte, NC) – US Representative Sue Myrick (NC-09) announced today that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will establish a full-time anti-gang unit in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. Rep. Myrick wrote a letter to ICE Assistant Secretary John T. Morton in late-May requestinga permanent unit be placed in the region.

“I am thankful that Secretary Morton and ICE have decided to bring a full-time gang unit to our area,” said Rep. Myrick. “The temporary ICE gang unit that has worked with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to dismantle violent street gangs like MS-13 has been a great success. I’m hopeful that a permanent presence will build on this success to further disrupt the violent gang activities that threaten the safety of our citizens”.

In his letter to Rep. Myrick informing her of the plans for the new unit, Secretary Morton said that 70 transnational gang members have been arrested on civil immigration and criminal violations this year in Charlotte.

The unit is expected to be functional in the Charlotte metropolitan area by the end of this summer. (Examiner.com-USA 7/20/2009)

Unemployment Rate

The state's jobless ticked down slightly in June to 11 percent, according to the Employment Security Commission. May's unemployment figure was 11.1 percent. The state's unemployment rate a year ago in June was 6.1 percent. The figures are adjusted for seasonal effects, such as temporary summer jobs. The number of unemployed workers in the state decreased by 4,721 workers, to 502,263, ESC said. Since June 2008, unemployment has increased by 224,657 people. Nationally, the unemployment rate in June was 9.5 percent, the highest rate since August 1983 and an increase from 9.4 percent in May.(Amanda Jones Hoyle, TRIANGLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/17/09).

Hospital Deaths

Gov. Beverly Perdue has signed into law a bill designed to release more information about deaths at state mental hospitals. The bill, sought by Perdue and Attorney General Roy Cooper, describes the information that must be released when a patient dies at a mental hospital or a facility for substance abusers and the developmentally disabled. The bill requires that the name, gender and birth date of the deceased be released, when and where the death happened and the circumstances. Death details about patients who had left the hospital up to two weeks earlier also must be disclosed. Perdue said the measure will increase government transparency.(THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/17/09).

**Editor Note** This is a critical intervention in the system. This will allow a greater understanding of what is "happening on the ground." It is the view of NASW-NC that we know more about what is happening in the hospitals. Staff is overworked. Consumers are angry. The system cannot make change until the veil of secrecy is lifted.

Orr Wins

State schools Superintendent June Atkinson wasn't the only winner Friday when a judge ruled that her constitutional authority to run North Carolina schools had been usurped. Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice, also came out on top. Orr represented Atkinson, a Democrat, in her suit against the governor and the State Board of Education over who has the authority to run the state's public schools. The case wasn't Orr's first challenge against the state regarding the constitution. He has led unsuccessful lawsuits against the state over the lottery, tax-increment financing and tax incentives for Dell. Orr runs the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law and made an unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for governor last year.(Dome, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/19/09).

**Editor note** NASW-NC's political action committee, NC PACE, interviewed Judge Orr when he ran for the GOP nomination for Governor. He was the only GOP candidate who would grant NASW an interview.

School Power

The North Carolina Constitution gives state schools Superintendent June Atkinson authority to run the state education bureaucracy, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled Friday. Hobgood said the state Board of Education violated the constitution when, at the direction of Gov. Beverly Perdue, it hired Bill Harrison to be the chief executive officer of the state Department of Public Instruction. Perdue also made Harrison the chairman of the state Board of Education. The ruling does not affect that role. Even though the superintendent is a statewide elected position, the office's power has waned over the years as lawmakers, governors and the board have cut away the duties tied to it. Before Harrison, a governor-selected deputy superintendent held the reins. Meanwhile, Atkinson, in her second term, until Friday supervised just four people. More than 800 people answered to Harrison. Harrison's salary is $265,000, while Atkinson's is $123,198.

In April, Atkinson sued, saying the governor, legislature and state board violated the state constitution when they stripped her office of its power. On Friday, Hobgood agreed. "The General Assembly and the state Board of Education do not have the power, without a constitutional amendment, to deprive the duly elected superintendent of public instruction of her inherent power as chief administrative officer of the state Board of Education," Hobgood said. The acts that put Harrison in charge are "null and void and unenforceable," Hobgood said. Atkinson said the ruling affirms the will of nearly 2.2 million voters who elected her in 2008. "I am grateful that I will have the opportunity to lead and serve the children in our state," she said. The ruling may create a conflict between Atkinson and Harrison, who now answers to her instead of a board that he chairs. "I respect him a lot and feel as if he respects me, and I'm sure that I will do whatever I can and believe that he will do whatever he can so that we will have a good working relationship," Atkinson said.

In a written statement, Harrison said he would look over the ruling and "continue my close working relationship with the superintendent and the governor to increase accountability and ensure North Carolina's public schools are globally competitive." Perdue also issued a statement indicating she is looking over the decision. "I am reviewing the court's ruling," Perdue said. "I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Harrison and Superintendent Atkinson to achieve our goal of providing a quality education for North Carolina's children." Attorney General Roy Cooper's office indicated Friday that it will appeal the ruling, and unsuccessfully sought to delay the ruling's implementation until that appeal is heard.(Paul Woolverton, THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER, 7/19/09; THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/18/09).

Cuts likely for at-risk youth homes



Greensboro News Record - Greensboro, NC, USA


Cuts likely for at-risk youth homes

Sunday, July 19, 2009

By Gerald Witt

Staff Writer


GREENSBORO — Children who are suicidal, violent or severely mentally and emotionally unstable might have no place to go if the Senate version of the state budget passes.


And by most accounts, it looks like a cut to the therapeutic facilities serving those children is likely.


“There will be casualties along the way,” Robert Williams , director of the Guilford County Department of Social Services, said of the potential state cuts. “The question is, 'How do we minimize those?’”


If not for those facilities, Williams said, those children — about 130 in Guilford County — would otherwise end up in jail, juvenile detention, state substance-abuse programs or in mental health programs.


Instead they are at facilities offering more security and therapy than a group home or are in locked facilities that are less expensive but on par with a psychiatric hospital.


The suggested cuts to those centers total $15.9 million in 2009-10  and $22.6 million the next year , according to figures from the N.C. Providers Council, which advocates in the legislature on behalf of children’s homes, among other things.

The state Department of Juvenile Justice expects the change and is preparing for about 600 children in therapeutic homes statewide that will likely need to go elsewhere.


“There are about 100 that we would be really concerned about, that would need some kind of 24-hour placement,” said William Lassiter, a department spokesman.  “These are serious or violent offenders.”


Juvenile detention centers don’t have room for those children. As of Friday, more than 400 of the state’s 425 juvenile beds were occupied.


“We understand that it’s pretty likely that this is going to happen,” Lassiter said. Juvenile justice has sent letters to local court coordinators and began working with the state’s human services department to prepare for the change.


The cuts are partly a reaction to a system that’s long been thought to hemorrhage money, a system in which a child could stay for years without much therapy while the provider collected tax money.


Some work was even being falsely called therapy.


“They had people doing things like taking (children) to the fast-food restaurant,” Williams said, “And that’s what we paid for.”


When an overhaul of the mental health system, which is tied to how those therapeutic homes worked, began in 2001, an abundance of private care providers appeared that has since thinned itself out.


Advocates say that the remaining facilities generally work well.


“It’s working again, and it’s about to be turned upside down,” said Michael McGuire , clinical director of The Children’s Home in Winston-Salem, one of the best-known homes in the state offering residential child therapy.


He advocates simply raising taxes to keep facilities open.


“We have a responsibility to help folks,” he said. “And maybe it’s short-term, maybe it’s until the economy does recover.”


If the cuts happen, it wouldn’t automatically lead to those most at-risk children being turned out on the streets.

“We convinced many of the legislators to slow it down,” said Bob Hedrick, director of the N.C. Providers Council.

Overall, Hedrick said that the state is poised to cut $541 million in 2009-10 from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and eliminate another $753 million in 2010-11.


For those most extreme child cases — called level III and level IV clients by insiders — a complex and strong set of alternatives must be ready, advocates say.


As the system stands, here are the options for those children:

-- Group homes: Some would lose money under the cuts and might not be staffed appropriately to handle the specific needs of those most at-risk.

-- Therapeutic foster homes: Like a higher-level traditional foster home, these offer therapy as they raise children. But foster homes are traditionally intended to take those children living in abusive or dangerous home environments, not children who are a danger to themselves or others.

-- Psychiatric hospitals: This option is one of the most expensive ways to treat a child.


Williams and others have said that the system needs tweaking. Studies have shown that other, more nuanced methods of treatment for the most difficult cases can work better than residential therapeutic facilities.


“We need to change it,” Williams said, “but we need to do it in a very planned way.”


He sees much of the burden shifting to therapeutic foster homes.


“Do you have the manpower, the professional manpower, to man these programs that they should?” he said.

Otherwise, the burden would shift elsewhere.


“The system is going to pay for it either way,” he said. “We either pay for it and let them be in a productive system or we let them go into the mental heath, juvenile justice, substance abuse or criminal justice systems.”



Contact Gerald Witt at 373-7008 or gerald.witt@news-record.com


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Welcome to NASW-NC new Director of Membership Services Aaron Swart

Attention Hull House NC Bloggers:  NASW-NC is proud to welcome Aaron Swart as the new Director of Membership Services


After graduating from North Carolina State University in 1996 with a Business Management degree, Aaron spent several years gaining valuable skill sets within both the human resource management and sales and marketing arenas, which has served him well in preparing him for the work he is passionate about today.  Aaron’s interactions with on-site consulting and recruiting with SonyEricsson and in launching and promoting billion-dollar products with GlaxoSmithKline led him to appreciate and promote the value of relationships and respect, and to provide excellent service towards others.  In keeping with his passion, in late 2003, Aaron left his role as a pharmaceutical representative to pursue social work.

After spending valuable time in the field as a mentor, a case manager, and in mental health crisis diversion, Aaron simultaneously pursued his Master of Social Work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a concentration in Management and Community Practice. Aaron’s internship experiences include working with SAFEchild, a non-profit child abuse prevention agency in Wake County, and with SAS Institute in the Work/Life and EAP Group, in Cary.  Aaron continues to be actively involved in facilitating groups with SAFEchild as a volunteer, and as a result of a grant with the agency, teaches program evaluation curriculum at Peace College that focuses on evaluating parenting education programs provided to domestic violence offenders who have children living in the home.


While integrating social work values with business sense, Aaron strongly adheres to the reality that when individual and family work/life balance is supported by any organization or agency, employees are more proactive and productive in their respective line of work.  Hence, after receiving his MSW in 2008, Aaron served as a Work/Life and EAP (employee assistance program) consultant with a local company in Raleigh, providing clinical case management, first responder crisis assistance, and work/life consulting in a state-of-the-art call center. 


As the newly-appointed Director of Membership Services with the North Carolina Chapter, one of Aaron’s long-term goals is to provide NASW members with reliable resources and practical online tools that advocate and celebrate work/life balance at any life stage.  In the short-term and across the life span of the role, Aaron seeks to promote the importance and necessity of being involved as a member of the NASW, including communicating its strength in providing professional development, in lobbying efforts, and in securing myriad benefits for individuals practicing social work in North Carolina.


Aaron currently resides in Raleigh, and has a 5-year-old son named Noah.  Aaron enjoys anything that involves water, frequents the local YMCA, loves to hike and spend time photographing nature, and also relishes the latest movies and restaurants in the area.  While Aaron has spent time traveling overseas on missions trips and respects various cultures and traditions, he similarly enjoys being at home with his two cats, Pickles and Zadie.



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Join Us at this Critical Hour to Keep the Pressure on Our State Leaders

NASW-NC is a member of Together NC!


Dear Together NC Supporters:


It’s coming down to the wire! We need all hands on deck for a final push to ensure that legislators take a balanced approach to addressing the budget shortfall and keep new revenues in the budget.


We’re hearing bad rumors from the capital that some folks are getting cold feet when it comes to raising revenues, so we need to make sure that they continue to hear from us.


That’s why Together NC is organizing a statewide phonebanking event next week.


We need your help!


The phonebanks will be running next Wednesday in the following locations around the state:


-Rocky Mount






Pending locations:




-Elizabeth City


We will have specific locations and contact info for each site on Monday.


Volunteering at a phonebank

1-    We are asking people to arrive at 5:30 and stay until 8:30.

2-    The phonebank host at each location will provide a brief training from 5:30 to 6.

3-    Dinner and refreshments will be provided.

4-    If you are interested please email or call Rob Thompson – info@nccovenant.org or 919.649.2449.


Who we’re calling and how it works:


Volunteers will make calls to targeted voters in key Senate and House districts around the state using an easy-to-use automatic dialer, the Activate system, that filters out bad numbers. Because this technology is automatically dialing through numbers, volunteers never have to wait more than a minute or two to get connected to a voter.


When a volunteer gets a voter on the line, the volunteer explains the current problem using a script and then asks the voter if she would like to contact her state legislator. If the voter says ‘yes,’ we patch the voter DIRECTLY through to the legislator’s office. This is IMMEDIATE and EFFECTIVE action that is much more powerful than a traditional phonebank.


Getting constituents to make these calls is the MOST effective way to influence legislators.



Please let us know as soon as possible if you are able to volunteer.  Contact Rob Thompson at info@nccovenant.org or 919.649.2449 with any questions





Study finds workplace immigration raids unlawful

This report comes from the listserv NASW-NC participates in regarding raids and immigration issues.  This is a serious concern to NASW-NC.  If you have examples in your practice or are interested in getting more involved with this issues, please contact Jack Register, Director of Advocacy & Legislation at the Chapter office.  His email is Jack@naswnc.org.



Study finds workplace immigration raids unlawful



In the early morning hours of December 12, 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swept into Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in six states, rounding up detaining thousands of workers in one of the largest immigration raids in U.S. history.


A new report by a national commission of labor leaders, former elected officials, academic researchers and legal experts found ICE abused workers and violated their constitutional and civil rights in the Swift raids.

The report, Raids on Workers: Destroying Our Rights, details how thousands of workers at the six Swift plants were herded together at gun-point -- at one plant shots were even fired -- and were denied access to bathrooms, food, water, families and legal counsel for hours.

The commission found that during the Swift raids:


  • Some workers were interrogated, accused of lying and badgered during contentious questioning...
  • Union officials were denied access to the worksites.
  • Citizens and legal residents were denied the opportunity to retrieve documents to establish their legal status.
  • Some were handcuffed and held for hours.
  • Others were shipped out on buses.
  • Families, schools and day care centers could not be contacted to make arrangements for the children of detained workers.
  • Families were left divided--not knowing where or when they might see a missing family member again.

According to the report the execution of the Swift raids was part of a wider pattern of ICE misconduct occurring across the country. These Bush-era enforcement tactics routinely led to systemic abuse of workers' rights and a willful disregard for the rule of law, according to the report. Moreover, the report found that military-style ICE raids were used "less as an effective law enforcement tool and more as a way to grab headlines and stir hysteria around immigration and immigrants."

Other findings from the report:

  • U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents were detained for hours unable to leave even after establishing their status;
  • A lack of coordination by ICE with state and local labor and child welfare agencies;
  • Violations of the Fourth an Fifth Amendments, which grant protections against unreasonable search and seizure and guarantee due process, respectively;
  • Repeated incidents of racial profiling and harassment;
  • A large human toll in immigration enforcement, including family separation and children left without proper care;
  • Lasting economic and psychological devastation on communities and families in the aftermath of workplace and community raids.


The past few years have seen one of the largest immigration enforcement crackdowns take place in the United States, with raids that have swept across the country and arrested thousands. The South was the site of several major ICE raids during that period.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the main group behind the new report, spent the last two years studying violations that occurred under the Bush administration's immigration enforcement policy. It founded the national commission to investigate the problems, holding five hearings across the country to take testimony and gather evidence of ICE violations. The UFCW has also filed class-action lawsuit in federal court, alleging mistreatment of workers and violation of constitutional rights by federal agents.