Helpful Hints and Words of Wisdom from Charlie Kramer

For those looking to go into the field of social work, Charlie Kramer has a positive attitude and an abundance of knowledge when it comes to working with people with disabilities. When asked why he loves social work his answer is “everyone has a different story! It’s like reading a new book every hour.” He feels that people are fascinating and is grateful to be able to understand and relate to people all the time.

People are fascinating. They're so unique and I think what's more fascinating is the reason behind the physical characteristic, the enigma, that's where the gold dust is. - Andrea Riseborough

Charlie also loves how social work is “a little bit of everything” and how social work opens so many doors as there are various paths one can take with a social work degree. Charlie recommends that people find what they love about social work and run with that passion.

Charlie notes that advocacy is a big part of the job. Sticking up for vulnerable populations, such as the disabled is an important task to ensure all people are receiving justice and equality. He notes that disability rights are human rights.

In social work, it is incredibly important to allow the person to struggle and do things on their own. For example, although it may be easier to simply do things for people with disabilities, they will not be able to learn as deeply if they are not experiencing things themselves. It is important to learn to be there with the person while they are struggling or in pain.

Charlie recommends that social workers remember to “take care of the person in the mirror.” If we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot care for others. Practices such as exercise and meditation are great ways to make sure we are taking care of our bodies and minds.

According to Charlie, key characteristics of a social worker are compassion, active listening & genuineness. He also recommends not getting stuck on labels or having preconceptions about the client before you meet him or her.


Charlie Kramer, LCSW-R. Southern Tier Independence Center, April 14th, 2016.

What YOU Should Know About School Social Work

There are 18,000 social workers employed in US schools according to the School Social Workers Association, and they work to address the social and emotional needs of children to allow for greater opportunities of success in school (Blackboard PowerPoint).

School social workers work as part of a team to address issues facing students, families, and communities. Social workers play an integral role in the community-school movement (Blackboard PowerPoint).School social workers have a number of different responsibilities such as creating or offering school wide interventions, running programs that encourage student family school engagement, going on home visits, running support groups for kids, referring students and families to  outside support and a number of other responsibilities (Sam Bligen).

School social workers can run various support groups such as bullying groups, disability support groups, or banana split groups. School based interventions are usually brief in nature, and tend to use cognitive behavioral therapy, or solution focused therapy due to school day constraints (Blackboard PowerPoint).

School Social workers act as the support for those struggling in school. Social workers act like investigators in trying to find out some of the reasons why kids are struggling. Often times there are things going on at home that directly impact why kids are absent so much or why they are defiant and angry in school. Social workers determine what resources are available to help that child succeed in the learning environment. They are also mandated reporters so if they suspect anything is going on at home such as harm or neglect, they have a legal obligation to report it (Sam Bligen).

School social workers are often the only social worker in their school so they have very large caseloads and it can be somewhat isolating not to have someone who shares the same background and knowledge (Sam Bligen).

Nevertheless, school social workers are integral to students’ success and development in school. They are the voice for the voiceless. They are advocates for students and act in the best interest of the child. School social workers continue to make differences in the lives of so many children (Sam Bligen).



Why Social Workers Need to Protect Children from Neglect- By Valerie Protass

Social workers play an integral role in protecting children from abuse and neglect and help children as they deal with a variety of issues such as violence, neglect, poverty, and more that interferes with a child’s health, well-being, and quality of life (DiNitto& McNeece, 2008, p.239).

Neglect accounts for 52% of the approximate one million cases of child maltreatment that occurs each year in the U.S. About 1/4 of the cases involve physical damage, about 12% involve sexual abuse, and the remaining cases involve emotional abuse/psychological maltreatment (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 239).

In the U.S. 13 million or nearly 18% of children live in poverty and children of color are at a higher risk of living in poverty. Maltreatment can happen in any household, but statistically it is more likely to occur in poverty-stricken families ( DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 240).


The effects of maltreatment can be devastating. Children who have experienced trauma can have a number of permanent physical and emotional scars. Traumatized children may find it very difficult to trust others or form healthy relationships. They may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drugs or alcohol. Some may even develop clinical depression or PTSD and long term victims of abuse may have health and academic problems (DiNitt0 & McNeece, 2008, p. 241).

Children who witness abuse are more likely to be abused themselves and to abuse their own children and/or spouses in the future (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 241). Unfortunately, this abuse is a cycle and it is incredibly important for social workers to break the cycle and get children the help they need.

Alcohol and drugs are highly connected to child maltreatment – an estimated 67% of parents involved with the child welfare system abuse drugs and/or alcohol. Often when poor neglectful parents are abusing substances, children are left to fend for themselves and protect/take care of siblings. It is up to social workers to provide children with the resources they need to live a safe and self fulfilling life (DiNitt0& McNeece, 2008, p. 241).


DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.


What You Should Know about Substance Use & Misuse- By Valerie Protass

Approximately 9-10% of the U.S. population currently meets the criteria for substance abuse or dependence ; about 15 million have an alcohol use disorder, 4 million have a drug use disorder, and about 3 million have both alcohol and drug disorders. As you can see, substance use and misuse is very prevalent in this country, but many do not receive help because they can’t afford it or do not realize they have a problem (DiNitto& McNeece, 2008, pg. 175).

Unfortunately, many social workers tend to receive very little training in substance abuse and misuse despite 43% of the NASW members reporting that they’ve worked with people with substance abuse disorders. It is obvious that we need to provide more training and resources to social workers who will most likely come into contact with substance abuse disorders in their practice (Blackboard presentation).





Two very important characteristics goes a long way with social workers: empathy and empowerment- social workers must work with people to make them the best they can be (Merrit Hartblay).When the substance is altering a person’s quality of life,social workers help addicts find a way to fix the soul (Merrit Hartblay).

Substance abuse happens often times when someone experiences trauma and the person doesn’t get a chance to process it and instead it just festers- it’s easy to self medicate. Substance abuse also has a genetic component. “Many individuals with alcohol or drug disorders have a family history of these problems, suggesting a genetic predisposition” (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, p. 177).

The Office of the National Drug Control Policy reports that majority of the annual drug control budget goes to law enforcement rather than treatment,prevention, and related research. However, there is no evidence that law enforcement and consequences such as prison reduces drug abuse and dependence(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 187).

To end on a positive note, the US government is providing millions of dollars for brain research in the hopes of identifying areas for prevention and treatment. It is essential that social workers and other professionals can appropriately care for and provide effective substance abuse treatments (Straussner, 2012, p. 131).

Works Cited:

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and Opportunities in a
Challenging Profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.
Straussner, S. (2012). Clinical Treatment of Substance Abusers: Past, Present and Future. Clinical Social Work Journal Clin Soc Work J, 40, 127-133.



Understanding Military Social Work- By Valerie Protass

The VA is the #1 employer of social workers with a total of 11,000 social workers working for the VA. Within the VA there are both civilian social workers and social workers actually in the military (Blackboard presentation).

Some basic goals military social workers strive for in their practice are “client empowerment, advocacy, and help with basic social services” (Daley, 2003, pg. 437).

Social work practice for and within the military provides a multitude of services such as working on “family violence, substance abuse, mental illness, adaption to the military, wartime trauma, coping with physical illness and health enhancement” (Daley, 2003, pg. 438) Connie Sturgeon, LCSW, also provides sexual trauma and harassment counseling as well as bereavement counseling (Connie Sturgeon).

It is very important for military social workers to normalize and validate veterans’ behaviors, feelings, and thoughts so that they do not think they are “crazy” after coming back from some of the most traumatic sites and situations (Connie Studgeon).



It is also very important to use a strengths perspective while working with those who have been affected by war. It is wise to acknowledge current soldiers or veterans for their contribution to our country but also how brave it is to be able to sort through some of the unsettling feelings war causes among individuals (Connie Studgeon).

Families of veterans can have secondary PTSD as they may not be able to understand or relate to their loved ones after significant trauma has changed the veterans. It may be beneficial to seek marriage and family therapy to heal the family unit as a whole (Connie Studgeon).

Connie Sturgeon, an experienced licensed clinical social worker in the field of military social work provides aspiring social workers with three pieces of valuable advice- trust your intuition, be flexible, and truly listen to the people you’re talking with. She emphasizes a genuine ability to listen and care and says that the authenticity of a social worker goes a long way with veterans



Daley, James G. (2003). Military social work: A multi-country comparison.International Social Work, 46(4), 437-448

What you Need to Know about Medical Social Work- By Valerie Protass

Medical social work originated during the Progressive Era when settlement house workers began offering public education on personal hygiene and other health related topics (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 194).

Medical social workers recognize the connection between patients’ biological, psychological, and social conditions. Medical social workers act as liaisons between the hospital and community resources in order to “connect the hospital with all the social forces and helpful agencies outside its walls” (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 194).

Social workers often help individuals and family members struggling with decisions to prolong or end care. They also serve on hospital ethics committees that address these difficult issues (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 196).

Medial social workers incorporates three theoretical perspectives that are the foundation of all social work practice: the biopsychosocial model, a strengths perspective, and multilevel practice (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 200).

The biopsychosocial model sees the patient holistically, acknowledging the connections among the patient’s health, psychological state, family situation, employment, financial status, culture, religion, and neighborhood conditions (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 201).

The strengths approach acknowledges the resources within the individual and in his or her environment. It invites each patient’s participation in his or her own treatment plan. Instead of viewing patients as victims of their disease or disability, the focus of the strengths approach is on their inherent ability to survive and even thrive in the face of adversity (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 201).

Medical social work was the first specialization area in the social work profession. Medical social workers were the first members of the profession to work in what has come to be called a secondary setting, where providing social work services is not the organization’s primary function (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 203).

Medical social workers are educated to maneuver within systems, to advocate needed changes on a patient’s behalf, as well as substantial changes needed to address health care in national and international arenas. The main goal of medical social workers is to improve access to health and health literacy of all people regardless of background.(DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, pg. 214).



DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a
challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books

The Truth behind Poverty in the U.S. -Valerie Protass

There is an estimated 3 million homeless people in the United States. These people are at a greater risk for health problems because of the harsh living conditions associated with being homeless (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 409).


Single women with children are the fastest-growing subgroup  of the homeless population. Battered women especially without close extended family ties or are hiding from threatening men are at a high risk of becoming homeless (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 413). On an average night, an estimated 20% of sheltered single adults are homeless because of domestic violence, and 50% of sheltered families are victims of such violence (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 416).

43% of the homeless are substance abusers, 26% are mentally ill, 23% are veterans, 19% are employed full or part-time and 8% have AIDS or related illnesses (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 414).

Just because people find comfort in a shelter does not mean it is easy or safe. Homeless women are at a high risk for health problems in shelters as they are in close confinement with others and are therefore at great risk for spread of diseases such as colds, influenza, acute bronchitis, and tuberculosis (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 418).

It is not uncommon for homeless youths, both males, and females, to resort to prostitution as a means of survival, which then makes them vulnerable to further violence as well as disease (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 419).

Social workers working with impoverished populations need to be able to identify and reinforce strengths as well as focus on key ideals such as genuineness, encouragement, and personal empowerment in order to guide victims of homelessness and poverty to a path of healthy independence (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 423).


Works Cited:

Boes, M., & Wormer, K. (1997). Social Work with Homeless Women in Emergency Rooms: A Strengths-Feminist Perspective. Affilia, 12(4), 408-426.




7 Facts YOU should know about Forensic Social Work-Valerie Protass

Forensic Social Work refers to social work with criminals, victims, or offenders (John Vassello, 2016, Blackboard).

The U.S. rate of incarceration is the highest in the world with 730 prisoners for every 100,000 citizens (Jones& Mauer, 2013, pg. 3).

Unfortunately, there is tremendous racial and ethnic disparities among those who are incarcerated. People of color make up 65% of the prison population. And the lifetime likelihood of going to prison is 28% for black men, 16% for Hispanic men and just over 4% for white men (DiNitto& McNeece, 2008, pg. 312)

The annual rate of growth in the number of incarcerated women has increased faster than that for men over the past ten years with much of this increase due to charges in drug laws and harsher sentencing for drug offenses (DiNitto& McNeece, 2008, pg. 313)

However, 36% of incarcerated drug offenders were low level, had limited criminal histories, were non-violent, and had minimal roles in their offenses. Perhaps substance abuse treatment programs might be a more reasonable option (Jones & Mauer, 2013, pg. 60).

In criminal populations, there are significant mental health issues and substance abuse disorders – about 40% of the criminal population have a mental illness and 75% have a substance abuse problems (Jeff Pryor, Feb 18, 2016).

The reentry movement addresses the challenges of 700,000 people returning home from prison each year- it seeks to reduce crime by focusing on community based prevention and treatment programs. Unfortunately, 66% of people go back to prison if they don’t receive reentry services (Pryor, Jeff, Feb 18, 2016). These reentry programs help to provide guidance and support with integrating back into society by means of education, employment, housing, and supportive services (Jones& Mauer, 2013, pg. 105).



DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books

Jones, S., & Mauer, M. (2013). Race to incarcerate: A graphic retelling. New York: The New Press.

Pryor, Jeff. Personal communication. February, 18, 2016.

Vassello, John. Personal communication, February 18 , 2016.

8 Facts You Need to know about IPV- By Valerie Protass

Although IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) has existed in relationships for quite some time it only recently became part of the public eye during the Women’s Movement of the 1970’s when feminists demanded justice and brought this important issue to light (Murphy & Ouimet, 2008, p 309).

The CDC has defined IPV as violence occurring between current and former spouses or dating partners and not only includes physical abuse, but a ton of other types of abuse including sexual abuse, intimidation, threats, coercion, emotional abuse, economic abuse, and social isolation (Vassello, 2016, Slide 4).

Unfortunately, the rates at which IPV is happening is out of control- approximately 4.8 million women experience physical assaults and rapes. And women aren’t the only ones… men experience approximately 2.9 million assaults. And the cost is high literally- IPV is estimated at $8.3 billion a year including mental health services and medical care (Murphy & Ouimet, 2008, pg 309).

A very common explanation for the clear disparity between the number of women versus men affected by IPV is due to the social stigma of admitting to being abused by one’s female partner. The social norm of male dominance undermines a man’s ability and urge to speak out and get help (Allen, 2011, p. 249).

There is evidence that victims prefer to work  with a social worker rather than a health care provider regarding IPV- therefore social workers should feel empowered to enhance the aid and support of IPV victims. There has also been an increase in the demand for medical and public health positions for social workers to meet the needs of the affected victims (Murphy & Ouimet, 2008, p. 312).

There are many different ways social workers can help combat the issue of IPV. They can provide education such as warning signs of IPV and some of the barriers to getting help. They can provide counselling to victims who are trying to overcome the aftermath of the abuse they’ve experienced. They can also provide universal assessment and risk assessment as well as intervention in instances of IPV (Vassello, 2016, slide 13).

Although aid to IPV victims is incredibly important sometimes there are barriers to detecting abuse in the first place! Health care providers do not provide routine assessment for IPV for a number of reasons- some providers feel that screening is an invasion of patients’ privacy and may offend them. Medical professionals also feel that they lack the appropriate resources or education/training as well as a lack of time and a general belief that IPV is not an issue for their patient population (Vassello, 2016, slide 21).

If you or someone you know is a victim of IPV, there is hope. Intervention can happen and arrangements can be made to keep the victim safe. Pay attention to the signs of not only overt signs of power and control but also psychological manipulation. On average, it takes 5-7 times for a victim of IPV to leave the relationship as he/she is partaking in a vicious cycle (Vassello, 2016,).




Allen, M. (2011). Is there gender symmetry in intimate partner violence? Child & Family Social Work, 245-254. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2206.2010.00735.x

Murphy, S., & Ouimet, L. (2008). Intimate Partner Violence: A Call for Social Work Action. Health & Social Work, 33(4), 309-314. Retrieved February 10, 2016.

Vassello. J. (2016). IPV Powerpoint. Slides 5, 11. Retrieved February, 10, 2016.




7 Fun Facts you want to know about Social Work with Organizations, Communities, and Larger systems -By Valerie Protass

Say, what does macropractice even entail?? Well, it describes community practice, social work administration, and policy practice! And all of these areas are concerned with resolving and preventing social problems on a large scale at the societal level (DiNitto, 2008, pg.51).



What’s the difference between business management and social work administration you ask?? Well social work administration does have a lot in common with business management and public administration, but the difference is that business management is trying to generate profit and sustain itself while social work management’s leadership focuses on the goals of their mission in supporting the individuals they’re invested in helping. Social work management is moral work with a commitment to social justice and has the good of society at heart! Beat that business management (John Vassello).



The key to social work administration is leadership- however, there has been a lack of leaderships skills being taught in social work schools. Many social work professionals are calling for more leadership training in social work schools (Brilliant, 2001, pg. 325)




One reason for the lack of leadership in social work is because the bulk of student interest in the profession is the direct practice with individuals, families, and groups and these students may be least interested in leadership roles (Brilliant, 2001, pg. 327).



Some social workers are reluctant to use leadership skills because they are not comfortable with exercising power and control since they often times work with oppressed groups who are unable to defend themselves and the role is primarily defined as “enabler, mediator, and broker” rather than more aggressive roles (Brilliant, 2001, pg. 327).


Another concern of why social workers do not utilize leadership skills is that they suffer from a sense of powerlessness based on their connection to disadvantaged populations as well as their general lack of status in society since the profession is largely dominated by oppressed groups such as women and minorities (Brilliant, 2001, pg. 327).




Social workers in community practice help individuals form groups to address social problems that negatively affect a community- they help people to help themselves by developing social and political power as well as building resources to make a positive change (DiNitto and McNeece, 2008, pg. 65).




DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a

challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Brilliant, E. (1986) ‘Social work leadership: A missing ingredient?’ Social Work, vol. 31, pp. 325-30.