U.S. Immigration policy, 2018: What must social workers do? #MacroSW Chat 6/21/2018 at 9:00 p.m. eastern

MacroSW Chat graphic 6 21 2018.png

Topic synopsis:

For this week’s #MacroSW chat, we’ll be discussing what we are witnessing unfolding at the U.S./Mexico border. Social workers are witnessing a new policy of immigration engagement: the active separation of children from their families. This is a new interpretation of immigration policy, and the intent of this new action is not uniformly clear. New media outlets have only sparing instances of viewing or interviewing people at the centers of detention, and government representatives have not been in agreement as to why the policy of separation is in place.  In one example of this confusion, Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielson communicated via Twitter that family separation wasn’t happening, but then communicated later that the practice was occurring. In 2017, Chief of Staff John Kelly described the plan to separate children from families as an attempt to deter illegal immigration (Stahl, 2018).

Social workers are reportedly engaged at the border detention centers, however, reports suggest that social work presence is minimal (Soboroff & Ainsley, 2018).  Not much is known yet about the role of social workers in this environment. However, the possibility of social workers intervening in harmful policy is concerning. The forced separation of children from their parents is traumatic and can cause lasting psychological injury to the child, according to Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Scott, 2018).

Among the possible discussion questions for 6/21/18 chat include: 

  1. What do we currently know about the immigration policy at the US/Mexico border?
  2.  How are social workers engaged at the border?
  3. How does this practice of separating children from their families conflict with the Code of Ethics?
  4. What should we, as members of the social work profession, be doing to address this policy?
  5. What other thoughts do you have?


About #MacroSW:

#MacroSW is a collaboration of social workers, organizations, social work schools, and individuals working to promote macro social work practice. Macro social work practice focuses on changing larger systems, such as communities and organizations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of actions and ideas, ranging from community organizing and education to legislative advocacy and policy analysis. The chats are held weekly on Twitter every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST). Click here for a list of chat partners. For information about how to participate in the #MacroSW chat, view our FAQs. For chat schedule and chat archives check out: http://macrosw.com.




Scott, D. (2018, June 18). The family separation crisis is a health crisis. Vox.


Soboroff, J & Ainsley, J. (2018, June 18). McAllen, Texas, immigration processing center is largest in U.S. NBC News.


Stahl, J. (2018, June 18.). The most audacious moment from Kirstjen Nielsen’s child separation presss conference. Slate.





It’s 2017, and we are still fighting Nazis. Here’s what we can do. Today: Stand in solidarity with #Charlottesville anti-Nazi protesters.

Photo (c) 2017 Stephen Cummings.


If you are a person of decency, you aren't a Nazi. And you're definitely upset that, in 2017, good people are still dying because Nazis still exist. White supremacists are still organizing. 

There's a lot of work to do. If you are a social worker, staying neutral on the subject of institutional racism is not an option. It's part of who we are.

Today, it's August 13, 2017, and we've witnessed a horrifying event in Charlottesville. It's disgusting and completely predictable. Let's first stand up and show we are part of the solution.

Rachel West, a partner in #MacroSW, has created a crowdsource document that helps locate events where we can demonstrate our solidarity with those who are standing up for basic human decency. (You know, anti-white supremacists. Anti-white nationalists. Nazis.)

Here's the document:


Podcast Thoughts: On “Missing Richard Simmons” and Ending Relationships

I’m finally starting this new blogging project, where I occasionally comment on popular podcasts, with a social work POV. This first one is…not exactly timely. “Missing Richard Simmons”, finished its short run months ago. I drafted this in April and I promised myself I’d get this out sometime in the summer. So, here it is. 

Richard Simmons wasn’t a therapist, but part of his persona included reaching into peoples’ lives, rather than just simply reaching out. The hit podcast may seem invasive, but I appreciate the reasons for making it, and from a practice perspective, its creator has a point.

I listened to all of the Missing Richard Simmons podcast a couple of weeks ago. I confess I added the podcast to my queue out of morbid curiosity. The premise had less-than-defensible overtones: Simmons, a well-known health guru and public figure (at least to people in their 40s and older), a person who appeared to thrive on public attention, decided to retire from view. Abruptly. Or (this is where the speculation starts) maybe he didn’t make that decision on his own. The media concern for his well-being suggested a story with a low factual threshold: that Simmons was taken out of the public eye by force and exploited for his wealth…or, maybe, something along those lines. It’s a mystery! Simmons eventually made a public statement last year, assuring us he’s fine.

The six-episode podcast series was created, written and hosted by Dan Taberski, who worked for the Daily Show and was a member of Simmons workout studio in Los Angeles. He created the show because he saw Simmons as a positive force, and his retirement seemed too abrupt, just simply too unlike the Richard Simmons he came to know, to be understandable without at least some explanation.

A little personal disclosure: I’m old enough to remember the home exercise craze of the late 1970s and 1980s. Our early-adopter family had a VCR in 1981, and I recall my mother recording The Richard Simmons Show. I was only 10 years old when this show was on the air, but even then, it was clear to me that Simmons was more than a host: this man was clearly motivated by his mission. His motivation to help people improve their lives seemed authentic. For Simmons, this meant weight loss. In the show’s opening credits of his talk show, you see Simmons’ personalized license plate, and as a mission statement, it’s all you need to know: YRUFATT.

Until 2013, Simmons stuck with this mission. Depending on where you start the clock, that’s about four decades. That early show is long gone, but the books, the home videos, the guest appearances, and the workout studio lived on. He’s been there for his fans, particularly people who truly need him to be the force in their lives. Missing Richard Simmons includes an amazing example of how real this relationship with the public manifested: Simmons encountered a woman in Iowa, working at the factory that produced the cookies Simmons was branding. She expressed her need to lose weight. Simmons didn’t just have a single, life-changing conversation with her. He maintained a relationship over time, by phone, for years.

Consider the expectations for a formal helping relationship, and Taberski doesn’t seem the one actively crossing boundaries; in the parallel context of social work practice, he fits the role of client. When Simmons all but disappeared, after failing to showing up to his workout studio one day for a scheduled class, Taberski (and, by extension, anyone who saw Simmons as a leader or a mentor) was concerned, confused, and, understandably, hurt.

Now, of course, let me observe the big caveat with this analogy: Simmons is not a licensed therapist. He’s a public figure, and while he has sought to help people, he was never in a legal contract, nor was he professionally obligated by any Code of Ethics to end relationships in a way that provides people with a sense of closure and understanding of what to expect in the future. That said, throughout his public presence, Simmons built a brand on emotional human connection. The example in Iowa is one case. For Simmons, his professional brand included not just his guest appearances on late night television talk shows, but his willingness to really connect with people over time. When you are calling someone on the phone to extend support to that person, expectations are going to develop.

The NASW Code of Ethics does have language regarding the termination of services (1.16, b): Social workers should take reasonable steps to avoid abandoning clients who are still in need of services. This section of the code states that, should termination be deemed necessary, social workers should be aware of all the possible factors to minimize negative impact on clients, including assisting in making appropriate arrangements.

Again, this is not something Simmons was bound to do. And, quite frankly, we don’t know what led to his decision to withdraw. That speculation is what led Taberski to create the podcast.

What Missing Richard Simmons does demonstrate is the impact ending a helping relationship precipitously has on those being helped. For those of us in social work, it’s worth noting how much power we have when we extend a hand to those who need it, and how we set expectations for when, inevitably, we need take that hand back.


Code of Ethics related to this post:

1.01 Commitment to Clients

1.04 Competence

1.16 Termination of Services


Missing Richard Simmons home page: https://www.missingrichardsimmons.com/

NASW Code of Ethics: http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/Code/code.asp