Social Welfare Presentation — Fast Cars and Battle Scars: Understanding the Modern Combat Veteran and PTSD Army veteran Andrew Nicholls speaks on military social work

By Ramin Rajaii
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

How is a military man supposed to assimilate back into society following a traumatic experience abroad?

UCLA senior Andrew Nicholls served eight years in the U.S. Army, including a year in Iraq, providing him with a unique perspective on the subject.

Now, he’s sharing his firsthand perspectives about the military and combat through a UCLA psychology course entitled, “Fast Cars and Battle Scars: Understanding the Modern Combat Veteran and PTSD,” the purpose for which is raising awareness of what it is like to serve and return to civilian society.

On Tuesday afternoon, Nicholls spoke on the subject at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, in a lunchtime chat presented by the Social Welfare department to promote military social work.

Nicholls led a discussion regarding the seminar, and various ways in which we can re-forge hope for war veterans.

Combat veterans make up 9% of the U.S. population. In their training, they must endure both extremely high mental and physical standards. As a result, returning to an entirely different world from which you have been disconnected is a near insurmountable task.

“You’ve been on an adrenaline rush the entire time,” Nicholls said, “Then you get home to a mundane life, and a lot of guys start racing motorcycles, skydiving and finding other thrill-seeking activities.”

Without such outlets, many veterans suffer from severe cases of PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder, experiencing everything from their ears ringing spontaneously and tunnel vision to a sudden inability to breathe.

In the talk, Nicholls emphasized that civilians must recognize war veterans for having provided service to their countries, and in so doing, military members have “written a check up to and including their lives.”

Nicholls is teaching the course through the UCLA Undergraduate Student Initiated Education Program, which enables outstanding juniors and seniors in the College of Letters and Science to develop and teach a one-unit seminar, under faculty supervision.

The class also will cover the experience of basic training, unique issues facing female veterans and how military training prepares prospective soldiers to kill.

 

Debra Duardo Named Social Welfare Alumna of the Year Debra Duardo, a 1996 Master of Social Welfare graduate from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and LAUSD Student Health Director, has been selected to receive the Joseph A. Nunn Award

By Joe Luk

Debra Duardo, a 1996 Master of Social Welfare graduate from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has been selected to receive the Joseph A. Nunn Award, honoring her as the department’s Alumna of the Year. The award will be presented to Duardo in a ceremony on Saturday, April 20.

The Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award recognizes outstanding social work professionals who have contributed leadership and service to the school, university, and/or community, and who have otherwise distinguished themselves through commitment and dedication to a particular area of social work.

Duardo is currently the executive director of student health and human services for Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the United States. As the executive director she is responsible for the administrative oversight of support services and district programs designed to address the physical health, mental health, and home and community barriers that prevent student academic success, including student medical services, school nursing, pupil services, dropout prevention and recovery, school mental health, community partnerships, and Medi-Cal programs.

In this role she manages a $100 million budget and over 3,000 employees including directors, specialists, pupil services and attendance counselors, psychiatric social workers, nurses, organization facilitators, and healthy start coordinators.

After graduating from UCLA with a major in Women Studies and Chicana/o Studies in 1994 Duardo earned her Master of Social Welfare degree at UCLA in 1996 with a specialization in school social work. Since that time she has earned her school administrative credential and is currently completing her Ed.D. in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. Following completion of her MSW, Debra started her career serving as a school social worker and the Healthy Start project director at Wilson High School.

She advanced to being the LAUSD Healthy Start District Administrator. Since that time she has served as assistant principal at Le Conte Middle School, the director of dropout prevention and recovery for LAUSD, and director of pupil services for LAUSD.  Through all of these positions she has maintained her focus on the important of health and social services for children and families.

The Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award was established to honor Joseph A. Nunn, former director of field education at the Department of Social Welfare at UCLA. Dr. Nunn brought leadership and service to UCLA and the Social Welfare program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for over two decades. Dr. Nunn received his B.S., M.S.W. and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA. After working as a probation officer for 15 years, he became a member of the field education faculty in 1980, and except for a three-year, off-campus appointment, remained at UCLA until his retirement in 2006. During his last 15 years, he served with distinction as the director of field education and, simultaneous for the last decade, as vice chair of the Department of Social Welfare, where he supervised the field education program.

A Secure Retirement for All Americans

By Ramin Rajaii
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

“What kind of America do you want?”

This was the question posed by A. Barry Rand at the latest UCLA Luskin Lecture Series event. Rand is the CEO of AARP, the world’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals over the age of 50.

“For us at AARP,” Rand said, “we want a society in which everyone lives with dignity and purpose, achieves their dreams, and enjoys lifelong financial security. Every individual should have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream, whether they are young or old.”

Rand believes that discussions regarding the future of aging in America have never been more pertinent; as the nation undergoes changes in health policy, we are pressed to contemplate their impacts on an aging society.

According to Rand, the idea of old age was transformed from a “life in purgatory” to a desired destination beginning in the 1950s. At once, old age became known as “leisure years,” a reward for a lifetime of hard work.

Changing demographics are challenging the reward of retirement, Rand said. “America is experiencing a dramatic change. This is the first time that minorities account for over half of all births in the past twelve months,” he said. “By 2030, racial and ethnic minorities will be 42% of the US population. This new ethnographic makeup becomes new ‘American mainstream’ – where minorities become the majority in the aging population.”

The goal of AARP, outlined by Rand, is primarily to help the growing aging population make a contribution to society while allowing them to be financially prosperous after retirement. In his eyes, three main strategies need to be employed.

First, as social security remains a critical foundation for income security, AARP seeks to promote a full-blown discussion of how it contributes to the wellbeing of older Americans, and how it can be modified to improve effectiveness.

Second, Rand believes it critical to continue lowering growth and healthcare spending system wide – a major tenet of the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010.

Finally, “in order to thrive and take advantage of life possibilities,” Rand explained, “people need to live in age-friendly communities.” From his perspective, the nation needs to become more welcoming to residents of all ages.

When asked what AARP should do to position themselves as national advocates for the growing U.S. aging population, Rand succinctly summarized their mission: “We strive to help people have access to affordable healthcare and be financially secure. We are focused on how to be creative in getting the costs down, while ensuring that all generations have the ability to enjoy social security benefits.”

Rand has long fought for social change. He has served as chairman and chief executive officer of Avis Group Holdings, CEO of Equitant Ltd., and executive vice president, Worldwide Operations, at Xerox Corporation.

Read Rand’s remarks (PDF)

The Luskin Lecture Series enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The Series features renowned public intellectuals, bringing together scholars as well as national and local leaders to address society’s most pressing problems. 

Villaraigosa: “Education is the civil rights issue of our time”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John Deasy made an impassioned case for improving public education in Los Angeles at the latest UCLA Luskin Lecture Series event on Wednesday night.

The event – coming the day after city elections that narrowed the field of mayoral hopefuls and saw nearly $6 million in outside spending on races for three school board seats – served as a chance for Villaraigosa and Deasy to chart a course for the next administration. Villaraigosa’s final term ends June 30.

“The next mayor of L.A. has to understand that there’s not really an option,” Villaraigosa said. “He or she absolutely needs to be involved in the success of our schools.”

Since he took office eight years ago, Villaraigosa has spent much of his tenure trying to improve performance at the nation’s second-largest school district. He made an early-term attempt to wrest control of the LAUSD board – an effort that ultimately was defeated in court. Through the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, he implemented reforms at 22 of the district’s worst-performing schools, improving student performance and parent engagement. The mayor’s advocacy of parent-trigger laws gave parents greater control over the administration of troubled schools, at the expense of union protections for teachers. 

Although Deasy took the top job at LAUSD less than two years ago, he has helped implement Villaraigosa’s efforts, pushing reforms in charter schools and teacher performance evaluations.

“We’ve got to make it easier to get better teachers,” Deasy said.

In addition to focusing on teacher performance, Deasy has worked to improve student achievement through careful analysis of data. When statistics on student suspensions painted a bleak picture of school safety – suspensions are intended only for violence and other serious problems, Deasy said – he met with school leadership to learn more. 

“The tiniest fraction of suspensions were for serious issues,” Deasy said, “but an overwhelming proportion were for ‘defiance.'” Administrators were keeping students away from school for low-level problems, such as failing to bring materials or “answering in a defiant tone,” Deasy said.

Since increasing student performance depends on consistent student attendance, and minority populations have been shown to be suspended at higher rates than their peers, Deasy told administrators to suspend students only as a last resort. As a result, suspensions went down 50 percent.

Deasy said the episode was a lesson that school reform is incredibly complex.

“I learned that we didn’t have a drop-out problem. We had a push-out problem,” he said. “We were forcing these kids out.” Only by focusing on the ultimate goal of providing high-quality education for every LAUSD student could reform be achieved, he said.

“When you pay attention and want to drill down, you can instigate positive change,” Deasy said.

Villaraigosa said the stakes for the city are incredibly high. A quality education system that serves every Angeleno is key to the future success of the city, he said.

“This is the civil rights issue of our time. It’s the democracy issue of our time. It’s the economic issue of our time.

“It matters.”

The Luskin Lecture Series is designed to enhance public discourse on topics relevant to today’s societal needs. Bringing renowned public intellectuals and scholars together with national and local leaders, the Luskin Lecture Series presents issues that are changing the way our country addresses its most pressing problems. For more information on upcoming Luskin Lecture Series events, please click here.

 

Sadik-Khan: Change “Can Be Done”

If city leaders clearly articulate a vision and pursue it in ways that rely on constant public engagement, transformational change is possible.

That was the message delivered by New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan Feb. 28, as part of the UCLA Luskin Lecture Series. Sadik-Khan spoke to an audience of more than 200 transportation planners and advocates at the 2013 UCLA Complete Streets Conference, an annual gathering produced by the UCLA Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies.

In a talk that touched on nearly every aspect of a “complete street” — pedestrians, bicycles, buses, plazas and parks, as well as private vehicles — Sadik-Khan reported on her five years as head of transportation in America’s largest city. Throughout her tenure, she said, change has been at the forefront of her job.

“These streets have been unexamined for too long,” she said. “We should be designing streets for 2013, not 1963.”

Sadik-Khan has overseen a major revitalization of the ways New Yorkers get around their city. Beginning with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “PlaNYC” strategic document, Sadik-Khan has put into place a program of expanded amenities for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users while continuing to perform the tasks traditionally associated with a city transportation department — improving bridges, maintaining streets and filling potholes. “We’ve worked hard to bring balance back to the streets of New York,” she said.

In working for what she described as “a very data-driven mayor,” she has relied on a steady stream of surveys, evaluations and data analysis. When the city decided to close Times Square to vehicles and turn it into a pedestrian plaza, the administration was able to point to GPS data from New York’s 13,000 taxicabs to show that traffic had actually improved as a result of the closure. Pedestrian safety also improved, as did economic performance — Times Square is now one of the highest valued retail spaces in the world, Sadik-Khan said.

Other improvements across the city saw similar results. There were 47 percent fewer commercial vacancies after the city installed bike lanes along First Avenue. On streets where bus service has been refigured, retail sales have gone up 71 percent. “These are improvements of safety, livability and strong economic performance,” Sadik-Khan said.

Key to the success of her plans was the ability to implement change quickly and tangibly. “Change used to take years,” she said. “Now with paint, stones and street furniture, we can changes things overnight.” The improvements help the public see the potential of big ideas and accustom themselves to change.

“It’s not a rendering, it’s a real-world model,” Sadik-Khan said. “It lets people touch and point to it and say ‘I want that.'”

 

The Luskin Lecture Series is designed to enhance public discourse on topics relevant to today’s societal needs. Bringing renowned public intellectuals and scholars together with national and local leaders, the Luskin Lecture Series presents issues that are changing the way our country addresses its most pressing problems. For more information on upcoming Luskin Lecture Series events, please click here.

Luskin Lecture Series: Howard Dean

By Ruby Bolaria
UCLA Luskin Student Writer 

On Wednesday evening former Vermont Governor Howard Dean spoke to a large and diverse crowd at UCLA as part of the Luskin Lecture Series.

The event, hosted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, brought together donors and invited guests – several of whom are currently UCLA undergraduates – at the Covel Commons on campus.

Governor Dean spoke about why “Campaigns Matter.” It boiled down to how 20-35 year olds, with the help of the internet, are already transforming not just our nation, but our planet.

The theme for the night was about how a growing sense of shared fate among young people is helping to transform the world, beginning in the United States. Governor Dean recalled his first year in college, in 1968, and how at that time it would have been absurd and crazy to consider the possibility of a black president.

“We did do a lot of things and we did transform this country,” he said, “but this new generation is going to transform the world, thanks to tools like the internet.”

He credited the younger generation for dismissing the usual concept of “us and them” and embracing all people as “us.”

“For the first time they understand that there is no other – the other is them,” Dean said.

Governor Dean, who was Vermont’s governor for five consecutive terms, explained how the Republican Party does not get this message and has ostracized many young voters by framing campaigns around social issues, criticizing the gay community, racial minorities, immigrants, etc.

“The problem is those people are all our kids’ friends,” he said. “If you can have an economic platform that is much more attractive – focusing on spending cuts and entitlement programs, that makes sense. But if you hate their friends they aren’t going to vote for you.”

He said voters under age 35 are more conservative than democrats, somewhat libertarian but are socially much more liberal than republicans.

Governor Dean went on to talk about his role within the Democratic National Committee in coordinating the widespread grassroots campaign to elect Barack Obama in 2008.

“More people under 35 years old voted than over 65. That has never happened in my lifetime. Barack Obama was elected by young people and that was a big surprise. He is a multicultural president and kids could identify with him.”

Governor Dean said republicans were better at running campaigns than democrats – they are more organized, disciplined and better funded. That started to change that in 2004 with his presidential candidacy which eventually transformed into the advocacy nonprofit Democracy for America (formerly known as Dean for America).

However, it was the Obama campaign in 2008 that made historic changes to the way democrats campaigned. It was a well-organized widespread grassroots strategy using new technologies.

A key tool used during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, started within the DNC by young 20-somethings as Neighbor to Neighbor, software used to connect organizers and volunteers with voters. Governor Dean stressed that internet, although helpful, is not the end.

“The internet is not a substitute for person-to-person contact,” he said. “We used the internet as an organization tool so it was easier to touch people.”

He also stressed the importance of a solid ground game that is always prepared for the unexpected, saying “change favors the prepared mind.”

Dean went on to clarify how the Obama campaign strategy included all 50 states – a strategy first implemented by Dean in his 2004 campaign – even historically republican voting states like Utah and Texas. If time isn’t spent in a place like Utah now, there will be no chance to win that state in the future.

As an example, the Governor recalled how he initially told Obama not to bother spending money in Florida because it was a lost cause. He was glad to be wrong when Florida voted democrat.

Beyond political campaigns, Governor Dean praised young people who took action using tools including Change.org to petition Bank of America to reverse their decision to charge for checking accounts.

He also credited young people for incorporating more social responsibility and ethics into business models. Dean cited how some young business owners are making it part of their mission to “do good” and preventing shareholders from suing the company if they do not maximize profits.

“We are on the verge of a revolution; in fact it’s already started,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s going yet but it’s happening through the extraordinary power of the internet and it’s all about grassroots.”

He ended with a challenge of sorts – saying what young people are struggling with now is how to institutionalize the movement without denigrating the message or diluting the innovation.

The Luskin Lecture Series is designed to enhance public discourse on topics relevant to today’s societal needs. Bringing renowned public intellectuals and scholars together with national and local leaders, the Luskin Lecture Series presents issues that are changing the way our country addresses its most pressing problems. For more information on upcoming Luskin Lecture Series events, please click here.

 

 

Laura Abrams’ Book “Compassionate Confinement” On Sale Now

Dr. Laura Abrams, a Social Welfare professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has had her first book published and it is now available for purchase.

Compassionate Confinement: A Year in the Life of Unit C, provides insight into the complexities inherent in the U.S. process of juvenile confinement.

Rather than providing a third-person narrative, Abrams follows the lives of boys who are navigating this system. Why do some “seize opportunities for self-transformation” while others slyly scheme their way to  freedom without true reform? Abrams and her co-author, Ben Anderson-Nathe, provide recommendations for a deficient system that could unlock the potential of young men at risk of ongoing criminal activity.

To purchase the book or to take a look inside, please click here.

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Geography of Drug Markets and Child Maltreatment: How Practice Informs Research

By Bridget Freisthler, Ph.D. and Nancy J. Williams, MSW

Often, the research carried out on social welfare problems does not seem to affect what actually takes place in practice.  Research seems inaccessible to practitioners; studies are designed and findings interpreted without input from those working in the field. In the case of this study, however, we have been able to use recent research findings combined with practice experience to help understand the findings and suggest clear and practical recommendations for the field.

The Study and Its Findings
The study was designed to enhance understanding of how illicit drug markets in neighborhoods place children at risk for being abused or neglected.  We did this by examining drug markets across neighborhoods and over time. We found that referrals for child maltreatment investigations were less likely to occur in places where current drug market activity (as measured by drug possessions and drug sales) was present.  However, when we looked at drug sales in the past year for both the neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods, we did find more referrals for child maltreatment.  Neighborhoods with more drug possessions and drug sales during the study period had higher numbers of substantiated cases of child maltreatment in the months following.  Neighborhoods with more cases of drug possession also had more cases in which children were placed into foster care.  We hypothesized that the time lag between drug sales and child maltreatment referrals may: (1) indicate that the surveillance systems designed to protect children may not be very responsive to changing neighborhood conditions or (2) show that it takes time for drug sales to reach their users and for the detrimental effects of the drug use to appear.

Nancy’s Practice Example

Late one afternoon, I received an immediate response “Doe referral.” Typical of these types of referrals, it only referenced an address and a statement that a woman was residing in a tool shed with a newborn child. With such little information, I was left to depend upon my knowledge of the neighborhood area and my assessment skills. Through my ongoing collaboration with local community agencies and the local police officers, I was acutely aware that the area had been experiencing a surge in crack-cocaine sales and use.

The main house was not occupied, however, in the backyard I observed a baby blanket hanging from a clothes line. I spoke with an African American male who led me to an African American woman and an infant lying down on a dust-covered couch in a poorly ventilated shed.  I attempted to engage the woman in conversation; however, her behavior appeared erratic and her statements were evasive, contradictory, and illogical. During this time, she wouldn’t let me examine the infant.  When I pressed her, the woman suddenly picked up the infant and handed him to the same man I had spoken to before. She attempted to block me from leaving the yard with him.  I eventually caught up with the man and the infant three blocks away. During this time, the woman disappeared.

The man appeared more coherent and was cooperative.  He confirmed that the infant had been residing in the shed with the woman I had spoken to, who was the mother.  A quick check of the infant showed signs of severe physical neglect including thin appearance, fungal infection in the mouth, cradle cap, dirty appearance, and a combination of scaring and extensive active diaper rash. The child also presented symptoms similar to crack-exposed newborn infants, including tremors, high-pitched cry, and being difficult to console.  The child’s condition and circumstances in the neighborhood led me to have the child immediately assessed, including toxicological screening at a children’s hospital.

My initial assessment was confirmed. The infant tested positive for metabolites associated with crack-cocaine. He was taken into custody .While the mother’s extended family was found, the mother was never located again. This real example shows how knowledge of drug activity in a neighborhood can alert a caseworker to assess for specific effects related to a child’s well-being.

Recommendations

Based on the findings from the study and real examples, we concluded that reducing the time delay between drug market development and referrals for child maltreatment investigations may prevent some child maltreatment from occurring. The referral that Nancy received said nothing about possible drug activity or drug use.  It was her first hand knowledge about local drug activity garnered from relationships with law enforcement that had her on alert. This suggests some natural partnerships including increased collaboration between law enforcement and child welfare caseworkers. Police could provide child welfare caseworkers with locations of emerging drug markets as they investigate new drug cases in these areas. Further, information on emerging drug market locations would allow caseworkers or other child welfare professionals to target these areas for prevention programming so that subsequent maltreatment does not occur. Finally, publicizing drug activity in local areas or implementing public awareness campaigns encouraging individuals to report suspected child abuse and neglect in neighborhoods where drug market activities are occurring might further prevent maltreatment.

Bridget Freisthler is a faculty member in UCLA’s Department of Social Welfare.  Nancy J. Williams is a former caseworker for the Department of Children and Family Services and a current doctoral student at UCLA.  A copy of the full study can be found at http://resources.prev.org/documents/DrugMarketsandMaltreatment.pdf.

Ailee Moon Receives St. Barnabas Award Professor Ailee Moon was honored by St. Barnabas Senior Services during their annual Evening Under the Stars event

The School of Public Affairs congratulates Associate Professor Ailee Moon of the Department of Social Welfare, who was honored by St. Barnabas Senior Services (SBSS) with the Collaborator Award during their annual Evening Under the Stars event on Thursday, April 29, 2010.

Ailee

Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed P. Reyes delivered the keynote address; other 2010 honorees include W. June Simmons (Partners in Care Foundation, Impact Award), and Jorge Lambrinos (USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, Behind-the-Scenes Award).

Professor Moon is active in gerontological research, particularly in the areas of elder abuse, mental health, and service utilization. Currently, she is a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar, funded to study “Cultural and Non-Cultural Factors in Elder Abuse Assessment and Intervention.” Dr. Moon and her colleagues completed a study, titled “A Multicultural Study of Attitudes toward Elder Mistreatment and Reporting,” funded by the National Center on Elder Abuse. She was a co-principal investigator with Dr. James Lubben on a four-year study funded by the National Institute on Aging that examines social supports and long-term care use among elderly Korean and non-Hispanic white Americans. Dr. Moon has published 55 articles, book chapters, research reports and monographs.

Fernando Torres-Gil Confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a Member of the National Council on Disability

Associate Dean Fernando Torres-Gil has been named to an Obama administration post as a member and vice chair of the National Council on Disability.  This marks the third term of national service in a
presidential administration for Professor Torres-Gil, who previously served under President Bill Clinton and President Jimmy Carter.
Prior to his roles at UCLA, he served as a professor of gerontology and public administration at the
University of Southern California, where he is still an adjunct professor of gerontology. Before serving in academia, Prof. Torres-Gil was the first assistant secretary for aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as the staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging.  Prof. Torres-Gil also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992.

Prof. Torres-Gil holds appointments as professor of social welfare and public policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs and is the director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging.  Professor Torres-Gil is an expert in the fields of health and long-term care, the politics of aging, social policy, ethnicity and disability.

He is the author of six books and more than 80 articles and book chapters, including The New Aging: Politics and Change in America (1992), and Lessons From Three Nations, Volumes I and II (2007).  In recognition of his many academic accomplishments, he was elected a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America in 1985 and the National Academy of Public Administration in 1995.  He also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992 and is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.  He is currently a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors, the National Academy of Social Insurance and of the board of directors of Elderhostel, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the AARP Foundation, the Los Angeles Airport Commission, and The California Endowment.