Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Adequate is Just Fine

Competency is the new focus in social work education, thanks to the new Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) put out by CSWE in February. Since then, all accredited BSW and MSW programs are working to move from "objectives" to "competencies" across the curriculum. This is a great move forward for the profession of social work.

One aspect of the new EPAS is the requirementthat programs define the "practice behaviors" that students have to demonstrate to meet the 10 major competencies. Additionally, programs have to set criteria to measure these practice behaviors across the curriculum. This means we have to set a scale and define the range from inadequate to good to excellent. Not an easy task. This raises the question, what is "good enough"? Good enough for Jane Addams? Good enough for President Obama? Good enough for the clients our graduates will serve?
American social reformer, Jane Addams
Visual Thesaurus defines competence as "the quality of being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually." Adequate. Hmm. VT defines adequate as "having the requisite qualities or resources to meet a task." This definition intrigues me and makes me wonder how we respond to the term "adequate." In my experience, adequate is not good enough.

But why not? Adequate is "enough, decent, and equal." It is also "fair to middling, passable, and tolerable."

This reminds me of Voltaire's wisdom, "The perfect is the enemy of good."

Brandis, a social worker who graduated a year ago, asks a similar question in her blog,
What do you need to feel successful? I know the question is about what I need in order to feel successful, but when I began to think about my answer to that question, I was more interested in whether I actually feel successful right now, and if I do, what is it that does or doesn’t make me feel that way…
She ends with this thought. " I have a picture of where I’d like to be professionally when I’m “settled,” and I’m not quite there yet."
Just not there yet. I like that! Brandis post speaks to me in many ways and reflects an honest, healthy awareness of an ongoing journey of life long learning. She also illustrates how she is dealing with paradox and has found that "thin line" of grace between the tension of adequate and excellent.

But that isn't what our culture preaches. We in the United States live in a culture that expects excellence now, which is "the quality of excelling; possessing good qualitys in high degree; an essentail and distinguishing attribute of something or someone." So how do we say that adequate is good enough but seek to find excellence? Here are more questions: How do social service organizations promote excellence but accept adequacy? Can social service agencies motivate staff for excellence given the tight budgets and policy limitations given to the provision of services? How do we include the client's voice in the evaluation of performance regarding adequate or excellent? When is the enemy of perfect getting in the way of our work?

These are important questions to consider. Let me know if adequate is good enough - or not.
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Professional Organizations

I signed up to follow the National Association of Social Workers on Twitter and Facebook a few months ago mostly out of curiosity to see how social networking would work in the professional world.

This morning, NASW posted this link to the Social Work Career Center with lots of excellent resources for such as examples of resumes and cover letters, how to prepare for an interview, social work salaries, and more. I will add this to my list of resources for seniors who are job hunting and for juniors who are applying for internships in social work agencies. It is also useful for those who are seeking to move up or find a new position. This is one example of why I value my membersh in NASW.

Another reason why I value my NASW membership is the opportunity to networ

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...Image by luc legay via Flickr

k with local social workers. Most of us stay busy in our agencies, trying to keep up with the never ending workload, and rarely have the opportunity to meet with colleagues at any level from local, state, national, or international. Because I am an active member of the Tarrant County unit, I have made important connections across the community that I would not have been able to make on my own. The richness and diversity of my professional network makes me more effective as a social worker.

There are just a few reasons why I value my NASW membership. I hope you are connected and active in professional organizations like NASW. Let me know what organizations you are member of and how that has contributed to your effectiveness in the field of social work.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Favorite Websites & Blogs

After reading the newspaper this morning, I spent time checking out the most popular websites posted on Delicious. "Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source. With emphasis on the power of the community, Delicious greatly improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet."
I first discovered Delicous back in January 2009 and have since saved 119 web sites there. Reflecting on what they say about what is important to me is interesting and speaks to my curiosity and love for learning. Like the books I treasure and the time I love spending with the daily newspaper, the wisdom and creativitiy that is shared on the internet feeds me in a different way that has come to be an important part of my daily routine. I appreciate everyone who takes time from the busy world to share their thoughts and ideas with the world (and me). So here just a few web sites I have book marked with the number of times each has been book marked in parenthesis:

cloud connected,Image by ashley rose, via Flickr

My current favorite is Map the Fallen by Sean Askay. Here is a quote - note the word "connect."
"This Memorial Day I would like to share with you a personal project of mine that uses Google Earth to honor the more than 5,700 American and Coalition servicemen and women that have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have created a map for Google Earth that will connect you with each of their stories—you can see photos, learn about how they died, visit memorial websites with comments fr

Frosty Morning WebImage by foxypar4 via Flickr

om friends and families, and explore the places they called home and where they died."


These and other web sites have infuenced and contribute to my ongoing life-long learning process. I love to learn! Where do you spend time in the webosphere?
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Friday, June 19, 2009

What? My life and paradox?? Yep!

Today I had the privilege of participating in a Courage and Renewal North Texas workshop led by Elaine Sullivan and inspired by Parker Palmer. What a wonderful time to step out of my noisy, busy, world for the whole day to reflect on "Paradox: Embracing Complexity in Life and Work."

Throughout the day, I discovered and unpacked new concepts such as
  • Paradox
  • Thin Line
  • Polarities
  • Tension of Opposites
  • Formation
I struggled with and was inspired by hearing poems spoken in different voices and then reflecting on the meaning and discovery of the themes within. I created my paradox in art that revealed the bridge or "thin line" in my life experience that challenged me to be brave. I met amazing women who shared so honestly their paradoxes. I saw how Parker Palmer's vision of teaching works by watching Elaine "teach." Structure and pace. Focus and relationship. Concept and process. Making space for growth. Silence. Space. Letting go. Trust.

We each possess a deeper level of being however,which loves paradox.
It knows that summer is already growing like a seed in the depth of winter.
It knows that the moment we are born, we begin to die.
It knows that all of life shimmers, in shades of becoming that shadow and light are always together, the visible mingled with the invisible.
Excerpt from “Paradox” by Gunilla Norris

I tried to take a picture of my Mandorla but my camera did not meet my expectations so you are spared from kindergarten "show and tell."

Today's experience of renewal and focus was an amazing gift.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Comfortabe with Paradox

I had time today to visit a lot of social work blogs and others as well. I didn't have an agenda or a clear purpose, and I didn't realize the amazing journey I had started until I realized hours had vanished and I had only scratched the surface. When I stumbled on Social Work Blogs, I found an amazing listing of all current social work blogs and the recent posts. What a great resource and source of inspiration for those who are new to blogging in social work. There a LOT of social workers who are sharing their stories in the blogosphere!

Along the way I posted several comments and signed up to follow several blogs. As I read these blogs, I was struck by the variety of
  • blogs design (use of color,format, photos, font)
  • themes (clinical social work, self-reflection, new social workers, adovacacy, blowing off steam)
  • simplicity vs complexity
  • length of posts
  • frequency of posts per month
There were many commonalities as well, but the one that struck me hardest was how social workers are constantly dealing with ambiguity and paradoxes. As much as

Paradox Logo, 2003Image via Wikipedia

we try to systmatically work with clients, there is never a clear path to walk with our clients towards goal attainment. In fact, if we do stumble upon an easy case, we stop and scratch our head and wonder, "What's going on here? What am I missing?" Easy and clear are not terms that are common to social workers. This is one of many realities of the social work that shapes our personal and professional lives every day. The "grist for the mill" in all of the social work blogs I read today touched on this reality in one way or another - which was drew me into reading and commenting on all of those blogs today.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Celebrating Flag Day

Today is National Flag Day, and to celebrate, I posted our flag outside our front door. It made me think of the men and women who are social workers on active duty in the US military, and colleagues serving as civilians in the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. Did you know that there are 17,728 social work postions in the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs? If you are looking for a job with the federal government, go to USAJOBS - The federal government's official job site.

Check out these facts from Social Work Jobs in the Federal Government:
  • Social Workers are in high demand at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of positions at the VA increased by more than 650 from 2005 to 2006. Click here to read articles on Help Starts Here's Web site about Social Work.
  • In the Department of Defense, the Army, Navy and Air Force each have 200-900 social work jobs.
  • The Forest Service (In the Department of Agriculture) employs over 400 people classified as “Social Services Aid and Assistant.”
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs contains the majority of social work and social services positions in the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service each contain an addional twenty positions in social services.
  • The Indian Health Service provides the majority of positions in social work and social services in the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The National Institutes of Health (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) employs more than forty people in social work.
Thank you to all who work and serve our country as social workers in the federal government!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote for June 10, 2009

There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force that changes our lives from within. And the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves.

– Thomas Merton

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


My colleague and friend, Harriet, sent the article posted below and I love it! I am forwarding it to my friends via email and sharing it here as well. I am inspired by the overall message that I need to hear over and over - "Keep things in proper perspective!" Today, #2 is important to me as I face a pile of projects that loom large in my life. Which of these resonates with you?

Some worthwhile, reasonable, uplifting thoughts herein.
Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland , Ohio . "To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written." My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ''In five years, will this matter?".
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

It's estimated 93% won't forward this. If you are one of the 7% who will, forward this with the title '7%'. I'm in the 7%. Remember that I will always share my spoon with you! Friends are the family that we choose for ourselves.