Welcome to our Spring Child Welfare Dialogue! For those of you who have not come to these before, we are — these lectures are sponsored by our Child Welfare’s training program at UW-Madison. And they — our grant affords us the honor to bring in a nationally recognized professional in the area of Child Welfare twice a year. These lectures are open to both our students, who are in our Child Welfare training program, as well as to professionals in the community, to learn a little bit about some innovations in Child Welfare. So, this spring, we are very excited to welcome Dr. Gary Mallon here. And I’m going to read his extensive bio if I have the chance. He’s been here for a really long time, so we’re really pleased to be able to have him talk to us this morning. Dr. Mallon is the Julia Lathrop professor of Child Welfare, and the Associate Dean of Scholarship and Research at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in New York City. He’s worked in the field for over forty two years. He’s been a Child Welfare practitioner, an advocate, an educator, and a researcher. Dr. Mallon was the first Child Welfare professional in the country to research, write about, and develop programs for LBGTQ youth in Child Welfare settings, and he’s has also written extensively about LGBTQ foster and adoptive parenting. And he’s going to talk to you about that today! Alright. Dr. Mallon’s scholarship and practice has been recognized through multiple awards, and he’s been inducted in 2014 as a fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. In 2017, Dr. Mallon was awarded the Adoption Excellence Award from the US Department of Health and Human Services. He also serves on numerous editorial boards, and is the senior editor of the professional Journal of Child Welfare, and the author and editor of more than 23 books, some of which you have read in your classes. He has lectured and worked extensively throughout all fifty states, and internationally in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cuba, Indonesia, Israel, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Dr. Mallon earned his doctorate in Social Welfare from The City University of New York at Hunter College, holds an MSW from Fordham University, and a BSW from Dominican College. Dr. Mallon also lives the talk he talks. In addition to being a Child Welfare professional for his entire career, he has Okay. Now it’s on. Great. Thank you. Thanks for that nice introduction for which you’re always embarrassed about, because you write it yourself. So, you know. Then, when you sit there and somebody reads it, you’re like, “Oh, maybe I should have made it a little shorter!” But in any case, thank you for having me. I love what I do, so, it’s always a pleasure to come and talk to students, and faculty, and clinicians, and folks who are in the field about the kinds of things that you’re excited about. And, in a format like this, I hope it really is a dialogue. I have nine slides, that’s it. But I have no problem talking and I hope you don’t either. So we can, you know, really kid of talk about things. I always think Power Points — good and bad, right? You know, it’s a good thing to kind of frame out a little bit what you’re talking about, but it’s horrible when people just read it, right? So I promise you, I won’t just read it- I just kind of use it as a little bit of an outline. I didn’t even know what to call what I was going to talk about today, because there’s lots of things. But I’ve actually been in the field now for forty three years. So, I thought, you know, maybe let’s just reflect a little bit on — kind of the experience of being a Child Welfare professional in the field for that long. Forty three years is longer than, as I’m looking around the room, most of you were alive. A couple of you were with me, but some of you — most of you were not. And just to kind of reflect on, you know, ‘why Child Welfare?’ You know, and kind of what are the current trends that are going on in Child Welfare, from a policy and practice perspective. And then also, kind of, what are maybe not the things that Child Welfare is talking about but we need to be talking more about? And that’s where I think we can have even more dialogue, and I hope that we will. Okay? There’s the first slide: Why Child Welfare? When I started in Child Welfare, I was an eighteen year old childcare worker. And I had this passion for working with people. And, of course, I had no idea what that meant, because I just thought that you worked really hard with people and you “helped” people, that would be fine. right? And I was part — I worked for — when I was in High School, I worked with an organization called the Catholic Youth Organization. CYO. Some of you may know that from basketball. They had a lot of sports things, none of which I was involved in. I was involved in the things that were, you know, like leadership development and stuff like that, so. Got involved in that, and we started to do all this social justice work. For all the faults, perhaps, of the church, they always have been an organization which did this social justice stuff. And because they had their own money, they didn’t rely on public funds to do it. Which was really nice, because you could do a lot of things that were interesting and innovative and nobody was monitoring how you used those funds specifically. It was good and bad. So, I got really involved in working in psychiatric hospitals with folks who had psychiatric illness. I knew nothing about that, but they would bring us there, and we’d talk to people. Some funny things, I remember happening. Because you were completely untrained. I mean, we were like sixteen year-olds, you’re in a psych hospital. I remember this one woman — we gave out at Christmas time, powder. I don’t know why. Like, talcum powder, you know, to powder on your body? We gave this to the ladies in the psych ward, and they all started eating the powder. So, all of the aids went nuts — like, “Don’t! Why did you do that?” And then some of the ladies, you know, were angry that they took away their powder. And then they were coming up to us and saying things which we couldn’t understand, but basically what they were saying is “I’m going to slap you across the face!” We were like, “Uh, what?” You know, it was really a bizarre kind of experience. But I loved it, because it was working with people I had not had experience working with. I felt like we were actually doing something good. You know, we would just talk to people when we were giving them powder. And the other thing that they introduced us to was working with kids. And I started volunteering at this place called Saint Dominic’s Home in Blauvelt, which is kind of in the suburbs of New York City. I’m a native New Yorker, I’ve always lived in New York. And I thought this was an orphanage. That’s what we used to call it when we drove by — “There’s the orphanage. Those poor kids are orphans.” And I started to volunteer there and thought, “My goodness, this is a great experience. I wish I could work in a place like this.” So, when I applied for college to work on my BSW, at the time, I started working as an eighteen year old at Saint Dominic’s home in Blauvelt, with kids. I had no idea what I was doing. In those days, we gave no training to people. All of our kids were African American and Latino. No one told us anything about working with diversity. We knew not that word. This was like, 1976. We didn’t even talk about diversity at all! I mean, it was — and the kids would say things like, “How come all the staff are white and all the kids are black?” That’s a good question. But, I mean, no one said — nobody in the administration even talked about that. I’m always amazed — in some sense, we’ve come a long way. Still have got a long way to go, but, you know, at least at this point there’s some training and stuff. I remember, as a childcare worker, I took care of fifteen little boys. You know, six through thirteen years old, who didn’t live with their families. They were not orphans, by the way. They all had families. But they had a lot of issues with their families. I remember this one little boy coming to me and saying, “Gary, can you pick my hair?” I had never picked hair in my life. He was African American. And I took that pick and I stuck it at the base of his hair, and I pulled up, and he screamed. And he said, “What is the matter with you? Don’t you know how to pick hair?” And I said, “I don’t!” And he said, “You pick it from the top in!” And I thought, “How horrible that I am in charge of this child, and I don’t even know how to comb his hair.” Right? And then he — this little boy’s name was David. He talked to me about — you know, “You gotta lotion me up!” You know, “I get ashy skin, you gotta lotion me up!” And I’m like, what the heck is that? I mean, I had no concept of any of these things. Our Latino kids would come home from their home visit with these beads around their necks, which we all in the sixties thought were love beads — I don’t know if you remember that or what that means. So, we would immediately say, “Oh my God, those are beautiful!” We’d start touching them, and the kid would freak out and say, “Don’t touch my beads! It’s going to take the prayer off of them!” And we’d say, “What? What kind of Voodoo is that?” We’d say things like that, because we didn’t know any better, and it was ignorance, so. Well, what happened was — those were ‘Collares’ that moms gave to their children to protect them from us when they came back to the Agency. And they would pray, or they would put them in holy water. Or, you know, something that was a spiritual tradition that they would then say to the kid, “These are your beads, they will protect you. They will remind you of me when I’m not there. And don’t let anybody touch them. Because if somebody touches them, it takes the prayer off of them.” So, what horrible thing, right? We’re, right away, touching them, asking them about them. They also used to drink this little drink called ‘Malta’, which used to come in a bottle that looked like a Budweiser. And we’d all say, “What the heck is up with these parents, giving these kids Malta, this drink? It’s alcohol!” We had no idea. They made ‘Pasteles’, which are a thing — a really difficult thing to make, where you grind up this yuca, yautia, yame — those are ‘verduras’, they call them in Spanish. But they’re root vegetables. You make a mash, you put — sometimes olives in there or raisins, and you wrap it in paper, and you boil it, and — it’s a very complicated process. And, when someone gives you pasteles, it means they really love you. So, these parents would send their kids back to the Agency after a home visit with this kind of love and we’d say, “What the heck is this? Wrapped in paper, this thing?” We had no idea. So, I think — when I look back at some of the things that initially we did, it was so ignorant and so uncaring, and really so — you know, not helpful to the children and their families. The families were enemies, too. We thought of families as enemies because — again, as an eighteen year old, when you’d meet this child — I remember, this one child had a horrible burn mark. And he had keloids all over his chest, because his mother had put him in a hot tub of water. Because she had mental illness, and, she was having an episode, and put him in the water and he got burned. But we thought, “What a horrible mother! What a horrible person that would put that child in hot water like that?” Right? We had no concept of why that happened. There was another little boy who had big marks in his skull. He was six. He was like, this big. And his mom’s boyfriend had taken nails and banged them into his head. I’m sorry for being so gross so early in the morning, but that was the reality. And we thought, “What a horrible mother! How could she allow that to happen? What boyfriend would be more important than her child? This is horrible!” Until I met that mother about two weeks later. And I was serving lunch to the kids. And this was so institutional. I had fifteen pieces of bread that I lined up, slapped on a piece of bologna on each of those breads, would say, “how many of you want mustard? Raise your hands! How many of you want mayo? Raise your hands!” And I would not let them change their minds. Because some of them would say, “I don’t want- I changed my mind -“‘ “Nope! Sorry, can’t change your mind.” Because it was institutional, right? It was like a factory. Mom walks in and says, “Hi! I’m here to visit my son.” “What’s your name?” Her name was Mary. She was like, this big. And I said, “Your son? Hector?” “Yeah.” And I said, “How old are you?” “Sixteen.” Or seventeen. I’m like, are you kidding? I didn’t say this out loud, but sixteen? She was a child! And she wasn’t an enemy, she was a child! You know? And she loved her son, but she just didn’t know how to take care of him at that time. And, you know, that moment was a turning point for me and my own thoughts about working with parents. Because she wasn’t a horrible person, she was a kid! And her kid was a kid. And she needed to learn how to be a better parent to him. He probably shouldn’t have been in a residential treatment program, clearly. But that’s what we had in those days. You came into residential care — they didn’t have foster homes that much. They had some, but not as many. They had an institution. And if you came into the institution when you were six, chances are you left when you were eighteen. That’s horrible, right? So, in any case, all those things I kind of think made out a foundation for some of the work that I later did. I stayed at Saint Dominic’s for about two years. I worked with the Dominican nuns, that’s where I started. And they were not — I didn’t really like them very much. And they didn’t like me very much. They were these — some of them were great ladies, women who had dedicated their lives to this. And some of them were mentally ill. And they kind of did this because they needed to give them a job. And they didn’t like me very much. One of the nuns told me one time I was “rude and abrasive to the entire order of Sisters of St. Dominic”. And I said, “My God, all of them? Including the ones in Jamaica, West Indies?” And they said, “Yes, them too. And that’s what we mean – you’re horrible.” You know, I was eighteen. Right? I thought I knew everything, you know? And I was stupid enough to argue with the nuns, you know? My friend, who is still my best friend, said to me, “Just shut up, Gary! Just say, ‘Yes, Sister’, and move along and do whatever the heck you want.” You know, don’t argue with the nuns, you’re not going to win!” You know, that was a lesson that took me many, many years to learn. And sometimes I’m still learning it. So, I did all that stuff at St. Dominic’s. We made three dollars and twenty five cents an hour. That was our pay. Most of the staff that worked there at the time were people like me, who were going to college or who had just finished college. It was the Seventies, so we were all kind of — you know, all hyped up about things in a different way than we are now. I mean, we’re hyped up about different stuff now, but then it was like — you know, it was the end of the Sixties, and people were really into different kinds of things. So, most of my colleagues were kind of Bachelor level folks, who really thought we were doing something to help children and families. And we were- just that we weren’t very well trained to do that. I slept in three nights a week. That’s what we did, we slept in. You know, you didn’t even leave — you couldn’t leave. And you didn’t get payed. From eleven to seven AM, you didn’t get payed. But you couldn’t leave. So you had to sleep there with the kids in the Agency. But there was no payment. And if something happened at night, well, you know, I had to get up, obviously, and take care of it. And things did happen at night, all the time. All the time. I mean, some of these kids had some serious mental health issues. Many of them were just kids like Hector, who, you know, had a mom who was too young to care for him. So, you know, there was a lot of variety there. I learned a lot of interesting things working there. I remember working with one woman who was a social worker. And I was studying for my BSW at the time. She was not the kind of social worker I ever wanted to be. I actually wrote about her. I changed her name to Patty O’Tool. That was kind of like her name, but, to protect her confidentiality — she’s probably long gone now. She — we would go to meetings together, and we’d say, “Patty, Hector’s mom said she would like to take him home.” “Her? she’s never going to get it together.” I’d say, “Okay, Patty, but the mom said she’d really like to take him home for Christmas, and we think it would be a good idea.” “Agh, she’s a drug addict, there’s nothing we’re ever going to be able to do for her.” And I think, “This is horrible.” And I remember — of course as an eighteen year old saying, “Why do you still work here?” You obviously hate the kids, you hate the families, and you don’t like working, guaranteed. “I’m just here until I can retire.” And I would think, “Oh please, God, let me never be like that!” And — because it’s time to go when you’re like that. Because clearly, — I don’t know. Maybe Patty was a great social worker at one point in time, but while I was watching her, not so much. I left St. Dominic’s to go to work at St. Agatha’s, and it was a much more progressive agency. They payed three dollars and seventy-five cents an hour, and you only slept-in two nights a week, and they payed you while you slept. I think fifty percent, but still better than zero. There, I worked with developmentally disabled young people. Only ten kids. I had fifteen before, and I was almost always on duty by myself. Me, and fifteen kids, on duty, for like — not eight hours, usually like, twenty four hours, straight. So, at the end of the twenty four hours, you were fried. But St. Agatha’s didn’t allow you to do that. You couldn’t be on more than two shifts. You were paid three seventy five, you only had to sleep in two nights a week, and they payed you. And instead of being in a room — St. Dominic’s was like, from here to the window. That was it. Fifteen kids lived in that space. St. Agatha’s was like a cottage — like this. So that was like, a paradise. It was like, “My goodness, this is incredible! Look! The kids have their own rooms.” And it was really, a very different agency. Kind of funded the same way as St. Dominic’s, but just run differently. I met my daughter there. I met a little girl. Her name was Leslie — is Leslie. She was nine when I met her. She’s fifty now. And I’ll tell you a little bit later how I adopted her. She lived in this program, and she was a very typical kid. She had developmental disability. She had, probably, Asperger’s. Although we had no idea what Asperger’s was at the time. We didn’t know about that, but we knew something was different about her. She had been born drug-addicted, and she was surrendered by her mom when she was twelve weeks old at the New York Family Hospital. And when she was nine and I met her, she had never in her life lived in a family. And she always lived in New York City until she moved Upstate. And when she moved Upstate, she was terrified of horses, because she thought they were monsters, because she had never seen one. And she was terrified of grass. But she’s corrected me recently. She said, “Gary, it was not the grass that I was terrified of- I was terrified of the lawn mower. I thought it would run me over and chop me up.” That’s what she was saying. Now she remembers. So, I met her, and like, nine other kids that I was taking care of. And I loved working there. I loved working with developmentally disabled folks. They were just — they were beautiful to work with. Again, no training. No “let’s talk about what it means to be developmentally disabled”. No. Nothing. I mean, just, you know — here you are. We met once a week, we talked about them. We had a social worker who worked with us, who was great. Really great. Wonderful. And you know — we kind of just worked with kids, and kind of recreated them, and made sure they took their showers, and made sure they went to school, dealt with problems when we had problems. We gave out medication all the time. No training. Thorazine. Everyone was on Thorazine. Not everybody. But, like, you know, out of ten kids, like four of them were on Thorazine. Later in my career, I worked with a very nutty psychologist — psychiatrist, who insisted that we all take the medication to see what it was like. And, of course, you know, being a child of the Sixties, I was volunteering immediately. “Yeah! I’ll take that! I’ll take the Thorazine. Let me try the Mellaril” Different times, of course. Crazy to do that. But, I mean, it actually was useful, because you really did — I mean, I took that Thorazine — I literally took it in the morning and I was sitting at my desk and I was like, I couldn’t even keep my head up! And it was only like, five milligrams. And I had a kid on two hundred milligrams, twice a day! And he was running around the building! And I thought, “My God, he really must need to be controlled!” Because five milligrams was killing me! So, the funny and not funny thing is that we were giving out all this medication and we didn’t even know what it was! And, you know, they’d skip doses, and we’d give them double doses. Just things that nowadays you’d be put in jail for. I mean, they would file charges against you and arrest you. Because it was very different. The structure, the regulations were different. Stayed at St. Agatha’s for two years. I finished my BSW degree. I’m ready to be launched into the world as a full-time social worker. I did part of my field placement at St. Agatha’s, with one of the best supervisors I ever had, who’s still my friend on Facebook. She’s in her eighties and lives in New Mexico, and she was such a great — The things she taught me, I still do. Which is so amazing, to have somebody that good as a supervisor. And I always remind her of that. You know, because — she said, you know, “Nowadays, I don’t hear that so much, Gary, but I do appreciate hearing that I made a difference.” Left there, and I went to this place called Grace House Youth Center on 108th street in Manhattan. All of my work was about thirty minutes outside of New York City, which was very suburban. And then I moved back to Manhattan in — I think it was in 2000 — no, 2000. It was in 1979. I graduated with my BSW and — in July, I moved to be the director, believe it or not, at 22, of an agency called Grace House Youth Center. And it was a former convent, so, you know, I couldn’t escape from the nuns. I was back there. They didn’t live there, thank God. That would have been really a trip. They were gone. And it was an abandoned convent that we took over as a Youth Center in Harlem. So, I went there, and I lived there. I lived in the Mother Superior’s quarters, which was really funny. And I ran these programs, which now we would now call Youth Development programs, for teenagers that lived in Harlem, East Harlem, the Lower East Side, the South Bronx… All of these different — what in those days we would call “inner-city neighborhoods”. And they were kids who were almost predominantly Latino. But also African American, and some white kids. No Asian kids, because they didn’t come to our programs. There were very, very few Asian kids ever in Child Welfare settings. I think we — I had — in my whole career, I remember maybe two children who were Chinese, who were in care. For different reasons, culturally. Of course, we didn’t talk about it, but we would always say, “There’s no Chinese kids here!” But there were just two. And at Grace House, it was predominantly Latino. The parents didn’t speak any English, so I had to learn how to speak Spanish. So, when I went to their home — not to do a home visit, because it wasn’t that kind of program — it was like, kids came, they volunteered, they — it was like they could have been in child welfare, but they lived at home with their moms. Usually, no dad. Very rarely a dad. Although, sometimes. Always a mom. And usually a pretty ferocious mom who protected this kid from whatever was going on in New York City. Which is why they weren’t in child welfare, because they usually had this mom who was very involved in their lives, and really fiercely protective of them. But she didn’t speak any English. I don’t even know in those days about undocumented. I’m pretty sure most of my families I worked with probably weren’t. I didn’t ask, I didn’t know. We weren’t talking about it. The majority of families were Puerto Rican, who, of course, are US citizens. A lot of Dominican families from the Dominican Republic. Some Mexican. Almost everyone spoke no English. So, I would go to the family, and mom would cook me this phenomenal meal, and she’d be talking to me throughout the entire dinner, and the kid would be translating. Not a good model. Because the kid would not — “I know she just said something, why aren’t you telling me that?” “I’m not telling you that.” Because it usually was about them in a negative way. So that’s why you don’t want a kid to translate for you. So, I learned how to speak Spanish, and they were not happy, the kids. Because it was like, “Oh, now you can really talk to my mother, and she calls you on the phone.” And I’m like, “Yeah, she does, and that’s a good thing because she really cares about you and she wants to make sure she knows what’s going on.” So, I stayed there for about seven years. I loved working there. It was fabulous. It was a — again, it was part of the Catholic Youth Organization, which was what I started in. It wasn’t really religious. We did retreat kind of things, but it was really youth development. Young people ran the programs, I just was there to help them. It was a great program. I loved being there. Really wonderful. And after about seven, eight years, it was time to go. Because it was very draining work. You know, you’re living and working in a place. It’s kind of like being in the Peace Corps. You know? It sounds great, but then you’re like, wow, exhausted. You know, like, you’re working seven days a week, people knocking on your door at all hours. You know, you just kind of needed a different bit of a life, right? So I left. I got my MSW in one year. Advanced standing. Fordham University. Which was great. It was a wonderful experience. I focused on community organizing, and administration. Because I had already done clinical stuff, and, of course, I thought I knew everything. So, you know. BSW, clinical practice, I knew it all. And then I learned about Coop CO An Admin. And I was running an agency, so it was very helpful to do. But after about seven years or so, I left. And I went back into mainstream Child Welfare. I went to a place called Abbhouse, and it was horrible. It was a big institution. It was outside of New York City. It was no longer right in New York. And, when I got there, the first thing I didn’t do right was, I didn’t ask for a tour of the facility. Because kids lived on grounds. Five different units, like fifteen kids in each unit. And when I got there, I was horrified. The units were filthy. Filthy! Dirty! There were no sheets on the beds. The kids were walking around in like, boxer shorts, or shorts, because they didn’t have clothes. I kept saying, “How could this happen? How are you getting payed to take care of these kids? How would you be allowed to continue to have this here?” And I told people this yesterday, and please don’t be offended. It’s part of the story. But I walked into one unit, and it was so filthy — it was incredible. And, on a big wall like this, was spelled out in black spray paint, ‘F*ck You’. And I thought, kids live here. This is the message: ‘F*uck You’? And I said to the staff, “Hey, how did this happen?” “I don’t know.” “What do you mean you don’t know? Don’t you work here?” “Yeah.” “How did this happen?” “I don’t know.” I said, “One day the wall was blank, and another day you came in and it said ‘F*cuk You’? Didn’t you ask anybody how that happened?” “No, not really.” I thought, “My God. This is incredible.” So the first thing we did was to paint the wall. I mean, literally. And the first thing in the agency was clean it up. Buy sheets, buy clothes for kids, buy sofas. I mean, they were sitting on these sofas that were so filthy- you wouldn’t let anybody sit on them. You know, they’d be out on the porch, maybe. Maybe. So, cleaned up, got it going, I stayed there for two years. It was one of those places where I thought, “You know what? I gotta get out of here. Because if I don’t leave, something really bad is going to happen.” And then the career will be over. You know, you just kind of had that feeling. We cleaned things up a lot. And I actually had one of my social workers bring me to Green Chimneys. She told me about this program and I said, “Sure, make an appointment. We’ll go.” Well, when we walked into this agency called Green Chimneys, which is back in Manhattan on 22nd street, I thought, “Oh, I like this place.” It had a vibe, you know? You walked in, and it was like, a beautiful building. It had an atrium. And Green Chimneys itself was an agency that does this animal assisted therapy in Upstate New York. But this program didn’t do that. This program was the “Independent Living Center” for 25 teenage boys between the ages of fifteen and twenty one. So, it’s like working with teenagers, back in the city, I liked that. And what I did was, as soon as I went home, I wrote to the executive director of the agency and said, very ballsy, “I went to your agency today. It’s clear to me that it is not really run very well. If you’d like to talk to me about how it should be run, please give me a call.” I was now thirty, and still, you know — I think I was twenty nine, but — I still thought I knew everything. And did things like that. Sometimes I still do, but I’m smarter now at sixty. It’s taken a long time. And he called me, and said, “You have some nerve talking to me about how my agency is not so good.” And I said, “It’s not, and you know it.” And he said, “I know. And I know you have a history of running a really good agency. And if you want to do that in New York, you and I should talk.” And he said, “Come on up here and meet me.” So, I went up, and met him. And he said, “Oh, you probably make too much money.” And I said, “Nope.” You know, I’ll tell you what I make. And I made thirty five thousand dollars in those days. And he said, “Well, I can’t pay you thirty five.” “Well what can you pay me?” He said, “I can pay you thirty three.” I said, “I’ll take it.”. Two thousand bucks is no big deal. I can live. So, I took the job, and I went to work there. And I stayed there for nineteen years. The funny thing about Green Chimneys that I didn’t know was, — it was this ‘Independent Living Center’, which I always think is such a misnomer. No one lives independently. Kids live, you know, people say, interdependently. But, you know, the real deal is, everybody needs a family. So, in reality, there’s no such thing as ‘independent’, unless you would live in a hut in the woods and you never even go into town and meet people, right? Even though those people have some relationships. So, in any case — And I don’t mean to bash people who work in independent living. But I’ve been encouraging folks to change the name for years to “life skills”, or something else. “Transitioning to adulthood”, or — something that’s a bit more descriptive. Because what “independent living” means is, “we don’t have to keep track of these kids. They know what they’re doing.” So, again, one of the first things I did when I came to the agency is — I would ask staff– sorry to be talking to you. I have to move over here and talk to you too — “How many kids do you have in this program?” And they’d say, “Um, I don’t know, nineteen? They come and go a lot.” And I’m like, “Okay, next person. How many kids do we have in this program?” “I think twenty.” Nobody knew! They didn’t even know how many kids were there. Because they were teenagers. We were in New York City. They were pretty mobile. They came and went. But, I mean, one of the basic things you need to know when you’re working Child Welfare, is how many people you’re working with, right? So, we did that. We had a big ‘Signing In/Out’ board. That was a concrete thing we did. We changed “Independent Living” to “Life skills for Living in the Real World”. That’s what we called it. I wrote a book about it. A whole curriculum. From things about taking a shower, to addressing an envelope. I remember giving an envelope to kids, and saying, “How would you address this?” And they would put all the information over here. I’d say, “Really?” They’d never addressed an envelope. Nowadays, nobody even sends letters. But, in those days, you did have to send a letter. There was no Internet. Nothing. And, you know what was really, really a huge boom in the field? Is when we got voicemail. Oh my God! That was like, a miracle! Not cell phones. Voicemail was like, oh my God! Somebody could leave you a message and could listen to it from home! Later we of course realized, that was horrible. But, you know, at the time, it was like, a boom in technology to have voicemail. I mean, the idea of computers? Nobody had a computer. We had secretaries and typewriters. And when we got an IBM Selector typewriter — I don’t know if you’ve ever even seen them — with a ball, you know, where it hit the thing, and it corrected it with the — that was a miracle! Oh my God! You can correct your document as you’re working on it? I mean, it was a miracle to do that. It was just as much documentation as we did in those days as we do now, but imagine: it was written by hand, or it was typed by a secretary. Right? All your court notes, all your clinical case consultations, all of that. So we’re talking about a different world. I also had a telephone that was a dial. No buttons! A dial! On my desk. I had a secretary who typed ninety words a minute in one of my programs. She was great. Many of the other ones weren’t that fast, but we had to have people to do those things. Now, nobody — we don’t have secretaries anymore. I have an administrative assistant, who does things for me, and I never, ever ask her to type things for me. I do it myself. You know, because that’s how we do things nowadays. But, I mean, you have to kind of think about how different it was, administratively, clinically… Just in terms of practice. And policy-wise, there was no ASFA. There was no federal legislation. Much of what I’m talking about was before even the Adoption Act of 1980. You know, which talked about permanency. Which we will talk about a little later. None of that happened. You know? So you had a whole different system. Green Chimneys was interesting for another reason, too. After being there about five minutes, I realized that of the twenty five kids that I could identify by the end of the week, six of them were gay. Openly gay. And, in Child Welfare, there were no openly gay kids in those days. They were there. No one talked about it. Of course, there was no training. You know, if kids engaged in same sex sexual behavior, we called it ‘homosexual acting out’. And it was considered to be just something that happens in residential care. No one ever talked about it. I remember when I first encountered two children engaging in ‘homosexual behavior’, like, in the middle of the living room, during the Carol Burnett Show, you know, one night, I talked to them. At the treatment team meeting a week later, I wanted to discuss it, and they were like, “Ah, that’s nothing. That happens all the time. Let’s talk about something else.” I’m like, “don’t we need to talk about, like, — did I handle it right?” You know, I was brand new. Didn’t talk about it. So, when I met these six openly gay kids, sixteen to twenty one, I was shocked. And they immediately said, “You know what, Mr. New Director? We need to meet with you. Because we want to let you know a couple things, because we’re a group.” And I said, “Okay, I’m happy to meet with you. I’d love to meet with you.” I met with them, and they said, “First thing is, we live here, we want to continue to live here, and we don’t want you to change that.” And I said, “I have no intention of changing that. I think it’s great that you live here. Tell me why you’ve been able to live here as an openly gay kid.” And they said, “Because the staff treat us with dignity and respect.” I said, “Wow, that’s incredible, I’m delighted. Give me an example.” They said, “Well, for instance, I broke up with my boyfriend a couple weeks ago, and I was crying, and I was upset, and I was distraught. And I went to talk to Coraline, she sat with me, and talked to me, and we had tea together, and you know what? I felt better after that. And that’s what she would have done to one of these boys who broke up with their girlfriend. But she did the same thing for me, and that made me feel better.” And I said, “That’s fantastic. And I need to talk to Coraline, because that’s a great thing she did.” So we had this conversation. At the end of this conversation, one of the boys said, “I need to speak with you after everybody leaves.” And I thought, “Oh, poor thing. He’s got some problems, and he wants to talk about it personally. Let’s see where he’s at with this.” So all the kids left, and Mauricio stayed. Mauricio is now my friend on Facebook. He’s forty eight years old, and we talk all the time. And I probably will talk to him at the end of the day, and tell him I talked about him to you, and he loves this. He loves that I still talk about him. All these years later. Because what Mauricio said to me was, “I’ve been elected by the group to talk to you, and you know what? We need to tell you something. We know you’re a “big ol’ queen”, and you need to just come out of the closet, okay?” What? Yeah! I was not identifying as a “big ol’ queen” at the time, and I was married to a woman, and I was not identifying as a person who was gay. And, of course, I did what every person who is still in the closet does. I said, “Ah. That’s ridiculous. You gay people want everybody to be gay.” You know, “That’s not who I am.” He said, “Mm, yeah. Sure.” You know, he was totally confident about it. And it made me go home, and I thought, “You know, these kids are more confident about who they are than I am.” And believe me, I knew what he was saying was true. And I thought, “Isn’t it amazing that this sixteen — seventeen year old boy living in a group home, not even with their own family, can come to the director of the program and give them that message?” And the thirty-something year old director is still deep in the closet and hiding, when the kids are open?” And I laugh about it now, because it’s kind of like, you know — there’s this method, “Oh, you can’t let gay adults work with gay teenagers because, you know, they might try to change them” And I said, in my case, it was the total opposite. The kids, actually, are the ones that made me come out about who I was. And I did. Later. Not that afternoon, not even, you know, a week later. But, I did. And it became, you know, a liberating thing for me, as a person, to be. But also, I always reflect back on that. Because the thing that, I think, for me, was the point at which I knew I needed to identify as such, was when I saw those kids being so brave. And I still think about that, and think, “My God.” You know? What kind of inner strength, despite their deficits that they had, did they have to be able to do that? For me, it’s a very — it’s a funny story. It’s true. But it’s also this remarkable turning point in my work. And in my life. We then changed that entire program into a program for LGBTQ kids. We didn’t have young women live there at the time. We opened supervised apartments for them later. We did programs for runaway and homeless youth. All this stuff. In the end, I had seventy one kids, and five different programs all around the city. We moved all our programs to Harlem — which everybody said, “Why are you doing that? They’re going to get beat up!” I said, “Well, do you think I’m stupid enough to move kids to a place where I thought they were going to get beat up?” All these kids are African American and Latino kids. And we’re living in a neighborhood that no one wants us to be in. It was a very Upper East Side neighborhood. It’s not that they shouldn’t live there if they want to, but let’s live in a neighborhood where everyone can kind of blend in. Because in the neighborhood we lived in, as soon as an African American kid walked down the street, four people said, “Oh, that’s a kid from the group home.” Which was not a good thing for them, psychologically and in a lot of other ways. So we moved everything to Harlem. Never had one incident. Not one incident of violence towards any of our kids. Or staff. We never had a problem. And also what it did is it made kids — Kids tend to sometimes grand-stand. So, my kids would sit on the group home steps when we were in the Upper East Side neighborhood, and they’d f*ck, and they’d do — They did it on purpose, because they knew people in the neighborhood got freaked out about it. So, when we moved to Harlem, it was like — “I can’t — don’t be doing that in the middle of the street. You know? First of all, people will tell you to stop, and secondly, you know, you can do that inside. You don’t need to grand-stand about that.” Not that it was a bad thing, but just — they intentionally did it. I have a funny story. One of my — there’s a car rental place next door to the group home. One of my faculty members from Hunter knew the group home. And she would always say, “Oh, the kids always sit outside” And I said, “Yeah” So the kids were all sitting outside one day, and she parked the car to return the rental car. And she bumped into the car behind her. Gently. And in New York, people do that all the time. I know that in other places in the country, that’s like, not good, but in New York, you always bump in. You have to park! Right? It’s very tight! So, if you bump in, you bump in. So, it’s nothing. I mean, when I go to other places, I have to remember that. Because people get really upset! “Oh you just had an accident!” It’s like, “It’s not an accident, I just bumped in!” But this kid, knowing that she was uncomfortable with them sitting on the porch, said, “Oh my God, I just saw you bump into that car. I’m calling 911!” And he started making believe that he was calling 911, and she completely freaked out. And then they all started laughing, because he wasn’t calling 911, he was just messing with her. But, I mean, that was the kind of thing they would do to people. It wasn’t hostile, horrible. It was just teenage stuff, right? So, in any case, Green Chimneys was a great place to work, great place to do things. I finished my doctorate while I was working there. I got a DSW. So I’ve got a BSW, an MSW and a DSW. My dissertation was on the experience of gay and lesbian adolescents in New York City’s Child Welfare system. No one had ever written about that before. I had been told by many of my advisers at school, “Don’t write about this. You will never get a job. No one will ever hire you as a faculty member. You will ruin your career if you write about gay stuff.” That’s what they would say. “You shouldn’t do this.” And my other topic was Animal-Assisted Therapy. So they’d say, “Write about that animal stuff, that’s funny. People will like that. You could get a job. But if you write about gay stuff, you’re never going to get a job.” And I just thought, “Really?” So my adviser, who was a wise man, said, “You know what, Gary, don’t listen to people. Do what you think you’re passionate about. And you know what? This will not destroy your career. This will make your career.” And he was absolutely right. He was a straight man. Knew nothing about gay stuff. Actually was kind of uncomfortable about it. As we were doing my dissertation, I would realize. He said to me one day — he lived in my neighborhood, and he said to me, “I gotta tell you something.” And he would run in the park, and so would I. We wouldn’t run together, but we would pass each other. He said, “I gotta tell you something.” I said, “What?” He said, “I saw you in the park the other day.” And I said, “Oh, really? Why didn’t you say hi?” And he said, “Well, because I saw you, and you looked at a guy who ran by, and you gave him that kind of look.” And I said, “Like what?” He said, “You know.” And I said, “Oh, like he was hot?” And he said, “Yeah, I guess so.” But he was so uncomfortable. He said, “It made me feel really uncomfortable.” I said, “Irwin, don’t you ever look at women you think are attractive?” And he said, “Yeah, I guess so. But I just don’t think I ever saw a guy do that to another guy.” And I was like, you know, welcome to the world of gay people. You know, it was nothing. But for him, it was — and I appreciate him telling me. I didn’t think it was a microaggression or anything. It was just, you know, being honest. Just, no big deal. But, I realized, he wasn’t that comfortable with the topic. But he was a great adviser. Brilliant editor, great guy, just turned eighty the other day. He retired. Really wonderful person who really helped me fashion this work in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do. He also kept telling me, “Gary, this can be a book!”. And I’m like, “Irwin, I just want to get my dissertation done. I don’t care about a book.” I never even thought it could be a book. And he’s like, “No, this could be a book.” So, by the time I finished my dissertation, I had a book contract with Columbia University press to turn it into a book. So, I kind of, at this point, started to think about leaving direct practice, and I went to academia. I — because I got my PhD, my BSW — I thought, “Let me — maybe I should just start teaching about this.” I always had a passion for teaching, I wanted to do that. So when I finished my DSW, I got a — I worked at Hunter as an adjunct. So I was doing that, but they didn’t like to hire people who were from their program, and I knew that. A lot of PhD programs don’t want to hire you if you come from their program. You have to go somewhere else. I worked there briefly. And then, all of the sudden, one day, I got this call from Columbia University. And they said, “We’d like to interview you. We have several jobs, and we’d like to interview you.” And I thought, “My God, I must be fantastic! Columbia University? I couldn’t even afford to go there! Wants to hire me?” And I went there, and they hired me. And I was really pumped up. Like, I’m a faculty member at Columbia University. I’m a professor at Columbia. I mean, I felt –I’m a working class — even lower than that — person who’s mother and father didn’t even graduate from high school. Who nobody in the family ever went to college. So, I met a famous professor, and she was telling me about all the famous faculty members in her family, and I said to her — she said to me, “And what about your family? What did they do?” I said, “Retail and maintenance.” I mean, literally. My mother was a retail worker, and my father worked as a custodian. So, I mean, going to Columbia? Oh my God, I thought it was great! I was there for five minutes, and it was like, “Oh, I got it.” They don’t really want me as me. They want a gay person, a black person, a Latino person, and an Indian. One of each. Karina Walters was awesome. She was the Indian, Darrell Wheeler was the black guy, I was the gay guy, and Claudia Moreno was the Latina. And one other woman. She was biracial, adopted, and she was dark-skinned, but spoke with a Scottish accent. So she really threw them off. Really, we’re very good friends. She’s back in Oklahoma, where she came from. By the end of three years, every one of us left. Because it was clear that really, why we were invited to come, was to represent this diversity that was false. All of us worked in those areas, too. I wrote about gay people, Darrell wrote about African American people, and Karina wrote about Indians. You know, Claudia wrote about Latino people. I mean, we all wrote about those areas, and they wanted us for that. And, you know, it wasn’t like we had great pay. It just was — it was prestigious to be there. Right? It was very prestigious. And then, I kept talking to Hunter college and saying, “Do you have any jobs? Because I’d really like to come back here. I’ve been at Columbia.” And they’re like, “Really? You want to come back to Hunter?” “Yes.” I needed to come back to Hunter. Hunter was — is a public university with — sixty seven percent of our students are diverse people. There’s like, a hundred and thirty languages that our students speak. I mean, it’s a very different — we have 1300 students in our MSW program. So, it’s a big school. Now we do. We used to have like six hundred. But that’s still big. I was dying to come back there. And, I interviewed. They hired me after, you know, the interview process. And I’ve been there for twenty five years. I love being at Hunter. It’s a fabulous place to be. It’s not perfect, but it’s a wonderful, wonderful school. And it’s a — I’ve never, ever, had the slightest breath of hesitation from any colleague about being gay, or writing about gay issues, or writing about things that I feel passionate about. It’s been a really wonderful experience. After about a year of being a faculty member, I became the executive director of the National Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning. Which is part of the Child Welfare — Children’s Bureau in Washington DC, and that was a really great opportunity. I got to go out to all over the country. I’ve been here like, five times. And I’ve worked with people at DCFS here on Permanency and Concurrent Planning. We did technical assistance and training in a wide range of areas related to foster care. So going out to talk about this was like a dream come true. Because I had spent my whole life doing it. I did practice, I did policy, I did research. And now I got an opportunity to meet with real people and to try to help them to do what they did, better, for children and families. And so, it was a great, wonderful experience. I did that for, I think, fourteen years. I was the director. And then it changed. The federal government decided to change into a different system, where it was a bigger States organization. I chose not to work with them because, at that point, I had traveled everywhere. And I was exhausted, to be really honest with you. I mean, I traveled sometimes, in one week, to five different states, and did five different things. Like, keynoted at a conference, worked with them on concurrent planning, wrote policy with them. It was exhausting. It was fun, but you know, when you’re in this field — and you do good things. Even though it’s good, it can be really tiring. And you need to — I learned I needed to stop saying yes. Because I would keep saying yes when there were times when I wasn’t that good. You know, and I knew that. So it’s like, I have got to stop, because I’ve reached my max threshold of being able to do the things I need to do. I hope I wasn’t ‘not good’ a lot of times. I think, a couple of times, maybe, I wasn’t, I’ll be honest. When that ended, we had a lot of problems — you know, schools are full of drama. And our school had a Dean that was a good Dean for five years, and then she wasn’t a good Dean. And so, the president of the college wanted her to leave. I’m being honest with you. And we encouraged her to leave. And she didn’t want to leave. And then she got really encouraged to leave. And she did. And that’s — you know, you serve the pleasure to the president when you’re the Dean. It doesn’t matter if anybody loves you or not. It helps, but, you serve at the pleasure of the president. And most Deans last for about eight or nine years, and that’s it. Then, you either go back to being a faculty member, or you go on to another deanship, or whatever. A lot of people — Darrell Wheeler, who I’m speaking about, is a friend. He left Hunter, where he was. He came to Hunter too. He left there, went to Chicago, where he was an associate Dean. Went to Albany, where he was assistant Provost, and now is in Iona college, where he is a provost. So he met — a lot of academics go to many places. I never wanted to move any place else. I’m a native New Yorker. My friends, my family were there. I needed to be there and I wanted to be there. So, when the Dean left, the president met with me, and another woman and said, “Which one of you will be the Dean?” And I said — at that point, I was fifty seven years old, and I said, “Not me. I’m not doing that. I don’t want to work twelve months a year. I like being off in the summer. I don’t want to deal with all this drama. It’s a lot of work.” I liked to work hard, but I liked to do what I wanted to do. “I don’t want to do all this stuff.” And my colleague said, “I’ll be the Dean” And I said, “Good. You’ll be the Dean, and I’ll be the Associate Dean.” And that’s how I became the Associate Dean. Literally. And not that I wanted that. I never aspired to being that. I just wanted to help my friend who was going to be the Dean. And, to be honest with you, I wanted to make sure that she wanted to be the Dean, because I didn’t want to be the Dean. I wanted her to be the Dean. And I knew the default plan was — Okay, if she’s not going to do it, Gary’s going to do it. I didn’t want to do that. I did want to be the Dean at one point, and I did apply to be the Dean at the Tulane School of Social Work, in Louisiana. I do a lot of work in Louisiana, in New Orleans. I loved Louisiana. And I was on the final list with this one other guy. I was this close, and I didn’t get the job. And, to be honest, that was really painful. Really hard. Because you’re like, “Okay, I have all the things they need.” And to get that phone call that says, “I’m really sorry, but we’re not going with you. We’re going with the other candidate.” It’s like, “Agh” It really hurts. But, you know, that’s the way it is when you have a career. You know? Some things you get, and some things you don’t. You know, they went with somebody who was much more NIH, National Institute of Health, research-oriented, because they needed to bring money to the University. That’s a big thing in Universities. I’ve raised thirty eight million dollars for Hunter, but they really — you know, they really wanted a different kind of research for that school. So, that’s who they hired. So, I became the Associate Dean of Research and Scholarship, and now I work with faculty. I help them get grants. I help them write grants. I meet with them at lunch and say, “Gee, you only have two publications and you’ve been here for four years. That’s not so good.” You know, a part of being promoted and in tenure, and in academia is, you have to write. The publisher parish? That’s really true. You know? And, how many? It’s not a magic number, but it’s — here is the magic number: two or three a year, at least. Two or three articles in a peer review journal, a year. It’s a lot of work, right? So you’ve got to really work with people to give them the support they need. Our faculty got that support. They teach one course a semester, for five years. That’s it. And then, they can be free to do their research. And they get payed in the summer, even though they don’t work in summer. There’s a lot of benefits to when junior faculty come to help support them and do it. So that’s what I’m doing now. My Dean became the permanent Dean. Had a search, and then became the permanent Dean, and we were all thrilled about that. And then she said to me, “You’re not leaving, right?” I’m like, “Uh, no, I’m going to stick with you.” Because I was promised to stick with her until she became the full-time Dean. “So yeah, I’m going to stay, but I’m not positive of what I’m going to do. You know, I’ll stay with you. I have no plan on leaving. I’m not leaving Hunter. If I leave Hunter, I’m retiring.” So, that’s why I put down ‘Winding down the career’, because that’s the real deal. You know, I turned sixty this year. I’ve worked in this field for forty three years. That’s a lot of work. I started really young. And there are days when I absolutely love every second of what I do, and there are other days when I’m tired. And that’s the reality. You know, and I think — I work with colleagues who are still working when they’re eighty. And they shouldn’t. But they do. And it’s their choice, but, you know — I don’t think that you are current anymore when you’re a certain point. I mean, I was teaching class on Clinical Practice one day, and I said something to the class about, “Oh yeah, GSM 5, and the 5 axis diagnosis”, and I’m going on and on. And one little brave student said, “Uh, professor Mallon, there’s no more 5 axis diagnoses”. And I’m like, “Okay, that’s a mistake.” Because you just get out of practice, right? And, I said “I’m sorry. Well, how many axes are there now?” “There’s two.” “Oh, okay.” Axis one is ‘Presenting Problem’, axis two is ‘Personality Disorder’… I knew that, but I was a little bit thrown by the fact that there were no longer five. So, you realize, well, you know, I need to start thinking about where I want to go next. What do I want to do next? I don’t want another job. I love Child Welfare, but I don’t want to keep working in Child Welfare. I’d like to, actually, grow plants. Really. And I love dogs — I’d like to raise dogs. You know, different, right? I volunteered at a shelter for dogs, and I loved it. Nobody knew who I was, I just walked a dog — you know, it was great. So you realize, when you’ve built this career, and it’s been all in Child Welfare, that, you know, what’s the time when you also need to say, “Okay, I need to close this up a bit, or slow this down a little bit, and I need to say that this is as far as I need to go.” It’s probably too much information to share, but I have a very young husband that I got married to three years ago. And he’s brilliant, and smart, and lovely. And he’ll say things to me sometimes like, “It would be really good for your career!” And I’ll say, “Honey, the career is coming to an end. I’m not worried about one more article, or one more thing.” And he’s like, “No, but it really would be good for your career!” And I just kind of laugh to myself and say, “Um, it’s okay. It is what it is. I’m very happy with what I did. I loved what I did.” I hope that you all love one day as much Child Welfare, and what you’ve done, as I have. I don’t also — I never saw this as a stepping stone, either. Like, “Oh, I’ll do this for a couple years and then I’ll leave.” A lot of people do. “Oh, I’ll take that four week thing they gave me for free, and then I’ll stay my two years and then I’ll leave.” You know, I hope you don’t. I mean, I hope you stay for thirty or forty years. And that you like it, and that you feel like what you’re doing is making a difference, and that you’re competent, and that you still are making a difference in the lives of children and families. I think the greatest thing that’s happened to me recently, is Facebook. I know that it’s kinda old, but I’m friends with all these kids that were my kids in care. And they all tell me about their lives. And you don’t get that chance! I mean, forty eight year old Mauricio, you know. I knew him when he was nineteen or twenty. He’s forty eight! He tells me about what he’s doing in his life, and it’s very gratifying to know — Number one, he’s still alive. And number two, he’s actually doing well. He’s married, he has a family, he has a nice house in Maryland. You know, he has crazy drama like we all do in our lives, but he’s happy. And he’s doing good. And that makes me feel really good. I told people yesterday, too — my dog died, right before I came here on Wednesday. I had to put her to sleep. She was nine and a half. And it was really sad, but it was kind of like, I didn’t have time to be sad. I was coming here. But, I put it on Facebook, because, of course, we all announce everything of Facebook, right? We do. The death of Frida is all over Facebook now. Her name was Frida. And one of my former kids wrote me this really sweet note saying, “I bet you’re feeling sad today. Look at what they’re doing in San Francisco.” He lives in San Francisco. “They are renaming the street after Frida. Just like your dog!” And I thought, how sweet, right? You know, to think of another person — I hope I don’t get emotional. I didn’t plan on that — that somebody who you helped years ago is still thinking, you know, “Oh, let me give something back to them.” You don’t get that. So, I mean, to have that connection with young people who are now adults is a really gratifying experience. So, that’s the career, you know? That’s kind of where it was — yeah, go ahead! “First of all, thank you. You’re a very passionate speaker. You can tell that you really care about what you speak. It’s really good for us to hear, especially as young professionals. I mean, I’ve been in the field for three years, and you already run into people who are so burnt out, with such a negative perception. And you can really tell that you have really kept your good spirits, and you have really kept everything at that social work value of strength. So, I was just wondering if you could speak a little to how you kept that through.” That’s a great question. And, you know what? There were peaks and valleys. That’s the honest — I never wanted to leave, I never applied to law school and tried to do that, or, I never tried to leave. But there were moments were I was like, “This is hard, I’m exhausted.” Definitely. But, I’ll tell you what helped. I took vacations regularly. I wasn’t one of those people who never went on vacation. Like, every four months, I took a week off. Because I needed a break. And I would go some place fun, or maybe sometimes I’d just stay home. But I just — I very much thoughtfully took a break. In the beginning, I didn’t do that. I worked every holiday, I never took off, and you burn out. I worked way too much, I worked on the weekends. And then I realized, “Wait a minute. Let me take a little break.” That helps. I went to the movies a lot. Even by myself. I still do. I love going to the movies. I mean, I saw — I went to the movies this week. I saw ‘I, Tonya’, which I loved. It was a great movie. I saw ‘Lady Bird’, fabulous. I saw all the movies that got nominated. What did I see this week? I went to see something by myself — oh, I went to see Black Panther, which was really interesting. My partner didn’t want to go. And he was studying for school, and I’m like, I’m going. And I went by myself. It makes you escape. Right? Nowadays we stay home and watch Netflix. Right? But, you know, you’re in your sweat clothes, and you’ve got food all over you. After a while, you’re like, “I have to get out of the house.” “I gotta go. I don’t care if it costs fourteen dollars to go to the movies.” I’m also now — which I’m thrilled about — I go to the movies and I get the Senior discount! It’s like, two dollars less, but, I’m saying — The other day, I was annoyed. I saw Call me By Your Name, which I loved. I saw it, crazily, three times. But I loved it. So I said to the guy at the booth, “Well, I’m supposed to -” He said, “Fourteen dollars.” So I said, “Oh, okay. I’m supposed to get the senior discount.” And he said, “Uh, I know, I already gave it to you.” I’m like, “Damn you.” I thought I looked pretty good. I like when I have to tell them, and they’re like, “Oh, really?” I’m like, “Yeah.” But it’s okay. But Black Panther was cool. It’s very escapist, it’s very interesting. Call me By Your Name was this brilliant movie. I loved it. I loved it for very personal reasons. You know, it’s a movie about, kind of, the first time somebody falls in love. You’re infatuated with this person, and it’s just — If you haven’t seen it, go see it. It’s a beautiful movie. It’s done by a director called Luca Guadagnino. He’s an Italian director, and he’s done two other films. And he said this was the last of the trilogy. Of course, I watched the other two films, and I don’t see why they’re a trilogy, except that they’re all about desire and passion, they are. But this last one is, you know — this seventeen year old boy who falls in love with this twenty four year old doctoral student. Doctoral student of his father’s, in Italy. And it’s not a gay movie. It is a movie about two guys who fall in love, but I wouldn’t call it a gay movie. And it’s filmed in Italy and, oh my gosh, it’s just beautiful. And they’ve beautiful music. I don’t know if you know Sufjan Stevens. Is that how you say it? Sufjan Stevens? I want his album. I mean, you can tell I’m obsessed, right? So, I was like — because it’s beautiful music. And, so, it’s a really wonderful escape. That’s what I did. I escaped. I also had, you know, good people in my life. My closest friend in the world, who’s currently on a cruise, is sixty six years old. We met when she was twenty five and I was eighteen, as childcare workers at St. Dominic’s. We have dinner every single Sunday together. She’s like, my family. And she and her sister, who are women — they’re not lesbians, and they never married, and they live together — they’re my family. I mean, I have a sister and three brothers. I see them occasionally, but those two are my family. So, I created family. Right? I created people who I needed to be around. Because my brothers are New York City police officers, and they’re horrible. I mean, their politics is like, oh my God, really? I can’t go to Thanksgiving at their house anymore! I have a black daughter, a Latin husband, and we’re gay. I can’t deal with the ugliness at the table. You know? It was really ugly when Obama was president. I was just like, I can’t sit there anymore. And they all call me, and say, “When are you coming to Thanksgiving?” and I’ll say, “I just can’t do it anymore. I love you all, but I can’t come anymore.” So, I go to Nancy and Laura’s house. And we all — my husband, my daughter and other friends, you know — we all have a fabulous time at dinner, and it’s lovely. But, I did that. I escaped that way. With the family that I created. Sometimes my own family, and my own created. I had good colleagues, too. Last night, I talked for an hour an a half on the phone with my Dean. And we talked about work, but we also laughed about stuff. Laughing is very important, and having humor. I think, what’s happened in social work — and it’ so — it’s not just in social work — it’s what happened in the world. We’ve become so serious about everything. You know? I mean, I really miss being able to have a little sense of humor. I mean, about things — And I know, even with the whole #MeToo movement, and some of the — absolutely important things that had to be brought out and discussed. But also, it’s made you like this. Right? I mean, I met a new faculty member that we hired, and I said to her, “Oh, we’re so happy that we’re coming! Congratulations! Can I have your permission to hug you?” You know, it’s not sexual but, I mean, now you have to say that. Right? You can’t say to colleagues anymore, “Oh my God, I love your sweater!” “What do you mean?” And it’s like, wow, things have changed dramatically. I think that’s — it’s good, because it needed to. And I think the whole — just, the comments about the MeToo — I’m not in any way putting it down. Every woman has experienced sexual harassment, usually by men. Every woman, in every field, and some, way worse than others. But, there’s also a lack of opportunity to be natural, and authentic and warm. And we’ve lost that in the mix. So, it’s not just the MeToo thing. It’s other things, you know. It’s about microaggressions, right? I mean, people tell me sometimes, “Oh my God! I feel like I’ve been microaggressed!” And I’m like, “Do you think your clients are microagressed?” I always asked that. If you think that woman at six o’clock in the morning with her three kids walking across the street feels microaggression every day? Because a lot of times, it becomes all about us. Important. Important that we know who we are. But I think that kind of thing wears you out too. I go to social work conferences sometimes, I read what people are presenting, I don’t even understand it anymore. I mean, that’s part of, you know, the last part. Time to go. Because, you know, you can’t keep saying — it’s, you know, “Oh, it used to be like this.” You know, “Twenty years ago, we did this.” You know, things do change over time. And you have to be able to step back and say, “Okay.” I recently had two colleagues who did a special issue on LGBTQ issues, and I would like to talk about that a little bit in a minute. And they kept wanting to call it ‘SOGIE’, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression. And I kept saying, “Guys, if you call it that, no one will know what that means.” But they’re, you know, cutting edge academics and professionals in that field. And I had to shut up. Because I realized I was sounding like an old man. And I just said, “Okay. If you cant to call it SOGIE, call it SOGIE. But you need to define it. And you need to understand that people in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi — where I work — won’t understand that. So you kind of have to keep saying gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or queer, which they don’t understand either. But it’s — you know, people know that. Or LGBTQ, you need to say that, too. And they came up with this brilliant, two volume issue of Child Welfare that’s coming out soon. I was so impressed. They were young professionals who wrote for this. The first article that I wrote in 1992, twenty six years ago, no one else wrote about it. I don’t feel jealous, I’m thrilled! I didn’t need to be part of it. I wanted them to be part of it so you need to, at certain points step away. And let people take the lead. You know, in the beginning, that hurts. Because you’re like, “wait a minute, I did that!” And you just shut up and let other people — you’ll see yourselves in your own careers. You know, when you’re very young, it’s great. People are paying attention to you, and you’re the lead. And at a certain point, they stop making you the lead. So, you have to kind of be ready to, you know, deal with that. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the natural progression of life. So, a great question. “Can I ask one more?” Sure! You can ask whatever you want! “Okay! So, I just do want to say that I work second shift, and after upper management leaves, you definitely get that humor back. So that’s very nice. But you mentioned that, you know, things are changing and that’s what you’re noticing. But a lot of what you said when you were going over your career history are things that are still very present in the life of a Social Worker. Just last week, I heard someone say on the phone to a professional, “This one’s never going to get better.” And I’m like, that’s just not what you want to think.” No. Or saying, you know, “the mom’s a drug addict”. Horrible way to talk. I always say, if that was your mother, and you were in the room, would you want them to say that about your mother? Or your sister? You wouldn’t. “Yeah, and the interesting thing I thought, was that you moved — I think it was Green Chimneys to Harlem, in Manhattan, and I think that is such an important thing that isn’t — it’s almost getting bypassed at this point in Child Welfare. Just because, you know, obviously we don’t place match or do placements like that anymore, and that’s good, because we don’t want kids lingering in care. But I think so many of our kids in care are minorities, and that they’re getting placed in these homes where they are the token black kid, or they are the token Latino. And think that we need to do better at — in Child Welfare […] Yeah, you’re right. And, you know what? I’ve got a recommendation for you, because I am a professor, so I give out readings. There’s a guy named John Raible, who is at the University of Nebraska. He’s not a social worker. He writes passionately and wonderfully about what it feels like to be a transracial child who was adopted and grows up in a white family. He also presents on it. He might also, at some point, be a good presenter for you to come. R-a-i-b-l-e. John Raible. And I think he has a website, too, “John Raible dot com.” But look him up on the University of Nebraska first. You know, he grew up — he was adopted. He’s transracial. He grew up in a white family, in a very white neighborhood. He used to come home to his family and say, “Look, kids at school are teasing me.” And they would say, “Oh, stop being so sensitive, John. Nobody’s teasing you.” Come on. It doesn’t matter.” What she said was worse than if he had not gotten any kind of empathy. Because it meant that people didn’t believe him. So, when he was saying this, it was more painful. So, I mean — I think MEPA, Multi-Ethnic Placing Act, and then IEPA, which is the Inter-Ethnic Placing Act, are two of the worst pieces of legislation that have ever been passed. And now that I don’t work for the Federal Government anymore, I can say that. Because, when I did, I couldn’t say that. They’re horrible. And I really hoped that during Obama’s Administration somebody would have said, “Get rid of these two legislations.” The idea that African American children were not placed in families in an expeditious way because we were waiting for a black family is really not true. Okay? And it’s a matter of recruitment. Okay? So, from MEPA, the Multiethnic Placement Act, you can’t go out and say, “I’ve got fifteen African American children who need fifteen African American families.” You can’t say that. It’s against the civil rights law. But you can go to a community that is an African American community and say, “We’ve got children who need families. Are you interested in being a family for that child?” Different recruitment. You’re not talking about race. Okay? They don’t like when we do that, but it’s not illegal to do it. You can’t say, “Oh yeah, on the QT, I’m not supposed to…” — You can’t do that. But — and I’ve seen people acknowledge in front of the Civil Rights people that they do that, in a meeting at the Children’s Bureau. I thought, “Oh my God, they’re going to arrest them…” They won’t. But they’re going to do something to that State. You’re not supposed to do that. It’s a very serious piece of legislation. But, you know, I have an African American daughter. Do I think I was a competent parent? Sometimes. You know? And sometimes, no! Will I know what it’s like to be an African American person? No, I don’t. I never will. I know a lot, but I never will. So, you know, what she did — You know, we lived in neighborhoods where she wasn’t the only kid. She went to schools where she wasn’t the only black kid. You know, I didn’t even try to do her hair, because I can’t. I mean, I can’t braid. She went to places that did know how to do that. And that’s a big part of her life. She’ll tell me, “I came back from getting my hair done.” About every other week. She has very long locks, like down to here, and she’s very proud of them. “These are not fake, these are all mine.” You know? So she’s really into that. But, again, I wasn’t a perfect parent. I was good for her at the time. She had developmental disabilities. My point with her was that nobody was bringing her into their family. And it was in the 80s, you know? But she — and she’s done well, but I’m not black. And I will never understand what it means to walk in a room and to be perceived as a black man. I’m not. So, she does. Every day. So, you know, it is inadequate, to some extent. I don’t think you love that person less, but you don’t understand the experience. My two sons are Latino. But they’ve completely rejected their Latino heritage. You know? Because they grew up in this white family, where I was Irish, and my partner at the time, was Italian. And they would say, “We’re Irish and Italian, right?” And I was like, “No, you’re Mexican.” “No, I’m not.” Yeah, you are. “I don’t want to be Mexican.” You know, Mexican people jump over the wall and, you know, all of these negative stereotypes. Which is horrible. Right? We brought them to Texas, where they were born. And we brought them to Mexico. And you know what their comment was? “Thank God I was adopted. Oh my God, I’d be selling chicklets on the street in Tijuana.” It’s like, no, you wouldn’t. That was not why we brought you here. But that was what they got. Right? So, since then, they both took Spanish in school. Hated it. Since then, they’ve both found their moms, which we helped them do. And their mom’s don’t speak a word of English. Which I kept saying to them, “Don’t you think that at some point -” “Yeah” You know what? They’re really smart. They write to them, and run it through a translator. They don’t even want us to help them, because it’s their message. Which they shouldn’t. They run it through a translator. So, I always feel badly. I think they’ve lost their ethnic identity. You know, Travis, at one point, said he was not Latino. He was Black. I said, “Well, no, you really are Latino” “No, I’m black.” And he wanted a black therapist, and he only wants to listen to the black radio station. And he had all this stuff about being black. And then, one day, he switched back. And it was okay to be Mexican. You know? So, I mean, part of it is the identity formation that kids go through anyway. Adopted kids go through it in a whole different way. So, yeah. There’s a lot of stuff. I mean, if your’re going to adopt a child, or be a parent to a foster child who is of a different race than you are, you better be prepared to make some changes in your own life. And, it’s not just about hair care; that is an issue. But it’s about are you willing to live in a neighborhood where you’re the minority and your kid isn’t. Are you willing to go to a church, or a synagogue where everyone doesn’t look like you. But your kid feels comfortable. Stuff like that. People aren’t. Also, just one word about adoption: Adoption is about finding the right family for the kid, not about finding the right kid for a family. That’s the big thing that we’ve got a struggle with, right? We’ve got adoptive people that are like, “I’d like to adopt! But I want this kind of child.” “Oh, we don’t have that kind of child. But we have a child who is like this, who needs this kind of family.” A challenge. Adoption is a challenging piece. Foster care is hugely challenging. I mean, Leslie was my foster child before I adopted her. She was an easier foster child, because she never lived in a family. She did crazy things when she came to live with me. Crazy! Met a man on the sidewalk when she was sixteen. Met a man on the subway and invited him home, because she needed a boyfriend. She didn’t even know his name. I mean, when I walked into the apartment and I saw this man in the apartment, I said, “Who are you?” “She invited me here.” I’m like, “You need to leave.” And I said to her, “What the hell is going on?” “Oh, he followed me home.” I said, “How could that be?” We have a doorman, you have a key, and he’s in the apartment with you. He didn’t follow you home. What really went on? “I just thought that I needed a boyfriend, Gary. I invited him home.” I said, “And then what happened?” “We got home and he said, “Come on, let’s get busy” Because that’s what he thought he was being invited there for. And, had I not walked in, maybe that would have happened. Right? But this is the first week living at home. I really felt like saying, “You’re going back to the group home. This was a mistake.” And believe me, friends and family said, “You’re crazy! See? Why did you do that? You’re crazy! You shouldn’t have done that!” My own mother would say, constantly, anytime we had a problem with our kids, “You don’t know where they came from. They could murder you in the middle of the night, Gary.” I’d say, “Mom, really?” She said, “Well, yeah, you don’t know them!” I said, “We’ve raised them!” She’s like, “You know, in our family you would know them.” I said, “Ma, your sister jumped off the bridge, and your brother got burned in a fire. Are we perfect?” You know, we had a lot of alcoholism, mental health problems in our, you know, perfect family. I said, you know, “Come on, we’ve all got problems.” But I don’t think that’s easier when families don’t always support those decisions either. Partially, because they’re protective, and they love their person. But still, it’s not helpful when you hear those things. But, that’s a great question, too. Anyway — how are we doing for time? I’m completely lost. Okay, good. So, let’s talk about themes, okay? These are some things that are happening currently in Child Welfare. Child Welfare is a big cycle. The cyclical nature of Child Welfare. “Okay, we don’t want kids in group homes. We want kids in families.” “Okay, kids really shouldn’t be there, they should be in this kind of program.” “Nope, kids should be in group homes.” “Nope, that kid got killed, so now they need to go in this program.” “Okay, now we need to take kids away.” “Nope. Don’t take kids away anymore. We need to get them…” It’s round and round. And part of that is about politics. Let’s be honest, right? Most child welfare programs are — They’re administered by the federal government through the Children’s Bureau. That comes down to the State. And then in many States, like I think here in Wisconsin, it’s a County Administered Program. Am I right? So that County or the locality makes the rules. Based on what they’ve been told from the State and the Federal Government by law. But they tweak them, right? So every place has got a different thing going on. I’ll give you an example. In New York City, big program. Big. When I started in Child Welfare, many years ago, sixty thousand children were in Child Welfare in New York City. Now, twelve thousand. That’s hugely different! But they change the name of the organization all the time. We were the Bureau of Child Welfare. One night, it became the Special Services of Children. Then, one other day, it became the Child Welfare Administration. And then another day, it became the Administration of Children’s Services. They kept changing the name, because all these lawsuits kept getting filed against them. And then that was an issue, right? The lawsuit, like here in Milwaukee, they went into receiverships. So, some organization takes over the system. So, you just see this cyclical nature, and it’s very political. Right? In New York City, we had a mayor called mayor Giuliani, who was good and bad. He was good in a lot of ways, and he was horrible in others. And he wanted to have a mission statement for the Administration of Children’s Services. And people were saying, you know, sophisticated things like, “Safety for all Children”. “All children are safe”. And he said, “How about this one? ‘No dead kids’.” Because, as a politician, when any kid got killed in the system, or who was known to the system, it was in the newspaper constantly. They were challenged in Court sometimes. And the administration was told, “You need to fire the commissioner”. We had — I can’t tell you how many commissioners. Because everyone got fired. And every time one gets fired, they change what the last one did. So, you’ve got this nature that’s just in the system of — every time a new person comes along, they want to completely eliminate what the old person did. And put their stamp on what they do. It’s just, again, politics and nature of the beast. And the middle folks will stay there. So you’re like, “Oh, gosh, now we have to do this?” “Oh, now that person’s gone, now it’s a new thing.” Like, in New York, there were variant evidence-based practices. Because that commissioner was into it. He left, the new one came. She said, “I’m not interested in evidence-based practices stuff. We’re into family group conferencing.” She did a really nice job. And guess what happened to her. Kid got killed. She went on the news and she started crying. And first, she said, “Kids get killed in Child Welfare all the time.” Mistake. Big mistake. Then, they attacked her in the press. Then she went into a news conference and burst into tears and started crying. And then she resigned the next day. Because she needed to be with her family more. Please. Right? We know that’s not true. But, I mean — and she was a good person. A really good woman. And, of course she felt horrible about what happened. And, isn’t it okay to express emotion sometimes? But not in the media. Not when you’re the commissioner, I guess. Right? So, it all changed. We got a new guy from Washington. He got rid of all the stuff that she did. And added a whole bunch of new stuff. I’m just giving you one example, right? There are changes in the federal government. Obviously, I think you all know that, right? The Obama administration was very different from this current administration. And even in the Obama administration we didn’t do that much stuff in Child Welfare, but they did have a commissioner who did two things: His name was Brian Samuels. He was the head of the Children’s Bureau, and he started talking about well-being. That’s big and different. And he started talking about LGBTQ issues, and how that impacted on children and families. Two big changes, but he left. And then the new person came, and they still have the LGBTQ on the table, and the well-being stuff kind of started to fall off a little bit. Still there, but it started to kind of deteriorate a little bit, right? But they were pretty big changes. Not major legislative changes, okay? They have a new head of the Children’s Bureau. His name is Jerry Miller. He was the commissioner in Alabama, great guy. He worked at the Children’s Bureau many years ago, and he is the mastermind for designing the CFSR process. Any of you know about that? You do, of course. The Children and Family Service Review. The monitoring and accountability system. He masterminded the initial development of that plan. After Jerry and his colleague Will Hornsby left, everybody started chipping it away […] And then it got to a point where it was like, “Okay, maybe we’re not going to do CFSR anymore.” Maybe we’re going to let the States do their own thing again.” And then, all of the sudden, the Obama Administration ends, this Administration began, and then they have a new congressioner, and it’s Jerry Miller. So CFSR is back. In full swing. Maybe a little different. And that’s a big thing. It’s a vision change. Let’s keep children out of foster care in the first place. That’s Jerry Miller’s message. Why are we even worrying about permanency? Why are we even worrying about all this stuff? Let’s keep them out of the system in the first place. And New York kind of did that in some ways. Sixty thousand, twelve thousand? You know how they did that? They closed the front door. They locked it. It’s harder to get in. That’s part of it. They did do some really good things, like services for families, in-family systems. Good. But they also made it much harder to get in the door. We used to have something in New York called voluntary agreements, where you just sign your kid into care. They don’t allow people to do that anymore. They now — it’s all court-reviewed anyway. But you could literally sign your child into the foster care system. And they will not let you do that very much. “I was just thinking about how — if the budget passes, and how it’s going with that particular vision, how you think that might influence…?” Probably not as much now, because — the next slide is the new legislation. And when legislation mandates something, you have to find money for it. That’s what the secret is. Money is always a number one issue. If you don’t have — you know, money is really on the table, all the time. So — and, you know, the reality is, you can’t do what we do without money. You can’t get paid, you can’t pay foster families, you can’t pay whatever. But there’s a lot of money on the table. And 4E is a huge pot of money. Right? Not just for what you guys get, but, I mean, for what pays agencies to care for kids. But here’s the next slide. This is the new legislation. Just passed. Family First Prevention Services Act. F-F-P-S-A. I’m not talking about all the legislation, but I’m sure you’ve all heard of ASFA, right? So, that’s a big one. Chafee is another one, right? And then this one is brand new! Just passed. And what it — bi-partisan support in Congress. That’s a miracle. Right? And then it was basically restructuring how money gets spent on Child Welfare Services. So, this got passed. Which means now, they have to find money. It’s the law. It’s not like, “Oh, it would be nice if we could.” You have to. You have to allocate funds for this. So, in some ways — I don’t know who the mastermind of this was, per say, but somebody was smart enough to say, “If we don’t pass a law about this, it’s going to stay the same. And there’s no money.” And here’s what this law says. We’re going to pay — give more money and more attention to in-home services, which is the front-end, right? Before kids even come in, we’re going to have mom, dad, whomever, grandma, who’s taking care of the kid support her or him and keep those kids at home. When they safely can be kept at home. And I believe that’s a great strategy. And I think most people believe that’s a great strategy. The problem becomes — if something really bad happens in the home, then they all panic. Like, “Oh my God, the kids got killed. Now we have to take them out of there and put them into” — you know, there’s a lot of variables that you can’t control within home services. But, by and large, family-based services, family group conferencing, in-home services… They used to have thing thing where you would put one social worker with two families, twenty four hours a day. Family Builders. It was Home Builders — it was called. Whole strategy. They’re going to move back to some of that. That supports Jerry Miller’s vision. It supports the new legislation. They’re going to really give more money to family therapy — I’m a big believer in. And as somebody who has raised children myself, you can’t have child therapy. Kids don’t live by themselves. If you’re not engaging people in the family in therapy, it’s B.S. therapy in my opinion. Really nice, to be working out the thing with the kid, but you never meet the family. Right? One of my kids was in therapy with a psychiatrist like that, and I kept saying, “Hello? Don’t you think you need to meet with us?” “No, not really.” But we live together. “No, not really. He’s a teenager. He should have freedom to have his own confidentiality.” Yeah, but don’t you think we should talk — “No, not really.” I mean, it was wasted time. And, as a result, he would come home and say, “My psychiatrist said that you do-“‘ Okay, here’s the problem. So there was no family therapy. It was individual therapy. I think kids do need time by themselves, for sure. But you also need some opportunities where it’s family oriented. So they’re giving money for that. Substance Abuse Services. And the big three in Child Welfare, and you all correct me if I’m wrong, Substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence. Right? Under a giant umbrella of poverty. How many of you work with rich families? Middle class families? Poor people? Yeah! I mean, rich people don’t come to us. We don’t see them. Unless something happens at home, and they’re in the emergency room, and they have to call someone in. And I would guarantee to you that they don’t come to us then even. So, they get diverted into family, something, call their lawyer and, you know. They don’t come to foster care, generally. They might, occasionally, but not really. So, I mean, poverty is there. Substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence. Almost every case. So, we’re going to start tweaking flexibility of funds around substance abuse. That’s really important. Try getting a mom into care who has five kids. Who’s going to take care of the kids? You don’t want them to go into foster care so that she can go into treatment. There’s no — maybe no other family. It’s complicated. Right? You all know that. I mean — and once you get into treatment — how many of you have ever smoked cigarettes? How many of you have tried multiple times to quit? How many of you have actually quit? Okay. You can, but it’s a lot of work. I quit, I’d say, five times. And still — you know what I still do? Almost every week, I have this dream. I’m at a bar — I’m at a cocktail party, somebody gives me a cigarette, I put it in my mouth, I go to light it, I’m just about to take a big puff, and — “I don’t smoke anymore!” Twenty five years later! Right? That’s strong! So, I mean, think about substances and things that people are using for many different reasons, you know. A lot of it is about anesthetizing feeling. I have a great book — I don’t remember the author’s name. It’s qualitative interviews with women who prostituted and shoplift. I don’t remember the name of it. It’s a great book. Every one of those women was physically or sexually abused by somebody in their family, and many of them lived in foster care. And it was like, okay, they didn’t just one day decide to be a prostitute. Or shoplift. There were things that happened to them that caused them to make some of those decisions, just like some of our families who are substance abusing didn’t just decide one day to take heroin. You know, there’s other things that led to that. “Is there any — I don’t know if you’d know this — but is there any flexibility within this legislation to divert money towards stable housing, or low income housing?” Probably not. Because that would have to go to the Housing and Urban Development corporation. Which is run by that guy who used to be a brain surgeon, who said that working for the Federal Government is harder than doing brain surgery. Ben Carson. Right? “Yeah, he also spent thirty thousand dollars redecorating his office.” But despite that diversion, housing is huge, right? Our families live in cars. They live in abandoned trailers. They live in — have you seen one living in a cardboard box with five kids recently, in some state? And if you live in a state that is very urban, like New York — Do you know how much a studio apartment in New York City costs? And I’m not exaggerating: if you’re lucky, twenty five hundred dollars a month. If you’re lucky. A studio apartment. And maybe that’s Manhattan. So, in the Bronx, it would be two thousand dollars. My families can’t afford that. Section 8 won’t pay for something like that. So, it’s very complex. We have a lot of public housing in New York, but it’s usually full, and there’s usually a huge wait list, too. A lot of problems with that. Evidence based practices are also going to be funded from this. I’m sure you’re learning about it. If you’re not, you should. I have my own feelings about them, but I think — Absolutely essential to graduate from your MSW program and know what they are, how they’re used, when they’re useful, or not, how much they cost to implement, how you train people to use the model and the fidelity of the model, you know — whether you like it or not, you need to know that. And then there are some Child Welfare specific evidence based practices that have evidence that do work well. How do we tap into those? Right? I don’t think we should exclusively use them, that’s my problem. But I think you need to know about it. Here are some things — just a couple other things that are emerging. The Authorization of Court Improvement project. Courts are essential in what we do in Child Welfare. They’re like this. Every court place — every Child Welfare Placement is approved or not, by the court. We have to learn how to work with them. Right? I recently went to court in Louisiana, and I hadn’t been to court in a long time. I had to testify. And I’ve done training on this. I was stumped. They had me on the stand, they were firing questions at me. You know. This one attorney kept trying to discredit me, because he said I was a gay expert, not a Child Welfare expert. And then he said, “Well, we’re not going to talk about gay issues today, are we?” And I said, “I don’t intend to, unless you do.” And he said, “No, I don’t.” I said, “Fine.” And then, ten minutes later, he asked me a big question about gay stuff. And I said, “I’m not answering your question.” And he said, “Oh, you need to. You have to.” And I just looked at the judge and said, “I’m not answering this question.” He just said he wasn’t going to ask me that, right? So why should I answer then. The judge said, “You’re right. Don’t answer.” But, I mean, I’m confident enough to say that. But imagine you’re young, you’re in court, people are — it’s really hard. But this is not — the court authorization is not about court improvement projects. So, yesterday I was talking to people at DCFS, and I mentioned something about reinstatement of parental rights for older adolescents. I got two emails last night from them. “Can you please hook me up to the person in Louisiana who does this?” Yeah! Great! I’m happy to. But that’s good. Because I want them to talk to each other, to learn ways of changing their practices. Maybe here, in Wisconsin, the reinstatement of parental rights is a strategy to work with older adolescents to get them permanency. So, that if their rights were terminated by their parents when they were six, and now the kid’s eighteen, and they don’t have a resource, and mom or dad has been clean and sober for years, and really loves that kid, and the kids continue to talk to them even though their rights were terminated, why can’t we allow that parent to continue to parent? So, apparently, they don’t do that here, per say. But in Louisiana, they do. So, let them talk to people in Louisiana and figure out how they can change their law here if they can. There’s some tribal stuff that’s going on. Alright? Tribes are like nations to themselves. So, every tribe — big tribes, they have their own Child Welfare systems. Some of them — many of them have their own courts. They have their own Tribal leaders. It’s very different. And in the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1979, really changed the way we look at caring for children who have Indian ancestry. But there’s new AFCARS — and I put that on there because I couldn’t remember what AFCARS meant. Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. Every single state has to respond to this, to the Federal government, every year. And say, how many kids are in care, what is the permanency goal, how many kids were adopted. And now there’s some Indian questions that weren’t there before that now they need to include in AFCARS. If you’ve never looked at AFCARS, and you’re doing a paper, you need to. Want to find out the most recent stat about how many kids are in the system? It’s gone up, actually. It’s four hundred and thirty seven thousand children in the country are in Child Welfare. In foster care, on any given day. And there’s — on one particular day on the report. But that’s a lot of kids. Right? A hundred and ten thousand are free for adoption. Fifty thousand were adopted last year. It’s good to know those things on a national basis. Just put in Google, ‘AFCARS’, and it’ll pop up. The latest one. There’s challenges to ICWA, the Indian Child Welfare Act, in several states. Not that they’re going to eliminate it, but they’re challenging it. That’s interesting, I think. So, those are some emerging things. Here are some important themes that I feel passionately about that are not really being talked about that much anymore. But we need to, in my opinion. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning issues. I mean, this is what I did lots of my work on. During the previous administration, of course, it was talked about. In this administration, we’ve seen an erosion of attention to Gay and Lesbian issues. In the military, right? And we’ve seen this particular federal government saying one thing, and doing another thing. A lot of what they’ve done has been bashed in the courts, which is good, and hopefully will continue. But — and they’ve done some negative stuff. They’ve, not necessarily said in Child Welfare “You can’t do this” or “You can’t talk about it”. They have a big grant that just got given to the University of Maryland about LGBTQ issues. And I keep saying to them, “How long do you think this is going to happen?” Until somebody decides to cut your funding. They said, “We’re ready for that.” I said, “Just keep calling it LGBTQ because they don’t know what that means.” If you start saying Gay or Lesbian, then they’ll look it up online and they’ll start asking you to take — When I ran the National Resource Center during the Bush administration, I was told, “Take all that gay stuff off your website.” I said, “But it’s important.” “We’re using federal dollars to design the website. The federal government does not want it on the website. Take it off.” So, we just changed the name. We didn’t take it off. And they never asked us again about it. It said “Gay, Lesbian…” and we just changed it to “LGBTQ” and nobody knew what it meant. I mean, I just kept saying, you know. And then when Obama came into office, literally, I’m not exaggerating — in a month they said, “Um, Gary, what about all that Gay and Lesbian stuff?” I said, “I thought you said I couldn’t do that.” They’re like, “Yeah, but it’s new administration, and they’re asking us questions, and we don’t have answers.” I said, “Yeah, you told me to take it off the website.” And they said, “Yeah, but we know you probably didn’t.” And I said, “I didn’t. And I haven’t. Want me to send it to you?” “Yes.” I did. Like seventeen pages of stuff that we did. But that’s fading a little bit, now. Still important. I mean, June is doing her whole doctoral dissertation on the experience of Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans and Questioning adolescents in Wisconsin. That’s fabulous. I mean, it’s really important to keep looking at that. And, you know, I know that some of you probably have questions about that, or issues. I mean, there’s — and it isn’t just youth, it’s also, how does that impact on foster parents? And how do we recruit and retain LGBT foster and adoptive parents to care for kids. Not just gay kids. Sometimes LGBTQ folks don’t necessarily want to adopt or foster a gay kid. They just want to adopt or foster a kid. Right? So, you know. But those are huge implications, and there’s lots of material. I was telling you about the special issue. I was so impressed with how much is out there now! How many people are writing about it. And I don’t think it’s going to go away. But I think it’s an important topic to keep on the burner. Trafficking issues. This was big in the Obama administration. I’m not hearing anything about it in the federal way anymore. This is huge. And the other thing that is so distressing about trafficking is, everybody knows it’s going on. High level people know it’s going on. And, it’s not just stopping, right? I mean, whenever they have, you know, Superbowl, and they’ll tell you huge groups of young women and boys were shipped in from other places, they’re taking up all these hotel rooms. It’s like, we know this. Alright? I did a lot of work in Indonesia with UNICEF after the tsunami there. And they were talking constantly about trafficking. And I was like, “I don’t think we have that problem in the US.” They were like, “Yeah, you do, you just don’t talk about it.” And they were right. And then all of a sudden — There, in Indonesia, the problem is, yes, sex trafficking, but it’s also domestic trafficking. In terms of, they bring young women into countries, and they make them slaves. In houses. To cook, and clean, and take care of the kids. And they don’t pay them, and they don’t let them leave. And they take away their passports. That happens in the US, too. But the ones that we’ve been talking about more are sex trafficking with young women primarily, but also young boys. So, we’re not talking about this. And, actually, I remember being on many phone calls. And, you know, people on the phone — they were law enforcement people. You know what they’d say? “Oh, we need to put these kids in locked facilities.” Wait a minute. The kids are not the ones that are the criminals. The men who are using them are criminal. “Oh, yeah, but we have to watch these kids. So we have to lock them up.” It was like, wait a minute. That doesn’t seem right. Right? And, you know, you were trying — literally, we were trying to design this from the ground up, because there were no policies about it. And then the federal government got really panicky about it, and you know, the reality is that some of the very powerful people are involved in this stuff, too. Very powerful people. “So, this is my passion, childhood trafficking. I actually work in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Which is a huge hub. It’s actually where they send a lot of people to learn how to traffic. So, I was just wondering if you had any recommendations on articles, or research, or things to look — help me figure out how I could start implementing some things in Milwaukee.” Sure. Actually, when we ran the National Research Center, we had great resources on our website. I think those resources have been transferred to our new website, which, at the end of this, the next slide has my website address. The National Center for Child Welfare Excellence. But, if you go there and you can’t find it, email me -which is also on the next slide- and I will connect you with somebody who still works in the federal government, and who did all these digital stories on trafficking, designed a curriculum for child welfare people in trafficking, and a handbook, and all this stuff. And, her name is Joan Morse. And Joan will connect you in. But, on our website, if you look at publications, or print products, it might be there. But if it’s not, just email me and I’ll give you Joan’s email. And she’ll send you what you need. Yeah, do anyway! Happy to respond, as you’re — if you’re finding things. I used to — when we ran the National Research Center, our website was so incredible. I’d be writing a grant, and I would start looking for, you know, doing my literature review. All the best stuff is on my own website. You know, there was so much on there, you just didn’t know everything that was on there. I think it’s still there, but we’ll help you find it. “I was just going to say, we have Laura Gerassi, too, at the — she’s one of our newer faculty, and that’s what she studies. Sex trafficking. She just wrote a book, it’s really good. It’s right at the School of Social Work, too. For certain, she probably knows about it.” Laura Gerassi? “Can you spell her last name?” “Yeah, G-E-R-A-S-S-I.” Great. Last thing -and I’m just being conscious of our time- is about permanency. You know, because there’s been such an emphasis on well-being, and because it’s like, let’s keep kids out of foster care in the first place, which is all good, there’s also been a de-emphasis on what does permanency look like. And that’s unfortunate, in my opinion, because we still have four hundred and thirty seven thousand kids in foster care, and they need a permanency goal. But, more than that, we need to be serious about what does permanency looks like for this kid. And my own particular interest, even moreover, is, what about older youth? Because these young people, who are like, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen — Do you stay in care till you’re twenty one here? Okay, so older even than that — It depends? Okay. Yeah. So, what about that kid? So, people are saying for those kids, and have for a long time, “Oh, their permanency goal is APLA, Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement. Or OPLA, or whatever they call it. They all call it different things. And you know what that permanency goal means? ‘We don’t know what we’re going to do with you when you leave.’ They have to give them a goal, so they give them that goal. But it means, basically: ‘We’ve given up. You’re going to go out on your own, live on your own.’ And we know that nobody lives on their own. And then try to find — the kid doesn’t have a GED, or a high school diploma, very few job skills, and now they’re discharged. What do you think will happen to them, right? So — and their family’s, you know, scattered. They’ll probably try to reunite themselves with their own family, that’s what they do. More than twenty percent of kids who leave foster care at the age of 21 reunite themselves with their own family. And it’s the fantasy of every child in child welfare. “I’m going to go back to my mother. You all took me away from her, now I’m going back.” It’s the fantasy of every kid. I’ve met one boy in my whole career that said, “If you gave me a million dollars, I wouldn’t go back to that woman.” One boy. The rest of them would be back there in a second. No matter what abuse they got. Because, it’s their people. Their family. Right? And they believe ‘You took me away’. So, they do that. And then, the other thing that happens is that we’ve given up on them as a system saying, “They don’t need to be adopted, they don’t want to be adopted. These kids want their own crib, they want their own pad, they want their own place. That’s ridiculous. Let’s focus on adoption of the babies.” Wrong. Every kid needs a family. And we need to figure out, how do we individually think about permanency for that eighteen year old. Who might be saying, “Don’t be talking to me about no family, I don’t want these family. People keep promising me this crap, and it never gets delivered.” That day, they say that. Two days later, they say, “You know, I’ve been thinking about what you said. Maybe it would be nice to have somebody special in my life.” But, what happens is we stop at “No”. So, I have this — that’s on the website. It’s called ‘Unpacking the ‘No’ of Adolescent Permanency’. And it’s all about when they say ‘No’ — how do you unpack that with them? It’s really important. How do you let them interview people that will be their permanent resources? How do you find mentors? How do we use guardianship as a pathway to more durable permanency? Because kids claim the family. They’re the one that says, “You know what, you’re my guardian. I like you. You’re okay. I think you could actually be my foster parent.” But if you say, “We want you to be connected with her. We want her to be your foster parent.” They might say, “Mm, I don’t think so. I don’t know.” But the guardianship can be the pathway to something more durable. And then, to adoption. I had a great case in Florida like that. The kid had a mentor. The mentor was a guardian ad litem. The kid said to one mentor, “I’m sick of this. You people keep promising me this crap over and over again. I’m sick of this.” “Come on, this guy really wants to be a mentor. He’s different. You’ll like him.” Kid connects with the mentor, and the kid says after a while, “You know what? You’re a lawyer, right? Can’t we do that guardianship thing?” “Yeah”. So then he became his guardian. And then, he started to be able to do home visits with him. And then the kid said, “You know what? I think you should really be my foster parent.” Because, you know, you are already anyway.” And then, he became a foster parent. And then, the kid said after a while, “You know what? I think you should adopt me, because I already think of you as my family, and my parent.” They claim you, rather than us identifying somebody for them. That’s harder. Takes longer. But, it’s one of the things we have fallen short on. And, as a consequence, we have lots of young people leaving the foster care system with no permanent resources. Big problem. Those boys that connect with me on Facebook? Some of them had permanent resources, many of them didn’t. And my visual image of them is, they’re like a boat in the ocean that floats out there without an anchor. They’re not crashing. They’re not sinking. But they’re just floating out there. I get a lot of emails from them at their birthdays, at Christmas, at Thanksgiving. You know, kind of, “Oh, I hope you’re doing well.” What did you do in Christmas? “Oh, nothing.” And you think, wow. They just don’t have a connection. Some of them do. But a lot of them are floating out there. So, I think, I always feel bad. I say to them sometimes, “Do you think if we did better for you, it wouldn’t be like this?” And some of them say, “You know, Gary, if you had asked me that when I was nineteen, I would have said that I don’t need a family. At thirty, I realized I did. But it’s too late. I’m too old.” I said, “No, you’re not too old.” My own daughter, Leslie, I’ll tell you how I adopted her. She was my foster daughter. She lived with me, and then she went out and lived on her own. Her and I spoke at conference one day, and we were presenting. And I kept saying, “This is Leslie. She’s my foster daughter.” And she talked about her relationship, and someone in the audience said, “Leslie! I want to ask you a question. How come you never got adopted by Gary?” And she said, “Because Gary Mallon never wanted to adopt me.” I said, “That is not true! You and I talked about this all the time. You told me I’m white, you’re black. I couldn’t be your father because I’m white, and — Or you don’t want to change your name.” And a couple other things. And she said, “Well, you know what? I change my mind.” And I said, “Well, I wish you would have told me that privately, instead of in front of five hundred people.” I mean, this was the conversation that went on in front of everybody. And then I said, Do you — I said to her afterwards, “Were you messing with me or do you really want to be adopted?” She said, “No, I really want to be adopted.” Okay. SO here’s what we have to do. You are not working right now. I am. You’re going to go to the New York Family Hospital, and you’re going to get your records. An we’re going to hire Beth Schwartz, who was a friend of mine who was an attorney, and Beth is going to help us facilitate an adult adoption. So we did that. Took a little while. She was thirty seven when I adopted her. She had lived with me. I had known her for twenty some years. She’s now fifty. She said to me in the elevator when she got adopted — because it was very disappointing. The adoption — if you’ve ever been to them — they’re very legal proceedings, right? Some judges make them really nice, but this was like, you know, in his chamber and it was kind of cold, It was like, “Okay, you’re adopted now.” And she was like, “That’s it?” And she said to me in the elevator, “You know, Gary, the judge told me when you walked out of the room that when you die, I can inherit all your money.” I’m like, “Well, there you go. That’s a big difference.” Now you’re my legal daughter. The other thing that happened that was really sad, and I should have helped her with this and I didn’t realize. I encouraged her to go get a passport. Because — and she’s reminded me many times that we’ve never gone on an international trip. So she doesn’t know why I needed her to go get a passport, which means, “When are you going to take me on an international trip?” But, she went to get her birth certificate, and they kept saying to her, “I’m sorry, the information you gave us is not accurate.” So she — when something happens to her and it’s not predictable, she gets kind of hysterical. So she is hysterically crying in Vital Statistics. They feel terrible, because they know that the information got changed when she got adopted. Under ‘Father’, it says Gerald P. Mallen, not her father, legal birth father’s name. And her mother’s name is deleted, because when you get adopted, they change your birth certificate. So she’s hysterical, crying, carrying on. I said, put the lady on the phone. The lady gets on the phone. She’s like, “I’m sorry, sir. I can’t tell her.” I said, “Look, she was adopted. My name is-” She said, “Well you are her legal father, that’s why we couldn’t give her-” I said, “Okay. Put her back on the phone.” I said, “Change the application. You have to put me.” But it was like, one of those sand things? You know? She knew her parents, but she had to give up their name because I’m legally on the birth certificate. Right? So it’s one of those things that happened. But that’s why I adopted her. And, I mean, it was a very unusual adoption. You can adopt an adult. You have to sign an affidavit saying you’ve never had a sexual relationship with them. Because, basically, what used to happen before gay people got married is, gay people would adopt each other. Isn’t that strange? I mean, again, another thing that just is happening in policy and practice that has changed the way we do things in Child Welfare. These are three issues. There’s a hundred of them. Probably a thousand of them, right? I mean, for me, these are important issues. For you, there’s probably other issues that you’re passionate about. Out of home care, residential treatment, services for young women… You know, there are many — There’s actually fifty fifty in Child Welfare, for boys and girls. But services for boys are always different from services for girls. And if you talk about juvenile justice, forget it. Totally different. Almost no data out there. So there’s differences there, too. There’s a lot of cross — that’s another big issue. Crossover youth. Youth who were in Child Welfare who are now in Juvenile justice. Pregnant and parenting teens. And when we talk about them, we only talk about girls. We never talk about boys. Right? And then the educational outcomes. You know, Leslie took the GED test seventeen times, and she finally passed it. That’s pretty persistent. Some of our kids leave care and don’t have a GED, don’t have a high school diploma, and then don’t go back to get them. Some of them have done actually — One court study, the Midwest Child Welfare study who looked at the independent living issues for older adolescents, had some interesting results about educational outcomes. I always think the most important finding that he had was when they went back and met these kids after they had left the care. The most important finding was, “Did they have an important relationship with somebody in their life?” And many of them had a relationship with a former teacher, or a former foster parent, or a former child welfare person. Those were the major three groups that I remember. So, that’s important. Because the kids who don’t have a biological family will use people that they find themselves to create family. So there’s all of that, too. And lots of other things. Let me shut up, and ask if you have other questions that you might want to ask, or think about. “Well, you were kind of talking about what happens after they leave foster care, and they age out. And I know in my class in particular, we’ve had a lot of discussion about what is not working. But are there any practices and/or legislation that you feel actually is working to help children when they age out of care?” One of the things that I said that I — maybe not a practice or legislation — is, they have to have at least one person in their lives they’re connected to. It could be by blood. It could be by choice. It could be something. My daughter, Leslie, calls me every single day. And that’s — when my mother was alive, and things went bad, even when I was older, I’d say, “Mom, …” And she’d say, “Don’t worry, honey. It’s going to be better tomorrow.” And then I would think to myself, How does she know that? That’s not even true. But it made me feel better. And so, that’s what she does. Having no one to call? I remember one girl — testified in Congress and she said, “Let me tell you a story.” “I’m a success. I have a degree, I make a good salary, I’ve got a full-time job. I have no permanent connection, and here’s what happened to me. My first week on the job, I bought myself a beautiful silk blouse. It was expensive, it was beautiful. I looked great in it. I went out to dinner that night, and I dropped something on it. And it was wrecked, and I had nobody I could call to ask to get that stain out.” She said, “That’s what it feels like when you have nobody.” I mean, it’s horrible, right? You call your mother! You call your dad! You call your grandmother! You call your friend, right? That kind of stuff is what you hear from kids. I mean, we frequently say things like, “Oh I’ve got nobody on Thanksgiving” Nope, they have nobody to even call when they have a bad day. So having one person at least — And what I would always say when I ran my program is: if this kid is leaving us, and we can’t — Go around the table. Who’s connected to this kid? Nobody. Who is he connected to in the community? Nobody. Well, we have failed. This is horrible, that nobody has been connected to this kid. Because he’s too aggressive, he’s nasty, he’s abusive… that’s why nobody is connected to him. Well, those are all big walls that he has put up, and we have bought into that have not been able to — I have a boy I talked about yesterday — I guess he’s a fifty four year old man now. He’s just like that. I met him as a child. He was about ten or twelve, at St. Dominic’s home, where I started. Okay? He was horrible. When this kid started acting out, the whole place cleared out. Because he was violent, and he was big. And he was really aggressive. I mean, people got hurt when he acted out. And he’d act out for a lot of reasons. You know? His home visit got cancelled. You know, they promised him to go to this group home and he didn’t go. I mean, he would just lose it. And I became his volunteer when I was at St. Dominic’s. And I was in college. We took him out, we went out to the movies, I took him out to dinner, whatever. And, you know, we spoke maybe a year. And then I moved to the city, and he moved to a group home, and I still saw him a little bit, but not as much. All these years later, he finds me on Facebook. And says, “Gary, I bet you don’t remember me, but-” I said, “No, I remember you! I’m glad to hear from you. Let’s talk!” So I called him the next night. First thing I said was, “How old are you?” Thinking, you know, he was twelve- he was probably thirty. It’s what I’m thinking in my crazy mind. He’s fifty four! And when he told me what his life was like — Horrible! Horrible! And he kept saying to me, “But you were really good to me!” And I’m like, “Eddie, that was so long ago. No one else was good to you?” I mean, I didn’t even feel like what I did was that great. And I’m not telling you this story so I look so great. I mean, it would be a great story if I kept being connected to him for his whole life, but, I mean, he — this is it. That was what he had. Nothing. He had a girlfriend who was a prostitute, and she killed herself. She got killed. He was on drugs. He was on drugs for years. He lived in the streets. He told me all this stuff about handing out pamphlets. I never knew so much about pamphlet handing out. He was — I think he probably prostituted himself. He kind of alluded to that. He lived in horrible situations. But now, he is clean and sober for five years. He has a job. He works as a maintenance man at a gym at night, because he’s still aggressive with people. He can’t work with them in the day. But, rather than firing him, they let him work at night, alone. Which is good. That’s what he needed, because he was a great cleaner. And he still is. And — But after talking to him, I was exhausted. I mean, I’m going to see him next week, because it’s his birthday. I think he’s turning fifty six. I said, let’s have lunch. But I’m thinking, I have to steel myself. Because I remember, last time, I had to go to bed. I mean, just listening to it. So, imagine living it. And this kid had hardly any connections. No family, no former foster homes. You know, a lot of stuff happened to him. And I kept saying to him, you know, “Who are you connected to?” “Yeah, I’ve got some people I know, and I like.” But there’s no real person that is his person. And I think that’s the one thing that kids need. And every one of them deserves to have at least one person. How do we help them find that one person, that’s the issue. And it’s the ones who are unattractive — I don’t mean that physically — just unattractive. They are the hardest ones. But they’re also the ones that need it the most desperately. I think Ellen’s telling me I have to stop. Sorry! Thank you very much, it was nice to meet you all.