Monday, September 28, 2015

Do You Want Social Justice and Change?

Do You Want Social Justice and Change? 

By Angela Smith, HEAL Coordinator

If you answered yes to the title question, great!  Now, what are you willing to do about it and what skills do you have or are you willing to acquire in order to be effective and successful in achieving social justice and change?

Here are the basics:

1.  Pick an Issue, Cause, Campaign, etc... 

2.  Learn everything you can about that issue, cause, and campaign including where politicians stand on the issue and what laws impact your issue.

3.  If current laws are insufficient to address immoral, unethical, and/or criminal conduct of those on the opposing side of your issue, cause, and/or campaign, work to change those laws.  This requires a lot of time and research.  It cannot be effectively done by those who rely on anecdotal evidence unless they are billionaires and can pay for the legislation they want.  If a regular citizen, you need a wealth of information and facts to help fight against the material wealth of the opposition.  For every anecdote you have supporting your issue without substantive and well-researched facts, the opposition will have two.  Anecdotes result in controversy, not change.

4.  Identify your primary goals for progress on your issue, cause, and campaign based on your own research and fact-gathering and search for an existing organization or network that is working on the goals you have identified as worthy of pursuit based on your well-informed opinion.  If you can't find an organization or network working on your goals, you can either find an organization working on that issue and volunteer to organize a project to achieve one of your identified goals with the help and resources of said organization or begin organizing on your own.  One person who is extremely informed and able to meet bullshit rhetoric with real facts can achieve even the most astounding feats such as changing the laws on their own or with very little assistance from third-parties.

Example of Social Justice and Change Process:

1.  Cause Chosen:  Teen Liberty--Stopping the unjust institutionalization of children and youth in abusive and fraudulent residential and wilderness programs.

2.  Learn everything you can by asking and researching to answer relevant questions such as:  Where do the majority of children placed in abusive institutions come from in the first place?  There are four main ways children end up in abusive programs/institutions.  The first is through foster care and social services.  For example, Washington State social services sends foster care children and youth to abusive facilities throughout the country including Devereux Foundation programs, Excelsior Youth Center, and Three Springs.   The second is through the public school system's misuse and abuse of IEPs (aka Individualized Education Programs, Individualized Education Plans, Independent Education Programs, Independent Education Plans, and similar labels).  (See # 3 below for more on this issue).  The third is through the juvenile justice system where children and families are often misled to believe that "treatment" means "help" and not unregulated private prisons and work-houses which often is the case.  And, the fourth is through ignorant and/or cruel parents who choose to institutionalize children and youth they find inconvenient or are convinced to do so by those standing to make a profit that say institutionalization is warranted when it is not.

3.  Do your research, submit factual reports, and request action.  In 2010, HEAL HQ researched the abuse and misuse of IEPs in Washington State.  We began by contacting the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).  We asked the OSPI how many public school students had been placed in out-of-home residential or wilderness settings through IEPs and how much public money was spent on those enrollments.  The OSPI reported that they did not collect nor keep that information at the State level and that we would need to contact each of the school districts in Washington State to get answers.  There are 294 school districts in Washington State.  From 2010-2011 HEAL HQ contacted all 294 school districts.  Of the 294 contacted, 186 school districts responded.  This means we had a response from approximately 63% of Washington's school districts.  The vast majority of statistics cited by public officials and others regarding policy issues and more sample far less than 63% of the total population surveyed.  In fact, only 62.3% of eligible voters participated in the 2008 national vote.  (Source:  Our research was the best research available on the issue of the abuse of IEPs available at the time we presented our report to Washington State legislators.  This resulted in an investigation of the abuse and misuse of public funds in this manner and eventually a new law that would stop the abuse of IEPs which was signed into law in the summer of 2014. (see 

4.  Issue: See # 1  New Primary Goal Related to Issue: Protect Mandated Reporters. 

In eight States, the individual reporter must make the report to the appropriate authority first and then notify the institution that a report has been made.(13)

Laws in 14 States make clear that, regardless of any policies within the organization, the mandatory reporter is not relieved of his or her responsibility to report.(14)

In 15 States, an employer is expressly prohibited from taking any action to prevent or discourage an employee from making a report.(15)

(13) California, Connecticut (the Commissioner of Children and Families makes the notification), Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, and West Virginia.  (eight states where outside authority must be notified before notifying institution management.)

 (14) Alaska, California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.  (14 states that require reporting of abuse regardless of institution policies.)

 (15) Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.  (15 states where an employer is expressly prohibited from preventing and discouraging an employee from making a report.)  Source:

The other States, like Utah, allow programs to completely self-regulate and handle abuse complaints in-house.  As long as this issue remains uncorrected, institutionalized abuse will continue unabated in those States.  This is unacceptable.  Perhaps use the Interstate Commerce Clause as a legal basis for imposing mandatory reporting standards for any facility accepting non-resident youth.

What you will notice is that California and Michigan appear to be the only two that have all three requirements.  And, you will notice that Utah is not listed among those without any significant mandated reporting requirements.

Also, New York City is exempted by New York State from State requirements.  And, for those who don't believe the lack of prohibition on employers stopping them from discouraging and preventing reporting to the proper authorities is not a legitimate concern, read:

"September 5, 2014

U.S. District Court holds that company may lawfully retaliate against employees who report its abuse of clients to DHHS

By Maine Employee Rights Group"

It should be clear that we need uniform and much stronger federal protections and requirements for mandated reporters working in institutional settings.  Institutions are permitted in the majority of states to self-report and self-regulate.  This is true in all institutional settings, licensed and unlicensed, which is why areas such as this should be addressed rather than imposing standards on fictitious unidentified entities (i.e. HR 3060, 2015)  in hopes to pacify victim's groups relying on anecdotal evidence (as opposed to enacting real change that will result in more reporting, more accountability, and less abuse).


With each goal (# 4), one needs to follow all four steps and treat the goal as a new "sub-issue" following each of the steps.  If your cause is "Teen Liberty", your first outline may look something like this:

1.  Cause:  Teen Liberty

2.  Education: Learn Your Issue/Cause

3.  Remedies: Learn Existing Remedies and Suggest New Ones

4.  Identify Your Goals

            a.  Goal: Improve federal requirements and protections for mandated reporters.

            b.  Education: Learn existing local and federal requirements and protections and their impact. 

            c.  Remedies: Would a law or court decision best help address the issue?  Find out and be extremely informed and prepared before interacting with courts or legislators.

            d.  Identify smaller goals you need to achieve before you can achieve your #4 goal(s).


This can be done with or without the assistance of others.  Regardless, you should know your issue and where you stand in regards to the majority of problems and positions surrounding your issue/cause before seeking to join others or volunteer with any organization.  And, you need to know that those organizations and individuals understand the issues fully and can aid you in achieving your goals for your cause.  If not, it is best to work alone and without interference from those who may be ill-informed, ill-prepared, or have hidden agendas.