Category Archives: trauma-informed

The Dilley Project: UB Students at the US-Mexico Border – Third Post

by Teresa Watson

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts from a MSW student who is volunteering with the University at Buffalo Law School US-Mexico Border Clinic , assisting women and children seeking asylum, in a detention center in Dilley, Texas. Look for previous posts at https://socialworksynergy.org .

January 22, 2019

 

People are telling us their best hopes; we have to get them back to their darkest fears.

I don’t know if I can express fully what I mean by this, or if there’s a way for me to capture the complex feeling I hope to convey. I do not mean that we have to break them down; I think that we all try very hard not to re-traumatize our clients, to be kind, gentle, to care about them and their stories. I notice the staff giving trauma-informed care when they talk about making sure people know that these records are confidential, that they are safe here, making sure that clients get breaks when they need them, and instructing volunteers about which traumatic details are necessary to dig into and which we definitely do not need to ask about.

 

 

But what we DO see is that clients, almost always, have normalized the fear, the danger of their lives – and so when you ask them about what made them come here, they talk instead about hope.

Hopes

 

They will tell you they are here for a sense of safety. They are here to give their kids a better life. They are here because the economic opportunities for single mothers are insufficient where they’re coming from, because their kids’ education has been stalled out at home, because they have a friend here, a cousin, they hear it is better for women, better opportunities for their kids. They want their daughters to marry men who will treat them with respect, and they know from experience that violence cycles within families – and they came here to break that cycle.

 

plumes of tall grass against a gold and blue evening sky

Credit: Jan Tik, licensed under CC by 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Dilley Project: UB Students at the US-Mexico Border – Second Post

by Teresa Watson

Read the initial post at this link: https://socialworksynergy.org/2019/01/25/the-dilley-project-ub-students-at-the-us-mexico-border-1st-post/

 

First day in Dilley: 1/21/19

I didn’t have the energy to write out notes last night, beyond some bullet points, so I’m writing this morning from the facility while I wait for my partner to finish up a “Charla” (a chat or conversation), which is essentially a group informational session to inform the clients about the Credible Fear Interview (CFI) process they will undertake to establish that they are eligible to make their Asylum claims in court, and about how the volunteer lawyers will help them talk through their asylum claims before the have to meet with the Asylum Officer to present their claim.

 

 

Map of southeast Texas, showing, from North to South: Austin, San Antonio, Dilley, and Laredo which is in the border of Mexico.

Dilley is about 85 miles north of Laredo on the border. Map: City-Data.com

 

Our morning began very early, getting up at 6 AM in order to grab showers, eat breakfast at the hotel and arrive at a neighboring hotel for a make-up training for the one we missed Sunday night. It was really interesting, and I took a ton of notes – the team here has really gotten specific with what does and doesn’t work well here, with legal cases.

 

Prep Sessions

I have a ton of updates! It turns out that I’m doing almost the exact same work as the law students, at least during the day: I am doing CFI (Credible Fear Interview) Prep sessions with Cary, an attorney and one of our team who is helping to translate for me. As I talked to the other teams, it seems all teams broke down the roles in similar ways: Cary translates the gist of the information for me, and I take notes and do slightly more of the structural/legal labor for the case (I will explain more on that later); Cary does more of the intensive labor of listening for important details, which we can further discuss with the client to see if those experiences are likely to qualify them for asylum. Since I am keeping notes – and luckily I understand enough Spanish to take super-basic notes on the details the women tell to Cary. I then flesh them out when his translates. I create timelines to fit the women’s cases to the structure the Dilley project uses to help women meet asylum criteria. I try to be sure we review all of the questions that the asylum office will ask the women, as well as some screening questions – to determine if they were illegally denied entry at the border, if they are pregnant, if they have been separated from their family by the detention centers, if they have experienced domestic violence.

Frustrations

I find that I’m worried about the client interviews, and that I cannot know if I’m doing enough to prepare them. A few hours is such a small amount of time for someone to tell their entire life’s story, or to establish the threats to their liberty or life that they have lived with and had to flee from. I also find that the language barrier is a tremendous frustration when I can’t respond directly to their questions, revelations, etc. We only talked to three women yesterday, and we started around 12:30 PM, and went until 7:30 PM; the on-the-ground volunteers tell us that we will get faster, and more confident and comfortable, as the week goes on.

young woman and boy kneel in front of a protest sign, chalking words on pavement

Refugee Rights Protest (Australia) Photo credit: Takver CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

 

Stay tuned!!

Teresa’s third post will be published January 28, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teresa (head, shoulders, arms) holding lilacs, lying on ground with eyes closed

Teresa Watson is in her second year as an Advanced Standing MSW student and will graduate in May 2019.      Photo: from author

 

 

 

The Dilley Project: UB Students at the US-Mexico Border – 1st post

by Teresa Watson

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to bring you this series by one of our #MSW students about her volunteer work during the 2018-19 winter intersession. Comments are welcome!

 

A pair of hands are cupped, each holding a torn piece of paper bag with one word written on it.

Photo: UB Law School

 

Hello, readers – I’m Teresa! It’s nice to meet you. I’m an advanced-year MSW student, a Graduate Assistant for the Global Interest Group in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, and a volunteer with Justice for Migrant Families in Western New York. I’m part of a team of law and social work students who are spending this week at the South Texas Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas, assisting asylum seekers.

I hope these daily accounts (there will be a week’s worth of posts) will give you a picture of what asylum seekers encounter at the southern border.

To prepare, the law students completed two weeks of intensive study in refugee and asylum law, three hours a day, four days a week. I attended half of these classes, and studied independently to gain more knowledge about social work, trauma and working with refugees.   I also adapted a presentation by Katie McClain-Meeder, MSW, and led a class on trauma and vicarious trauma in crisis work for the law students.

Picture of boy being carried by brother, as family walks ahead in rural area with mountains in distance

Slide from presentation to law students on trauma

 

 

On our way

Right now it is 6 PM on Sunday, January 20th, 2019, and I am on a plane with five JD students, one JD/MSW student and one PhD Candidate in the Romance Languages. We are headed to Dilley, Texas, as a volunteer team with UB Law Professor Nicole Hallett, who directs the U.S.-Mexico Border Clinic, attorney Carey who practices immigration law, and clinical social worker(MSW) Maria, from Rochester, New York.

In Dilley, we will be working with asylum seekers from various countries who have been detained at the U.S./Mexico border; our team will be working with women who have children at this particular facility. We will work in pairs, preparing as many women as possible for their initial interviews with US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers. These interviews determine whether they pass the “credible fear” standard, which is the legal standard that says the asylum officer must find at least a 10% chance that their fear of harm —  the harm they fear they will face if they return to their home —  is “credible” or realistic.  If they pass the interview, they become eligible to plead their case in court at a later time and remain in the US to keep them safe from the credible fears they were facing in their prior home.

two picnic benches in front of a long view of trailer-like tan buildings ngs

South Texas Family Residential Center, Dilley, Texas. Photo credit: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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2019 State of #MacroSW

By Rachel L. West

2018 was a big year for #MacroSW and we have an even bigger plan for 2019. We held 39 chat last year. On average 61 individuals participated in the chats (up  63.07% from 2017) with chats averaging 1,735,743 impressions (a 76.21% increase).

In November #MacroSW became a Benefit Corporation in New York State. This will enable us to seek out funding to support #MacroSW’s growth. It was a deliberate process that leads to discussions about #MacroSW’s immediate and long term future. Which brings us to 2019.

Chats start back up the week of January 27th. The Lunch & Learn chats, launched last October, returns on Tuesday, January 29th at 12:00 PM EST. It will be hosted by #MacroSW  Partner Sunya Folayan. Sunya will be leading a discussion on the Advantages of Home-based Business for Macro Social Workers.

The weekly Thursday night chats return January 31st at…

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Top 5 #MacroSW Chats of 2018

These are all great #MacroSW chats! Glad to see that @UBSSW had such great guests on the chats Transcending Transphobia ( @FaeJohnstone ) and Sexual Harassment in Social Work: (@birdgirl1001 and @DrKristie) !

By Rachel L. West

It has been a year of growth form #MacroSW. Chat participation has steadily increased. The average chat now has 61 participants with an average of 1.7 million impressions. In November, following much deliberation and planning, we became a Benefits Corporation in New York State.

As 2018 winds down we want to take a look back at some of our most popular chats. Over the past 12 months, we held 39 chats. The list below is based on chat participation.

  1. Inequality for All w/ @JimmySW on 3/8/18

    Hosted by former Chat Partner Laurel Hitchcock with guest expert Jimmy Young, this chat was a student-focused discussion on income inequality. Participants were encouraged to watch a documentary film, Inequality for All, before the chat.

    Participants: 149
    Impressions: 1,465,000

  2. Social Action 103: Action Planning

    Hosted by Chat Partner Rachel L. West this was the third installment of the Social…

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