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June 10, 2024 17 mins
Social workers are real life superheroes who can help people navigate mental health challenges and trauma. Budy Garcia-Whitfield is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at JCCA, one of the great NYC organizations helping young people every day, particularly those in underserved communities and foster care.  For more, visit JCCANY.ORG.
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Episode Transcript

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Welcome to Get Connected with Nina delRio, a weekly conversation about fitness,
health and happenings in our community onone oh six point seven Light FM.
Good morning, and thanks for listeningto Get Connected. Social workers are real
life superheroes who can help people navigatemental health challenges and trauma. Our guest

is Beauty Garcia Whitfield, a licensedclinical social worker at JCCA, one of
the great New York City organizations helpingyoung people every day, particularly those in
underserved communities and foster care. Everyyear, jcca's team of therapists and social
workers provides the highest quality child welfareand mental health services to more than seventeen
thousand children and their families. BeautyGarcia Whitfield, thank you for being on

the show. Thank you. I'mreally excited to be here, and thank
you for having us. You canfind out more at jccny dot org.
Before we talk about your work specifically, Beauty, I wonder if you could
just give me an overview of whatJCC does every day. Absolutely, JCCA
is a two hundred year old organizationand it has a track record of meeting

the needs of so many children andfamilies. We've not only expanded from the
Inner City the Five Boroughs, butalso have expanded to meet the needs of
other kids across New York State.So this nonprofit, it's a nonprofit organization
and it has expertise to serve childrenand families who've experienced the greatest traumas and
those who have significant developmental and behavioralchallenges. Being in our third century in

New York, JCCA is shifting theservices to meet the increasing mental health challenges
of children involved in the foster caresystem and other children systemically just ignored and
underserved by various systems, whether that'sthe hospitals, other programs, et cetera.
And we actually launched our very veryfirst City's Youth Act Team under the

Office of Mental Health, which isan exciting opport unity for us to continue
to branch and provide those intensive behavioralservices to children in New York. I've
spoken to various people at JCCA overthe year, social workers included. You
do an incredible work. Can youtalk a little bit more about your specific
work. Absolutely. So. Iam the assistant vice president for Behavior,
Health and Wellness and I oversee theWestchester Division, So I oversee various programs.

I see our Westchester Day Treatment Program, which is also funded under the
Office of Mental Health, and weprovide intensive mental health services in a school
system, which is very different,so it's like your outpatient clinic within the
school, providing the support and needsthat the children and the families have.
I also oversee our Multi Systemic FamilyTherapy Program mst FITS, and it is

integrated with our Integrated Treatment model,which is really supporting kids who have been
in residential in transitioning back home andreally doing the family work and providing the
families the tools and the resources thatthey need in order to prevent recidivism and
back into care. And then Ioversee the Senate for Healing, which is
working with our youth who have beencommercially sexually exploited and have experienced child sexual

abuse, so they are a verytrauma focused, intensive behavioral therapy program.
And then I oversee our other clinicianson campus psychology and our other on license
behavior specialists. You have a loton your plate, I do, but
I love it. So the reasonwe're having this conversation is twofold. We
want to talk about your work,and we also want to talk about the

mental health issues that teams are dealingwith. So to set the stage a
little bit, I'll give some numbers. So, according to a recent report
from the independent health policy research sourceKFF, about one in five adolescence report
symptoms of anxiety or depression. Well, some of them are receiving support.
Twenty percent report not receiving the therapythey need because of cost, because of

worry about perception, or being unawareof how to get help. What have
you been seeing? I've been sayingthat we have been trying our very best
to destigmatize mental health services in allof our communities, and it really starts
from parents buy in. Some kidsdo want the help, and if you

see them, they're always on theirphones, always researching things. People are
so impressionable, and especially kids areso impressionable when it comes to social media,
et cetera. And so the helpis wanted, that the stigma is
there. If I receive help,then what does this mean? Am I
exposing my family? Am I exposingthings that I might feel uncomfortable speaking about?

When we think about different cultures andone having to keep secrets or one
having to keep confidence, et cetera, or not betray your family of origin,
et cetera. Those tie into things. But then there's also the other
world of secrecy. When you're onyour phone, you have you could either
get one of those screen protectors thatno one can kind of see. Like

we've lived in a world of secrecy. People are working more remotely, they're
at home, more isolated, they'rewithin their own space. And we think
about our youth who need social connection, who need to be around other folks
are now doing it more intently overthe internet, over their phones, over
their computers and electronics, and sothat creates further isolation, and that also

creates an inability to get the rightinformation that they need in order to see
the help that they need. Sowhen I say that, I say that
if you're feeling hopeless, if you'refeeling helpless, if you're feeling not your
best self, because there could beso many things and so many variables.
Puberty is hitting, changes within thefamily systems, changes in school, not

understanding the work, etc. Nowyou're resorting to this phone, the small
device, or these other devices tofind out the information of what you're feeling.
Now, depending what's there, dependingon what the algorithms are saying,
you're gonna get hits on other thingswhere you think you know what this is
me, and so you start takingin the information and again, as I
said, kids are impressionable. You'refeeling that information within yourself and you think

that that is fact, and itmight not be. And so what we're
doing is we're adding to worsening behaviorsor worsening symptoms, if you will.
And so parents are trying to givetheir kids more freedom, and we're trying
not to check their phones. We'retrying to kind of assert that independence.

And depending what age rage obviously they'reyounger middle school, you want to still
provide that support. But the olderthey get, the further they are in
high school, you kind of wantto assert some of that independence. And
so in doing so, some parentsmight be more attentive to what's going on
with their kids and some might notbe because you tend to trust if you
know who your child is. Soa lot of people I say that to

say that a lot of kids aresuffering alone. A lot of kids are
suffering silence, or they're suffering incohorts. Right, you create then your
own little subculture of friends. We'reall feeling this, we're all experiencing this
and so it kind of can makethings worse as opposed to better. And
so when we look at them notreceiving the services. Some of the services

are out there, but there isa need for services to understand our diverse
population of youth, looking at adolescents, looking at the LGBTQIA population, and
even looking at the BIPOP community.What kind of services therapeutic services can we
provide that doesn't feel that it's goingagainst some other traumas that people might be

experiencing, whether that is a sexualtrauma, racial trauma, you know,
familial trauma, et cetera. Ourguest is Beauty Garcia Whitfield. She's a
licensed clinical social worker at JCCA,one of New York's oldest child in Family
services organizations with over eighteen years ofexperience. Beauty is a senior leader managing
programs treating children, adolescents, women, and families in the areas of complex

trauma, anxiety, depression, anda host of other adverse experiences. You
can find out more at JCCA NYdot org. To get connected on one
oh six point seven light FM,I'm Mina del Rio. There's quite a
lot to unpack in what you justsaid you talked about. I mean,
there's so much going on. You'rean adolescent, you already have these issues,
and as you mentioned, LGBTQ pluskids might have more going on.

You're dealing with kids who might beinvolved in legal system, kids who have
all sorts of a host of challengessort of beyond what is the norm,
although the norm now is all overthe place. And it's also some of
the numbers that we get about kidsor ICEE as just the average person about

kids reporting that they need counseling.These are often self reported numbers. You
know, maybe there's kids that don'teven I don't know. What do you
think about, I mean, what'sthe actual number or what should we be
looking at? You know, ifpeople are think that they either if people
aren't reporting it, I think wehave to look at behavioral change and not
really assimilate or associate the behavioral changejust to puberty. Some of it and

be just related to puberty. Butasking your adolescent questions, Yes, your
adolescent can have an added to problem. They can show up home, try
to push you away. But youknow what I've noticed, you get some
of your best conversations, maybe eventexting your child. It doesn't have to
be a face to face conversation becausewith again, how society has changed and
everything is dependent on the phone.You will actually probably get more sentences out

of your adolescent if you're texting them, hey, how are you? What's
going on? And follow up questionshow was school today? What was one
thing that you learned? What wasone thing that was exciting for you?
Is there anything that you're feeling ofpaying attention to lack of motivation. If
they used to hang out with acertain group of friends and no longer want
to hang out with them, isthere some isolation? Does something happen with

that group of friends. It mightbe that they've outgrown each other naturally,
because those things happen, But askingthose questions and wondering what are the shifts
and changes that are going on,and it could be a lot as a
parent, because adolescents are ever oneday they like blue, the next day
like orange. Yeah, one daythey love pizza, and all of a
sudden you make them their favorite pieand they're like, I don't want this

anymore. And so asking those followup questions are really important. Paying attention
to if they're overeating, under eating, physical symptoms, are usually what comes
up first. Stomach aches, headaches, pains, aches and pains, loss
of motivation, sleeping too much,sleeping too little, paying attention to how

much time they are on their phone, paying attention if they are in a
relationship, which I think this isone area that parents are not having a
lot of discussion. Which can alsofall into some of the statistics, is
that there's a rise in codependent relationshipsamongst adolescents. There's this dependency on speaking
to one another and having to fallasleep, so with your phone on FaceTime

the whole night while you're sleeping athome. I'm sleeping at home, Like
this cold dependency of the need tobe together and attached all the time without
showing them that, which is superimportant. So even having asking questions about
their relationships, who are they with, what do they like about the person,
and setting some boundaries and expectations aswell, because again that co dependency

could lead to further mental health relatedproblems if that partner has mental health issues
and they're co dependent. Now,all of a sudden, your child might
start developing that. It's the samething with depending you know, their social
groups or settings, et cetera.Paying attention to their grades. Are their
grades slipping? Are they not wantingto go to school, Are they no

longer wanting to be part of theirsports or activities, or engage with family
members, et cetera. All ofthose little changes that you want to say,
oh, that's puberty. Now youknow how they are. Now ask
questions because some of it, againmight be puberty, and some might not.
Some things might really be going onand they just don't know how to
come forward and talk about it.Briefly, I think for adults, so

many of us are stressed out bycurrent events. There's inflation there, or
there's all these things. Right,Yeah, Do you find that that impacts
kids or are they more sort ofin the best way, sort of self
centered and kind of focused on theirown world? Is that something we should
worry about. I think there's amix. There are some kids who are
attentive to current events and some kidswho are just in their own world.

I think you, as a parent, you have to pay attention to what
is important to your child, andI think those are some of the conversations.
So whether it is with current eventsthat we're seeing what's happening in the
Middle East, Well, how doyou feel about that? Pay attention to
their social media posts, because ifyou're seeing them reposting certain things, your
child might have a strong opinion aboutsomething. So even social media posts will

give you some insight into what theyfeel or what information they are gathering,
and provide an opportunity to talk aboutit and understand their point of view and
saying, well, what makes thatimportant to you? How does that make
you feel? Why is this itCAUs or why are these things that are
going on important to you? Areyou worried about the future, because they

we are worried about everything that's economicallyhappening. Kids are more tuned. Everything
is on their phone, there's alwaysan alert of something, there's always a
repost on something, and so theyare aware and you can see the rise
of anxiety and some people saying,hey, well, let's not spend on
this because what if this? Orlet's not travel here because what if this.
So having those conversations again brings somuch insight as to what they're going

on. And there might be kidswho are like, I don't care about
that. That's not happening over here, so I could care less. It's
asking and that could be fast youknow. Yeah, as a social worker,
I wonder too, how have youand your colleagues been impacted in the
last few years. There are somany people who need your help. But

this is not easy work, it'snot I think we've seen a growing change
in the population our colleagues. Youknow, we've been having a lot of
conversations that the kids we would serveten fifteen years ago are not the same
kids because there's been so many changesin the system, budget cuts, losses,

changes in even payment structure and reimbursementrates, and what agencies can afford
cannot afford. We're starting to seethat they want us to do a lot
with little resources. And so whenyou were able to give quality time and
attention to a family, to achild, to someone in need, now

that is being watered down. Thinkabout us going to the doctors. Before
your doctor would spend some time andask you, how's your family, how's
this, how's work? Now they'relike, what's your symptom? What you
have? What do you have todo? Chart it? Let's go next
patient. And that's what I seethat's happening, is that we've lost some
of that human connection because we're worriedabout if I meet this client for this

amount of time, this is whatI can build or this is what I
can do. Because the system hasreally significantly reduced a lot of programming,
and now that we're seeing the kidsthat would have been years ago in state
hospitals and residential treatment facilities are nowin other settings, and so the system
still hasn't caught up to the trainingsthat they need. The system still hasn't

caught up to the supports that theywould need in the community. So what
are we seeing Kids are leaving thesystem and they're recycling back into another system.
Whether you've left successfully because you havea great family who's supportive. Now
you've cycled into the mental health system. Now you've probably cycled into the juvenile
justice system, et cetera. Andso we're also not working on looking at

their community of origin. A lotof community based services. Again, those
get reduced, so you're sending kidsand families back to their community of origin,
which can be helpful, and insome ways it's not, because you're
sending them right back into the fire. If you will. We started this
conversation you talking about how you lovedyour job given what you just talked about

what would you like people to takeaway from the conversation and about your work.
What I would like people to takeaway is advocacy. I think if
there's an opportunity to advocate in Albany, advocate on a state and federal level
for mental health services, that wedo that. I think it's really more
people are shining light into the mentalhealth world, but it's still not enough.

The pandemic really highlighted and made thingsglittering glow as to how we are
struggling with our mental health. AndI'm glad that I am seeing in areas
where they are placing funds. ButI think the advocacy piece is important.
The other thing is is that let'snot lose sight in connecting and reconnecting with

people and asking questions. There wasthe time where the term it takes a
village to raise a kid was somethingthat was important and prominent. And what
I've seen and a lot of peoplehave spoken about, is that there's an
isolation of villages and if we cancome together again back to that it takes
village, how do we support oneanother, we can see significant changes.

Our guest is Beauty Garcia Witchfield ofJCCA You can find out more at JCCA
n Y dot org. Thank youfor being on Get Connected. Thanks,
I appreciate it. This has beenGet Connected with Nina del Rio on one
oh six point seven light Fm.The views and opinions of our guests do
not necessarily reflect the views of thestation. If you missed any part of

our show or want to share it, visit our website for downloads and podcasts
at one oh six to seven lightfmdot com. Thanks for listening.
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