Looking Within this Holiday Season: The Ethics of Charity

money

Ethics are those concerns a community and society have in relation to values, behaviors, and morals (Northouse, 2013). When the economy forces people to hold a little tighter to their money, non profits are one of the first to suffer. Since American Red Cross is run entirely on donations, they feel the pressure of figuring out how to still perform their services on limited funds. How they do this is allocating funds saved from other donation times to the best of their ability. While donations still tend to come in, there are times when the money is simply less and choices need to be made.  It takes an inordinate amount of money to care for those in the throes of a natural disaster. For instance, Red Cross devoted 8 million dollars to helping families in need after the tornadoes in Oklahoma in May of 2013 (American Red Cross, 2013). With that money, over 460,000 meals were distributed, 5,000 families were provided beds in disaster relief shelters, and 400,000 relief items were distributed (American Red Cross, 2013). What originally seems like plenty of money, however, ran out very quickly.

In the wake of 9/11, American Red Cross came under fire for withholding donations in preparation for future disaster and this practice became very suspect. The organization received a mass amount of donations which totaled a little over 564 million dollars (Rhode & Packel, 2009). The public expected all the money to go to 9/11 relief efforts, but was unaware of how American Red Cross allocated funds, which was to save some for a rainy day. Leaders at Red Cross held half of those donations for future endeavors (Rhode & Packel, 2009). This was not unusual, as they had redistributed funds after the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995, the 1997 Red River Valley flooding, and the 2001 wildfires in California (Salmon & Williamson, 2005).

This common practice was noted by the public during the wake of 9/11 and the public was not happy. They shouted non-transparency. They shouted that their funds were not being used as they intended them to be (Rhode & Packel, 2009). They started having donors pull out and donations became less and less.

American Red Cross answered back by forming an ethical policy making the redirection of earmarked contributions an ethical violation. Even though they had always done this, the public forced them to rethink their strategy (Salmon & Williamson, 2005).

In thinking about the violations of ethics within these numerous distribution fiascos, a look at the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) Code of Ethics is warranted. The very first ethic is to “advance the public interest [by] promot[ing] the interests of the public and put service to the public above service to oneself” (ASPA, 2012, para. 1). It is easy to see how American Red Cross justified the holding of funds for future disasters, but it is also very simple to understand why the public would expect funds they donated for a specific disaster to be given to that particular disaster. The fifth ethic of the Code indicates that the organization must “fully inform and advise [by] provid[ing] accurate, honest, comprehensive, and timely information” (ASPA, 2012, para. 5). If the American Red Cross had been transparent in their practices, this redistribution of funds may never have been a concern.

Both of these ethics, as far as the public was concerned, were being violated. By not showing full transparency of allocated funds and holding back on monies to be used later, the public felt duped. They gave money for what they believed was a specific cause and it was not happening.  Rhode and Packel (2009) remind organizations that full disclosure is best and they “cannot afford to raise funds on the basis of misguided assumptions, or to violate public expectations in the use of resources” (para. 29). Byers (Laureate Education., 2008) said it best when she said “declare and disclose” – no matter what the situation, the best thing to do is always be open, especially when other people’s money is at the heart of the matter.

So, my point today? Here’s your full transparency and disclosure:

1.2 million children right now are homeless.

Americans spent $12.29 billion over the two-day period between Thanksgiving and end of Black Friday this year in stores (CNNMoney, 2014).

For every 10,000 individuals in the US, 19 are homeless right now.

Shopping was up by 27% on Thanksgiving compared to 2013 (CNNMoney, 2014). 45% of all money went to electronics with the big ticket item being the television.

For every 10,000 veterans, 27 are homeless right now.

31% of the food in stores and in homes in the US is thrown away per year, accounting for 133 billion pounds of food waste a year.

1 in five children in the US is hungry right now.

So, with that being said, does it matter where your funds are going as long as they get there? If you have an extra dollar, contribute it to American Red Cross or another non profit this month. If you don’t have an extra dollar, contribute your time. These non profits will put you or your money to good use, I promise. Because, I’m pretty sure, that non profit is not going to go to the store to buy a television.

References:

American Red Cross. (2013). FAQs: Oklahoma tornadoes. Retrieved from http://www.redcross.org/news/article/FAQs-Oklahoma-Tornadoes

American Society for Public Administration. (2012). Proposed code of ethics. Retrieved from
http://www.aspanet.org/public/ASPADocs/Principles%2012-09-10.pdf

Rhode, D.L. & Packel, A.K. (2009). Ethics and nonprofits. Stanford Innovations and Social Review. Retrieved from http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/ethics_and_nonprofits

Salmon, J.L., & Williamson, E. (2005, October 28). Red Cross borrowing funds for storm aid. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/27/AR2005102702392.html

Laureate Education (Producer). (2008). Vital factors in finance and budgeting: Ethics and technology [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Your Job: The Tough Questions

precious

Let’s talk about your job, shall we?

Some of you may groan at this.

Others may become very excited and can’t wait to tell me all about it.

What’s the difference in such reactions, do you think?

I have worked with many people of all ages who are at different levels of cognitions in regards to their career. One group is students. Some are fresh out of high school with stars in their eyes, waiting for that career (it has yet to be seen as simply a job) to lead them down the golden road. Many, however, are returning to school because they are discovering their vocation is no longer viable in today’s market, or they hate their job, or they want something else, or they want more money, or . . . or . . . or.

The reasons are just as diverse as the students themselves.

Regardless of the why, it takes a lot of dedication and time and it can affect one’s life immensely. Fears and frustrations regarding this new endeavor can creep up on the most prepared student. And questions start to form that are often tough to answer.

The theory of vocational development is based on the work of Donald Super in which he believed identity to be a large part of choosing a career path (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007). Since our identity can change or wax and wane over time, so do our thoughts and ideals about careers. Often times, one career works well for a while and then we realize that it is not stimulating us any longer, or it does not make us happy, or it is simply a “job” and the drive to want to go to work is no longer there.

We can’t deny that for most of us, economics, opportunity, and various other environmental aspects have a lot to do with our career choice (or lack thereof) as well. We may hate our job but we realize, after all, it is a job, and we stay to gain a paycheck, despite the blow to our self concept. But what if that just isn’t enough? What if the blow is just too much to bear?

Do we deal with it? Push forward? Change it up? Go back to school?

Sometimes, you simply have to start by asking some tough questions.

Vocational development theory helps one delve deeper into the how and why of what career we are in, or what career we are leaving, or anticipating what career we want next. Values are explored along with abilities, roles, potential, and satisfaction. Then we look at how all of these tie into self concept (Shoffner, 2006). What this means is tough questions are asked and you simply have to have the courage to answer them. As honestly as you possibly can.

One student that I recall fondly was struggling with her choice of coming to school. She had given up a recording contract and a studio deal to write and sing because she was afraid of the ramifications of going after her dream. Family members and others that she trusted convinced her that getting a degree was a better choice than pursuing her music. But, it just wasn’t sitting well with her. She discovered that, five weeks into her degree program, she was miserable. Her husband supported her in her dream and was frustrated that she chose school. But her guilt about taking money away from her family (she had two young children) to pursue the expense of making a record and traveling was too much for her to consider. She felt it was more responsible to go to school.

After much discussion, she began to realize that her being miserable wasn’t much better for her family. It certainly wasn’t helping her self esteem or her ability to get up and go to class in the morning. Channeling Super and his theory together, we explored her role as a mother and what she wanted her daughters to know and think about her as they grew into young women themselves. She felt that was a very hard question and did not want to explore this when it was first presented. She, much to her surprise, finally acknowledged she did not want her daughters to think that their mother “used to be a singer” but ended up being a medical professional. She did not want her story to involve the word “settled.” After a long week of true self exploration where she forced herself to ask, and then answer, the tough questions, she quit school.

I never heard from her after her withdrawal came through the computer system. I was secretly incredibly happy for her, as I hoped that her disappearance meant that she had taken the leap to embrace the possibility of something else that would bring her pleasure. Something scarier. Something that was worth the possibility, if only because it made her heart race just a little bit more than the classes she was taking.

She may have decided that showing her girls to go after what she truly loved was worth something. I would like to think that Super’s theory helped her to clarify just how important her aspirations, and thus career choice, were to her self concept.

But it wasn’t Super that pushed her in the end.

It was her dream. And her desire for a vocation that rocked her world, pun intended.

I would like to believe that her personal growth and satisfaction depended on making a difficult, yet needed, decision about her future path as well as her happiness for not only her but her family (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007; Shoffner, 2006).

So, let’s talk about that job, shall we? What question should we ask first?

References:

Shoffner, M.F. (2006) Theoretical perspectives. In Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. D. (Eds.). Career counseling: Foundations, perspectives, and applications (custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Kail, R.V. & Cavanaugh, J.C. (2007). Human Development: A Life-Span View (4th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education

Alcoholism: The Disease Model and the Role of Semantics

addiction

Kurtz (n.d.) wrote some fascinating stuff on the role of terminology in working with addictions. When we say a word – any word – the language we use, the semantics we assume, and the responsibility that is implied in that word is often taken for granted. Or it can create a lot of guilt. Or a lot of happiness. Or, yeah, you fill in the feelings – there’s a ton of them.

Take the word disease. For some, this is a way to explain, a way to heal, a way to work with what is before them. For others, it is not seen so positively.  Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) has become the main foundational framework and model for the notion that alcoholism is a disease. Although the founders of AA claim to claim to “have no opinion about it,” common understanding of the explanations about alcoholism within the group itself may be assumed otherwise (Kurtz, n.d., p. 2). The owning of such a word and what it truly means for one who is suffering lies in the subjectivity of the lived experience. AA claims that alcoholism as a disease is “an illness which only a spiritual experience can conquer” (Kurtz, n.d., p. 2).

Personally and professionally, I am not all on board with this.  Having a family history of my own that includes alcoholism as well as clients who work hard in therapy to face their demons, I can attest that spirituality – whether that is in regards to religion, a higher power, or whatever else you fancy – is not necessarily the only way to conquer the shackles of alcoholism. Some have embraced this notion fully and it has worked wonders. Others, not so much.

Wilson addressed alcoholism as a disease in the early 1960s, when he used heart disease as an analogy to alcoholism. He said: “There is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments, or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism” (as cited by Kurtz, n.d, p. 3). This encompasses the subjective, lived experience of many different avenues of alcoholism that many different types of people are subjected. Sensitivity to teratogens, environmental cues, and various stimuli, including alcohol itself, can create all different sorts of effects and results. Mix this with one’s coping skills, family life, socioeconomic status (the list goes on and on) and there is no way you can turn this into a catchall kind of term. To say that there is one definition of disease or one factor that makes up alcoholism is not giving each person suffering enough credit, in my opinion. Do not get me wrong – the disease model and the success of those who embrace AA merits worth. But, it is not the ultimate law, nor the only theory that can explain it all.

For instance, Silkworth likened alcoholism to an allergy (Kurtz, n.d.) believing that the  body is “sickened” and is susceptible to alcohol (Kurtz, n.d., p.6). Sematics may argue that this could be embraced as a good thing or a bad thing. For instance, if one has an allergy to peanuts, is it because he or she is sick already or somehow weakened beforehand?  Or it is because the peanuts (that outward stimuli) made him or her sick, when, before, there was only health? Here is the stuff that can make this “disease model” and the healing power of spirituality into an ugly debate.

Being “sickened” implies a wrongness, a powerlessness, a hopelessness. We are all unique, powerful individuals. Yes, there is something “wrong” when speaking of alcoholism and its detrimental effects, but to indicate that the psyche or mentality of the person initially is to blame takes away an awful lot of internal power. Good, healthy people get “sick” all the time. Looking at alcoholism as a disease in that there are “problems in the physical, the mental, and the spiritual realms” as AA adheres to (Kurtz, n.d., p. 12) is a difficult notion for many. When looking at it this way, there is a concept of self blame for the disease that does not sit well for those who look at their life differently.

Someone doesn’t “cause” themselves to have a peanut allergy and I find this analogous to this debate. Those family members that I hold dear did not “cause” their alcoholism due to some misstep in his or her spirituality or mentality. I believe the varied response to any stimulus lies dormant in all of us. The combination of a million different things, along with brain makeup, can cause the alcohol to affect one negatively. In just the same way that it simply does not in another.

Can I eat a peanut? Yep, no problem. Can you? Maybe not. Does that mean my spirituality is intact while yours is not? Does that mean you’re sick and I’m not? Hmmm . . . I’m not buying that so much.

Neither one is “sick” – there is simply a different response based on biology and environmental cues which some we have control over and some we do not.

I am aware that not everyone will agree with this and that’s okay, too. After all, those who have dedicated their lives to addiction research and those living with addiction every day don’t agree either.

But I also know that, for many, the powerless of the disease that AA recognizes as paramount to healing does not work for everyone. By looking at why, it may be in the language and the semantics that are being touted. Laying blame with the stimulus itself gives a sense of power to the person that they have always had and have somehow lost. Larkin, Wood and Griffiths (2006) explained it best, I believe. They illuminated the idea that there are no “certain types of people” and “certain types of treatments” for all (p. 213) – alcoholism is too complex an issue and the context in which addiction occurs is too broad. It is not the stimulus alone. It is not the brain alone. And it is certainly not the person and their lack of mental strength or spirituality. Alcoholism is a combination and a mixture of a continuous set of circumstances that pick and choose its victims  – sometimes very deliberately and sometimes quite at random.

My point in all this? If you are suffering from alcoholism or addiction of any kind and you have done your best to embrace the AA meetings and the 12 steps and it is not working for you, that is okay. That is why there is a myriad of therapies (Miller, 2005). There are support groups, family experiences, and reactions to an infinite amount of subjective stimuli that play into addiction as well as to the success stories of overcoming them.

Your success lies in what works for you. AA might be just the thing. Or it may not. And if it is not, do not give up finding what does – find the language and the meaning that does work for you. That is what matters in your healing.

References:

Kurtz, E. (n.d.) Alcoholics Anonymous and the disease concept of alcoholism. Retrieved from http://www.bhrm.org/papers/AAand%20DiseaseConcept.pdf

Larkin, M., Wood, R. T. A., & Griffiths, M. D. (2006). Towards addiction as relationship. Addiction Research & Theory, 14(3), 207–215.

Miller, G. (2005). Learning the language of addiction counseling (2nd ed., chap. 2, pp. 16–31). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Am I a Good Parent? Or: What the Hell Am I Doing?

frazzeled

That frazzled dad who is just about at the end of his rope at Walmart, pleading with his child to just stop screaming. He hands her a toy to just make it stop. A woman observing rolls her eyes and makes a “tsk” sound as she turns away.

The woman on the plane who is trying to get that teething baby to quiet down, yet it is quite clear it is just not working. In her head, she knows she is doing everything she can not to just throw the child at the first person who looks at her, scream “You do it!,” and run for the drink cart to down a couple of shots. (Add two cats drugged up in carriers below the seats – one who at that very moment of high pitched baby squealing decided to howl – and a husband who is knocked out on medication because he hates to fly and yeah, that’s me – true story).

The eye rolls from others can feel like darts to the heart. Because parenting is hard. And those eyes that judge you on your worst day make it even harder. Some days we wonder if we are getting it right, or if we are screwing up our kids for good.

Baumrind (as cited in Santrock, 2009) did extensive work in trying to pigeonhole parents and other caregivers into types of parenting styles they are likely to use in rearing their children. Parenting style has two important concepts – parental responsiveness and demandingness (Maccoby & Martin, 1983 as cited in Darling, 1999). Parental responsiveness means the warmth and support given to one’s children while parental demandingness indicates the behavioral control of children (Darling, 1999).

Authoritarian parenting is the kind of style in which what the parent says, goes. No questions asked. Oftentimes, this type of style can be seen in military families or in certain cultures, such as Asian cultures.

Authoritative parenting style, or what is called democratic parenting, is what I like to think of as the “my way, but let’s talk about it and see if we can come to an understanding.”

Permissive parenting is just what it says. Children are permitted to do whatever they want and the parents are very uninvolved. Permissive parenting style is the parent who constantly threatens to put Johnny in a time out, but never, ever does it. Thus Johnny knows that there are no ramifications for his behaviors, and that most things can be had his way with enough willfulness and noncompliance.

Now, one style of parenting may sound better than another on the surface. Correlationally speaking, the results of certain parenting styles show that, overall, authoritative style is the best. Children that grow up in a household with authoritative style parenting usually are more secure, democratic, self reliant, and understand how to cooperate with both adults and peers.  With a democratic style of parenting, children find the best emotional support, academic success, secure autonomy, and ways to communicate (Darling & Steinberg, 1993).

But this is not to say that all parents should be authoritative all the time. And it is not to say that those that practice other types of parenting styles are necessarily wrong. In certain cultures, honoring your parents’ ideals and doing what you are told with no argument or discussion are signs of love and respect. Displaying this kind of parenting is a showing of affection (Wood, Wood & Boyd, 2008; Santrock, 2009). Sometimes, if it is constant and misunderstood, studies do show children being fearful and having difficulty making decisions and communicating. When adding physical punishment to the mix, that is even more detrimental (Santrock, 2009). However, we cannot ignore how important race and culture is in rearing children.  The correlational results are different depending on culture. For instance, Caucasians who grow up with physical punishment tend to be more fearful and timid while African Americans tend to be more assertive (Baumrind, 1972 as cited by Darling & Steinberg, 1993).

Despite the distinctive styles of parenting, it is important to remember that good parents tend to switch from one style of parenting to another, depending on the situation. At times, authoritative may be the best bet while at other times, simply putting your foot down “just because I said so” is okay, too. And even pulling the “here, have this toy and don’t say another word” as a permissive parent just may save you from going over the edge.

Most of us as parents and caregivers try our best. Sometimes, we get it right and it’s a good day. Other days, well, we chalk it up to practice and if everyone is still in one piece at the end of the day, well, that may be enough. You adults? Give yourself a bit of a break – ignore the eye rolls. Most likely, if they are a parent or caregiver, they had a day or two like you are having right now.

References:

Darling, n. (1999). Parenting Style and Its Correlates. Retrieved from  http://www.athealth.com/Practitioner/ceduc/parentingstyles.html

Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 487–496. Retrieved from the PsycARTICLES database. (AN-bul-113-3-487)

Santrock, J. W. (2009). A topical approach to life-span development (custom ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wood, M. D., Read, J. P., Mitchell, R. E., & Brand, N. H. (2004). Do parents still matter? Parent and peer influences on alcohol involvement among recent high school graduates. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 18(1), 19–30. Retrieved from the PsycARTICLES database. (AN adb-18-1-19)

Cybersex: Harmless or Destructive?

CYbersex

Four years ago, the average amount of time people spent on cybersex, sex chat rooms, and internet pornography viewing was eleven hours per week. Today, the Zur Institute (2014) noted that there are 4.2 million pornographic websites and that these sites get 372 million hits daily. Search engines requests that include cybersex and pornography range to 68 million, which calculates to 25% of total search engine requests. The averages are rising and so are relationship issues associated with this past time.

Depending on the rules in a relationship, cybersex and pornography viewing may be seen as a type of affair or betrayal or it may not. But most often, regardless of the rules between couples, such practices can affect and destroy relationships. Such addictions are becoming more commonplace for couples and individuals and often come up in relationship counseling. Computer and internet use, regardless of content, creates a lack of family communication and bonding and has been linked to depression and isolation (Goldberg, 2008). Such over-usage affects the entire family, not just the one with the addiction (Young et al., 2000 as cited by Goldberg, et al., 2008). Partners of users of cybersex specifically have intense reactions to the usage such as hurt, betrayal, rejection, devastation, and loneliness (Goldberg, et al., 2008).

Those engaged in cybersex activity can experience sleep issues and personality and behavioral changes (Schneider, 2009). They tend to request and demand more privacy and alone time and may start giving up many family responsibilities. And believe it or not, there is also a disinterest in “real” sex with the partner that is actually there. Many times the types of cybersex engaged in online are not common or comfortable scenarios for the user and the partner as a couple, which make the consequences of the behavior even more of a betrayal (Schneider, 2009).

Most often it is the one who is not using the internet seeking help from a therapist. He or she often has a lot of conflict about the partner’s behaviors and habits and feels all the loss one feels in a case of infidelity. Feelings of disloyalty, desertion, conflict, and a loss of familiarity are prominent (Goldberg, et al., 2008).

If this seems to be a problem in your relationship, you are not alone. And you are not wrong for thinking it is important to address. Counseling is a great way to start looking at ways to heal the relationship and find joy in real sex with your partner, instead of competing with the internet.

References:

Goldberg, P. D., Peterson, B. D., Rosen, K. H., Sara, M. L. (2008). Cybersex: The impact of a contemporary problem on the practices of marriage and family therapists. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34(4), 469-480.

Schneider, J.P. (2009). Effects of cybersex addiction on the family: Results of a survey. In Moore, N. B., Davidson, J. K., & Fisher, T. D. (Eds.). Speaking of sexuality: Interdisciplinary readings (3rd ed.: pp. 568-580). New York: Oxford University Press.

Zuri Institute. (2014). Cybersex Addiction & Internet Infidelity. Retrieved from http://www.zurinstitute.com/cybersex_clinicalupdate.html