Belmont-Right Direction


Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.~Jane Addams

The year of 1978 was a significant year-it was the year of my birth! However, this post is not about me, it is about another historical event, the issuance of the Belmont Report in September of 1978.   Fast forward 37 years later to the present and current consideration for proposed changes to these guidelines that inform ethical standards in research, as we know them.

I personally believe knowledge informs change. Therefore, as knowledge has informed current research practices, thus resulting in new and additional approaches, a revision to the ethical standards is overdue.   While reflecting on the topic of ethics, the quote by Jane Addams, “action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics,” resonates. The ethical principals that guide one’s profession should be expressed in the every day actions of that professional. While the Belmont Report regulates research processes and my future responsibilities when conducting research, I am also upheld on a daily basis, to the social work Code of Ethics. Both the word “community” and “communities” are reflected in the social work Code of Ethics.   Therefore, as a social work researcher I am in strong agreement with the proposed changes to include “community” in the Belmont Report. In addition, one of the specific recommendations is to change research “subject” to research “participant.” This proposed change is also aligned with the current wording in the social work Code of Ethics.

Two recent posts related to research ethics and the Belmont Report pertains to children’s role and experiences in research.

In the first post by Michelle Dean, “Monkey day care: Growing up as a child research subject” is a narrative of a woman’s pursuit to put together the story that currently exists as sketchy memories lacking detail of her experience in a research study as a young child. Ultimately, she is not able to get any more details to answer her burning questions or to confirm what she has carried as distant memories of her childhood experience in this research study.

The second post, “Children’s views should shape how research is conducted, says ethics body” discusses a current conversation in the United Kingdom, stemming from a report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics around children having a voice and decision making role as research advisor in the field of research.   Together these two posts provide an additional perspective that the Belmont Report proposed changes are not largely focused on and someone else may argue have possibly overlooked, which is the ultimate impact and influence children’s voices can have in the research process and the implication of this for improving their lives. Overall, there are many changes proposed and ultimately the solicitation of input and feedback from all interested individuals on this issue is taking a giant step in the RIGHT direction.

A recipe for shared power

A Recipe for Shared Power

Shared power is like a recipe for your favorite cookies.   Each ingredient is equally vital to your final product.  Although the measurement of each individual ingredient varies in a recipe, this does not enhance or reduce the final product.  For example, 2 cups of sugar does not have power over 1 cup of flour.  Ultimately, if one of the ingredients is left out (similar to an individual not having their voice heard) then you end up with a bad batch of cookies that fall apart before you take them out of the oven.

Shared power allows for individuals of varying measurement (race, gender, profession, age, education, SES, community role) to be a part of the recipe.  This collaboration of ingredients is what I look forward to every holiday season when I spend weeks baking the same 5 types of cookies that my mom baked for me growing up.  Shared power should be similar to any customary tradition….the norm!

Adoption is forever

On March 22, 2015, one of the headlines in the Bradenton Herald, “14 dissolved adoptions in Manatee spark concern, new county program.” Manatee County, Fl, is at one end of the Skyway Bridge that I referenced in my “Community….crossing a bridge” blog.  In March 2015, the Bradenton Herald reported, “from February 2012 to December 2014, 14 adopted Manatee County children were sent back to the state for care” and “from 2012 to 2014 the total of 65 counties in the state saw 119 adoption dissolutions in which children were returned to foster care after a finalized adoption. The 18 cases in the tri-county area make up a full 15 percent of all the state’s cases.”

Why? Why are children who have experienced the loss of their biological family, later on in life, re-experiencing trauma and grief through the loss of their adoptive family? Why are some adoptive families feeling the only solution to their family crisis is to resort to abusing the adoptive child or sending the child into the child welfare system and relinquishing their parental rights?

It is unusual for a community to respond the crisis of adoption dissolution in such a way as Manatee County, which initiated the provision of grant funding for adoption support and preservation services. A research interest is in collaborating with community agencies and adoptive families to determine what services and resources are vital to supporting and preserving adoptive families as they experience crises throughout the development of the adoptive child, before reaching adulthood?

Hands make heart shape
Hands make heart shape



This week I found myself dusting off my #hashtag and tweeting fingers to embark on a new experience of building a professional twitter network.   There were no accounts of what I ate for dinner, how long the Starbuck’s drive-thru took today compared to yesterday, or proclamations of why my toddler must be the smartest kid since Einstein. My previous professional tweets were limited to inspirational quotes and insights while listening to guest speakers or facilitators while attending the yearly Dave Thomas Foundation adoption conference. In those instances, twitter provided a forum to spread my passion for adoption while passing on new wisdom to those not attending.

While reflecting on this past week’s twitter experiences, a new perspective on the many values of this form of social media has emerged. With each click of “follow” to each new follower, a professional and academic network is being built and the floodgates of research knowledge and new considerations were opened wide. No longer is 99.9% of the friend’s list compiled of high school pals and associates, family members, or co-workers. This new audience of followers is attuned to social justice, communities, higher education, and “articles.” New friends who instantly know when you mention that you were reading an article today that it came from a journal and not a magazine. Finally, I found value #140 as the most significant, yet challenging take-away from twitter this week. Expressing ideas concisely, within a parameter of 140 words, is the focus of the upcoming week’s personal tweet skill building.

A concern I have considered in recent months is regarding community agencies with IT policies prohibiting their employees from using social media at work. These policies create barriers to an individual’s interactions with professional networks during work hours. What are the current strategies being utilized to promote the value of professional social media networks with agencies who have not considered the benefits to both their employees and agency?



Community…crossing a bridge



In order to identify a visual representation of community, I  initially reflected on a defining characteristic of community.  This lead me to the word “relate,”  as in relating to others and the relations within a community.   The distinction of “relations” could be further defined as genetic  relations where a community consists of individuals and the extended family members who one considers as his or her relatives.  There are professional communities of individuals who “relate” to each other, through their common educational pursuits and professional experiences.  The framework of “relating” can include individuals with shared beliefs, experiences, culture, hobbies, or goals.  The setting in which communities exist can have architectural relations such as buildings consisting of the same materials (a neighborhood of brick houses), design, and style, such as a subdivision of similar houses, distinct from another neighborhood.

This bridge visually represents community in the sense that communities have a past, present, and future that distinguishes one community from another.  These elements of time can be specific to each of the individuals within the community or specific to the community as a whole.  Beginning in my childhood, I have always felt some trepidation when approaching a long or very high bridge.  However, as one drives over a bridge, the individual in that present moment, is simultaneously moving away from a past and into a future.  Despite my hesitation of traveling over bridges, it is necessary to get to the other side.  This photograph is of the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Tampa, Florida, which has served as my community since my childhood.  A vast majority of Floridians in the Tampa Bay area also associate this bridge as a place where many suicide attempts and completed jumps occur.

How can communities positively impact the lives of individuals contemplating suicide?  Individuals who are not apart of at least one community may feel despair and loneliness, due to a lack of “relations” in the individual’s life.   Reaching out and inviting others into a community can reduce the number of isolated individuals, who are not a part of a community.   Individuals coming together within a community can bring hope and promise for the future, together as they cross  one bridge after another through out life.

Breun Belcher, LCSW