ACA Blog

Robbin Miller
Sep 14, 2010

Where Do Counselors Draw the Line for their Clients?

The below information in quotes was posted on a blog entitled, “The Conscience of a Liberal.”

“Poverty in early childhood poisons the brain.”

That was the opening of an article in Saturday’s Financial Times, summarizing research presented last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As the article explained, neuroscientists have found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory — and hence the ability to escape poverty — for the rest of the child’s life." (Paul Krugman, 2008).

The writer commented on society has not made sufficient progress for reducing poverty in the US. Below is my comment to this blogpost:

I agree with the findings that poverty affects brain development, memory and language development in children. Since I work with families who are poor, I believe that culture can play a role in encouraging some women to not produce more children they can't afford since they know that the government will give them a handout. In Massachusetts, I see that culture and attitude play a role when some families are given free housing, food stamps, free education and daycare and still make babies they can't afford. When does the free giving stop? Also, I see many families using mental health services to get their children on SSI since welfare only pays for one child.

Case in point: There is a family of ten children who receive $6,000 a month in SSI payments for 10 children ($600 per child). The children have been trained by their family to say "they hear voices" when they see their counselors. This is a true story that I heard about from a fellow colleague. Also, why doesn't the US promote adoption for waiting families who can provide better homes with love and a better quality of life? In Massachusetts, adoption is not promoted but only abortions and depending on the system to support kids in poverty.

Counselors have a responsibility to promote adoption as a choice besides the other two and to not sign SSI papers because they feel sorry for their clients. Yes, I agree that some children need SSI due to their severe disabilities but not for supporting their parent's poor habits. I know some of my colleagues feel sorry for their clients but they need to really evaluate whether or not signing the SSI benefit papers will really help their client’s quality of life. I get frustrated with some of the families on SSI who have zero motivation to decrease their symptoms. Why should they improve their quality of life when they are getting paid with taxpayers’ funds to support their fraudulent lifestyles?

A client’s parent asked me the other day to sign her son’s SSI papers because he has ADHD and the money will help her out financially even though she works a full-time job. I declined to fill the papers out due to the child’s ADHD not interfering with his life at home. His mother has made progress in setting limits on his behaviors and having him follow a behavioral chart at home. I told the mother that her son is not in danger of being in a residential or institutional setting due to having ADHD. Also, her son is not on an educational plan for special needs in school. This client is very intelligent and is capable of excelling in school.

Our society needs to promote and encourage families to make healthier choices in having children they can afford or supporting the adoption option for prospective adoptive families to provide these children with loving homes.


Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, “Miller Chat” in Massachusetts.

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