My riot

What I hear from well-intentioned white folks is “why are they rioting”  “why the looting”?  Your black friends do not have the energy or time to answer your questions so let me, a white, cis-gendered 60 year old woman describe a moment in time when I came within an inch of destroying property.

I’ve been really lucky in life to be born at a time when financial aid was available, low income households were given help to keep food on the table and send their children to decent schools.  I was lucky to work for employers who valued my continuing education.  I was lucky to have parents, flawed but who loved me more than their own needs.  I had white skin and while I was working class low income no one ever doubted my intentions or my ability to succeed.  While some talk about the narrative of “working hard” I go with the narrative of “being lucky”.

So why that moment?  I had been the target of workplace bullying for a long time.  It was subtle but there and recognized by everyone including leadership. But for those of you unfamiliar with employment law, it is quite difficult to prove.  So one weekend I was at work and the rage had been building for years and there was a moment when I thought “I can steal all of the artwork and kick in the doors”.  I started screaming a guttural sound that I did not recognize coming from me.  I started kicking doors and taking the art work off of the walls and was getting ready to throw it and break it when I had a small moment of sanity.  I stopped.  But if someone was there with me who shared my rage and frustration and anger and hurt and sadness for all the years of being hated, I don’t know that we would have stopped at just kicking doors and artwork.  In perfect honesty—I only stopped because people knew that I was often in the office on the weekend and had the code to the outside doors.  It was being caught not being moral that stopped me.

And when this happens over and over, and when opportunities are denied and when you are harmed and when your loved ones are KILLED, and when you fear for your life (not just your employment) then you want to burn the ships and walk away.

So the next time you make a statement about “why the violence” or “ why the looting” know that is the most rational irrational response to discrimination, hatred and rage.  Don’t judge.

EASSW Conference Materials

Teaching Research Methods:
How to make it meaningful for social work students Mary E. Rauktis, Ph.D. & Catherine G. Greeno Ph.D.;

EASSW  Conference 2019 June 4th to June 7th 2019,  Madrid

Although this blog is about Porto, in this post, it is about Madrid and our conference at the European Association of Social Workers.  Two Americans, Katie and Mary decided to co-present on teaching research to social workers and drink good wine and eat tapas.  As promised you can find the materials that we referenced in our talk here.  Also, please feel free to contact us for additional teaching materials, or if you want to talk about teaching research!

Mary E Rauktis

Katie Greeno

Design-A-Rama documents (instructions and topics)




rsh_fds_syllabus 2019_11.23.18

Presentation powerpoint

research education 4.25.19


It is no secret that for the past 9 months I’ve been moping around missing Porto.  I returned this week for the EUSARF conference which was being held in Porto, Portugal.  EUSARF is held every two years and is the largest gathering of European researchers and policy/practice experts on child welfare.  I was part of a seminar on safety in residential care with colleagues from Australia Canada and the USA.

I’m pretty sure that as soon as my plane landed in Porto and my feet touched ground that I did not stop smiling for the first 24 hours.  Part of my happiness was revisiting old “haunts” such as the “cozy apartment” and the church, the laundromat (yes, I have fond memories of it) and the vegetarian buffet.  But the best was renewing friendships that I had made during my time in Porto.  As I was walking, I saw Sr Gato and Cao!  Sr. Gato is the older gentleman who feeds the colonies of cats in Paranhos.  As usual, he was walking with his bags of food with Cao following him. We discussed the new building being built in the former parking/home of the feral community of “torti-girl”, blackie and spokescat.  He said that two of the cats remained in the colony—tortie and spokescat (my names for them).  When I encountered the building I had a terrible sinking feeling that the cats were chased away by the construction, but feral cats in Porto can’t be intimidated by a building project!  Sure enough, they were there, looking for food from Sr. Gato and happy to have some tuna.

Another highlight was seeing Philomenia again.  Phil was the cleaning lady in the building where I was in Porto.  It can be lonely being a visiting scholar.  You do not have the routines of a regular schedule. On many days I would not talk to anyone but Phil. She would  come by to see me and cheer me up by doing a little dance or song.  One time she found my lost flash drive.  She was always smiling and just seeing her made me feel less alone.  At first she did not recognize me but then the realization that I was the “Americana” dawned and there hugs and kisses Portuguese style.

Remarkably many things were the same—Sr. Gato, the cats, the women in the coffee shop, and vegetarian buffet, Alphonse who cut my hair and Phil—to the point that I felt as though I had left the stream of Porto and entered again at the same point.  However, Porto is changing.  The building and renovations are occurring at an amazing pace :  Cranes dot the landscape.   Moreover the tourism  machine continues at an even more frenzied pace.  the volume of tourists almost obstructs the sidewalks in parts of the city.

Tourism has certainly helped the economy in Portugal.  Porto was a city in need of revitalization.  Tourism has given it new life.  But it has also driven up housing prices and made it impossible for students to find affordable housing.  Families are forced to move and have difficulty finding housing that is affordable and in reasonable proximity to their jobs and schools.  The irony is that the very thing that makes Portugal so attractive to tourists—the kindness and sincerity of its citizens, reasonable costs and feeling as though you are getting a glimpse of the real Portugal—is exactly what is at risk. Without some limits on the commodification of Porto, then it will become a shallow imitation of the “second city” of Portugal.

The best part of returning is renewing friendships. I visited with Katia and her family who gave me a ride to Lisbon and fed me and let me stay so that I could meet with my colleagues at the University of Lisbon.  I was driven to the airport by my good friend Patricia. This was because the trains were on strike!  Elsa and Daria let me stay in their gorgeous apartment overlooking the Douro river and held a dinner party for me so that I could catch up with Pedro and Ana.  Catarinia met me for coffee and then forced me to eat the most delicious croissants in the world at a coffee shop in Foz.  Ana prepared my favorite dinners and I danced with Vincente in her living room.  At the conference I was able to renew my friendships with colleagues from all over the world—people who had helped me while on my Fulbright.  I made new acquaintances  in Sr Bruno and Ze in the café where I took my morning coffee. (I am feeling as though food is playing a part in these friendships).  Seeing students that I taught last year or collaborated with was such a pleasure.

In Portugal I am my best self.  I am not sure why this is difficult to maintain this in my USA world, and while I tried that last time to keep my sense of adventure and mojo, it fell flat.  Travel forces me to confront things that make me uncomfortable and pushes me to listen in a different way.  My challenge in returning home is to find some way to keep returning to Porto, even if it is only in my head.







The final post: In 2018, make beautiful mistakes

This week I posted my official blog article for the Fulbright Foundation on what I learned in my Fulbright semester in Portugal. This seems to be a good juncture to end the “Porto listening blog”. However I would be remiss if I did not share some of the less “formal” but equally important things that I learned about myself during my time in Porto.

(1). I should never seek employment as a locksmith or safe cracker. I spent a lot of time staring at doors trying to open them

(2) Even if I take the wrong tram, metro or train, I can find my way home (3). Planes being cancelled can lead to new friendships and generosity of spirit (thanks Johanna and Mady for helping me get to the Alps and educating me about Ed Sheeran )

(4). Student of all nationalities like long coffee breaks, candy in class and early dismissal

(5). I can eat pigs ears and cabbage. (6). I CAN rock a “swing out sister” haircut

(7). Picking olives is a lot harder than it looks

But my biggest lesson learned is that I have to take chances and make mistakes.

Learning to Listen—What I Learned from My Fulbright Experience In Portugal


I entered my career in the Academy with a drive to study ways to help to improve the care of children in out-of-home placement in the United States. Over the course of my 25 years in (and out) of the Academy, my focus transitioned to the “outcomes” of out-of-home “treatment” for maltreated children and away from the maltreated children who drove me to this line of work in the first place and their rights that they had as human beings to a safe, nurturing, and loving home. Before I left for my Fulbright experience in Porto Portugal in September 2017, I had stopped taking the time to listen and reflect, and this was negatively impacting my research. I was no longer focused on the process and listening to the experiences for children and staff.

I realized that my perspective was being narrowed by my context of large datasets and secondary data and that I needed to go to another country and look at the situation of residential care with “new glasses” if I was to be of any use to children and their families here in the United States.  My best chance of doing this was through a Fulbright.  But I had doubts.  While I was proud of the body and the quality of my research scholarship and teaching, I knew that it was a “small” career with a small “c” in the perspective of the Academy.  A “big career” in the Academy is often one that is driven by the quantity of papers and grants that one is able to produce, and not the way in which that scholarly activity changes the world. Therefore, my surprise, delight and anxiety of being awarded a Fulbright to Portugal were equal in measure.

To be successful in achieving Fulbright’s mission, and the goal of my research and teaching, I had to re-learn how to listen and not be so quick with answers and solutions.  This later part would be easy as my Portuguese was at a toddler level of fluency and not up to speaking in complex sentences!  Consequently, I had to read body language, listen very carefully and observe and ask simple questions. This would prove to be particularly important in understanding why institutional care is utilized in Portugal at a much higher rate than any other Western European nation.  According to the 2016 report authored by Instituto da Segurança Social, 62% of children were in long term residential care (institutional, group homes), 26% were in temporary small group home care (also institutional) which is approximately 88% of all children in out-of-home care who have been referred for reasons of maltreatment.  In contrast, only 3% were in foster care.

Being in Portugal for an extended period and observing and interviewing helped me to understand that this is a complex situation not given to simple solutions.  Culturally, there is a religious history of institutions, and a strong tradition of family. There is no history of people being “paid” to make children family members.  In addition, working in a group home or institution is a career. People can spend their lives in this work which is the case in the United States in only a small handful of model organizations.  On political and economic levels, the government is neither structured for nor is there a history of ‘risk taking’ for financing innovative practices to develop alternatives to long-term residential care for children.

More importantly, during my time in Portugal I changed my view about residential care.  Initially I had a negative view of residential homes.  But I came to appreciate how these were homes, even if they did not look like a typical home.   Even the language used in Portugal is different.  At first, when translating written interviews, I back translated the Portuguese term for care “Casa de acolhimento” a “residential” when the literal translation is “Welcome house”.  After talking to staff and observing homes, I had an “ah ha” moment in which I realized that my translation was wrong and the literal meaning of welcoming homes should be used.  Because this idea of “welcoming” and “home” was very much the model of care.  I witnessed a much more attachment/affectional style of working with children and it has helped me to think about how a social learning model which also includes structure and affection can be implemented in the United States.  Now that I have returned to my “welcoming home” in United States I want to do some more thinking and listening to people in residential care so that I can continue to develop my ideas.

Teaching also broadened my perspective.  Up until now I had placed my research area within child welfare measurement and evaluation, but being asked to teach about my research in the context of human rights forced me to broaden my thinking.   I began to read and think more deeply about human rights, specifically child rights in the EU, and about the right to a home when you have left your family and your home behind in another country.   I concluded that the right to have a place that you feel is “home” is a universal right, and as this is controversial considering the world-wide refugee crisis, that my contribution may be to create a measure that preserves youth voice but provides empirical data to support living in the most home-like and least restrictive setting.

As an instructor, I was impressed by how much the students enjoyed learning about theory and their passion for promoting human rights.  I was in awe of how well my colleagues managed their teaching and research loads.  I appreciated how the doctoral students made it a mission for me to NOT eat my lunch at my desk working, and to learn to love salted codfish, and included me in their social plans for the weekends.

Finally, it is impossible to describe the utter sincerity and generosity of the Portuguese.  I think that is Portugal’s greatest natural resource.  I hope to continue my work in Portugal in some way, and share my experiences with faculty at my university and other academic institutions, encouraging them to explore the great opportunities a Fulbright grant has to offer.

Celebrating the In-Between Spaces


Placeholder ImageI once wrote a manuscript about in-between spaces.  For example, adolescence is an in-between space, as you move from childhood to adulthood, neither fully one or the other.  Transgendered persons experience this in-between-ness as do many multi-racial persons.  It can literally also mean being in a “space” e.g. a hotel room or an airplane or airport between what you left behind and what you are going to.  Sociologists call this a “liminal space” or on the cusp of being in a place, symbolically or in reality.

I’m in a liminal space now, occupying a hotel room near Toronto’s Pearson Airport, watching the snow fall.  I feel as though the liminality began when I left the “cozy apartment” and booked a hotel near the Porto airport, to fly to Lisbon, where the plane to Toronto was delayed for 3 hours, resulting in a lost connection to Pittsburgh (and hopefully not lost luggage).  I had to stay overnight in Toronto to wait for another flight, this being winter in Toronto, with bad weather and of course, the holiday when everyone is trying to get “home” from the in-between spaces.

While I would love to get back home as soon as  possible, I’ve decided  to tolerate the in-between.  The past four months were intense with a real immersion in Northern Portugal and the University Communities, as well as travel to lecture and to collect data in other countries.  I understand and speak another language now.  I think differently about my work and myself.  The in-between gives me time to become “Mary Beth” again, mother, wife, crazy cat lady, and think about what the next “space” will be and how I am going to make that happen.  I used to mentally scoff when people talked about “transformational  experiences” but this Fulbright has changed how I view the world, my research and teaching.  I’m not the same person who left Pittsburgh on September 7:  I think of my work and the world in much larger ways now, and I like the kind of person that I’ve become—(one who will jump on a plane to Munich not knowing how she will get to Austria and grab a ride in a van with people driving through the alps to reach her destination in time to teach).


I’m just hoping that the in-between doesn’t last too long—I would like to be home for Christmas.

Planes, trains, taxis, bikes, vans and “trems”.


I’m back “home” in Porto after a week working in Lisbon and in Innsbruck Austria.

The Christmas Market, Innsbruck
Marques de Pombal Circle dressed for christmas in Lisboa
The Christmas Market


I was at the school of social work and social policy) at the University of Lisbon and then at MCI Innsbruck. Last week was a succession of trains, metros, plans, taxis, vans and bikes.

The trip to Innsbruck was like a Wes Anderson movie.  Austrian Airlines cancelled the Frankfurt to Innsbruck leg, leaving a group of stranded strangers who for one reason or another needed to get to Innsbruck Thursday night. There were the two beautiful and friendly young women from Sweden who won a radio contest to meet Ed Sheeran and watch a private concert in a resort in the Alps. An older gentile couple from France needed to be at a conference.  Four middle-aged guys from Denmark had a long ski weekend planned.  Then there was a highly anxious and excitable 40-something man from Spain in a suit, with a small black carry-on and not a word of English in his vocabulary.  In fact, the only word that he could say was “trem”.  I’m not sure if that is train or just “trem”.

The short story is that I finally arrived at Innsbruck @2am  after shouting in desperation to the line of people at Lufthansa  check in line “does anyone speak Spanish” (there was) and he helped me to get my highly anxious and confused Spaniard –who attached himself to me at the gate like a heat seeking missile– into a cab to a hotel. J and M, the two Swedish girls who won the trip joined me on a flight to Munich Germany, closer to the border, and then got me stowed onto their van ride.  Klaus the taciturn Tyrolean drove the three of us and some other sleepy people through the mountains in pouring rain and we all arrived safely.

Today I saw my Spanish friend at the Innsbruck airport at 6am.  He saw me and said “Trem”.

Honestly– I couldn’t make this up if I tried.


I had a great experience at both Universities, although the two cities could not be more different.  Lisbon is warm and Mediterranean, with the Tagus river meeting the Atlantic under a brilliant blue sky.  It is said that the light is magical in Lisbon.  From my viewpoint at the University I could see the iconic 25th of April bridge across the Tagus.  I love Lisbon and I will miss this beautiful city of trams, tiles, bridges and the Atlantic.

Innsbruck is in a valley surrounded by the snowy alps and divided by the Inn river. The snow when it falls at night resembles the Swarovski crystals produced in the city.  The old city looks like an illustration that you would see in a children’s book.  Biking around the city I saw dozens of people with fir trees strapped to their cars.  The Christmas markets are an event of unabashed consumerism fueled by alcoholic punch, lots of bread products and singing Italians, Germans and Austrians all surrounded by fir trees, fires and twinkling lights.  I finally got some of the “Christmas spirit” during my short stay.

I’m wrapping my work up here this week and saying goodbye to old and new friends. Then home.