Advocacy Activity

Before going into this semester, I honestly had no clue what advocating was. It wasn’t until I attended The NASW Legislative Day Conference held at the Oklahoma State Capitol on February 7, 2017, that led me to believe social workers can do much more than helping through direct client interactions.

Although it starts at the micro-systemic level of forming professional relationships with our clients, social workers do much more to impact the other systemic levels of society. Meaning, social workers only hold so much power and authority (if at all) in society; we can only do so much to help our clients. However, the people that can actually make the decisions impacting our clients live right in our community working alongside us on the same issues. Those people are called our representatives and senators. Social workers can do what is called advocating by speaking to the representatives and senators within that certain community/district.

On the day of the conference, I was able to listen to a panel of representatives from various districts give their opinion on social issues. One representative, from Edmond, gave a lasting impression on me because he spoke about the many policies and bills being written and clashing with other policies and bills creating such chaos and debate. He emphasized mutual understanding and working together to solve an issue instead of creating a bill to demoralize another bill. Granted, he believed that bills and polices should be created to put the “bad people” away, however, he thinks there is a gap in the system on finding common ground.

After listening to the panel, students were given the opportunity to speak to their representative and senator from their districts. I planned on meeting my representative, Jon Echols, and introduce myself to him. I have to be honest in saying I didn’t know what to speak to him about and, quite frankly, did not want to waste his time just to introduce myself. But I had it all planned out in my head to say, “I am a graduate student getting my master’s degree in social work degree, I just wanted to introduce myself to you because it is likely we will talk more in the future (due to some advocating), and I was glad I got to meet him.” I repeated this over and over in my head because I was so nervous to meet him and didn’t want to seem unprepared. I still wanted to meet him because this was my first time learning about advocating and I wanted to make the most of it. I know if I wasn’t able to directly make a difference in my client’s life, then the representatives could indirectly impact them. I wasn’t doing this for myself, rather, I was doing this for my future clients and helping them achieve justice in society. I walked into the capitol and headed towards his office where his secretary stopped me and asked if I needed something. I asked for Mr. Echols and she said he was not available at the moment and she could take a message. I gave the secretary my information such as my name, who I am, and why I wanted to see him.

Afterwards, I saw other students from the cohort and asked how their experiences went, and they said their representatives were not in their office. Soon enough, we found out all the representatives and were not in their office because they all went to a funeral. The senators, however, were at the capitol but we found out they were all at a meeting. So the majority of the students were not able to speak to any of the representatives or senators, but we all got a good learning experience out of the conference.

I learned that the representatives and senators are humans too. Meaning, we are all trying to work and make a positive difference in society, but there will be disagreements along the way. How to resolve those disagreements is to working through those disagreements and finding the purpose in what is being worked for. I also learned that it is more dangerous to be around people who agree with you all the time versus being around people who have different ideas. I know my plan was to meet my representative and introduce myself to him. Even though my plan didn’t work out, I still learned a lot through the discussion panel.

BP11 – Child Welfare

I was first introduced to a child welfare experience through my practicum at OU Children’s Hospital. The hospital has a high rate of mom’s experiencing late pre-natal care during their pregnancy which is in indicator of drug abuse during pregnancy. When the doctor’s learn that a pregnant mom has had zero to no pre-natal care, it is questioned and staff try to find out why and this involves the hospital social workers. The hospital social workers would visit with the mom and provide necessary resources for mom and baby. However, the doctors do test the baby’s meconium which is the specimen within the umbilical cord to see if the baby has any traces of drugs within its system through the mom. If the lab results come back positive, the hospital social workers are notified to make a referral to DHS. The difference between what the hospital social workers do compared to DHS is that DHS makes the decision if the baby is safe to discharge with mom.

From reading the chapter, one historical policy that stuck out to me was The Maternal and Infancy Act of 1921 reminded me of my experience at practicum. This act was formed to decrease the number of deaths on infants and moms. Another historical policy pertaining to child welfare results to child protection services. This is due to the main providers (parents) of the child no longer being the child’s protector due to indications of abuse. Therefore, the Cruelty to Children was formed to protect young children from abused households.

Current aspects of current child welfare are federal funding for child welfare rapidly growing (Table 15.2) and the study of maltreated children. The growing numbers of children being maltreated is a growing concern. The federal Administration of Children and Families help to set guidelines of maltreated children.

BP10 – Homelessness

Just last week, friends from my cohort and I spoke about our high school days. One friend from the cohort brought up a classmate that got called out by the teacher because of his bodily odor. Though the teacher never revealed who this student was, she was looking directly at the student when talking to the class. We then brought up the matter that we all knew someone in high school that had poor hygiene and concluded that it was not their fault. Most of the time, these students’ household did not have proper hygiene was because of matters in the home. Maybe the household could not pay the water bill of that month – so the water was shut off. Maybe the household could only afford certain things and had no money left to spare to purchase other items. Maybe the students’ families were without a home and had no choice but to live in certain conditions. In the end, we don’t know what these students went through, yet people were so quick to judge in high school.

Reading over the homelessness section reminded me of our conversation. Homelessness was rooted from economic troubles of the country. When the country is doing badly in the economy it results to people being affected by the changes because their lifestyle cannot keep up. One factor of homelessness is households not being able to provide for their families because too little money is being made. Another factor is individuals being in uncontrollable situations such as domestic violence. This causes individuals to leave their homes and everything else behind in search of a safer environment. A current issue is youth that are homeless because the number have been consistent in getting higher. There are resources offered and plans by the government to end homelessness, however, fixing the homeless problem starts with housing. Housing is a main determinant of solution when it comes to homelessness because families are allowed time to regain control of their lives while being taken care of. There are direct resources linked to housing that families can seek services from. Also, those in housing are able to be accounted for in federal surveys. This can lead to the government to understand how many people are considered homeless and can therefore lead to creating more resources.

BP9 – Crime & Corrections

 

There are two main philosophies regarding crime and corrections: rehabilitation (trying to help reform prisoners so they don’t reoffend) and punishment (giving consequences to those who offend as punishment and also a deterrent against future criminals).  Based on what the book says, would you say the US has historically had a rehabilitative or punitive approach to crime? Do you see this continuing or changing, based on current issues and trends?  Defend your position with at least 3 historical policies and one current trend.

I have the slightest clue when it comes to corrections, but what I do know, is that prisons are getting more people than what the facilities can keep up with. Based on what the book says, at first it seems the US had a punishment approach to crime and corrections. The book draws this inference back to the eighteenth century. If acts of hate/evil occurred, in return, the person would get crucial punishments for them. However, the way crime was being handled changed with time. People began to grow conscious of preventing crimes from happening again rather than focusing more on punishing those for the crime. Thus, prisons were for the purpose of putting away the “bad” people as a way to prevent the crime from happening again. Crime and corrections took a change during the nineteenth century when a man named John Augustus thought of a great idea to help those in prison. Augustus developed what we know as probation today. This sought to help those in prison get fair justice based on the extent of the crime, bail, and seek help such as rehab. So it seemed the crime and corrections system was taking a turn for the better. However, society looked at these people as objects when they experimented with them through sterilization. There was also a growing concern that the trend of prisoners were minorities, colored people, and women and children. So now, it’s back to the punishment approach to crime. In today’s time, I feel there is a balance with the approach to crime just because there are more resources offered today for rehabilitation purposes.

Based on current issues and trends, I think policies are good to have because it provides structure to society. However, I also feel that policies give too much structure and clash with the various systems going on. This could explain why correction facilities are being overfilled with people. I truly believe when someone does something horribly wrong then they should lose their rights, but I believe there should be some consistency in punishment. There is a trend going on with the number of people in jail increasing as the years increase and the problem with that is the cost significantly increases.

Karger, H. J., & Stoesz, D.  (2013). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach (7th ed.).  New York: Allyn & Bacon.

BP5 – Voluntary & Private Sectors

Prompt: Explain the role the voluntary and private sector have in social welfare. Describe at least 2 benefits and 2 concerns relating to both voluntary and private sectors.

The Voluntary Sector (2 benefits and concerns)

Voluntary sector is based on non-profit organizations such as social service agencies working to enhance the human well-being on both the micro and macro level. For example, the voluntary sector steps in during crisis in terms of terrorist attacks or natural disasters in the United States. The voluntary sector is funded through organizations, donations, and private non-profit agencies. However, concerns being raised are the fact that the voluntary sector survives through the government. If the government was going through a financial crisis, the voluntary sector is affected by these changes. Also, voluntary sectors can get through without being taxed.

The Private Sector (2 benefits and concerns)

Private sectors have full control when providing for social services without government intervention. Under the idea of privatization, the private sector has a “business: mindset of running things between the private and public world. This can be bad because of the rules that run how private sectors run making things strict to be flexible in serving its people.

Karger, H. J., & Stoesz, D.  (2013). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach (7th ed.).  New York: Allyn & Bacon.

BP4 – Poverty & Unemployment

Prompt: Discuss at least 2 ways poverty and unemployment are measured as well as how these measures affect pictures of poverty or unemployment.  [For example, would the poverty threshold or poverty guidelines measure higher?  How might this affect legislation regarding poverty?]

Poverty is measured in two ways:

  1. Poverty threshold also called poverty line – the official federal poverty measure used for stats when estimating numbers of Americans in poverty per year; takes cost of food plan and multiply numbers by three.
  2. Poverty guideline – measures a lower number of poverty level as opposed to poverty threshold. Used for measuring who qualifies for programs funded by the government.

How unemployment is measured is based on how the individual views employment in terms of definition. For example, being employed is allowed for individuals 16 years of age and older legally in the United States based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, looking at employment and unemployment rates are biased because it does not partake in what is part-time and full-time status.

 

BP3 – Religion & Social Work

Prompt: Trace the religious roots to social work and examine how social work and religion coalesce and/or diverge today. Make sure to point out at least 4 historical roots, 1 place of coalescing, and 1 divergent point in your analysis.

  1. Colonial America influences are found on the value of working and earning for resources. For example, Martin Luther and John Calvin valued working as something we give back to God because it gave meaning in life.
  2. Second Great Awakening opened the eyes of society to be “good and holy.” People started going to church more and thrived within their certain religious beliefs. This era led to an influence we know today as social welfare policy: religion publicized, women led a movement, and the African American conversion.
  3. Civil War Era was about helping others especially those that were in need such as soldiers and freed slaves. Soldiers in unsanitary camps with healthcare and other needs; freed slaves received assistant in jobs and training.
  4. Late 19th & Early 20th Centuries was when immigration increased and Catholics as well as Protestants reached out to help as religious organizations. Social policy was being redefined around this time.

Coalescing: Social work came about to help those in need such as immigrants, the poor, and those that lack necessary resources. When social work first started, religion played an important factor to social work values through church groups, organizations, and charities (COSs – Charity Organization Societies). The idea came about because if the poor wanted to get out of the life they are in, they must be converted and follow religion. So then social workers not only helped those in need, but was also teaching those individuals what life should be lived and viewed through religious aspects.

Divergent: Even though the majority of the American peoples preferred our government to be religious. The influence of social work and religion did not live for long as social welfare policy started to steer away from religion and focused more on seeking aid for those in need. Religion and social policy separated because religions puts an impact on politics being that not everyone is religious; there is controversy in religion and policy that America has yet to reach a solution to.

BP2 – 4 Stages in Policy Development

Prompt:  Your book identifies 4 stages in policy development:  formulation, legislation, implementation, & evaluation.  Describe each of these levels.  Also, using the Rocha, Poe, & Thomas (2010) article as well as your own ideas, identify 2 specific ways social workers or other concerned citizens could advocate at each of these levels.  You can use the same method twice, if you are specific as to how the activities would vary.

4 stages of policy development:

  1. Formulation – institutions provide the social intelligence in policy formation; also referred to as think tanks p. 171
  2. Legislation – legislatures and political action committees (PAC) lobby and campaign policies p. 172
  3. Implementation – just because a policy has passed, does not mean it will follow through due to necessary approvals such as authority, personnel, funding, etc. p. 175
  4. Evaluation – additional agencies such as Government Accountability Office, Office of Management and Budget, Congressional Budget Office, and Congressional Research Service developed by Congress to review federal programs p. 176

Two ways to advocate on the formulation level: educating the community on how policies are formed & to educate the community on how to think and work together as an institution

Two ways to advocate on the legislation level: voting for the party or staff members to be on the committee is an act of advocating & meeting those committee individuals in person, writing a letter, reaching out to those committee members

Two ways to advocate on the implementation level: continue to support policies even when they have failed & continue to endorse the policy through public action

Two ways to advocate on the evaluation level: work on improving organization and programs in evaluating the effects of the program & take action on what needs to be improved based on programs functions

BP1 – Definitions

Term & Definition: Ideological Stance 1: economy Ideological Stance 2: government role Ideological Stance 3: civil rights Role Issue 1: reproductive rights Role Issue 2: affirmative action
Liberalism – little to no govt regulations, no govt control is even better; individual freedom, govt to provide police force p.16 Critical of taxation; oppose income tax; reduce govt spending Marxist-style approach; individual freedom wants govt to stay out the rights to life, speech & action, private property Individuals have the rights and decisions to their own bodies Individual freedom
Neoliberalism – cautious of government; laissez-faire approach to social problems, postmodern perspective as well as postindustrial society with new opportunities. Political strategy to compromise things p. 14 Opposed to economic protectionism, strong financial regulation Personal responsibility, work and thrift as opposed to govt Self-reliance – “less is more, more is less” accepts social welfare programs Political strategy to compromise – so whatever the public good views Public spending aimed towards education
Classical Conservatism – social policy in regards to anti-union; more socially liberal vs. cultural p. 15 Lower taxes and less social spending Oppose aggressive govt regulatios limit civil rights legislation, state rights Govt’ set religious based agenda for abortion, gay marriage, contraception People have right to live as they please as long as no one is hurt in process
Neoconservatism – high unemployment good for economy, competitive income good for productivity; income inequality socially desirable; govt welfare programs to private programs p. 15 Welfare programs for economy, defense spending, foreign affairs Growth of govt welfare programs Limit individual freedom Healthcare remain private Limit individual freedom
Cultural Conservatism – dual attitude for role of govt, but not to social affairs. Social conformity to private affairs p. 16 laissez-faire approach to economics Separate church and state Social conformity For religion – guided by Christian principles Promotes public good