Generalist Practice 2 – Final blog post

What are three things you LEARNED from this course and what is one thing you will DO as follow up?

  1. How to do a community assessment.  I’m finding myself assessing various communities in day-to-day life somewhat unconsciously.
  2. How to think about a community level intervention based on what I find from an assessment.
  3. How to synthesize public and private assets to improve a community.  I’m not suggesting that I’m highly skilled in the effort, but I’ve learned how to think about it and even how to begin.

I’m not yet certain what action I will take as a result of what I’ve learned from this course.  I can say that I will continue to be deliberately observant and look for opportunities to improve my own community more than I have in the past.  I expect that the new lens that I’ve received in this class will show me those opportunities that I would have previously not recognized.

Advocacy Activity

Over the course of the semester, you will pick one activity, do it, and write a blog post reflecting on your activity.  You will post your plan, why you picked it, what you did, results, and lessons learned (roughly 2 typed pages).

The advocacy activity I selected was to attend the NASW Day at the Legislature.  I attended as part of a class group, and it offered an opportunity to get a closer look at what advocacy could look like at the legislative level.  There was an opportunity to learn about advocacy and interacting directly with State representatives.  We were also able to attend discussions with Ok. NASW leadership to learn about ways that one could advocate in favor of, or in opposition to, specific pieces of legislation that affect our prospective client populations.

I selected this activity because it was unique and not something I would have an opportunity to do otherwise.  While anyone can meet with their legislators, in this setting I was offered guidance as to what to expect from the experience, the legislators, and the larger process.  The NASW also sent advanced notice to the legislators letting them know that we would be on-site and hoping to engage in short meetings as their schedules allowed.  There was a reasonable expectation that we may be able to interact with a legislator.

As a part of the discussions with NASW leadership we were informed about various pieces of legislation that were making their way through the process.  Some of the bills were of particular interest, such as the reform of fees and fines, and I was interested to learn where my representatives stood on the issues.  I was also interested to find out why a particular issue, asset forfeiture reform, did not have legislation yet offered given the history of the issue in our State legislature.

The results of my activity were, on the surface, a failure.  I was unable to meet with my legislators as they both had prior obligations and were not in the capitol building at the time of our visit.  I’m quite disappointed that, even with advanced notice that students would be visiting, the legislators did not leap at the opportunity to engage budding social workers.  One would think that the eager anticipation I am certain they felt in the weeks leading to our arrival would be sufficient cause for delight on the part of my elected representatives.  I have no doubt that it pained them immensely to be pulled away from such an opportunity, and to begrudgingly attend to what must have been a critical matter of the State.

Alas, all was not lost.  While our missed connection was certainly disappointing, I did learn quite a bit about the mechanics of the legislative process.  I was also genuinely encouraged to hear from a panel of legislators that spoke with us about how they make decisions regarding their voting on any given bill.  They discussed specific methods of contact that were more effective than others.  For example, a form email is less effective than a phone call which is less effective than an in-person meeting.  They also noted that it is typically a good idea to build a relationship with your legislator prior to engaging them and asking for something during a first meeting.  Most notable was that they spoke about how personal stories are actually important supplements to hard-data in regard to persuading a legislator.  I cynically assumed that brute-force politics was the only method by which decisions were made.  I assumed that, “How will this affect my reelection or my future career outside of politics?” was the only calculus used in the decision-making process.  I found this to be a demonstrably flawed assumption based on Mr. Lankford’s position and vote on the Secretary of Education.  The very day of the NASW event, Mr. Lankford’s office had accumulated over 10,000 calls and emails in opposition to the candidate.  It was reported that not a single call was noted in favor of the candidate.  Fortunately, Mr. Lankford displayed such a high degree of insight, wisdom, and innate leadership ability that he was able to see past the distraction in front of him and vote in direct opposition to the expressed and overwheliming will of his constituency.  He clearly possessed a more nuanced understanding of the matter, and acted in a manner that stood strong against the wave of opposition.  Mr. Lankford demonstrated that leadership, at times, requires a steadfast faith in one’s conviction of what is right.

 

Or…….not.

Generalist Practice 2- BP10 – Evaluation

Explain the importance of evaluation as a concept. 

In the Krajewski et al., please summarize the findings of the program as reflected in the program evaluation.

Evaluation is only a mid-process step in the development of a program, policy, organization, or even one’s self.  Evaluation is a checkpoint that allows for a critical review of not only the initial observed result, but an opportunity to look for other steps in the planning and execution process that may need adjustment.  It may also be found that the evaluation process itself needs adjustment.

The finding of the program in the assigned article showed that ¾ of the participants at least minimally met expectations.  Most of the participants felt that they made a positive contribution.  Broadly, attention oriented tasks were particularly challenging, but were still accomplished overall.  Only a handful of participants were dismissed early, and the majority of participants were able to complete each of the many tasks as assigned.  Regardless of the individual level of performance on any given task, a key learning for each participant was that they could complete a complex project.

 

Krajewski, E. R., Wiencek, P., Brady, S., Trapp, E., Rice Jr., P. (2010). Teaching employable skills to special education youth: An empowerment approach. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 5(1), 167-176.

Social Policy – BP 10 – Housing

Choose from housing, homelessness, or food policy.  Trace historical roots (including at least 3 aspects or discrete pieces of legislation) and at least 2 current issues.  

 

Housing

  • Historical roots
    • General push by state/federal govt. towards increasing home ownership rates
    • Effort increasingly linked w/ social services
    • Housing Act of 1937
      • First housing legislation at the federal level
      • Federal support to the states to improve substandard living conditions and “for other purposes”.
    • Housing and Community Development Act of 1974
      • Broad bill focused on utilities infrastructure, general renewal and rehabilitation efforts, and a specific emphasis on low-income housing.
    • Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
      • Targeted the practice of redlining.
      • Required annual disclosure of where loans were made.
      • Intended to highlight discriminatory lending practices.
    • Current Issues
      • Home equity rates have decreased significantly since the 2006
        • It can be argued that home values were artificially inflated prior to the recession and the loss in home values is less than it appears at first glance. Given the historically high housing values prior to the recession it’s not unreasonable to expect some degree of natural correction.
      • Housing price increases have exponentially outrun income increases
        • The book cites a statistic comparing housing/income from 1967-2004.
          • Median income ’67-’04: $28,011-$54,500
          • Median home price ’67-’04: $56,466-$168,500
        • Disproportionately affects lower income households

 

 

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

Generalist Practice 2 – BP 9 – Strategic Planning

Citing Bryson (Chapter 1), what is strategic planning, what does it measure, and why is it necessary? Literally how do we strategically plan?

 

According to Bryson’s discussion on strategic planning, it can be summed up in 4 words.  –Don’t just wing it…..  I didn’t understand his view of strategic planning to be a measurement tool unless it is in the sense that the planning process measures goals, interests, resources, and desired outcomes.  The process is necessary because just “winging it” is an ineffective and inefficient manner in which to run an organization.  To not engage in strategic planning would be similar to randomly driving about an unknown city, maybe even in a general direction, and hoping to arrive at a particular destination.

Strategic planning is conducted by a process of establishing an endgame, some version of a SWOT analysis, and presumably arriving at some semblance of commitment from a group of stakeholders.  Depending on the power distribution of the group there will be various degrees of political maneuvering that will need to take place.

Bryson, J. M. (2011). Strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations. Fourth Edition. Chapter 1

 

Social Policy – Blog Post 9 – Rehabilitation or Punishment

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. 

 

Based on the book, the US has historically emphasized a punitive approach to crime, although rehabilitative efforts have played a steady role to varying degrees.  Historical policies suggest that US criminal justice efforts react to circumstances, and state/local governments prioritize budgets, in a way that will continue emphasizing a punitive approach.

1) The book reported that Virginia spends $70,000 per inmate for juvenile incarceration versus $3,400 per student for education.  If budgets indicate priority, then this demonstrates a clear priority on incarceration.  2) Mandatory minimums and 3-strikes sentencing placed a heavy emphasis on punishment as a reaction to rising crime rates related to the war on drugs.  3) The war on drugs itself was/is a policy that emphasizes punishment over rehabilitation.  Drug offenders were/are locked up, but minimal drug treatment has traditionally been available once incarcerated.

A trend that indicates punishment may be the continued focus is the capitalization of the prison system.  By establishing the prison system as a business, unless subsidized in some way by the government, it necessarily must grow in order to survive.  Like any business, the prison system needs to acquire new customers and retain current customers.  Industry lobbyists will play an increased role in the formation of criminal justice policy, and drive decision making in its favor.

An option that may allow for rehabilitation as a shared end may be the way in which private prisons are funded.  If, instead of paying a rate that can be reduced to a daily sum, the prisons were compensated based on rehabilitative metrics, then they would be incentivized to be effective with rehabilitative programs within the prison itself.

 

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

Social Policy – BP 8 – Mental Health and Substance Abuse

How has U.S. federal drug and mental health policy positively and negatively affected mental health and substance abuse in the U.S.?  Use at least 2 policies for each (mental health and substance abuse) to defend your answer.

  • Positive effects on substance abuse
    • Block grant funding has forced innovation in treatment (private subsidies)
    • Phoenix house expansion and production of solid data about treatment
  • Negative effects on substance abuse
    • War on Drugs
      • Mandatory minimums
      • Crack vs cocaine sentencing standards disproportionally targeted affected minority populations
      • Harsh sentencing for relatively minor drug offenses shattered families
    • Positive effects on mental health
      • Mental Health Parity Act
        • Effective in 1998
        • Provided for mental health insurance for employees of companies of 50+ employees
      • Negative effects on mental health
        • Deinstitutionalization
        • Left mental health patients without treatment and frequently reinstitutionalized in prisons.

 

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

Generalist Practice 2 – Blog Post 8 – Group development and leadership

  Referring to Brueggeman’s article, what are 3 ways that social workers build community in groups through their leadership? Please explain your answers and give 2 concrete examples of how you have seen these elements accomplished in your own group experiences.

 

3 ways that social workers build community in groups through their leadership include 1) inspiring a shared vision, 2) helping group members articulate their dreams, and 3) reflecting on the group experiences of group members.

These are only 3 of several stages of group development and leadership.  What stands out to me about the Brueggeman article is the idea of “inspiring” a shared vision, as opposed to “enrolling” prospective group members in a vision.  Brueggeman’s emphasis is on the self-development of the group and a more democratic approach to group work, and not on a top-down leadership method.  For Brueggeman, the leader reflects the member’s vision back towards themselves and then helps them articulate their dreams.  Articulating their dreams can serve to further inspire the member towards sustained action.  Reflecting on the group experiences of group members offers an opportunity to debrief and learn from the experience.  It allows an opportunity to imagine alternative options for action and potentially different outcomes.  The result is a more effective next-effort and group member development.

I have been fortunate to have participated in each of these steps as a matter of daily routine for some time.  I selected the points about articulating dreams and reflection because I’ve found them to be effective tools from a staff performance and development perspective.  Meeting with new employees and learning about why they selected their chosen profession, and engaging in subsequent meetings to see what, if anything, has changed allows both the employee and myself to ensure that we are working towards that end.  The process serves to keep us both grounded and acting with purpose, instead of just going through the motions.  Reflecting on experiences, particularly in a team environment, allows learning through reflection for the person discussing the experience, and it allows learning and processing opportunities for other team members.  It also allows me to stay close to the employee and where they are in their developmental process.  Holding short, daily team meetings has been an effective way to jump start the workday, and helps the team remain mindful about the importance of deliberate activity and deliberate self-development.

 

(Breuggeman, Leadership: The Hallmark of Macro Social Work)

Policy – Blog Post 7 – Medicare and Medicaid

Describe Medicaid & Medicare, including how they are administered, who they cover, eligibility, and efforts to cut costs in each program.

Medicare

  • Enacted in 1965
  • Public payer health care coverage
    • Eligibility
      • over 65 years of age
      • eligible for either Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits
      • Employees and spouses of state, local, federal government that have had Medicare only coverage (time-in-role requirement)
      • S. citizens and legal aliens w/ approval (HI and SMI)
    • Publicly funded through payroll taxes, and supplemental funding to user-pay portions are funded through the Treasury Dept
    • Payment to hospitals via reimbursement
      • Fixed payment based on diagnosis
    • In 2010, more than 47 million people were covered
    • $522.8 billion spent in 2010
    • Cost control was expected w/ ACA passage (Karger & Stoesz, 2014)
    • 4-part program
      • Part A – Hospital Insurance (HI)
        • Publicly funded
        • Covers in-patient hospital visits, home health, hospice care, skilled nursing
        • Government administered
      • Part B – Supplemental Medical Insurance (SMI)
        • Optional user-pay additional insurance
        • Covers most doctor visits, preventative care, and outpatient hospital visits
        • Government Administered
      • Part C – Medicare Advantage
        • Basically, this is Medicare administered by private insurance companies
        • Opt-in
        • May have different costs and coverage
        • Often include Part D in the plan
      • Part D – Prescription coverage
        • Private companies contract with the government to administer prescription coverage plans.
        • Low income persons may receive low/no cost Part D coverage
        • Includes HSA option

Medicaid

  • Enacted in 1965
  • 5 million covered in 2010
  • $404.1 billion spent in 2010
  • Eligibility
    • Intended for low income persons and families
      • Means tested
    • Social Security Insurance recipients
    • If a mother is on, or eligible for Medicaid, her newborn would be covered for 1 year in most cases
    • Children under 6 and pregnant women
      • Means test requirement (133% of federal poverty level)
    • Adoption assistance recipients
    • States can designate certain groups as medically needy
  • Federal/State program of matching contributions (not necessarily 50/50 sharing)
  • Reimbursement payment model
  • States set guidelines based on broad Federal requirements
  • State administered
  • Cost control attempt in some states by requiring state-contracted HMO enrollment
  • Frequent state-level cuts also attempt to control costs
  • Coverage
    • In/Out-patient hospital
    • Doctor visits/services
    • Nursing facilities
    • Vaccines
    • Family planning
    • Lab/X-Ray
    • Pre-natal and pediatric care
  • Some optional services may receive matched funds
    • Prescriptions
    • Physical therapy
    • Home health care
    • Diagnostic services
    • Clinical services
    • Eye care

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

 

Generalist Practice 2 – BP 7 – Diversification and Revitalization

As evidenced in the text, what are three ways that the leadership of Greenville-Spartanburg, SC “re-invent[ed] their future” through global partnership?

Greenville-Spartanburg, SC “re-invented their future” by looking to global partners for an influx of investment, and ultimately, population.

Specific actions included:

1) Creating a “business friendly” environment.  While not stated specifically, the text is presumably referring to tax incentives for businesses.  Lower tax rates, deferred taxes, etc.

2) While seemingly a small gesture, leadership amended local ordinances to allow for the import of wine from Europe.  This would have probably been viewed as both a goodwill gesture and a tangible attempt to help people bring a little bit of home with them to their new environment.

3) The Carolina Country Club was formed specifically for the companies moving in from overseas.

 

Thinking of a community with which you are familiar (feel free to use OKC or Pittsburgh from the text), how did that community diversify and restructure their future? Give 2 concrete examples.

OKC has diversified and restructured throughout the last 15-20 years, and created both acquisition and retention features for tourists, residents, and an expanded workforce.  Most notably, the MAPS project completely revitalized the Bricktown area.  I believe it is in Phase 3 to date.  An NBA team was won by the city, and a memorial established to commemorate the Murrah building bombing.  The most important, by far in my opinion as they have generated some of the finest art and culture in the area, have been the addition of 2 key retailers in OKC; Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.  😉

 

Morse, S. W. (2014). Smart Communities (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.