When times are trying, I have to remember my reasons why, and usually that means connecting with my heart. Presently, I am going through a period of heart and soul searching. I am doing all this because I care deeply, I am committed to the truth, and I am want to help. Cynicism is the enemy of the heart, but a friend of the mind. Wisdom is about negotiating the balance between cynicism and grace.
I learned how to assess a community. This is not as simple as it sounds. There are many components and moving parts to a thorough assessment. There are a myriad of details that must be sought out and understood before one can identify strengths, problems, and later, interventions. From the outset a community can look stereotypical — suffering and/or thriving from the macro-level causes that affect every other community. However, an assessment looks beyond superficial analysis, as it identifies those particular issues that help and harm a community. It is rewarding and engaging work.
I learned that when people let themselves be heard, good things can happen. This lesson was both personal and professional in nature. It is not easy to stand up for one’s beliefs, which is something I should remember as I seek to advocate for others and myself.
People are full of surprises. I loved learning more about my cohorts’ research interests and practicums. As they assessed their communities and developed interventions, I was able to better understand their passion and values, which really amazed me. There was great diversity in their assessment and choice of interventions, and understanding their creative processes helped me to refine my own. It was a truly sublime experience.
One thing I will do as a follow-up is the community assessments and interventions. It was a challenging project, but I feel it is a marketable skill that I can now add to my tool belt.
My plan was to visit with my State House Representative, Jason Dunnington (D) of District 88, in Oklahoma City on Feb 7, 2017 during the 2017 National Association for Social Worker’s (NASW) Heartland Oklahoma Legislature Day.
What I Hoped to Achieve
I wanted to speak to Representative Dunnington about school choice policy in Oklahoma City and its impact on local schools and marginalized communities. Since Dunnington lives in my community, and like me, is also a sociologist, I felt he would have an interesting perspective on education policy, and what we might do help the children in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Furthermore, Dunnington has two children of his own who currently attend the same elementary school my children also attended a few years ago. This elementary schools is located within Census Tract 1009, which I have been assessing for the General Practice Community Intervention assignment.
The issue with this community, as well as every community in Oklahoma City, is that OKCPS district continues to suffer from the impacts of institutional racism created by segregation, which was only reinforced by white flight after the Supreme Court order in 1972, which mandated that OKCPS district implement cross-district busing policies to desegregate their schools. The OKCPS district lost over half its students (36,000) between 1971 and 1985. In order to attract middle class families back to the district, OKCPS implemented school choice policies. Research seems to suggest that school choice policies reinforce, rather than alleviate, institutional racism, because the process that choice schools use tend to select middle-class white and Asian children who have demonstrated academic achievement. The downside beyond the systemic marginalization of minorities, is that school choice policies weaken the city as a whole, because middle class fa miles don’t tend to live and invest themselves in these communities. It again fails to solve the white flight problem.
There was already a brutally long line of social workers and students waiting outside Representative Dunnington’s office when I arrived. Let me preface this– I am not generally a person who waits in lines. Long lines are to be avoided at all costs, because nothing good comes from a long line. Long lines are bad juju. The people waiting in the line are not at their best due to their wait, and the people who are seeing those waiting are often beleaguered by the demands placed upon them. I usually elect to come back at a more convenient time. However, on this occasion, I made a rare exception and waited to be speak to Dunnington.
After 45 minutes of patiently waiting (I truly gave it my all) it was finally my turn to step into my State House Representative’s office, where I was very surprised to learn that he was not in the office after all. His legislative assistant told me that he had gone down to vote an hour before I arrived. Although we believed we were waiting to see Dunnington, we had actually been standing in a long line to speak with his very nice assistant, who helpfully gave us his business card, and shared some places he might be tracked down in the future.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I really got a lot out of my visit at the Oklahoma State Capitol. With respect to visiting your own State Representative, however, I learned that it is good to know a great deal of background about the person behind the office prior to your visit. What are the issues they are passionate about? What is their educational background? What are their values? I have recently learned through Twitter that Dunnington is very passionate about local education, and although that does not necessarily mean he is against school choice policy, it does appear that he at least cares about the sad state of education for our children, which is promising. I will have to learn more about views regarding vouchers and school choice — issues that are being heavily promoted by many in government. Researching your legislator is essential to having a productive dialogue. Since completing the assessment and intervention of Census Tract 1009, I am now much more prepared to have that conversation with Dunnington than I was in February.
The assistant to the State Legislator is a gatekeeper. I was nice to Meagan Hansen, Dunnington’s legislative assistant, which was very easy to do because she was a lovely person, but if I had been cross with her who knows where the conversation would have led? Hansen gave me very helpful information and encouraged me to write my legislator an email, or have a beer/coffee with him at Capitol Crawl.
Evaluation helps administrators and stakeholders know if a program is producing its intended outcomes. Essentially, a good evaluation measures the effectiveness of the program. If the program isn’t doing what it set out to do, an evaluation can help administrators make adjustments. Evaluations can also measure cost-effectiveness — is the program getting the best bang for its buck? Evaluations can also help identify unintended consequences of a program — whether good or bad. This is especially true for qualitative evaluations.
I summarize the findings of the program as reflected in the program evaluation in the Krajewski et al. (2010) article below to illustrate.
The program as intended:
“Strong performance in the targeted areas exhibited or exceeded by at least 75 percent of youth who participated throughout the duration of the program” (Krajewski et al., 2010 p. 172).
The musical production in which the youth participated was empowering as indicated by the overall mean score of 4.24 on a 5 -point Likert scale measuring whether they felt they made a “strong contribution to the program.” Further qualitative interviews also captured this narrative expressed by youth testimonials.
When the program did not go quite as planned and why.
“Although most youth exceeded program expectations, some performance standards were met by a lower percentage of participants, in the areas of “remaining in their assigned area” (75%) and “timely completion of tasks” (60%)” (Krajewski et al., 2010 p. 172).
Although most participants exceeded expectations, some did not. This was due to some youth having special challenges relating to their disabilities, and six weeks was not enough time to make the necessary adjustments in the structure of the program. And staff were unable to provide enough individual attention to these program participants. Attrition eventually became a factor when 6 out of the 9 participants were dismissed from the program for violent and disruptive behavior toward peers and staff (Krajewski et al., 2010)
Teens were bogged down with too many objectives, tasks and outcomes, often overwhelming them.
Teens initially had a sense of entitlement which the staff had to help them overcome.
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.
United States food policy has historically been complicated by the commodification of food in a free market society. There are those who cannot afford to purchase food, and if it were not for governmental programs such as WIC, SNAP, and Meals on Wheels, many people would suffer from malnutrition, or even starve.
Three Discrete Pieces of Legislation
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1964. The federal government funds 100 percent of the benefits, and states and the federal government share administration costs equitably. Eligibility is determined based on family size and income. Electronic benefit cards (EBT) are given to eligible individuals through which monthly SNAP benefits are disbursed. They may use those cards to shop at their local participating grocery stores.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) was enacted in 1974 as a pilot program for at-risk women, infants and children. Unlike SNAP, WIC is not an entitlement program, so funds are not reserved to allow all individuals to participate. Instead, the program is funded annually through a federal grant. Funds are authorized by Congress. Clients use vouchers to purchase preauthorized items such as milk, infant formula, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and infant cereals.
Meals on Wheels and the Congregate Meal Dining Program began in 1972. It delivers many meals to people who are 60 years or older who are unable to take care of their nutritional needs. Meals are arranged and delivered by various community agencies to elderly people in their homes or senior citizen centers.
Two Current Issues
Under President Trump’s budget plan Meals on Wheels could lose funding.
Due to Trump’s immigration crackdown, Oregon farmers are finding themselves experiencing a labor shortage.
Karger, H., & Stoesz, David. (2014). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach. New Jersey: Pearson.
Three ways that social workers build community in groups through their leadership:
The feeling function – “Social workers use their feeling function to help create community” (Brueggeman, 2006 p. 93). Social workers help community members express their feelings, stir up anger, and discover meaning.
The thinking function leads to development of strength within the community. A social worker helps community members confront and think critically about their past, which will help combat any dissonance they may be experiencing. The development of the thinking function leads to consistency, confidence, and commitment in their thinking (Breuggman, 2006). This confidence and commitment helps group members develop resolve in their values and beliefs, which ultimately helps them advocate for themselves and others more effectively.
Social workers help community members develop their intuition to envision their future plans and dreams. For a community, “the dream or vision is the force that invents the future” (Breuggman, 2006 p. 96). It must be shared. Social workers help community members articulate their dreams, which reignites their passion, and the community becomes the way the dream becomes manifest. Social workers also help community members have a sense of direction, which helps them have a vision of where they are collectively heading .
ReferencesBrueggmann, W. G. (2006). In The practice of macro social work. Chapter 4.
In response to your post I have a few comments. Democracy is strengthened and made whole through participation and the myriad of voices. In fact, increased participation leads to increased stability, meaning if every individual and group feels represented and heard, there is less “divisiveness.” That makes logical sense, right? Therefore, I am very troubled by the promotion of silence for the sake of unity. In families this will always result in dysfunction, and in nation-states this will ultimately lead to despotism and fascist regimes, which is what we are faced with presently. People live through their experiences. That is an unalterable truth. You can’t deny them their truth, and if we try, we all end up paying for it in the end. When we lean in and empathically hear and embrace another’s truth, we not only share with their experience, we also are bettered for it.
Another thing you might consider is that there is a lot of research being conducted on historical trauma and its enduring epigenetic effects. Did you know that our ancestors past trauma changes and defines us at the cellular level? It alters our DNA, which is fascinating. So to say that the past has no bearing on the present is even biologically incorrect.
I agree that we need to have a good grasp of history as we seek to understand the world, others, and our place in it. I also acknowledge that my grasp of history is limited, to say the least. I am forever learning and seeking to understand other’s realities as I seek truth. I will never get to the end of it and I wouldn’t want to anyway. I am not threatened when marginalized groups are concerned or angry, because why wouldn’t they be? I am much more concerned when people don’t recognize their own oppression and/or privilege. It is going to take all of us to fix this mess our ancestors made. We didn’t necessarily build the house, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the responsibility to clean it up.