MSW Second Year Blues

Hey, reader. (I’m kinda figuring there’s only one.)

I’m, like, super not motivated this semester. I can’t wait to get to next semester when all I have to do it applied stuff and I can show the world that I’m much better at actual interactions and super craptacular at book learnin’. I think the latter is evident.

I decided that I needed to take the entire summer off. To do what, you might ask? Jack squat. That’s what I did. I took up running. That’s pretty much the most interesting thing I did. Oh, and I went to my niece’s wedding, which was fun. And my 20 year high school reunion. I KNOW what you’re thinking, “She is way to young to have graduated 20 years ago! She must be Doogie Howser or something!” Well, that is not true. I’m not smart enough to get into med school. But I digress.

This entire blog is a major digression. My insomnia and anxiety have kicked back in, so my son’s doctor called in my meds for me. She’s awesome. Let’s talk about the classes I’m taking!

Wednesday: At-Risk Populations. This is where we talk about…populations at risk. It’ll prove to be interesting I’m sure. But, it’s only the second week of class. I’m already overwhelmed.
Advanced Group Work: Great class minus the book. Super dry. So far it’s a review of Generalist Practice 2, which is good. It’s nice to ease in to the semester without a barrage of new stuff to remember.

Thursday: Family therapy: this class is going to be a problem for me. Everybody has a dysfunctional family, right? I’m no exception. I’m sure I’ll hyper-focus on my issues and my mommy problems and all that good stuff. I think it’ll be therapeutic.
Grief, Death, and Dying: EVERBODY is all hung up on the fact that I’m taking a grief class, but I’m super excited about it. I want to work in hospice, so I need this class. Besides, we get to do art therapy. Winning.
Child Abuse and Neglect: Thursdays are red-letter days for this gal, let me tell ya. I took this because it’s an elective, admittedly. Then I found out that a couple cohorts are in there, which is awesome. The instructor is great, so I think it’ll all pan out positively.

There it is. My murderous schedule. All the reading. All the writing. All the role-play. Fun times. Pray for me.
-jill

It’s summer!

Hey there!!

So, I decided to do some blogging over the summer to keep my chops up. I’m really, REALLY crappy at routine. I mean, I can routinely eat chocolate…or drink beer…or take naps. I’m all on board for those kinds of routines. Somebody’s gotta do it,  right? But when it comes to something that involves a little more discipline or effort, I fall off the wagon fairly quickly. Yet, here I am, May 26, blogging away for fun.

My son just finished 4th grade yesterday. This is quite a feat. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was four, and my husband was certain he would not amount to much. We would love him the best we could and let him live with us forever. Dude…I’m not cool with the second part of that. So, I became the pusher that I am and here we are, staring 5th grade (and the end of elementary school) in the face.

My husband is out of town until June 6, and everything has been going smoothly until today. The kiddo has been in school, and I’ve been able to do the things I need to do: Uber for a little cash, clean, nap, etc. But that’s over until August. Suddenly EVERYTHING is irritating the crap outta me! What IS that he’s watching on his tablet? Some hopped-up, ska band version of the Tetris theme song?? And as soothing as the music is, does Minecraft REALLY need to be turned up that loud? The dogs are howling.

We did have a little fun today. He has a Flat Stanley he made that we took to the Devon Energy Center. We ate in the cafeteria there (don’t get the nachos…my belly still hurts), and then we walked over to Myriad Gardens to enjoy the sun. I just need my husband to get home so I can tap out and go to Colorado for a few days. Momma needs her me-time.

Well, that’s it! The first summer blog. I hope I can keep up with this stuff. Peace, love, and ice cream.

Jill

Generalist Practice BP11: THE FINAL BLOG

GP2 Final Blog Post

 

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

 

I have learned a lot from Generalist Practice that I will use in my social work career. One thing that I have learned are ice breaker activities. I’ve already started using these in small groups. Although small, these things have been integral in building relationships between the girls and me as well as within the girls’ friendships themselves.

I’ve learned about census tracts and how to read census data to learn about the population I am serving. It would never have occurred to me to use this tool until I learned about it in class. It gives me a better idea of who I am serving, what their assets and unique needs are, and how to formulate an effective intervention.

I’ve learned about the framework of a smart community, and how some communities use their resources and human capital to better themselves in the face of “wicked problems”. I’ve reflected on my own community and the other places I have lived. I’ve also considered my place in my community and what I do to build up the community I live in.

One thing I will do as follow-up is keep in touch with my cohorts who have similar interventions within their communities. I found it interesting that, during census tract presentations, many interventions that were formulated were school based. Those interventions were all unique and can be used to benefit lots of communities. I will use all of these interventions to inform my practice going forward, should I choose to stay in a school setting.

 

A Lesson in Policy Advocacy: A Day at the Capitol

Advocacy is an important part of what we do as social workers. We are charged to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We are to gather information and disseminate it to those who need it, who do not have access to it, who cannot understand it, or who may not even know that they need it.

The What: NASW Legislative Day at the Oklahoma Capitol. On February 7, 2017, the Zarrow School of Social Work attended the National Association of Social Workers Legislative Day at the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City. While there, we listened to legislators speak about issues that pertain to social work.

The Why: speaking for those who are vulnerable. I chose to reflect on this activity because it was something that I had never previously done before. I have never had the opportunity to go to the state capitol (even though I have lived in and near several state capitols) and listen to my legislators talk about issues they are passionate about that affect me.

The How: showing up. It is hard to take time out of your day, drive into the city, find parking, and then sit and listen to politicians talk about issues that might be boring. At least they might be boring to some. But that is what we did: almost my entire cohort and me. Even before this, several of us took a tour that, at times, seemed patriarchal and condescending. Those are difficult things for a bunch of social workers to deal with. But we dealt for the greater good. From here, we went panel discussions, had lunch, and then went on to meet with our representatives.

The results. I was very excited to do this, since I actually voted for Scott Martin. He lives near me and even came to my house to talk issues before the election. Imagine my dismay to discover that almost all the state senators and representatives were on their way to a funeral. That had me scratching my head. Were they all going to the same funeral? Who died? Why were they ALL going? It seemed as if most of the people we tried to meet had someplace else to be. That doesn’t make a ton of sense, since they were supposed to be in session. That means they were supposed to be in their offices. I speculated that they’d all had plenty of warning that we were coming, so they created reasons to be gone. Oh well. Sometimes advocacy doesn’t work out the way you want.

The lesson. The lesson learned we not the easiest lessons because it seemed that so few of our representatives were available to talk to us. It was tough to deal with the idea that maybe they didn’t want to talk with us. Or maybe they did really all have a funeral to go to! I have no idea. I did learn, however, that persistence is one of the most important traits a social worker can have. You just have to keep showing up.

I can imagine that a huge crew of social activists (aka social workers) would be intimidating for anyone in a position of power to deal with. What is so frustrating is that they should be happy to see us. We have their constituents’ best interests at heart, just like they claim. We can provide valuable insights that they might be blind to for whatever reason.

Like I said before, just keep showing up.

Policy Advocacy Interview Reflection

Hello!

Every time I hit the submit button on an assignment, I breathe a little sigh of relief. This semester has put me through the wringer. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way either. What is up with the second semester of grad school? I don’t recall feeling this way during my first masters degree (shout out to Wisconsin!). Granted, the course requirements were HALF the size of this one.

Below you will find the reflection of a recent paper I submitted. It is about advocacy, policy, and the wide world of school counseling. I am blessed to have a field instructor who gives freely of her time to others AND to me. Take a peek. Identifying information has been removed.

Reflection

            RW is my field instructor, and I have learned numerous things from her. One thing I have learned specifically is: you never know when the opportunity for advocacy might arise. It would seem obvious that it would be in a behavior plan meeting or the like, but there have been many times when a child needs advocacy in the classroom with their teacher. Some teachers just do not understand the unique needs of certain students, and that is where her work comes in.

Another thing I have learned is: if I do not do it, who will? We can never assume that another person will come stand in the gap for anyone. We have to be ready to meet that need. There might be someone hot on our heels who can provide additional support or even take over for us when we are no longer adequate, but we must be ready.

There are many things I will take from this interview as well as my time working with RW. One of those things is to be familiar with the policy that affects the population I am serving. I might not spend my career in a school setting, and I need have some level of understanding of the policies that affect those for whom I care.

Finally, I will delegate to those who are capable. I do not like delegating because I feel that no one is capable of doing as good a job as me on whatever task I assign. I have to get out of this mindset, or I will go crazy. There are people around us, in the workplace and otherwise, who are just as capable of meeting needs and taking care of problems as I am. They might do it differently than I would, but it is effective just the same.

BP11: Child welfare, or “Making your kid clean his room doesn’t violate child labor laws, does it?”

Explain 2 historical policies pertaining to child welfare and 2 current (or recent) aspects of child welfare not relating to out-of-home placement (aka “child welfare” as a part of DHS). 

I don’t know about you, but I’m stuffed with food and love from Easter festivities. We do it up right at my house. Ham, mashed potatoes, asparagus, deviled eggs, homemade bread, and pavlova for dessert.

Here’s that recipe if you’re interested:

http://www.marthastewart.com/332803/pavlova

Oy, child welfare is dicey. My practicum placement is in a public school, and I get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of child welfare, including the icky DHS stuff. But, here we go…

I LOVE that the history of child welfare in this country begins with a dude named Charles Loring Brace who moved poor and orphaned street kids from crappy urban settings into farm families in the Midwest. While this tactic split up families, it got kids who were in terrible conditions into better ones, hanging out with cows and corn in Wisconsin and such. I’m a bit of a country mouse anyway.

Let’s talk about Etta Wheeler for a minute. When she found out about the abuse that was being exacted upon a 9-year old indentured child (read: slave), she went to the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to find out what could be done. You read that right. Animals. There was nothing to protect children yet. Because of her work to right this wrong, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was created. Now, a lot of folks think that, during her work, she was advocating for this child as if she were an animal, but that is not the case. She was acting as an advocate of an abused child.

Another historical issue that came up was the issue of child labor. There were a lot of destitute families at the turn of the 20th Century and going into the Great Depression. Families did what they thought was best and put their kids to work to make ends meet. Kids worked in coal mines, which isn’t good for ANYONE, but there were zero protections for them or for women. In 1916 the Child Labor Act was put in place to prohibit the interstate transportation of goods that were made by children. In 1918, the Child Labor Act was ruled unconstitutional (uh oh) and most other attempts to protect women and children were thwarted until 1935 with the Social Security Act. This is crazy to me. My grandfather was born in 1915 (he passed away almost 9 years ago), and was the youngest of 9 children. Any of them could have worked as children without any sort of protections in place. Scary.

There are many federal grants that are helping parents with child care these days. The primary programs are the federal dependent care tax credit, the child care tax credit, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Title XX. These programs were designed to assist low-income families with childcare so they can work. As a working mom, I can attest to the fact that childcare is EXPENSIVE. Unfortunately, I always made too much money to qualify for these services.

Currently, my biggest concern is for children’s education. I consider this a child welfare issue because every child has the right to a good education. Our public school system is being threatened as well as all the things that fall under the umbrella of public school. Free and reduced lunch programs for children are being rethought. I work in a place where 92% of children are on free or reduced lunch. 92%! If those protections were to change, what would that mean for those kids? Our Secretary of Education does not believe that all schools who receive federal funding, whether public, charter, or private, should be equally accountable to the US government (read: school voucher program). In layperson’s terms: if a parent doesn’t want to send their kid to public school, they can go to private school and get vouchers from the government to subsidize some of the cost. But, those schools receiving those funds would NOT be held to the same standards at the public schools.

…so, how many more days do we have til summer? Because I’m craving a margarita and a pool deck, STAT.

Generalist Practice Blog Post 10: A job for teens with developmental disabilities

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.

Good Tuesday Morning! This topic is one that is near and dear to my heart, as I worked with adults with developmental disabilities in a day program and supported employment program in Longmont, Colorado. Even though these individuals were younger than the people with whom I worked, it is apparent (and something that I knew long before reading the article) that, had the caregivers of the people with whom I’d worked received training at a young age to enter the workforce, many more of them would have been equipped to take a job. And the job could have been potentially more challenging and rewarding than the jobs that many of them had.

Evaluation as a concept is important because it give insight into the usefulness and effectiveness of programs, resources, surveys, etc. Without evaluation, we would never know if a program like the one described in the article as well as the program in which I worked was beneficial or simply a waste of time. Evaluation saves organizations money in the long-term. An organization can determine if a program is working and pull out if it is not. Evaluation finds strengths and weaknesses in a program. A smart organization or community knows how to capitalize on those strengths and tap into the appropriate resources to shore up the weaknesses.

I love that this program was based in the performing arts, my other life path. I’ve had the privilege of directing a group of adults with developmental disabilities in a music and theatre performance in Boulder, Colorado. We worked on it for weeks, and the pride that they took in the finished product literally brought tears to my eyes. A study like the topic of this post shows how something like that production could help increase job and life skills for these people.

According to the study, 75% of the students who participated in the program exceeded expectations (pp. 172) of the program. Some points of intervention that were discovered were areas like ‘staying in assigned areas’. The results also determined that the program is too short (6 weeks) to make big structural adjustments, so in the future the program designers can extend the length of the program to increase those benefits. There were six students who could not handle the program and were dismissed because of poor behavior choices.

There were challenges to the program, primarily the sheer volume of tasks to be completed. Overall, this program appeared to be highly effective. It gave an outlet to those who tend to be marginalized. These kids were not only developmentally disabled but were also from low-income families. The program proved to be empowering for these youth as they were able to see this project through to the end.

Imagine if you were in the same situation? How proud do we feel when we take on what seems to be a monumental task, and then we are able to see its success? It feels pretty good.

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.

Policy Blog Post 10: Our House is a very, very, very fine house..

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.

Happy Monday! I had a crazy weekend that was filled with 24 children in my 1700 square foot home, muddy shoes, water balloons, Nerf gun battles, a ripped trampoline, some kid getting shot in the eye, and another kid getting pistol whipped. It made for a great birthday party for my 10-year-old! Speaking of housing….

Let’s talk about how the U.S. government has tried to solve housing problems. We’ll start by talking about the 1937 Housing Act.

  1. Let’s be honest. We try to be the white saviors and end up dehumanizing folks. It’s not something that we should be good at, but dang, we’re SO GOOD AT IT. The 1937 Housing Act started out with good intentions. It wanted to rid the US of unsafe housing situations and slums. The US Housing Authority came from this. Everyone wants to feel like they are safe, right? The 1949 amendment to this act cleared slums and redeveloped the area into single-family homes. Half the homes were subsidized for low-income families.
  2. The 1954 Housing Act amendment strove for “urban renewal”. What does that mean? It means further slum clearance, removal of “urban blight” (what does that even mean??), and the avoidance of constructing public housing. Basically, if you were pushed out with the slum clearance, you couldn’t come back because you couldn’t afford it. Yay, progress! Remember, we’re rolling in on the Civil Rights Movement.
  3. It’s not all bad though! Let’s jump ahead to the 1976 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. This was an attempt to keep the banks honest (I’m laughing as I type that) and prevent redlining. What’s redlining, you might ask? Redlining was a practice by banks (it’s illegal, btdubz) that prevented the issuance of mortgages to families and business based on the racial or ethnic makeup of the area. It could be overt or covert through raising prices or property taxes. It still happens…anyhoo…
  4. Gentrification is a major problem across the country. We push minorities out by raising home prices and taxes around them in order to ‘raise up’ the neighborhood. Redlining is part of this.
  5. The current administration put Ben Carson in charge of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon who has ZERO experience in this area. I’d say this is a significant issue.

I have more to say, but I’m out of time! Argh!!

EDIT: per the request of my professor, the song…

Generalist Practice BP9:

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

The Bryson reading (pp. 7-8) defines strategic planning as a deliberative, disciplined approach to producing fundamental decisions and actions to shape and guide what an organization (or other entity) is, what it does, and why.

Strategic planning gathers data for analysis that helps identify flaws and areas of improvement in communities. It helps those involved formulate specific, measurable, and achievable goals and missions for their chosen task, intervention, business, organization, community, etc. It helps discover any and all weaknesses now and for the future. It enhances organizational learning, and it helps create value for the public.

Strategic planning is necessary because a person or organization fares best when all possibilities for success and failure have been explored and discussed. For instance, if a person wanted to start a community organization that offered free lunches and dinners for low-income community members (like a soup kitchen or Meals on Wheels), strategic planning would help to discover whether or not that kind of service was actually needed in a particular area. Strategic planning would help the organizers determine what the pitfalls might be in a particular community that would need to be addressed before moving forward (limited transportation access, food deserts, etc). It would help set up goals for the immediate future that could be built on (feeding 100 people the first week, feeding 500 in the coming weeks, with the number increasing based on need in the community, expanding to a larger facility, increasing the variety of foods available, community donors, etc).

Strategic planning is imperative when discovering and abiding by laws in the area. We don’t know what we don’t know, and bringing together like-minded individuals who understand the laws ensures that the organization is following those laws.

There are three basic principles of strategic planning that can be expanded upon in most situations (Bryson pp. 11):

  1. Where we are.
  2. Where we want to be.
  3. How to get there.

These statements are basic but, once fleshed out and expanded, lay the groundwork for success in any organization. These items can and should be revisited when an organization hits a snag and cannot seem to move forward. Going ‘back to the basics’ reminds everyone of the mission of the organization and, hopefully, gets everyone back on the same page of where we’re going.

Keeping these things in mind promotes strategic thinking, improve decision making, and enhances organizational responsiveness, effectiveness, and resilience (Bryson pp. 14-15).

 

Policy BP 9: Crime and 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.

It’s Monday again!! Class, today we’re talking about how the United States has a long history of mistreating people in the prison system. Historically, we’ve enjoyed torturing and sterilizing criminals, treating them as inferiors, and disregarding those who suffer from mental illness. We do love our punitive approach to crime. Unfortunately this seems to be continuing, and I’ll bring that up once I list the historical and current policies.

1983 Comprehensive Crime Control Act-redid the federal sentencing system and revised bail.

1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act-this law increased the number of crimes that are punishable by death and established a three-strikes law. This also mandated registration for sex offenders.

1999 Three Strikes Law-Increase prison sentences for those previously convicted of crimes that are violent and limits punishment to nothing but a prison sentence.

NOTE: I remember being so stoked when this law passed. Now I just see my tax dollars going bye-bye because adult responsibilities.

A current trend further into punitive punishment is directly reflected in the recall of the Oklahoma state bills 780 and 781 that would reduce sentencing for non-violent drug offenders and offer rehabilitation. The people of Oklahoma passed that bill, but it was recalled by the House and Senate. Hmm?? Don’t get it. Why does the state government not trust that the people of this state know what we want? And now there is no money for reform because of the spending freeze. Awesome.