Social Policy Blog Post 3: What’s church got to do with it?

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. 

I have been on the struggle bus this week. I had a car accident and a sick kid within 24 hours. Let’s see how this goes!

I am a preacher’s kid and was raised by an extremely conservative family. This topic is a tender spot for me. I grew up with all the Bible stories and platitudes talking about helping the poor, sick, widows, and orphans. I also grew up hearing about how “poor people are living off the government” and “they’re just lazy”. I know that not everyone who professes any kind of faith is like this, but it is a common theme. Anywhooo…

Historical connections

  1. Jewish protections for the powerless (gleaning, marriage contracts).
  2. Survival of ancient religious communities was dependent on communal living.
  3. The rise of voluntary social organizations connected to the church during the Second Great Awakening and the influence in moral and social reform.
  4. Settlement houses of the late 1800s that were based on an idea of Christian Socialism.
  5. I’m not sure why this won’t let me delete these numbers because I don’t need a number 5….in the Western world, we don’t value a sense of communal living like ancient communities did. We have an ‘every man for himself’ mentality. This is a divergence.
  6. Churches are still heavily involved with social welfare and volunteering. Food banks, bill payment programs, and international mission involvement are just a few of the ways the church reaches the less fortunate. This is a coalescence.
  7. This is all I got for today. I would like to adjust this at some point, but I’m out of time. Peace!!

Social Policy Blog Post 2, or “Civics: not just a fleet of Hondas.”

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.

We are eighteen days in to a new administration, and I already feel like I can jam these four stages of policy development into one: EXECUTIVE ORDER. Implement, implement, implement. Who cares what the House, Senate, and Supreme Court think about things? And the general public? What are those?? I’m just guessing, but I don’t think our current President passed his high school civics class. Or even knows what civics is…’s not a model of Honda.

Clearly I was exhausted when I started writing this blog, but I’m more rested. My snark will be more intelligent…or I could shut up and answer the question.

Formulation. Policy is formed these days largely through staffers and think tanks. According to this book, legislators are more concerned with getting reelected than with actually doing anything beneficial. They used to tap into resources like universities to inform their processes. Now think tanks have taken that place. So, basically, while our reps are formulating their reelection campaigns, their staffers are working with think tanks (and hopefully listening to what their districts want!) to write policies that reflect the desires of the reps. On this level, I could (1) meet my legislators and let them know about issues that effect the communities with whom I work and what their needs are. I could also (2) talk with leaders in my community and ask about what they’d like to see change, happen, come into the area, etc and empower them to advocate for themselves.

Legislation. OK. I figured it out. These writers were mistreated staffers. In other news (like, being on task), legislators do their legislating through committees and subcommittees based on what they’re interested in. Representatives from special interest groups as well as lobbyists make their wishes known through public hearings in front of these committees. If a representative takes a bunch of money from a particular donor, chances are he/she is going to try to write and pass legislation that benefits the interested party. This is the definition of cronyism (my two cents, not the book). I honestly don’t know what to do at this level because this is the level that frustrates me. If you don’t have money, you have no say. This was made apparent to me when I saw the names of several major corporations (mostly oil) stamped around the rotunda of the state capitol. Oklahoma government. Sponsored by Haliburton. I might try to (1) influence a political action committee to get my views and the views of my community heard and (2) again, meet with my legislators. The OK Legislative Primer is a great resource for knowing what’s on the floor and what to really push for or against.

Implementation. This section was a bit tricky and something I’d not thought of. Just because something passes doesn’t mean it will be implemented. If the money and interest aren’t there to run the program or enact the policy, then the government will just, essentially, bleed it dry, reallocating the funds and exacerbating the problem. Something similar that happened on the ballot last year were questions 780 and 781, decriminalizing class 1 and 2 misdemeanors and using funds saved in the prison system to provide rehabilitation to the prisoners. The public voted for these things, and the OK government retracted them…..what???? I don’t get that at all. It’s as if we’re being told that we don’t know what we’re talking about. But, just because something was voted for doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen. I think we (1) need to be prepared to step in and meet the need, like a staffing need, should this arise. Defunding might be less likely if a grassroots organization or nonprofit were ready to take on the task of running the program, whatever that program might be. In the case of 780 and 781, we gotta (2) meet with those reps! Call those reps! Letters! Why are we SO PROUD of ourselves for having so many nonviolent offenders in prison? When my dog pees on the carpet, I don’t crate her for TEN YEARS.

Evaluation. This a good practice in theory. These policies and programs should be evaluated for effectiveness and to reduce instances of bad practices. Even good things can go bad if put in the wrong hands. Oftentimes, however, these checks and balances are put in place, not to find areas of improvement, but to figure out what the government can pull the plug on. I hate that because everything, no matter how useful, will go through phases where its usefulness is less than stellar. This causes a lot of reps to try to have these valuable welfare programs defunded. I say we (1) ask for reforms instead of revocations for things we know to be valuable to the vulnerable populations we serve and (2) strive for truth in reporting when documenting the use of these programs. Having accurate statistics helps find strengths and weaknesses. Further, coming up with a swift plan of action for course correction should a threat of defunding occur is vital to the success of a program.

One thing I learned at the day at the capitol is this: the government is NOT a savior. In many cases, it will be a hindrance to the things we want to accomplish. We have to work together, person to person, to develop sincere relationships that will serve us in the long run. These relationships can be with our state and local legislators as well as community leaders, church leaders, nonprofit directors, etc. Now, more than ever, we CANNOT rely on the government to look out for the people we serve. That’s our job.

Generalist Practice Blog Post 3: NASW Day at the Capitol

For those who attended the Capitol experience: Write about 5 specific things you learned (or were reinforced) from the NASW Day at the Legislature and how you will use them to impact your work on a macro level in your career as a social worker.

Today was an eye-opening day at the Oklahoma state capitol. I started the morning with a tour, followed by check-in and talks by the NASW president Frannie Pryor and lobbyist Kara Joy McKee. After lunch was a panel discussion with Oklahoma legislators from both sides of the political aisle. They all appeared moderate and eager to work with the NASW and other helping professions. There was a brief discussion of their stances on certain things and a quick rundown of some bills that are coming up during this session that might be of importance to social workers. Then we were sent off to meet our reps and talk with them about issues that were pertinent to us and our profession.

I learned a lot today. There were things I learned that I would have been happier not knowing.

  1. My state senator, Rob Standridge, supports taking public education funds and filtering it to private and homeschools. He even talked with some homeschool parents about the loopholes he knows about and ways to get that money into their hands. I’m not anti-private and homeschool. I went to private school for three years, and I was homeschooled for a year and a half. My best education, however, came from public schools. Taking money from public school funds and filtering it into the private sector cheats our children and our teachers out of funds they so desperately need. How can the governor complain about our public school systems when she is allowing this to happen on her watch?? In my macro-practice, the way I would combat this is through lobbying for public education.
  2. The NASW has put out a document to go with the Trump presidential transition called Advancing the American Agenda. We had a brief reading of this document that covered some highlights, but I clearly need to read it in its entirety. Reading this document would give me clarity on where my association stands on the new presidency and how to support my clients as they try to make sense of the things that are happening to them. It has been made clear that many of the social programs that benefit the children with whom I work are at risk of being cut. Even if there is little I can do about those cuts, at least I’ll know where the NASW stands and can use that and the Code of Ethics to support my practice.
  3. I learned that not everyone in the State House and Senate hates each other and hates democrats. The panel was made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, and they were all civil and supportive of one another. I found this heartening. I think it’s a good way to demonstrate civility to the citizens of the state. I can tell groups in my practice that our representatives are civil and supportive of each other and of the work we’re doing. It might help community leaders feel more comfortable approaching them on issues that are important.
  4. I learned that I need to read the 2017 OK Legislative Primer if I’m going to have a prayer of being informed! I’ve not yet read it, and I didn’t even know what to ask my representative (who I did not get to meet with because he was in another meeting). It reminded me of the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Staying informed on policies that effect the populations with whom I work is imperative in a macro setting.
  5. I learned about the importance of the handwritten letter. I’d read about this in an NASW-Texas article on lobbying and grassroots efforts. Admittedly, I dismissed it as something that no one ever has time for. And maybe that’s right. And that might be why those hand written letters are so special when they pass across the desk of a senator or state rep. It means that someone took the time to write down, pen and paper, their needs and concerns for themselves, their families, and their communities. If I need to strongly advocate for my community but can’t schedule an appointment to meet with my representatives, there is nothing quite as special as a handwritten letter. I’ll start using them more often.

Generalist Practice Blog Post 2: Challenge and positive impact in Allentown, PA

Choosing one of these three communities from your readings (Allentown, PA [Morse], post-Katrina New Orleans evacuees [Cortes], or Harmony Elementary in CA [Cortes]), describe one way the community was challenged as cited by the text and two ways the struggle positively impacted its growth.

Good morning!

I’m blogging from home instead of my classroom because I have a kiddo who has finally succumbed to the crud, whatever it might be. His chubby cheeks are flushed with fever, but he seems content to lie on the couch beside me and watch PBS Kids this morning.

Let’s talk about the community of Allentown, PA today and their struggle for relevance and viability.

Post-World War 2 Rust Belt was drastically impacted when the U.S. decided it just didn’t need as much steel as it had been using. We saw the steady decline over the decades and then the sharp drop-off during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 when the U.S. government had to bail out the Detroit auto industry. Detroit still hasn’t recovered, but they’re working on it. That’s another commentary for another time.

Few Rust Belt communities were spared this setback, but how they handled it is the topic of this post. The text contrasts Allentown, PA and Youngstown, OH.

When faced with this financial setback of declining demand in the steel industry, Allentown was set up respond positively to the changes. Lehigh University, local businesses, non-profits, and local government were all set up with overlaps to help with a positive response and an actual tightening of the community knitwork. Local communications companies were regularly updating themselves  to stay technologically relevant in the wake of a major change. Because of the overlaps in place, these changes that became necessary were feasible.

The community had been purposefully diversified to maintain a wealth of knowledge coming from several areas. When push came to shove, they were all able to come together and form their own think tank to tackle the problems. They supported one another, learned from one another, and used their collective intelligence to overcome the issues that came with the decline in their livelihood.

Youngstown, on the other hand, fought with their government. They pushed back against new ideas, businesses, and companies that might want to come in and revive the area. They suffered as a result.

I know a LOT of people from Youngstown. I lived near Boulder County, Colorado for six years, and there was a pocket of folks from Y-Town who worked with my non-profit. It was apparent to me that they had suffered in some capacity. They were all edgy, vulgar, and had a desperate air about them. I loved them because they were so raw and real as people. Reading about the issues in Youngstown clarifies for me the issues they faced as a community at large. They were fleeing a collapsing infrastructure. Interesting read.


Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities: How citizens and local leaders can use

strategic thinking to build a brighter future (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Social Policy Blog Post 1, or “Let’s get mad!”

Policy Blog Post 1!

Let’s talk for just about minute about this textbook. The authors must have been snubbed on the playground by some kid in a Ronald Reagan t-shirt or something. I felt like I was reading an angry liberal blog post. And I’m not even conservative! It was a challenge to see the forest for the snark. Still, the text is valuable and challenging, and I promise that this is the last time I mention how weird the text is. That is a lie. I’ll probably bring it up again.

Ladies and gentlemen, you see before you a chart of your standard liberal-conservative leanings and some key stances on various subject matter. This is by no means exhaustive. Even well-known politicians who fall squarely into one of these categories has been known to deviate from his or her chosen  path.

Keep an open mind. Take a peek below. Leave me a comment if I’m off-base or should add something important. Thanks!


“Government is either organized benevolence or organized madness; its peculiar magnitude permits no shading.” – John Updike

Economy Role of Government Civil Rights Reproductive Rights Gay Rights
Liberalism Keynesian economics-macro-economic stabilization by the govt. Large government presence to keep welfare and economy stable. Champions minority groups, works to extend legislature and keep protections in place for minorities. Supports women’s right to choose, free and easily accessible birth control. Pro-marriage equality, pro-gays in the military.
Neo-liberalism Less cautious of big business, opposed economic protectionism, opposed financial regulation.


More cautious of govt. than traditional liberalism, preferred less presence. Potentially harmful to civil rights with de-emphasis on social issues, emphasis on meritocracy. Potentially harmful to reproductive rights with de-emphasis on social issues. Social issue de-emphasis HOWEVER recent legislature has gone in support of gay rights. (Author argues that Obama is a neoliberal [pp14]).


Leave the economy alone and let it regulate itself. Tweak as necessary. Belief in free-market capitalism. “Small government”. Idea that the country can take care of its needs without govt. assistance. Oppose the extension of civil rights legislation. More apt to support reproductive rights than a cultural conservative. Supportive of gays in the military. Lack of stance on marriage equality being usurped by cultural conservatives.
Neo-conservativism Believe high unemployment is good for economy, believe in competitive income structures. Take aim at social programs and work to disrupt the growth of welfare programs, larger govt. presence than classical conservativism. Little emphasis placed on civil rights issues, usurped by cultural conservatives. Little emphasis placed on reproductive rights, usurped by cultural conservatives. Little emphasis placed on gay rights, usurped by cultural conservatives.
Cultural Conservativism Strong belief in free-market capitalism and minimal govt. presence in the economy. Belief that being a good Christian who tithes will bring prosperity. Small govt. presence in economic and social areas. Significant govt. presence in personal areas like contraception, marriage equality, and other private affairs Strong religious presence influences beliefs that racial and ethnic minorities are inferior. Pro-life, want heavy legislation, currently revisiting abortion and contraception legislation, champion abstinence being taught in schools Anti-marriage equality and gays in the military

Blog Post One: “Communities are not programmable or predictable.”

“Communities are not programmable or predictable.”

After locking myself out of my blog and feeling my anxiety rise up in my body like a flood, I understand things being unpredictable and non-programmable. What an interesting way to start the blog assignment. What does this quote even mean? As members of our own communities, we rarely put these kinds of thoughts in writing. We just go about our lives, living where we live, experiencing what we experience. Do we notice how things around us change?

I found Morse’s discussion of the community of Wausau, Wisconsin particularly poignant regarding this quote (Morse, pp. 18-19). I lived for five years in Madison, Wisconsin, and was able to travel to Wausau with a friend for Easter one year. Wausau in central Wisconsin, sitting slightly north of dead center. Morse is right. It is LILY WHITE. Yet there is a significant Hmong population there that has developed over the last 25 to 30 years. They immigrated to north-central Wisconsin to escape religious oppression.

Weirdly, I don’t recall noticing a lot of Asian faces at the mall in Wausau. It’s been a long time (like, 12 years), since I was there. It would be interesting to see how the community has changed in the 12 years.

This is a tiny snapshot of how a small community can change over a few decades, but what about significant changes that happen over a relatively short period of time? How did events like Hurricane Katrina change the face of New Orleans in a matter of DAYS?

With the political winds changing, it will be interesting to see how our communities change and reform in the next four years. Will we become more homogeneous, or will we bind closer together and fight to hold on to the unpredictability on which the United States was born?

Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities: How citizens and local leaders can use strategic thinking to build a brighter future (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Three Commitments for Learning Enhancement

Topic: As your practice blog, please name 3 things that you will commit to do to enhance your learning in this course. 

I am a busy person, and I like being a busy person. I tend to take on too much at once. For instance, I’m singing in yet ANOTHER opera this semester. That being said, these are the things I commit to do for this class:

  • Stay on top of the reading! This will help me understand the course material, engage more effectively in class discussions, and make everything generally easier.
  • Keep an updated personal calendar that has every assignment written into it. I usually do this anyway, and it always helps me stay on top of my papers and other assignments. This is the only way to get through a degree that is this intensive.
  • Find ways to use what I am learning on a weekly basis in my practicum placement. I am placed at an elementary school, and I do spend significant time in the classrooms conducting group lessons. I want to use the information I glean from this course to be more effective with the kids I see.

I’m excited to get this semester going! Let’s do this!

Jill Burcham