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.