“Social work practice consists of the professional application of social work values, principles, and techniques to one or more of the following ends: helping people obtain tangible services; counseling and psychotherapy with individuals, families, and groups; helping communities or groups provide or improve social and health services, and participation in legislative processes. The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior; of social and economic, and cultural institutions; and the interaction of all these factors.”
Social Workers and Public Policy
Social workers are in the middle of the evening news. They may not be the ones interviewed or even the subject of the headlines. However, make no mistake, if it is on the 6:00 pm world news, social workers are already well aware of the crisis.
They have already been front and center working with the victims of the opioid epidemic. Whether they were comforting the children who have lost parents or parents who have lost children, social workers were there. They know firsthand how the raging addiction is destroying families, communities and countless lives. They do not need a newscast to tell them.
Social workers understand the conflicts individuals face in trying to obtain affordable health care and a home to live in. How people making minimum wage are stretching their paychecks beyond the principles of elastic to maintain medical coverage for their families and keep a roof over their heads. Social workers know this because they provide resources to assist them in this fragile balancing act. A story about this crisis is daily life for a social worker.
The Medicare patient who needs continued rehabilitation in a skilled nursing center but lacks the three-day inpatient acute care stay because her hospitalization was considered Observation and is returned home with limited intermittent outpatient rehabilitation is nothing new to the social worker. This happens on a regular basis regardless of how many times the evening news picks it up as breaking news.
Social workers go through their day facing these and many more complicated situations. They fight for the rights of these individuals to ensure they get the basics of care. To ease broken hearts through a kind word, tight hug and maybe a meal voucher along the way. Social workers are making the best of a bad situation and they do it every day.
They also get involved in public policy. Some organize grass-root movements within the community to mobilize others to get involved through action, word or casting a vote. The issue can be as simple as getting a food pantry stocked or as complicated as marching in Washington to advocate for a policy change. Social workers see the need and then can leap into action to fill the gap. It can be housing discrimination or limited access to a mental health clinic.
Social workers define the position of being caught in the middle. They are caught between the individuals, families, and communities suffering through inequality and those who are the decision-makers. Social workers are able to move around in two very different worlds feeling at ease in both. Using the one to help the other through impacting public policy.
Dig deep enough into any public policy movement and a social worker is bound to be there. Answering phone bank lines, licking envelopes, drafting policy and meeting with legislators. It is not if a social worker is there, it is where they are. Social workers can be relentless, determined and persistent for the good of their clients. This is ultimately for the good of all because when one improves their life situation, they will bring another person up with them. All because a social worker got involved in public policy. Let’s get that on the evening news.