As online access to Linda Cummins' book Policy Practice for Social Workers: New Strategies for a New Era is limited, below is some information to help you better understand policy practice that may help you better understand Table 1.1 in your textbook so that you can complete your assignment.
Social workers strive to assist individuals and the community by assessing situations, developing intervention plans, and monitoring progressive, which we call micro-level intervention. However, at times, social workers will often find that such micro-level intervention is not enough because current laws or policies are in place that prevent progress. In such cases, social workers will find that current services won't adequately address peoples' needs until a change in policy is implemented, and we call pushing for that change in policy "policy practice" and macro-level intervention.
A chapter titled "Defining Policy Practice in Social Work" by an unnamed author lists three different vignettes that will help you understand times and situations in which a social worker may find himself/herself unable to assist, because current policies are inadequate to fulfill needs and must be changed. One such example is when a social worker shadowed the state agency workers authorized to issue licenses to day care facilities and even visited a church-affiliated day care center that was not required to have a state license. The social worker found conditions in the facility absolutely appalling, but since the law did not extend to church-affiliated day care centers, there was nothing that could be legally done presently to protect the children. She soon learned that hearings were being conducted at the State House to push for a bill requiring all child care facilities to be licensed, even church facilities. Hence, in this case, the social worker's best course of action was to attend the hearing and push for the new bill, thereby pushing for a change in policy.
The author identifies the perspective that allows a social worker to see when policy practice needs to be implemented as "person-in-environment perspective." Through this perspective, social workers understand that people live and work in environments that may or may not either help or hinder individuals from achieving personal goals. At a higher level, national and state non-profit, profit, and public organizations exist to provide services, and sometimes the organizations' current policies hinder rendering services in some instances, as seen above. Through the person-in-environment perspective, a social worker can easily assess just exactly how a person's environment is hindering progress due to current policies and put into action a plan to get the policy changed, such as attending the State House hearings as seen above. Also, through person-in-environment perspective, the social worker understands that an individual's assistance can come from multiple levels, including family and friends, the neighborhood, community, the state, the federal government, and even from international organizations. The social worker is then able to assess exactly where the help needs to come from for the given situation and exactly what policies are in place that are hindering help.
Finally, the author also outlines four steps a social worker can take to implement policy practice:
- Analyze the "goals, strategies, and potential impact" of the policy.
- Work with policy makers to "advocate for policy change."
- Develop relationships with other people and groups who can help the social worker push for the policy change.
- Strategize ways to influence both the public and policy makers.