Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50th Anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech in Washington, DC

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. You can watch the video below:

From the Detroit Free Press:
WASHINGTON - Fifty years to the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, thousands are returning to the spot on a rainy Wednesday to commemorate the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Wednesday's commemoration culminates a week's worth of events marking the 1963 march, which was organized by civil rights and labor groups. Wednesday's event will feature speeches by President Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

The gathering, titled "Let Freedom Ring," is organized by the 50th Anniversary Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom, a group represented by the NAACP, the National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights organizations.

Nearly five hours of speeches and performances are expected to mark the occasion, including appearances by everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Andrew Young to Caroline Kennedy, just named by Obama to be ambassador to Japan.

Among the speakers: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march.

Obama is well-versed in talking about race but does so rarely. As the nation's first African-American president, he has used his own improbable story as evidence of how far the nation has come. Even before he was elected president, then-Sen. Obama in 2007 told worshipers at the historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, Ala., "I'm here because somebody marched. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants."

He referred to King and his contemporaries as "the Moses generation," but said "we've got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do."

In office, he has only occasionally talked about race. Perhaps most significantly, in 2012 he commented on the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Fla., saying of the young African-American victim, "You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves."

After a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in July of the shooting, Obama said, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. ... When you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there's a lot of pain. It's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn't go away."

[UPDATE] If you are searching for President Barack Obama's speech that commemorates the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, click here to access the video and full transcript. It was awesome and inspirational. The American people needed to hear this speech to remind themselves that the struggle for justice, equality, and freedom still continues to this day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How to Enroll in a Social Work Master's Program

Click here if you are searching for my post on how to enroll in a higher education master's program.

Social work is an interdisciplinary field that provides a framework for understanding human behavior, identifying community needs and assets, developing social policies and programs, and empowering communities and disenfranchised groups. Social workers are therapists, community organizers, program managers, and policy analysts. Increasingly, a Master of Social Work (MSW) is becoming the entry-level degree for obtaining clinical, research, and administrative positions.

The Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) monitors the social work curriculum and accredits social work programs. Most MSW programs can be completed full-time in two years (students with a BSW can obtain their MSW in one year under the Advanced Standing track). The foundation curriculum (first-year) teaches students how to apply generalist social work practice knowledge and skills to individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. The advanced curriculum (second-year) prepares students professional social work practice. MSW students can also choose to specialize in either direct practice with individuals, families, and small groups (clinical) or community organization, organizational leadership, and policy practice (macro). The field education component enables students to apply their classroom knowledge (theory) into practice (internship) at agencies, hospitals, schools, government offices, higher education, and other nonprofit organizations.

It is important to select a program that offers courses and internships in your area(s) of interest. The majority of MSW programs offer the clinical or generalist concentration. If your academic interest is macro social work, apply to MSW programs that offer that concentration. It is important to do thorough research before you apply because you do not want to enroll in a program that only trains students for clinical practice if your interests are in macro practice. Larger programs (well-endowed private and public universities) often have the resources to offer macro social work course offerings. For those who are looking for MSW programs that offer well-established macro practice specializations, I recommend (in no specific order) Michigan, Columbia, UChicago,  Maryland-Baltimore, UPenn, Hunter College-CUNY, UNC-Chapel Hill, UI-Chicago, and Boston University.

Once you receive your MSW, all clinical social workers must apply for licensure in the state he or she wishes to work. Some states (such as Michigan) offer licensure to macro-practice social workers. If you want to mentor and supervise social work students in field placement assignments, then it is a good idea to apply for the clinical and/or macro licensure. However, keep in mind that many macro-practice social workers work in settings that do not require licensure. You will also need to take the ASWB social work exam (Master's, Clinical, or Advanced Generalist) and obtain 3000-4000 hours of professional supervision under a licensed social worker. Check your state for specific requirements.

If you have visited the U.S. News Graduate School rankings, the education section includes a ranking of social work programs. Keep in mind these rankings focus on the strength of doctoral programs, which tend to emphasize peer-reviewed research. If this is not your career focus, then look for CSWE-accredited MSW programs within your state or surrounding region. Remember: If you are not seeking a career in social work research and macro practice, then the prestige of the program does not matter. What is more important is gaining relevant, professional experience and connections. In addition, the CSWE-accredited MSW program should have a high success rate in graduating students who pass the licensure exams. This approach will also help you avoid excessive student loan debt.

A master's degree in social work generally requires one (advanced standing) to three years (regular admissions) to complete based on a student's enrollment status. Financing your education typically includes campus (work-study) employment, grants, scholarships, and loans. Some field placements offer a stipend. Most master's programs require three recommendation letters in the admissions process. Only a handful of programs (mostly on the West Coast) require GRE scores. High GPA and/or GRE scores can increase your chances of obtaining merit-based scholarship money. Before you apply, obtain volunteer and paid employment in social services, nonprofits, government, policy, and advocacy relevant to your interests so that you have a competitive application. Admissions committees also look for student leadership experience. Finally, write a clear, concise, and compelling statement of purpose that highlights your academic and professional experiences and explains why you want to pursue a career in social work. I hope these tips will aid you in the graduate school application process.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

CRISP: A Place At The Policy Table for Social Workers

Social work schools across the country need to establish policy practice concentrations as part of their curriculum so that social work students have the knowledge and skills to pursue careers in social welfare policy. Social workers can provide a humanistic/social justice perspective to policy development, which can lead to more effective social policies and programs that improve society. Policy practice is an emerging field that social work schools cannot ignore any longer. Check out this editorial by the president of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.
Congressional Social Work Caucus Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA13) recently threw her support behind the efforts of the producers of a film titled “A Place At The Table” which documents the struggle of millions of Americans to adequately feed themselves and their families.  Directed by Lori Silverbush, the film was an official selection of the Sundance film festival.  As Co-Chair of the Congressional Out-Of-Poverty Caucus, Rep. Lee has led the fight against poverty on the floor of the House of Representatives and in various congressional committees.  We need more social workers involved in influential policy deliberations.

The voices of social workers are critically needed during deliberations on social welfare policy on the Hill, in state and local government, and in various think tanks.  We need to be at the table when policies affecting children and families are being crafted.  We need to have input in discussions that lead to legislation and regulations in foster care, assistance for the elderly, criminal justice reform, and mental health services—to just name a few domains.  Social workers focus on outcomes that center more on the well-being of the people being served than the cost and benefits and efficiency.  While economics cannot be downplayed, it is often the sole focus of conventional policy makers.  Jared Bernstein, a social worker, operating within the highest realms of policy (he was Vice President Biden’s chief economist), has said that economists would benefit from being a social worker.

The field of policy analysis for social welfare emerged during the 1960s with the creation of the Office of Economic Development to oversee the federal government’s effort to administer social welfare programs designed to improve the poor’s condition in the United States.  What would become President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, led to the creation of the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Urban Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of social programs and provide research that would generate better outcomes.  Social workers have a creditable track record influencing social policy yet we need to have a stronger influence on policy going forward.
Most social workers are direct practitioners working hands-on with individuals, families and groups relying on evidence-based interventions that will empower and promote better functioning in society. Some pursue careers in administration equipped with the knowledge and skills to effectively manage public and private welfare institutions or create non-profit organizations of their own choosing.  A few get bitten by the policy bug and want to influence policy decisions that regulate social work practice and impact the populations we serve.

Yet many social work students who would like to work in policy find the career path rocky if not completely nonexistent and reluctantly shift their focus back to micro practice to pass the licensing exam in order to secure employment.  The profession needs to expand its efforts to create paths to policy jobs for social workers.  The good news is there are efforts under way.  The University of Michigan offers a joint Masters of Social Work/Masters of Public Policy program and Columbia University School of Social Work has initiated an accelerated policy track in its MSW program.  New York University’s Silver School of Social Work has opened a campus in Washington, DC.  Most high-level policy jobs will require a Ph.D.

CRISP is committed to expanding opportunities for social work students to engage the federal government.  We will be launching a series of student seminars on the Hill; the first will be held on September 9th focusing on federal legislation and the Social Work Reinvestment Act.  We will also be sponsoring briefings and hosting an October 29th symposium on children’s mental health.

The breadth of the social work experience can be a blessing or seem like a curse.  Social workers are needed at every level—micro, mezzo, and macro.  However, we cannot favor one area over the other.  We must expand recruitment and create opportunities for employment for the different paths.  There has always been tension between cause and function in social work.  I believe policy practice is the new and emerging field of social work and it is vital to the well-being of our society that we open doors for social work students.

Written by Dr. Charles E. Lewis Jr.
President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Affecting Change -- Social Workers in the Political Arena (7th Edition)

Affecting Change: Social Workers in the Political Arena (7th Edition), by Karen S. Haynes and James S. Mickelson, is a pragmatic, step-by-step guidebook that teaches social workers how to become agents of change. This is one of the premier textbooks in the growing specialization of political social work. It shows how the skills of social workers are also the skills of effective organizers, lobbyists, policy analysts, and elected officials. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote that invokes the importance of social justice. The assignments, case examples, summaries, and suggested readings demonstrate the importance of social workers' participation in the political arena. BSW and MSW social work students interested in political and social advocacy, lobbying, and policy practice would find this book a useful tool in learning the tools to effectively influence public policy. At 215 pages, this book includes a glossary of important terms that will help you promote socially-just policies with key stakeholders and understand how the political process works.
  1. All Social Work Is Political
  2. Social Work Values versus Politics
  3. The Emergence of a Social Work Polity
  4. The Debate
  5. Policy Models for Political Advocacy
  6. The Practitioner's Influence on Policy
  7. Influence through Lobbying
  8. Tools to Influence and Organize Others
  9. Monitoring the Bureaucracy
  10. The Campaign
  11. Social Workers as Politicians
  12. Your Time Is Now!
  13. Glossary of Legislative Terms