Making a Difference: Influencing State Policy
by Influencing Social Policy
Whether working in child welfare or gerontology, all of a social worker’s actions are rooted in policy. New students learn concrete ways they can begin influencing that policy...right now!
Every part of a social worker’s job stems from social policy. The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers specifically calls upon social workers to ensure they have a voice in social policy decisions. Even those who work in direct practice have an ethical responsibility to communicate their experiences, and the experiences of their clients, to the people who make those decisions.

This video, the first in a six-part series, Policy Affects Practice, takes students back to 1996 and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act signed into law by President Clinton. Social workers are frequently not in agreement with many of the policies that have come from this law. Indeed, decisions are frequently made by people who are not social workers and who are not on the front lines witnessing the effects of these decisions. In viewing this video, students will explore the ramifications of this law in order to highlight how important they—the social work students—can be in creating social policy.

The first section of this video explores the “new federalism” and highlights why it is so important that social workers pay attention to social policies. The second section is a primer on the legislative process and details how a student can influence it through a commitment to improving clients’ lives through legislative action.

How can the social work student be influential regarding policy? How can they advocate for their clients and make sure their voices are heard? The final section of the video is a call to action that includes a list of projects or activities that social work students, faculty, and others could initiate in order to influence state policy and legislation.
In Depth
Many social work students are understandably overwhelmed when thinking about becoming a public face for social policy. Fears of not knowing enough, not understanding the political systems, and the idea that their primary role is working with clients has often meant that social workers’ voices are not heard when laws and policies are written. Policy Affects Practice is a six-part series that demystifies the legislative process and the many ways social workers can engage with it.

From a student’s perspective, the videos explore budgets, the legislative process, and the importance of coalitions.

After watching this series you’ll be able to:
  • Describe how a budget is formed.
  • Understand the legislative process and describe the steps for enacting legislation.
  • Understand the importance of building coalitions with other social workers and learn how to do this effectively.
  • Explain how direct practice experience can be an effective tool when advocating on the macro level.
  • Illustrate the ethical dimensions of lobbying Congress for social workers using the National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics.

Length of video: 00:27:04

English subtitles available

Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-486-X

Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-486-4

ISP is the only national membership organization dedicated exclusively to promoting social work’s involvement in policy and policy practice. Now a 501(c)3, it was created in 1997—in the wake of welfare reform–to address concerns about devolution. Comprised of social work educators, students, and practitioners, its expanded mission seeks to increase social work efficacy in influencing policy at all levels of government by educating students in policy and policy practice, and engaging students and faculty in the policy-making and political processes.

Visit their website for more information.
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