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MAJOR Problems

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Okay, I am a very social justice minded person. I'm currently involved in a grassroots organization run by and for poor people.


I'm a second year college student, so I'm in my General Ed classes at this point. I've been considering Social Work because it makes a good deal of sense for someone who wants to make a positive change in the world. BUT, I have some major issues coming to me. There are plenty of Social Work jobs out there, but a good deal of the ones here are going to put me working directly for the state, or at an organization that works with the state and has the same vision (for lack of better words). I feel like I'm going to be working for a broken system and that I won't be able to do what I think is right. (Here's one example out of many. Foster care vs. Family Preservation. Where I live 85% of CPS cases are for neglect. There's no legal differentiation between neglect and neglect due to inadequate resources/poverty. The definition of neglect can apply to basically anyone who is in poverty. Out of home placement can be extremely damaging to all parties involved AND costs vastly more than providing supportive and/or financial services to families charged with neglect. BUT, our system rarely does that. It's focus is on adoption. It would pain me to be responsible for removing a child due to poverty when I know I could help the family keep the child.) 

 

Over the years, I have also considered a degree in Psychology or Sociology. I feel that they have broader applications. (Ex. My professor used to put his Psych degree to work for him by using psych principles to help businesses meet needs of his customers.)

 

Then, I was talking to a friend the other day who brought up an interesting point. Instead of putting my focus on helping people who are hurting (largely because of flawed policy) why don't I put my passion into fixing the broken system directly through Political Science and Sociology/Psychology? His thought is by working in the political realm, you could use your understanding of both politics and sociology/psychology to advocate for a change in policy. I think this could be a valid point. The group I am involved in is involved in advocacy, but would it be taken more seriously from a person who has not just the social understanding but the political understanding? But then, that leaves me with assuming the worst case scenario, that I don't get the job I'm hoping for with the poli sci degree. What prospects would I then have?

 

Sorry, if this all sounds like rambling. I'm just trying to float some ideas around and get some opinions. I've got a few more months to decide (until Jan-Feb) before I have to apply to university and the program I choose. The Gen Ed for all the degrees are pretty much the same, so I'm not going to be "behind" by changing my degree goal at this point.

post #2 of 15

I wanna come back to your post with some thoughts. In the mean time a little bump can't hurt.

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thank you! Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

post #4 of 15

Me too! I have to go to work right now but will be back later!!

post #5 of 15

OK, home again. Here are some thoughts. A social work degree, especially an MSW, is a terrific thing to get. There are so many different options for what one can do with this degree. It is true that some of these jobs are in the 'establishment' of state services, but there are lots of jobs that are not. One can work in community mental health, health care, and so forth. But the best idea is this: perhaps you didn't know that social work, particularly in its history, has a strong tradition of social justice and advocacy, much more than the other fields that you mentioned. And for this reason there is a strong component of theory taught in social work on a 'systems' perspective, which views people/families/communities as part of an ecology of social forces. And like other ecosystems, families react and shift in response to social forces. This is one of the factors that first drew me to professional social work (and I have never worked for a state agency).

 

One more thing. Social work has a track in community organizing. Not every MSW program offers it, but one program that does,which is fantastic, is the University of Pittsburgh. It prepares students to work in nonprofits and do grassroots organizing. Awesome program.

 

Would love to chat more about it, but wanted to say, don't give up on social work! Would love to know what area you are in and what schools you are close to.

post #6 of 15
My mom is a social worker with a masters in clinical psychology. Very, very rarely, if ever has she removed a child from a home solely on the basis of poverty. She works in one of the poorest cities in the nation. It is sad, because there are only limited services available for people in poverty, but they are out there. Most of the children she removes from homes are taken due to abuse (physical or sexual), or extreme neglect. There is a difference between a caring parent who can't afford to take care of children, and one who leaves a toddler home alone all day while out looking for drugs. She makes referals to the families who need them, and tries her best to help get them on their feet. My mom truly feels she is making a difference from inside the system, and I believe that she is.



All this being said, I have a degree in psychology but work in the IT field. It pays a lot more with a lot less stress. I don't feel like I'm 'helping' society quite as much, but make up for it by volunteering with youth on my days off. smile.gif


What are your goals for after you graduate? Have you thought about what kind of working hours/job stress/salary would be optimal? I think you would likely find a satisfactory career in any of the fields you listed. smile.gif
post #7 of 15
I'm not sure where you live, but I see some pretty dire situations of frank neglect and of impoverished families, and it's extremely rare for the kids to be taken away in either situation. There are very few foster homes available. When parents do lose custody, the kids tend to be taken in by relatives and they often wind up back with their bio parents eventually, if the parent/s can clean up and want reunification.

That said, the system is broken. Health care, too. The more social justice-minded people who get in and manage not to burn out, the better.
post #8 of 15

I agree with others that nowadays it is very rare for children to be removed due to poverty. At times people in the field can't even get the attention of DCF with extreme neglect, and yes, then kinship placements take priority, as they should. It would be hard to shake up the system without doing any time working in the system. It would be hard to know which policies specifically need to be changed. 

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by KSLaura View Post

There is a difference between a caring parent who can't afford to take care of children, and one who leaves a toddler home alone all day while out looking for drugs. She makes referals to the families who need them, and tries her best to help get them on their feet. My mom truly feels she is making a difference from inside the system, and I believe that she is.

 

One of my daycare families became overwhelmed by one of their kid's behavior.  They weren't actually trying that hard, but they were sort of trying, while also letting her be her.  (which wasn't working)  They had been evicted from several rentals because of her.  Finally they got a two bedroom condo.  But, someone called CPS.  

CPS came in and said they couldn't have three kids sharing one room, and they'd need a larger home.  But, they also sent a car full of volunteers to help them organize clothing and get rid of clothes that were not appropriate.  They brought rubbermade containers for the family to organize things.  They helped them find a three bedroom home, and put locks on all the exterior doors the pantry, and the fridge at the new house.  There was really never any talk of removing the kids, they just offered help and support.

post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 

Slight side note, I have written papers both for my work and school detailing how parents are often accused of neglect and children removed as opposed to families recognized as being poor and appropriate services rendered. We have an entire program at my work dedicated to this. There have also been numerous investigations into the local CPS system. I absolutely have no faith in the local system. I've seen children who desperately needed the intervention go without and families ripped apart for things like not having adequate clothing because they couldn't afford it. Something so simple a Goodwill voucher would solve and referrals to local agencies would solve. Now, I also understand that not all social workers are like that. I know many who aren't. And I know that the system must exist for those who are abused. But it's very broken.

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

I've also heard from social workers that they've been put in situations where they didn't feel that the child was in danger, but were pressured to act by the powers that be.

 

I'm just getting at I think it would be very difficult for me to work hand-in-hand with the state knowing what I know. 

 

Where I work has been advocating for changes in the definition of neglect to distinguish between actual neglect and poverty. however, I think that sometimes we're not taking seriously because "What do we know about politics?" regardless of what we know about the actual personal and community implications. I guess that's why I was considering the poly sci + psych/soc so that I can be seen as someone who clearly understands both the law and the community.

post #12 of 15

I only know a bit about social work thru a step MIL and a friend with a masters in clinical work, mostly elder work I t hink. I applaud your realizaton that the system is flawed-- and my friend confirms this.  WHat is it you want to accomplish?? Is it to raise people out of povery? Is it to improve their health? Or housing? You might find a different angle, one that is not mired down by red tape.  

 

Setting up affordable day care center. 

ORganizing  neighborhood food production or redistribution. 

JOb educations and connection services. 

 

You clearly have the compassion to see so many people are in desperate straights that are not with in their control  to improve without assistance and a chance in opportunity. What I do see is that you can only help the ones that want help and are willing to put in the work to change. SO many have lost all hope. THAT is the real challenge. 

 

Perhaps some focus on prevention . . . work in the schools-- that is really rough work. 

post #13 of 15

 Foster care vs. Family Preservation. Where I live 85% of CPS cases are for neglect. There's no legal differentiation between neglect and neglect due to inadequate resources/poverty. The definition of neglect can apply to basically anyone who is in poverty. Out of home placement can be extremely damaging to all parties involved AND costs vastly more than providing supportive and/or financial services to families charged with neglect. BUT, our system rarely does that. It's focus is on adoption. It would pain me to be responsible for removing a child due to poverty when I know I could help the family keep the child.) 

 

Just wanted to chime in on this. I am in a SW program working on my Bachelors, have an AA in psych, and have been in the field at entry level/volunteer positions for a while.

While there is no legal differentiation here, either, the agency is preservation oriented. Services after removal are reunification oriented. So we are taught (by people in the child welfare field) that you cannot remove because of neglect rooted in poverty. Ie, say a family has holes in the roof and its winter. There's no money to fix it. Is that because there is genuinely no money or is the money there but going to wants vs needs? Are they letting kids sleep in the room with no roof/holey roof? Or did they close off that area? Are there safety steps taken? Another example would be no food in the house. If it's because mom can't drive to the store, you connect her with resources. If its because mom is selling her foodstamps for crack, you remove kids.

There definitely ARE problems with the child welfare system. I'm sure there are jaded workers who don't think to help correct issues rooted in poverty before removal here, too. I think it's going to need fixed from the inside out.

I think you could do more with a social work degree.

post #14 of 15

Also, policy advocacy is a pretty big part of the social work profession. Sometimes that means that workers just sign whatever petition finds its way to their desk; other times that means organizing movements to differentiate between neglect and povery legally within child welfare laws. (Or amend the laws, or whatever helps!)

post #15 of 15

I think you are on a good train of thought with how to choose a major.  I always tell people to keep their minds open to majors they wouldn't think would 'suit' them.  I wavered for years about what to major in and in the end, decided on Accounting.. something I *never* in a million years would have guessed I'd be doing.  Family and friends thought I was joking :lol 

 

I have a similar desire to help people..I was a nurse's aide with elderly and hospice patients for several years, and also have been into a yoga and meditation community for many years.  Both of these are passions, and I love the one on one interaction of being a nurses aide, but I want to see the system change.  One (of many) business ideas is to have a more spiritually integrated approach to end-of-life care..  another is to help spread yoga and meditation to more people..etc, etc..  

 

I realized I need to understand the business world in order to effectively work within it, to help society on a broader scope.  Accounting was mandatory for general business courses, and after going through 2 semesters of it I realized it was also a stable 'fall back' plan, and will also lend itself to infinite possibilities (going for Masters and CPA). I do not find the assignments wildly exciting (many times it puts me to sleep, literally) but the thought of my options and potentials in 5-10 years is what keeps me going and I finally feel happy and settled with my future (this was a big source of angst for about the last decade of 'not knowing').

 

Good luck, it sounds like you're giving it great thought!!  I always tell friends to think about what they value (time, self-employment vs. stability, flexibility, high pay...etc. ) and after writing out these qualities also think about what type of people or organizations you wish to be a part of.. then think of what positions would be needed there that fit your work values listed and that will also satisfy your desire to be able to serve.

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