Cover Page

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Preface

About the Editors

Contributors

Chapter 1: Policy Practice

Introduction

Policy Practice

Preparation of the Practitioner

Assembling a Team

Identification, Definition, and Legitimization of the Problem

Selecting an Approach

Conducting an Analysis

Evaluating the Outcomes

Conclusion

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 2: Social Welfare Policy and Politics

Introduction

Defining Social Welfare Policy

Defining Politics

Politics as Ideologies: Across the Spectrum of Right and Left

Politics as Process: How to Have an Effect on Social Policy

Conclusion

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 3: New Federalism, New Freedom, and States' Rights

Introduction

The Epidemiology and Burden of Mental Illness

Unresolved Federalism in Mental Health Policy

States' Rights and Control of Mental Health Policy

Federal Encroachment in State Mental Health Policy and Services

The Declining Financial Health of State Governments: Implications for the Future of State Mental Health Policy

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 4: Aging in the United States

Introduction

The Political/Moral Economy Context of Aging Societies

Changing Social Perceptions, Expectations, and Policies

Overview of Selected Policy and Services

Implications for Social Work Policy Practitioners

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 5: Explanatory Legitimacy and Disjuncture

Introduction

Explanatory Legitimacy Theory

Looking Back

Explanatory Legitimacy Theory Analysis of Policy Exemplars

Conclusions

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 6: Health Care Policy

Introduction

Needed Background

Policy Topics

Policies/Programs Worth Exploring

Concluding Remarks and Future Directions

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 7: Social Determinants of Health

Introduction

Social Work at the End of the 19th Century

Social Work in the 20th Century

Conclusions

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 8: Property for People or the Property of People

Introduction

An Urban World—Why Fresh Thinking on Urban Housing Practice and Policy in Less Developed Regions Matters

Planet of Slums—Why Poor Urban Housing Conditions Is Not All That Matters

The Good and the Great—International Development Organizations, Alliances, and Campaigns

Civil Society, Not-for-Profits, and Others of the Same Ilk, But With a Different Perspective

Property for People or the Property of People: The Politics of Tenure

Toward a Conclusion: The Challenge for Urban Housing Policy and Practice Lies in Asking the Right Questions

In Conclusion: Property for People or the Property of People

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 9: Child Welfare Policy

A Brief History of Child Welfare Policy in the United States

The Initial Involvement of the Federal Government

The Impact of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974

Foster Care Drift and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

The Impact of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978

Applicable Supreme Court Rulings

Family Preservation and Family Support Act

The Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 and the Interethnic Adoption Provisions of the Small Business Job Protection Act

Reassessment of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 and the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997

Foster Care Independence Act of 1999

Conclusion

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 10: Public Funding of Sectarian Organizations for the Provision of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care

Introduction

Religious and Faith-Based Organizations Providing Social Services: Charitable Choice

Implications for Further Research and Policy Development

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Chapter 11: Social Welfare and Economics

Introduction

The Social Welfare State: A Legacy of the Industrial Era

The Postindustrial Economy

Employment in Postindustrial Society

Impoverishment and Debt in the Postindustrial Era

A New Welfare Agenda for the Global Economy

Conclusion

Key Terms

Review Questions for Critical Thinking

Online Resources

References

Author Index

Subject Index

Title Page

Preface

The provisions or benefits provided through public policies are at times somewhat difficult to understand and reconcile. This is true for liberals and conservatives alike. Conservatives typically note that welfare program benefits are too liberal and encourage dependency; liberal commenters argue that benefits are minimal at best. What is interesting to consider is when two people, looking at the exact same data or pieces of information, are drawn to different conclusions.

An interesting experiment is to take the following “facts” and survey people asking if these cash benefits are too high, just right, or too low.

In 2011:

You might also ask if the following program policies are too limiting, appropriate, or too liberal.

In 2012:

You will find diverse opinions from people looking at the same information. Why? The answer is very simple—people's accumulated life experiences, their personal values, and their beliefs lead them to certain conclusions.

The same holds true for elected officials, agency administrators, and individuals who sit on boards of directors in the nonprofit organizations. They create policy to address a specific problem or issue. Their assessment of the issue and how they frame a policy is based on their own experiences, personal values, and beliefs.

Social work practice is framed by these decisions. As employees in a nonprofit or in a governmental agency, practitioners simply cannot do whatever they feel is appropriate in a worker/client, agency-based situation. In effect, policies, generally crafted by others, limit the practitioners's scope of practice and the benefits/services that can be made available to the organization's clients.

The role and importance of policy in social service organizations results in two critical options or choices for social workers. First, the social worker can remain passive and follow the particular policy or policies even if the practitioner believes the policies are questionable at best. Or, second, the social worker proactively engages in policy practice to influence a particular policy. This text is organized in a manner that builds on the second option. In addition, it is designed as a social welfare policy practice text book for undergraduate and graduate students in social work programs. The text provides a broad overview of social policy practice in the United States and an introduction to policy practice within a global context. The book addresses policy practice with specific populations (disability, aging, persons with HIV-AIDS) and in specific practice arenas (mental health, child welfare, health care, housing). This book addresses the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) required competencies for accreditation. Specifically, the book addresses the following required accreditation competencies:

The contributors to this text provide a variety of perspectives on different topics including mental health, persons with disabilities, health, housing, HIV/AIDS, and child welfare. Purposefully, many of the authors introduce their topical areas through global lenses to help us better understand how other nations address common issues. The authors also take clear-cut positions; they do not hide from the reader their own beliefs or perspectives.

Each chapter begins with a brief reflective overview in which the editors share their thoughts and poses general, overarching questions. The editors encourage, actually expect readers to develop their own additional questions. To be honest, the reader's individual questions are much more important and relevant to the individual. Questioning is a sound exercise that facilitates critical thinking by building different scenarios. At the end of each chapter, there is a set of suggested key words, online resources, and additional discussion questions. Again, these are simply tools to encourage you to build on the author's particular thesis: to search through various websites, do your own “data mining,” open yourself to diverse opinions, form your own opinions, and propose policy solutions.

We firmly believe that social workers must be directly engaged in policy development. The social work profession can no longer afford those who do not work with individuals, families, groups, and communities to create policies. The time has arrived for the social work profession to support the crafting of just and fair public policies. Then and only then will our communities be able to grow with all people realizing their full potential. Our clients depend on the profession to fully engage in policy practice. To do otherwise will only continue to further marginalize the poor and disenfranchise certain ethnic and racial population groups.

Ira C. Colby
Catherine N. Dulmus
Karen M. Sowers

About the Editors

Ira C. Colby, DSW, is dean of the Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston, in Houston, Texas. Dr. Colby has served on, chaired, or held elective positions in a number of national social work associations, including past president of the Council on Social Work Education, and serves on a number of journal editorial boards. Dr. Colby has served as principal investigator on many research projects, accumulating approximately $8 million in external funding; he has authored more than 60 publications and presented more than 70 papers at national and international forums. He has been recognized with a number of awards, including an Honorary Doctorate of Humanics from Springfield College, his baccalaureate degree institution; induction as a Fellow into the National Academies of Practice; the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Virginia Commonwealth University, and awarded Honorary Professorship, East China Technological University, Shanghai.

Catherine N. Dulmus, PhD, LCSW, is associate professor, associate dean for research, and director of the Buffalo Center for Social Research at the University at Buffalo and research director at Hillside Family of Agencies in Rochester, New York. She received her baccalaureate degree in Social Work from Buffalo State College in 1989, a master's degree in Social Work from the University at Buffalo in 1991, and a doctoral degree in Social Welfare from the University at Buffalo in 1999. As a researcher with interests that include community-based research, child and adolescent mental health, evidence-based practice, and university–community partnerships, Dr. Dulmus has focused on fostering interdependent collaborations among practitioners, researchers, schools, and agencies critical in the advancement and dissemination of new and meaningful knowledge. She has authored or co-authored several journal articles and books and has presented her research nationally and internationally. Prior to obtaining her PhD, she acquired almost a decade of experience in the fields of mental health and school social work.

Karen M. Sowers, PhD, is professor and dean of the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is the University of Tennessee Beaman Professor for Outstanding Research and Service. Dr. Sowers received her baccalaureate degree in Sociology from the University of Central Florida, and her master's degree and PhD degree in social work from Florida State University. Dr. Sowers serves on several local, national, and international boards. Dr. Sowers is nationally known for her research and scholarship in the areas of international practice; juvenile justice; child welfare; cultural diversity; and culturally effective intervention strategies for social work practice, evidence-based social work practice, and social work education.

Contributors

Christopher W. Blackwell, PhD, ARNP-C
College of Nursing
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida
 
Enid Opal Cox, DSW
Graduate School of Social Work
University of Denver
Denver, Colorado
 
King Davis, PhD
School of Social Work
University of Texas—Austin
Austin, Texas
 
Elizabeth DePoy, MSW, PhD
Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies
University of Maine
Orono, Maine
 
Sophia F. Dziegielewski, PhD, LISW
School of Social Work
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida
 
Rodney A. Ellis, PhD, CMSW
College of Social Work
University of Tennessee—Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee
 
Richard J. Gelles, PhD
Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
 
Stephen French Gilson, MSW, PhD
School of Social Work
University of Maine
Orono, Maine
 
Richard Hoefer, PhD
School of Social Work
University of Texas—Austin
Austin, Texas
 
Hyejin Jung, MSW
School of Social Work
University of Texas—Austin
Austin, Texas
 
Howard Karger, PhD
School of Social Work and Applied Human Sciences
University of Queensland
Brisbane, Australia
 
Peter A. Kindle, MSW
School of Health Sciences: Social Work, Health Affairs
University of South Dakota
Vermillion, South Dakota
 
Sunil Kumar, PhD
Department of Social Policy
London School of Economics and Political Science
London, United Kingdom
 
Pamela J. Miller, MSW, PhD
School of Social Work
Portland State University
Portland, Oregon
 
Gary Rosenberg, PhD
Department of Community and Preventative Medicine
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
New York, New York
 
Carol Wilson Spigner, PhD
Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Chapter 1

Policy Practice

Rodney A. Ellis


How should the social work profession proceed in the political arena? Is there a way for individual social workers to engage in policy practice without condemning those with whom we might disagree? How might the profession counter the trend of social workers not running for political office?


Introduction

Policy practice is an interesting practice construct, certainly different from the more traditional micro–macro practice spheres. In this chapter policy practice is viewed as an important practice area and one that fits nicely with the social work profession. In an ideal world policies would solve the problems they were intended to address…social workers are, by the nature of their profession and position, inherently involved in social policy. Yet social workers, for the most part, tend to stay away from the policy arena. For example, in the current 112th Congress, there is a total of 435 members of the House of Representatives. These individuals report a variety of professions: 170 are lawyers, 78 are educators, 175 are in business, 15 are physicians, 5 are ordained ministers, and 4 are peace corps volunteers, plus there are 7 accountants, 6 engineers, 15 farmers, 9 ranchers, and 7 social workers (Manning, 2011). According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in 2008, the last year NASW collected such data, approximately 165 individuals held elected offices at the local or state levels of government across the United States. What we can conclude is that social workers simply are not holding elective offices.

Yes, social workers are employed in key staff positions in elected officials' offices; for example, the long-term legislative director for U.S. Congressperson Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is a social worker. Even so, social workers holding staff positions in federal, state, or local offices are not prominent. Social workers also are not commonplace in governmental relations offices, for example, lobbying firms.

What makes this confusing is that social workers, as evidenced by discussions at various state and national meetings as well as on LISTSERVs, seem to be engaged in constant “political” discussions. But for whatever reason, the discussions do not lead to the risks involved in pursuing a political career or direct engagement in political processes.

Without a doubt, social workers bring a unique, human perspective to policy discussions. Day in and day out, social workers work with people, groups, and communities around a variety of human issues in a way that is unique from other disciplines. The “practice wisdom” gleaned from such work allows social workers to put a human face on policy initiatives. We have seen the results of policies developed by and enacted by lawyers, farmers, and businesspeople. Little has changed as social issues remain fully embedded in our national human fabric. One can only wonder what would happen if there were 170 social workers in the U.S. House of Representatives rather than lawyers.

There are a variety of ways for social workers to engage in policy practice in ways other than holding an elective office. We all must understand—policy practice is not easy; it is slow, tedious, and certainly frustrating. Yet, to turn our professional collective backs on the political nature of our work is ignoring that which we know.

We also need to recognize that the social work political tent is big—social workers reflect a variety of political parties and philosophies including Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, Libertarian, Green, liberal, conservative, and radical. For every social issue you identify, social workers hold a variety of positions, often in conflict with each other. In other words, the social work profession does not nor should reflect one political ideology.

There is nothing wrong if a social worker subscribes to one particular ideology; the issue is when this same person, who believes in self-determination and individualism, penalizes others, be they students or colleagues, because they may hold a different political philosophy or argue from a different perspective. Personal ideological insecurity simply will not realize a just society.

Policy Practice

Benjamin is a BSSW-level social worker who is employed as a case manager in a mental health treatment facility. He loves his work and has an excellent record of effective practice with his clients. He is concerned, however, with one aspect of his agency's operation. He has noticed that many clients have recently discontinued their treatment despite substantial improvement in their reported issues. Curious as to why this might be occurring, Benjamin made a few phone calls to clients who had recently dropped out of treatment. He was astounded to discover that four of the five people he called had stopped attending sessions because their state-provided supplemental income benefits had been cut. These former clients reported a simple choice: They could either not pay their rent or stop attending treatment sessions. They had taken care of immediate necessities rather than their important, but less urgent, mental health needs.

Benjamin is disturbed that so many were leaving treatment, but he is even more disturbed that it was unnecessary that most of them do so. His agency had funding alternatives that would have allowed all the persons he called to remain in treatment. They had not taken advantage of those alternatives simply because they had not been aware of them. The agency had no means of assuring that the information was made available to them. Having discovered this problem, Benjamin resolves to find a way to solve it. Further, he wishes to institutionalize the solution, so that it is certain to remain in place into the foreseeable future.

Alma is the executive director of the same agency at which Benjamin is a case manager. She is unaware that her agency's clients are withdrawing from services because of the income cutbacks. She is aware, however, that the cutbacks are occurring. Alma is a part of a local coalition of social service providers that is concerned about the conditions area residents have begun to face as a result of the cuts. A community needs assessment conducted after the changes revealed that the number of persons becoming homeless had increased, the rate of the referral of children into the child welfare system had nearly doubled, and community health experts were predicting a surge in emergency room treatment and hospitalizations. Further investigation showed that all these conditions could be traced, at least in part, to the loss of income many families had experienced. Several other effects have been reported in the community including increased demand at food banks and a rising crime rate. No formal research has been conducted that could identify a link between these conditions and the cuts. There is, however, strong evidence from reports of residents that such a link exists. Further evidence is provided by the fact that these changes occurred in the wake of the cuts and have a logical relationship to them.

The coalition of agencies has been formed to study and to address the problem. Its mission is to develop and implement a plan to get the cuts reversed, and to assure a steady supply of supplemental income to the residents of its community and state. So far the coalition has met twice, collected available data about the cuts and their effects, and drafted a mission statement to guide future activities. The statement is short, simple, and to the point: “The mission of the Supplemental Income Reinstatement Coalition is to restore the level of each program recipient's supplemental income to pre-cut levels.”

Both Benjamin and Alma face issues created by current social welfare policy. The problems have a common cause, the supplemental income cuts, but the manifestations of the issue and the levels at which they hope to address the issue are very different. Benjamin faces a problem at the agency level. It is a policy issue, more specifically, one caused by the absence of any effective policy to assure that an undesirable condition does not arise. He will probably find it relatively easy to identify a solution, gain access to decision makers, and persuade those decision makers to take steps to address the problem. Alma, on the other hand, faces a problem generated at a higher level, and that affects many people in a variety of ways. Although ultimately the cause of the problems they want to address is the same, the scope and goals of their efforts will differ in significant ways.

Benjamin and Alma have chosen to engage in an important social work activity: policy practice. Janssen (1999) defined policy practice as “efforts to change policies in legislative, agency, and community settings, whether by establishing new policies, improving existing ones, or defeating the policy initiatives of other people.” Many social workers express little interest in policy, but their careers are intrinsically involved with social welfare policy. In fact, policy furnishes their careers. Problems are recognized by policy makers, policies written, social programs developed, and jobs created. Many are filled by social workers.

In an ideal world policies would solve the problems they were intended to address. In reality this is sometimes not the case. Take, for example, Benjamin's discovery. Policies related to mental health treatment are working well. Policies to provide alternative funding for services also exist. There is, however, a problem in agency policy. No policy has been written to assure that clients are aware of the financial supports. In this case, policies such as those providing for mental health treatment fail because of the absence of other supportive policy.

Alma's group is hoping to address policy failure at a higher and broader level. The group has only recently begun to study the issue, but it appears that this body of policy worked well at one point. Changes in the social climate or political landscape have reduced its effectiveness.

The absence of policy and changes in the social or political situation are two of the many conditions that can cause or contribute to policy failure. Among the many others are poorly conceived policies, policies that fail to consider unintended consequences, policies that fail to consider the potential for disruption at other levels, and policies that are well-conceived but are not ultimately fundable (Ellis, 2003; Janssen, 1999). Furthermore, some older social problems, such as poverty, have never been adequately addressed on a national scale, much less globally. Despite the ongoing problems faced by U.S. citizens, those problems often pale when compared to those of persons in other countries. New social problems also arise, prompted by events both national and international. The tragic events of 9/11 point to a clear need for new and innovative policies not only to prevent future terrorist tragedies, but also to provide support and assistance to their victims should the preventive policies fail. Issues related to migration and immigration, refugeeism, and human rights also cry out for solutions crafted by the hands of social workers. The new responses must be “out-of-the box” in that they must look at problems globally rather than regionally or nationally. In the modern world little happens in a national vacuum. Events in other countries and processes that cross international borders cause and exacerbate conditions within our own country. These increased pressures underscore the need for innovative solutions such as international exchange of ideas, information, and problem-solving experts. Technological developments offer methods of communication, information transfer, and exchange of ideas that might otherwise be prohibitively costly or simply impossible. Social workers are among those at the table in some of the groups planning policy-directed interventions for these international issues. More social workers and more groups are needed as global change accelerates.

It is clear from this introductory discussion that social workers are, by the nature of their profession and position, inherently involved in social policy. In addition, they may engage in policy practice at many levels, from working to add a few lines to a “Policy and Procedures Manual” to altering the laws that guide how nations interact. It is also important to recognize the unique contribution that social workers often make to policy planning. First, social workers are often in a position to be among the first to recognize social problems. Those whose lives are directly affected by the problems are typically the first to recognize their presence. However, because of the direct communication with client groups social workers such as Benjamin have with persons in the community, these direct service workers may often become aware of problems before any other group. A second reason a social work presence is important to the planning process is that it provides the opportunity to influence problem definition. Problem definition refers to the way in which policy makers interpret and explain a problem. Interpretation and explanation, in turn, influence the way a solution is formed. Consider, for example, problems experienced by persons in poverty. If, as many conservatives believe, it is possible for the impoverished to simply “pull themselves up by their boot straps,” policies should be written that provide for the most cursory of interventions. The vast majority of the responsibility for change would lie with poor people and their allegorical boot straps. Social workers recognize that although a portion of the responsibility for change lies in the individual, impoverished persons face a daunting gauntlet of barriers to change. They also know how to craft and implement solutions to many of those barriers. It seems unlikely that solutions to poverty on any scale, individual or global, are likely to occur without social work participation.

Yet another important reason for social workers to engage in policy practice is the clearly defined set of ethics and values they bring to the table. Policy-related discussions often bog down because the values of the participants are not clearly expressed. This is often seen when discussions degenerate to a point that one or both sides has stalled with no more logical arguments, simply saying something like, “We must do it this way.” What has often happened is that all effective arguments have been offered and countered, leaving participants with nothing more than their values as an argument. They may be unable to articulate those values because they have never sufficiently defined them. It may also be that they recognize that to speak their values clearly would actually undermine their argument by revealing less than humanitarian assumptions or motives. By clearly defining their values, social workers can verbalize much of the core motivation for their argument. Social workers also, thereby, earn the right to ask opponents to verbalize theirs. The importance of the presence of a representative of such clear values and ethics in policy-related discussion is clear. Often, its only potential source is a social worker.

It's clear that effective policy practice is important to social workers, their clients, the profession, the nation, and the world. It is also clear that any social worker may be called to engage in policy practice at any time. This chapter is about effective policy practice. Although it was written primarily with practice within the United States in mind, much of it is applicable to international practice. The chapter discusses preparation for policy practice, problem identification and definition, assembling a policy practice team, selecting an approach, conducting an analysis, developing an action plan, and evaluating the outcomes of the activities. It is intended to provide a general understanding of the processes, techniques, and strategies of policy practice, and to provide resources for gaining additional information and skill.

Preparation of the Practitioner

The process of preparing for policy practice might be conceived as a series of stages. The first involves the acquisition of a specific set of knowledge and skills needed to interact, assess, plan interventions, and evaluate within the policy arena. Practitioners who have reached this point in their training are able to perform all the basic functions necessary to engage in policy practice, and know how to acquire advanced knowledge, skills, and resources. Accredited BSSW and MSSW programs are designed to provide the basic knowledge and skills so that any graduates, however inadequate they may feel, have been taught the foundation of what they need to know. The Council on Social Work Education refers to this foundational set of knowledge and skills as “generalist” because it allows the practitioner to work across multiple settings.

Generalist knowledge refers to the theory and technique of successful professional intervention with clients and client systems. These theories and techniques are applied by practitioners as they interact with individuals, families, and groups. They include such activities as assessment, intervention planning, implementation of the selected intervention, and evaluation of the intervention's effectiveness. The theories and techniques utilize and are guided by scientifically supported principles of human behavior, including insight from social work researchers as well and from multiple disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, medicine, political science, and public administration. Interventions are also structured and guided in accordance with social work ethics, values, and emphasis on cultural competence.

Generalist knowledge and skills can be applied across a variety of professional settings. For example, social workers in a clinical setting would use assessment skills, such as active listening, identification of client strengths, and identifying and understanding client relationships. Their assessment might require knowledge of the theories of human development, psychopathology, and human motivation.

Although at first glance social workers' efforts to change the way a law is written through interactions with a state legislature might seem very different from the work of clinicians, their tasks are, on closer examination, quite similar. For instance, a social worker engaging in policy practice might use the same skills. Assessment skills such as active listening would be used as the practitioner interviewed various experts about current policy and its effects. Strengths-based assessment would be used in discussions with the population policy was being designed to benefit. Skills for analyzing interpersonal relationships would be used when assessing the relationships between stakeholders likely to support or oppose an initiative.

Policy practitioners equipped to practice at the generalist level would be able to facilitate policy change such as the one intended by Benjamin earlier with minimal support from others. A presentation of their findings to the executive committee of the agency might be all that would be required. On the other hand, a practitioner trying to produce changes in federal legislation might need to assemble a workgroup composed of persons with specialized knowledge and relationships to deal with the intricacies of practice at that level. For example, the practitioner might want to recruit a group member with knowledge and experience in utilizing a specific form of policy analysis to help lead the process. Still, the principle that generalist skills are a sufficient foundation for policy practice holds, even at the federal level. Generalist skills would be used to identify, recruit, retain, and encourage the required participation by group members.

The second stage of preparation for effective policy practice involves the development of advanced policy knowledge and skills. These are not typically available in BSSW programs (although some might be gained through unique internship experiences). They are, however, included in CSWE-accredited MSSW programs. They may also be obtained by dedicated practitioners who participate in a lifetime learning process through seminars, readings, and interaction with more experienced professionals after they have received their degrees. Further, many of these skills can be developed while the practitioner is working. For example even if Alma from the case study earlier did not have a strong working knowledge of a model of policy analysis, she could obtain books like those by DiNitto and Cummins (2006) or Ellis (2003) and follow the procedures outlined therein. Advanced policy practice includes such components as mastery of at least one model of policy analysis, the ability to develop and implement a strategic plan to change policy, and a thorough knowledge of at least one major policy area.

The third stage of preparation includes knowledge of the people, issues, history, barriers, and political environment that exist within a specific policy arena. Considering Alma once again, despite having the basic knowledge and skills required for successful policy practice and having armed herself with the materials necessary to conduct an effective analysis, she may know little about the specifics of the persons, policies, and situations that have led to the supplemental income cuts. She can develop this knowledge as she proceeds with her analysis, but would do well to bring others into the coalition who already have this knowledge to help educate coalition members about the situations they will be facing.

Some practitioners may choose to advance to the fourth stage of preparation for policy practice. In the fourth stage practitioners become adept at advanced forms of evaluation, analysis, and assessment such as cost-benefit analysis and forecasting (Ellis, 2003). Many of these tasks can be completed by specialists recruited to a team of practitioners. When funds are available external experts can be hired to perform these analyses. For example, if Alma wanted to include a retrospective evaluation of the effectiveness of the income supplement cuts in her analysis she would have several alternatives. First, she might draw on her BSSW training supplemented by books on outcome evaluation. Alternatively, she might ask a professor trained in outcome evaluation to join her team. If no one was willing to do the work on a pro bono basis, she might determine whether funds might be available to hire an expert to do the evaluation.

It is important to note that, although these four stages represent four distinct areas of competence, the lines between them are blurred. Practitioners do not necessarily obtain full proficiency at one level before progressing to the next. For example, a person with BSSW-level training might have lived and worked in a community for many years and might have obtained many of the proficiencies of level three, but might lack the formal training and resources available at level two. This practitioner might hastily seek education in these areas, or might recruit team members who could bring that level of knowledge and skill to the table. The process of building a policy practice team follows.

Assembling a Team

In a situation like that of Benjamin no team may be necessary. He may be able to assemble the necessary data and undertake the required activities without any support from anyone else. Alma, however, is clearly in a position where the support of others would be beneficial, perhaps essential.

Team members should be recruited strategically. They may bring one of three essential components to the table. These components, the same as those required for any successful task group, are influence, competence, and motivation (Ellis, Crane, Gould, & Shatila, 2006).

Influence refers to the ability to directly affect the persons and forces involved in a change. In policy practice this may mean the capacity to access important stakeholders or to influence their opinions. It might also refer to someone who has resources, such as funding or personnel, to support the effort. A policy practice workgroup may be highly skilled and very motivated, but without adequate power and resources it is unlikely to succeed.

Policy practice work groups must also contain members with competence. Competent members are those who have the essential knowledge and skills to perform the tasks required for policy analysis and planning. Persons with competence bring such abilities as team-building skills, research skills, policy analysis skills, and action planning skills, as well as the ability to write and make public presentations effectively. In policy practice that crosses cultural or international borders, team members who understand those cultures and countries will be needed.

Motivation is also critical to a policy practice work group's success. Persons with motivation bring a strong desire for change to the group. Persons with influence and competence may be very motivated, but often motivation comes from those who do not have an official role in the process. Highly motivated people might, for example, be found among the persons who are directly experiencing the policy problem.

Policy practitioners must assess their work groups to determine the degree to which these three components exist and the ways in which they can be mobilized. When components are deficient or absent, new members should be recruited who can bring them to the table. This process of assessment and recruitment should be ongoing to assure that changes in group composition or in the policy environment do not negatively impact the group's effectiveness.

Identification, Definition, and Legitimization of the Problem

Policy practice may be viewed as a series of stages. Each stage includes the gathering of information about some aspect of the policy being considered for change. Although the latter stages may build on information gathered in earlier stages, the progression need not always be an orderly progression from one step to the next. The first and foundational stage, however, involves the identification, definition, and legitimization of the problem. It is important that most of the work on this stage be completed before a great deal of effort is expended on the other stages. Identification, definition, and legitimization assure that the problem is effectively recognized, carefully articulated, and appropriately acknowledged by persons with the power to make changes.

Identification refers to recognizing the presence of a problem. At this point the practitioner may not understand much about the problem, but does recognize that people are affected by it. Benjamin reached the identification stage when he noticed an inordinate number of people who were not returning to receive services. Alma and her coalition have identified the problem of inadequate income and believe it to be the result of the income supplement cutbacks. They may, however, need some additional research to firmly establish that the cutbacks are the source of the problem.

When policy practitioners define a problem, they put it in writing. Although there is some disagreement between experts as to the exact content of the definition, four themes are commonly recognized. These themes are population, problem, perspectives, and policy (Ellis, 2003). A comprehensive problem statement, then, describes what population is affected; what its members lack and what prevents them from obtaining it (the problem); the perspectives of those who experience the problem; and the policy that addresses, causes, or should address the problem.

Legitimization occurs when some authoritative policy-making body officially says that it exists. Although thousands might become homeless and foster care numbers might skyrocket, for the purposes of policy no problem exists until persons in power acknowledge it. So, in the case of Alma, if policy makers in her state have not recognized that the problem of inadequate income is impacting persons in their communities to the degree that it is, her work group must focus on bringing it to the attention of the legislators. Armed with a well-researched, well-articulated problem statement, they can also enhance the probability that the decision makers will perceive and define the problem as they do.

It is also important to understand the degree to which policy at each level of government influences the problem. Some problems are primarily addressed at a single level. For example, Social Security provides the primary body of policy for disability insurance. Other problems, such as child abuse, neglect, and abandonment, are addressed at multiple levels: federal, state, local, and agency. In some areas of policy court decisions have also influenced the interpretation of policy, meaning that case law must also be considered to completely understand an area of policy. Practitioners must be certain they have collected and understand policy at every level to adequately formulate their definition. For example, although Alma's group appears to be dealing with a problem that has been primarily created at the state level, income maintenance policy also exists at the federal level and in some areas may be influenced locally as well. The group would need to know what responsibilities lie at which level and how the policy provisions interact between them.

Practitioners working in countries other than or in addition to the United States may find a political landscape that differs from the one described here. Levels of government that exist in the United States might not exist in many countries, for example. In other situations they might exist, but the distribution of responsibilities and power may vary. Where the structure of the government differs, practitioners should clearly identify the levels of government, assign them names, and list the responsibilities of each level in the specific area of policy being addressed. Strategies discussed in this book and in other resources can be adapted accordingly.