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SW 671 Social Welfare Policy and Service Delivery Systems II

SW671 is the second social policy and service delivery course in a sequence of two courses.  During the first course (SW 670) students were taught how to develop and articulate an understanding of the interaction of five key social forces-ideology, politics, history, economics, and social movements- to create and to change the social welfare system. This course, which has a contemporary focus, further enhances the student's ability to analyze, and design social policies based on an understanding of the factors that contribute to the existence of contemporary social problems.

SW 671 familiarizes the students with existing social policies, deepens their understanding of the conditions of socially and economically disadvantaged groups in our society, discusses the role of Social Work’s Code of Ethics in social policy and further sensitizes them to the political factors that contribute to the definition of social problems and the agenda for government intervention. It provides a core of knowledge and theoretical understanding that will encourage and develop the capacity for independent analysis of current social problems and social policy issues and for informed social action. Consistent with our professional social work values, this course helps students build knowledge and skills that social workers need in order to analyze, and make changes in, social welfare policy and program with the overall purpose of enhancing social well-being.  The professional values of justice and equity guide this work which work in tandem with the values of our profession.

The social welfare policies of a society represent and define how that society fundamentally understands social phenomena and collective human behavior.  From these understandings emerge "social constructions of social realities", or definitions of what and how social processes and factors contribute to social problems.  Society's responses to these problems are also socially constructed, which is to say that public and private responses are not necessarily objective or derived from a formula. Rather they are developed through a series of political processes.  This course emphasizes the theme that social welfare policies are a response to socially defined problems. The course stresses the importance of understanding cultural values and various uses of power in determining policy outcomes.  The student will also explore dominant strains of American political and economic thought that underpin various understandings of social phenomena and social policy responses within the United States.  Frameworks for policy analysis utilized in this course are guided by social work values of opportunity, social justice, and equitable distribution of finite resources.

This course is designed to familiarize the student with the major social policies currently in effect and proposals to revise them.  In addition, the course will develop the student’s capacity to analyze current policies and programs and their outcomes for clients and other members of vulnerable populations.  These skills and understandings will enable the student to become knowledgeable critics and formulators of improved social welfare programs at the local, state, and national level.

The major organizing themes of the course are:

  • the divisions among Americans based on income, race, ethnicity and gender;
  • the relationship between social constructions of the problems of the disadvantaged and the "realities" of their conditions; and
  • collective efforts to close the gaps in income, human rights, and general well-being that sustain those divisions.
  • The impact of social welfare policies, both current and past, on clients, agencies, service delivery your social work practice and values.

The social policy course is practice centered in keeping with our school’s overarching commitment to a practice centered curriculum.  This course helps students develop secondary research and writing skills similar to those that they will use in practice as they analyze social problems; strengths and capacities; social welfare policies and programs; and alternative policy and program responses for enhancing social well-being.  Students also develop skills in clearly and concisely communicating their social welfare policy and program analyses with professional colleagues and with the larger community.  This course focuses especially on helping students build practice skills for developing, implementing, and evaluating social welfare policies and programs that serve to value diversity, advocate for populations at risk, ending oppression and discrimination, and promoting social and economic justice.  Finally, students learn the additional policy practice skills of organizing and advocating for positive change. Learning social welfare policy requires that students be willing and ready to engage in an ongoing, safe, respectful and honest dialogue with each other and their instructor around the issues presented.