Social workers have become increasingly important in the modern societies especially those governed by democracy. This is because welfare states have realized the important link that social workers form between the leadership and the governed. Through them, political and economic goods in the state are allocated to the community making it possible for individuals to enjoy the results of their technology, political, social and economic gains.
The recent problem has been the presence of many players in the sector. Some students who enroll for licensure of bachelor level social workers have a sufficient amount of internship and field deployment while other colleges have not implemented the same practice in their institutions of higher learning. Hence, there has been a need to differentiate these categories of applicants so that those who have some sufficient experience levels can undergo lesser amount of time that their counterparts.
Key words: (license, bachelor level, limited license and social work)
Stage 1: Getting Involved
Licensure as a bachelor level social worker is personally important when in the job market looking for a job in the contemporary society where getting a job is becoming increasingly becoming more difficult with each passing day. Before getting licensed, all the licensing boards across the various states require that one should have done a field replacement or internship. This is both personally and professionally important in that this carries the power and weight of paid employment and hence counts as the much needed experience in ones resume. Therefore, during job interviews, relating that experience become important and necessary in attaining that dream job.
The job market has changed a lot in the past few decades because unlike in the past, current prospective employers are increasingly being interested on ones skills and experience on the job you are asking for and not just limited to ones capability in the classroom. Therefore, on that personal level, licensure as a bachelor level social worker broadens and increases ones change of getting a job in the current frustrating job market.
Professionally, by attaining that licensure, the accredited bachelor has to graduate on those programs that meet national standards for the course work, instructions and the faculty. This is important in developing and maintaining the quality of services offered by the social workers across the nation. This makes it possible for individuals from different areas or even states to be able to work together in various forums meant at maintaining the quality of the service in the nation. In a nutshell, on a personal level, the licensure means that I can get a good job in the sector relatively fast and easy and have the knowledge and experience to do it well. This is different from someone who has not been licensed as they face a relatively bigger challenge in the competition in attracting their required jobs and even bigger challenges in establishing themselves in those positions due to their limited experience on top of their classroom knowledge (Barker & Branson, 2000).
Most states mandate licensure for Bachelor Social Work (BSW) because the stakeholders have realized its immense value. For professional values, the stakeholders know that a plain bachelor’s level education is weak as an entry to the practice. In fact, majority of the boards do not recognize it as an entry level to the practice (Michigan, 2005). Hence, by requiring that candidates finish internships and or field placement before being accredited, the stakeholders in the sector are ensuring competency in the whole sector. In the end, it is the community that is receiving the service that ultimately benefits from this level of competency in social work in the communities.
In winding up this stage, it has been realized that licensure as a bachelor social worker works for the benefit of both the individual and the social work profession as a whole. One gets that inner satisfaction that he/she is qualified and competent in their work while the profession as a whole reaps the benefit of improving and maintaining the quality of service that it is providing to the society. Due to the importance of the sector in the society, provision of utmost care and quality becomes important and the licensure of bachelor level social workers is important in attaining and maintaining those levels of competency expected by the recipient communities. This is in conformity to my values on doing something to the best of my ability if it is worth doing at all. Social work entails dealing with people who have feelings and ought to be treated with utmost care and respect.
Stage 2: Understanding the Issue
The issue is that in the recent past, degree graduates have been finding it extremely difficult in finding jobs in this economy and a bad market due to lack of experience on their professional careers. The social work sector is very important in every society and the need to set up standardized quality service has long been overdue. This is because the service covers all the members of the community irrespective of race, religion, sex and political affiliations among others (Lau, Krase, & Morse, 2008). This affects the “new” practitioners, those who have recently wound up their social work bachelor degree in that it will assist them by providing them with the all important chance of putting what they have learned in the class into practice while still being guided closely in the early stages.
Here, the bachelor’s license is limited in that it provides them with that opportunity of performing bachelor social works tasks at the supervision and guidance of the master’s social work. The full licensure comes after 4,000 hours of practice covered in at least 2 years during the supervised practice. It has further been broken down to those 4,000 total hours that in a year should not exceed 2,000. The limited license mentioned above is issued for a practice period extending for not more than 1 year and cannot be renewed after the period of 6 years (Neukrug, 2007).
Therefore, one has to complete this licensure activity in 6 years or less. On top of being supervised by a master’s social worker, to ensure quality and effectiveness in attaining of the license, it has been regulated that one should not take more than 40 hours in a week. Whether in group or individual setting, 4 hours in a month should be dedicated to supervisory review with at least 1 hour being specifically set aside for individual review.
The need to standardize and raise the quality of social work has not had a serious policy or solution attempts in the past. However rigorous this exercise is, it is positively geared towards helping both the individual social worker and the society benefitting (Kirst-Ashman, 2009). Surprisingly, both the liberals and the conservatives do agree that it is in the best interest that the policy should be implemented to the latter. Each state therefore has had to form a board to oversee the formulation and the implementation of the specified guidelines.
On top of the solution outlined in bringing standardization and quality into social work, this discussion proposes a standard examination for the candidates across all the cooperating states after the 4,000 hours of field deployment. This would be a good indication that all the licensed social workers are level with each other. Hence, whichever state that the social worker may be called to serve, he/she will be better equipped with knowledge and experience to deliver quality service to the recipient community (Beaulieu, 2002). This is very important considering that job opportunities have become rare and one may often find a job in a different community from which they have lived and grown. One is left to wonder why it took so long to arrive at this wonderful solution that had been evading the sector for so long.
Stage 3: Planning
However good this policy has been, there has been a major problem that has been associated with the length of time that the various licensing institutions have mandated. To the majority of the candidates, the complaint has been that during their undergraduate studies, apart from the theoretical concepts learnt in class, ample time has been dedicated to gathering of experience that is however not indicated in the academic transcripts. This has raised the concern that recent graduates have some significant level of experience at some master’s level supervisors have reported (Roberts, 2009). These categories of trainees do insist that the limitation of time needed to attain the license is unrealistic. A whole two years seems like a lot of time to those social workers who insist they have a certain level of field experience.
The solution seems to lie in a type of time differentiation that stakeholders should make to allow this category of practitioners to tale less time before they can be licensed, say about one year. However, the problem arises when trying to distinguish who has attained this level of experience. The primary approach to this distinction lies in a practical examination. The master’s supervisors from experience should exactly be able to gauge the level of practical experience among the “new” practitioners. Hence, in this standard practical exam, the supervisors should determine those who will be enrolled for a one-year period and those who require two years of field work. This plan can therefore be of benefit to those experienced candidates while still being capable of improving and maintaining the quality of service in the social sector.
Of the 4 types of advocacy, I would use the social justice advocacy. By adoption of this advocacy, the series of actions that the plan would take in to highlight the social change expected from the licensure of bachelor level social workers to what “should be” instead of “what is.” This new social status would be more just and more decent (Kirst-Ashman, 2009). The earlier civilizations were characterized by a form of police states and autocracy but the contemporary society is governed of the basis of the consent of the people. Hence the welfare state would easily be capable of providing social-political goods through the social work. This advocacy is good and adequate because it gives venues of questioning the way in which social policies are administered, is engaging and inclusive, open to public argument, easy to propose solutions to the present policies in the sector and is important in targeting the political systems that are especially unresponsive to the needs of the people.
The goal of this advocacy is to engage the political systems in the welfare of the society considering that democratic governments operate under a social contract with the governed. Hence, political goods should easily be trickled to the society for this relationship and contract to work in the best interest of the governed society. The targets of the advocacy are the government through the relevant ministries and the community. The tactic here entails lobbying for education institutions to make it compulsory for every student in their social work faculties to undergo field practice. Also, through these faculties from different organizations, they can then lobby for reduction of the time needed to attain the unlimited license from the licensing boards. This would hasten the period between getting a licensure of bachelor level social workers and the licensure of master’s level social works which is the target of most candidates.
Stage 4: Advocating
As already pointed out, the authorities are often likely to ignore the bids of an individual in advocating for the proposed strategy. Therefore, to amass the power needed to arm-twist the boards, I would pass my message through the university and college faculties dealing in social work. The faculties are led by professors who apart from just being professors are political and social leaders in the government and the communities. Due to their influence, chances are that the boars will have no alternative but to listen to them. Experience has taught that governments and other authorities have to be pushed so as to listen. However, this being an academic and social agenda, demonstrations or other forms of mass groups may be a bit orthodox and the stakeholders may not agree (Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, 2011).
Hence, I would write and push the universities and college faculties to push the governments in return. In pursuing this avenue, I would convince the professors in the faculties that time has become of essence in pursuit of the license and as stakeholders, being the tutors to the students; they are capable of positively being involve in solving the problem. I would choose this avenue because despite its slowness, it is effective. History has showed that when dealing with the government authorities, since all of them are slow in implementing the advocacies forwarded to them, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the changes are thorough and conclusive.
Therefore, the professors in the departments stand at this vantage position to bring authority and the needed credibility in this policy change. Due to their privileged position especially in matters relating to education, chances are that one will succeed in this agitation. A letter, or a couple of letters followed up by official visits with an accompanying professor would most likely do the trick. This may take a few trips to the offices of the boards with the need to explain some of the things explained in the letter by word of mouth. The main goal would be centered around the need to lessen the burden of qualification exerted on the candidates while never loosing the focus on the quality of service that it meant for the social consumers who ultimately need the services of a qualified professional social worker. My argument would thus be based on those grounds of proving that it is possible to minimize the 2-year period needed before attaining the license without compromising on the quality of service.
In case of delay further complications, I would agitate for the faculty to approach the top management across the various universities especially the Vice Chancellors who serve other important political, economic and social offices across the states. Past experience has proved that with the right argument and conviction, these are the necessary stakeholders who are crucial in setting up changes rolling in the social institutions.
Stage 5: Evaluating
To be realistic especially in the initial stages of the advocacy, I would consider it a success if the board gives the higher learning institutions a place in the determination of those students that have taken previous field experience activities and hence do not need to undergo the full two years. This is a big agenda and therefore every bit of it is a success and it is practically sensible to think that the full implementation may take half or a full decade (Manfield University, 2011). The final piece of success would lie when there would be a clear-cut policy that is clearly documented and published that gives the colleges and universities the mandate to forward the names of the candidates who have gone through their curriculum who need a two-year period and those who need a one-year period before they can be awarded with a licenses of bachelor level social worker.
To determine whether my advocacy tactics based on social justice have been successful, I would take a survey across various communities. Since all this advocacy is geared towards provision of better quality services to the communities that the social worker may be commissioned to attend that often may be different from where they may have been brought up, interviews and questionnaires would be important in taking this surveys. This being an ongoing process, I would expect that the level of satisfaction should be increasing with each successive survey. By giving satisfaction levels among the members of the community, if I were to compare the results in a form of a graph, I would surely expect that the levels would be higher with each survey. The survey would be carried out twice per year so as to closely monitor the progress in the communities so that this change may not negatively affect the beneficiaries.
Consequently, the survey would look at the satisfaction and qualification levels among the aspirant bachelor level social workers. This is because, being the principle agents distributing the government political goods as advocated by the principle of social justice, they are very critical in the level of care availed to the people. The analysis of the progress therefore would be based on these graphs that should show some linear progress. In case the graph shows a linear decline in the satisfaction of either the community members or the college graduates, a thorough look at the advocacy would have to be taken before it turns out to be a disaster in the making. Since no previous policy change similar to this has been taken before, the frequency of the survey would be very important (Dyeson, 2004). In evaluation of all the other methods of determining the progress of the adopted strategies, this presents the best method where no previous records exist especially considering this is a new form of advocacy.
Also, due to the importance of the special position that the licensing boards take among the monitoring agencies, I would compare my monitoring method with those of the boards to see if they are both tallying. One cannot underestimate the legitimacy and the power that the boards have on the communities they serve and regulate. From study of the relevant data, it is clearly realized that the people have a lot of faith in the boards that have so far attained a commendable level of success. Therefore, they are to be brought on board in the monitoring process because they bring the legitimacy needed to every project that is directed towards the communities in each state.
Stage 6: Ongoing Monitoring
Ongoing monitoring is very important for any project because it prevents backsliding of the gains attained as a result of the advocacy. From previous experience, among the people administering change, some roles have come to be counterproductive in administration of change. One of those roles has been the refusal by the authorities to accept other related degrees for entrant applicants for the limited license in each group, be it at the bachelor’s or master’s level. Other related degrees that are closely related to this degree are community development degree and nursing.
Both these qualified individuals closely work with various groups in the society and the fact that the authorities are refusing new applicants from entering the programs for licensure of bachelor level social workers from these two programs should be revised (Beaulieu, 2002). The essence of the limited license for the first one year is that applicants can show competence before being allowed to proceed to the next year. If individuals from these two other degree programs can prove that they are competent to proceed, they should be allowed to enroll on an ongoing monitoring process.
Like all other social projects, this process faces funding shortcomings not because the money is not available but due to the bureaucratic red-tape that characterizes all the programs that enjoy government or local authority funding. The lack of political backing may prove to be costly in relation to time because it would consume a lot of time trying to identify a reliable leader to agitate for our funding. This is not to ignore the fact that with the proper channels funding should come but the fact that those official channels are slow and the presence of a notable policy implementer or political leader would hasten the process of accessing funds.
The continuous monitoring of change should be the responsibility of the boards that are licensing the candidates. This is because they have the adequate funds that can sustainably be used in the monitoring process (Karen, Brewer, & Carlson, 2008). The ability of the board to continually monitor the progress is due to the reliable funding that the boards already enjoy from the authorities and even the federal government. Just like any other policies that have been witnessed before, if the changes failed to be implemented, I would start afresh the process of policy formulation after doing the necessary corrections.
Policies have almost the same cycle of formulation that originates when a problem is realized with a policy ending at the point where the policy is implemented. In case of failure for implementation, a totally different approach of solving this issue would be started or the necessary corrections would be made on the initial solution after negotiations among the stakeholders.