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2005 CONTEST WINNERS
BSW Students: Brandon Bailey, Lindsay Lawrence and Amanda Thedford, BSW students at Union University in Jackson Tennessee advocated for a loan repayment incentive plan that will aid the Department of Children Services in hiring professional MSW and BSW graduates and catalyze higher worker retention rates. To raise awareness of this potential social service aid, the students wrote editorials that were published in local newspaper and were interviewed for a later published article in the newspaper. Furthermore, the Tennessee chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) requested copies of their written report in addition to a video presentation they had prepared. In the state of Tennessee over 37,000 children are reported to be abuse and/or neglected yearly. The students believe that this policy could drastically improve the lives of these victims and the people that help them. Through the advocacy process, the students learned that legislators are not the immovable Leviathans they are sometimes stigmatized as. Instead, they learned some important steps for effectively advocating for their proposals and do not feel powerless when advocating for less powerful and vulnerable populations.Faculty member assisting these students was Dr. Theresa Blakely.

At the University of Texas at Austin, Lauren Postler advocated for House Bill 1685, which created a Interagency Coordinating Council for Building Healthy Families to help agencies work together to prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthen families across Texas. In the weeks after the bill was filed by her internship supervisor, Representative Dawnna Dukes, Lauren worked hard to advocate HB 1685 to advocacy groups, legislators and the Texas Governor. She and Representative Dukes articulated that the focus of their bill was to shift the need of dollars out of the defunct system into a much more efficacious and fiscal sensible program. The program would help children at a much younger age, which in fact is more beneficial to them. Furthermore, the Governor and the House Committee on Human Services unanimously agreed that the legislature must promote prevention programs, like HB 1685, which in turn will decrease the likelihood of abuse and neglect. Representative Dukes and Lauren anticipate a full passage of the bill and signature into law. Faculty member assisting these students was Dr. Noel Busch.

At the University of Washington in Tacoma, Deanna Carron, Michelle Trevino, Emily Peck, Kerri Godina, and Kellie Nelson advocated for the passage of House Bill 1441, which would eliminate monthly premiums for impoverished families and expand health care coverage for children. The students believed that all children should have access to health care, and that it was there goal to educate people on this issue while providing legislators with a clear and consistent message. On their campus, the students opened a Take 5 table on campus that provided students with a fact sheet on children’s health care issues in the state, who their representatives are and how to send letters to them. Through this venture, they acquired over 65 letters, which were sent to representatives. In addition, the group created a mass mailing campaign, reaching 4 campuses or about 5,000 people, asking for support for HB 1441 and a link to the necessary representatives. In April, a substitute version of the bill passed that was even more favorable than the original version, extending health care to children to 60,000 children in the state immediately, and by 2010 over 100,000 children. Overall, the students learned that legislative advocacy is not as daunting as it seems, rather legislators are accessible and are willing to listen; after all, we are their bosses. Faculty member assisting these students was Dr. Janet Laasko.

MSW Student: Rebecca Schrier, Tulane University. In 2002, the Louisiana state legislature enacted a bill that would refund tax credit to assist families with the cost of childcare while they worked. Unfortunately, this bill did not function properly and some eligible candidates were prevented from receiving their tax credits. Rebecca advocated that a simple change to the state credit worksheet could solve this problem. Since March, Rebecca has collected 64 letters from area social services groups and sent them to the Louisiana Governor and other state officials. In addition, Rebecca has scheduled presentations of this problem to other area groups. Through this, she hopes to collect over 100 letters of support. Rebecca believes that there is a good chance for a legislative fix of this problem this year. At the time of submission, three pre-filed bills had been proposed. Concurrent with the legislative session, Rebecca is preparing a journal for submission, describing her advocacy efforts with the Louisiana Child Care Tax, for historical record, which will serve as a paradigm for future advocates. Faculty member assisting this student was Dr. Heather Gillis.

Mary Stratton, a first year student at Southern Connecticut State University advocated for the passage of Senate Bill 1139, which would protect the title of “Social Worker” because there is no legal restrictions on calling oneself a social worker in Connecticut. Mary began her advocacy project by surveying the Connecticut Chapter of National Association of Social Workers to determine whether she would have support for this legislative measure. Upon receiving large support, Rebecca, through in depth research, found that Connecticut was one of only five states that did not have title protection for social workers. Next Mary created the bill SB 1139 “An Act Concerning Social Worker Job Classification”. Her bill was sent to the Land and Public Employee Committee, where she and other social workers gave testimony before its passage. Next SB 1139 passed in the house committee and at the time of this submission was to go before the Senate for vote. An estimated 2,000+ social workers will be positively affected by this bill. Mary opined that this bill is important to her because she believes that the social work profession should be given the same recognition that other professional groups receive. Faculty member assisting these students was Dr. Al Siegel.

Dr. Kathy Byers | (812) 855-4427 | kvbyers@indiana.edu