As part of their class assignment, Master’s of Social Work students enrolled in the Department of Social Work’s SW 560 class attended the National Association of Social Workers – North Carolina (NASW – NC) Advocacy Day on March 25, 2015. SW 560 (Advanced Policy Practice with Organizations and Communities) examines how social workers collaborate with organizations and communities to intervene in social policy. As part of this class, students are required to learn who their home NC district’s representatives are and reach out to them while visiting the NC General Assembly during Advocacy Day. The goal of this assignment is to acquaint students with the NC General Assembly and their own legislators.
students gathering for Advocacy Day
NASW – NC Advocacy Day began with a small seminar led by NASW members regarding why social workers should be involved in policy and advocacy. NASW members like Kay Castillo, detailed what to expect from representatives and different ways to approach them. She also used her own success in advocacy to demonstrate the various types of jobs available to social workers ad that they should never limit themselves. Speakers discussed how taxpayer dollars pay the salaries of the representatives and how attendees had a right to be there because in a way, political representatives are the people’s employees.
outside and inside the NASW – NC seminar
While visiting, each student attended committee meetings and witnessed law-making in action; adding to the discussion by presenting questions for legislators from the public and expressing the concerns of underrepresented populations or future client populations. By providing students with the opportunity to voice their opinions/views as both citizens and social workers, they were able to advocate for certain bills or they did or did not support. Many attendees, including the Department of Social Work at NC State’s SW 560 students, had already scheduled meetings with their representatives and had researched certain bills prior to Advocacy Day that they supported.
Groups of students were divided based on their representative and meeting time. While waiting for meetings with representatives, one group met with Staff Attorney Wendy Graf Ray to discuss the policy-writing process.
The attending students really took a lot away from this experience. Many had not thought of careers in policy/advocacy prior to attending nor had they considered that they were the political representatives of their client populations. By breaking down the wall between social worker and politician, students saw that representatives were not individuals to be intimidated by, but individuals who have a responsibility to social workers and individuals to do everything within their power to improve the lives of North Carolinians.