As someone who is a bit more conservative than my peers, I often think of the reasons why I want to get involved in social work. While the goal of all social workers is to improve the lives of disadvantaged populations, conservatives and liberals have contrasting views on how to achieve that goal. On one hand, liberals believe that the best way to achieve that goal is through the engine of government.
Liberals believe it is the absolute duty of man to collectively help others by getting others to pay more taxes, most specifically the wealthy. On the other hand, conservatives believe that the best way to alleviate poverty is to let the free market prosper with limited government interference. Contrary to popular belief, conservatives do not hate the poor. They believe that the most efficient helping system is one where a person voluntarily offers their money and services to help others. One huge factor of why I want to get involved in social work is my past and that I grew up in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. These humble origins have led me to develop a thirst to advocate for these vulnerable population groups.
My biggest achievement has been working with policy makers in Washington, D.C and getting the Uninterrupted Scholars Act passed in January of 2013. This law permits social workers to easily withdraw the school records of foster children as they transfer from one school to another by passing up the unnecessary bureaucratic hoops that many children had to previously submit to. Such efforts are reflective of my own views on how to equalize the playing field by removing the barriers which were unnecessarily put into place, curtailing peoples’ ability to achieve upward mobility. My goal when helping a youth is that he or she goes on to become an empowered, self-reliant, productive tax paying citizen who has a never-give-up attitude.
It is no secret that within the field of social work there is, by training, overwhelming sentiment fostered by liberal thought. Students are both directly and indirectly trained to embrace this type of thought throughout university and college classrooms. Many of these students go on to become politically active social workers later in their careers. Out of the 182 Social Workers that are currently elected to local, state and federal offices, only 9 of them are Republicans. For the naive and uninformed student, it is much easier to espouse such ideology. Furthermore, the profession itself attracts the type of person who would most likely be associated as a modern day Liberal. Liberals usually possess traits of altruism, collectivism, and empathy. Liberals also seek to equalize the playing field among the social and economic institutions across society. I certainly agree with these admirable tenants. I, however, do not agree with the methods with which these ideals are being promoted. While government can play a vital part in helping the most disadvantaged transform their lives, I do not believe it is the primary vehicle in which social workers can achieve their goals.
As a student endeavoring to obtain a degree in social work, I undertake the journey to ascertain what would be the ideal conservative approach as a future social worker. Notice I said the word “ideal”. My ideology does not always line up with what I would do in a real life situation. While I disagree with many liberal positions, I fully believe that the trend of thought has great intentions and has contributed much to our world. Conversely, I believe this world would benefit from a parallel to conservative ideology. In reality I am more of a pragmatic right-of-center moderate who is willing to work with all trends of thought as long as ideas are as effective as possible. I am constantly reevaluating my belief systems and I have always come to the same conclusion: that we are all better off under minimum government dictate and our outcomes depend on each of our individual efforts.
Before the massive welfare state, communities were more closely knit and neighbors were more likely to help one another. Furthermore, churches assisted the poor within their communities. Such community ties encourage individuals to develop strong work ethic and a sense of belonging to the community. Organizations within society were more apt to decide who the needy truly were. The societal safety nets of days gone by were manifest through people and relationships, not via government programs. These days people can draw public aid and feel no sense of obligation or appreciation to the tax paying citizens that made that service possible. Human connection has predictably been cut off by a system of cold government bureaucracy. Critics may argue that such thinking is naive and unrealistic and I partially agree; such connections in modern day society are hard to ascertain due to the increasing breakdown of the institutions of family and organized religion. Understandably, there is greater difficulty in efforts to take care of our neighbors who are truly in need given that the cohesion creating ‘sense of community’ is diminished. It is my vision that we return to the that type of society in which we lean on one another in the time of need, and not on government programs. My ideal vision of social work would be to build this type of community. Funding would be from donations and volunteerism and not solely from tax paying services.
While it is true that many social service professionals and programs aided me while in the system, I genuinely did not benefit from any of the government programming I participated in. The government employees whose vocation it is to administer these programs seem to be bound by an endless set of regulations and mimic robots rather than possessing humanistic characteristics. What saved me from the usual outcomes of most children who age out of the foster care system (which will be discussed in a later blog) was a genuine relationship from someone outside of any government program setting. That someone was a teacher I saw at school every day. Her advocating and act of giving on my behalf made more of a difference than any of those services combined. I am not suggesting that we abolish government programs; I am suggesting that we encourage others to build relationships to help our most vulnerable. When we do this, we plant the seed in which sprouts a productive citizen.
To be continued…
This blog contains only my views and does not reflect the views of the National Association of Social Workers, the college I currently attend ,my employer, or that of Social Justice Solutions Inc. These views are my own.
Written by RJ Bloke
Harold Rhodes Sloke, Jr., also known as RJ, has had many achievements in various fields. He was born and raised in South Carolina in an abuseful household which eventually landed him in foster care. While moving in between 30 group homes and foster homes, RJ found his way into the Juvenile Justice System all through his teen years. He attended 12 high schools and was in the ninth grade for the third time until his teacher, Karen Parker, advocated on his behalf. Influenced by the military alternative schools he was forced to attend, he joined Junior ROTC and rose through the ranks of the program. At the age of 17, RJ enlisted in the Army Reserves under the split options program, which allowed him to complete basic training the summer after his junior year, while in high school. He aged out of the foster care system at the age of 18, while he was still in high school. After experiencing homelessness, RJ found a full time job while going to school. He graduated from high school at the age of 19, an accomplishment few expected of him.
For more information on the Author, please visit rjsloke.com
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