NASW TX Conference: Weaving Resilience and Advocacy

Posted on: Saturday, September 7, 2013

Last Saturday and Sunday I went to the National Association of Social Workers Texas Branch Conference in Austin. I attended a variety of sessions based on my interests and future career goals, and I think I picked some really great ones. Here's a little bit about those sessions!

"The Texas Model for Addressing Disproportionality and Disparities: A Cross Systems 
This session was about institutional racism and disparities across systems, and it was my favorite. It was more like a group conversation, which made effective use of a PowerPoint presentation to show graphs and charts of some startling and touching statistics. I like that they defined and differentiated between "equality" and "equity," stating that by striving for equality, that discounts the individual and their need, while equity rather is that everyone have the opportunity to attain their potential. The session began with a talk about how we (individuals/groups/communities) are all socialized, we have our boxes and our way of seeing things, as do institutions. "We can only act from what we have been socialized to believe." We talked about the oppression that people working inside of systems face, as they must adhere to the boxes that employ them, leading to little change; we stick inside our box much to our demise. Then we briefly touched on the problem with charity, which allows us to quietly donate money while remaining quiet about the real issues at hand. For a large part, we have been socialized to focus on and worry about the individual, but we have to understand how the people we work with are impacted by other systems, not just the one we work in, in whatever capacity. The part that really struck me the most was when we looked at figures of disparity based on race/ethnicity (this also really goes to show how impactful well presented data can be). The fact that there is a significantly higher infant mortality rate among black women, simply due to the stress accumulated from their years of being a black woman in America? The fact that an educated, well paid black woman still has a higher risk than an uneducated, low income white woman? That is crazy to me (White 5.1%, Other 6.9%, Black 11.3%, Hispanic 5.2%). Not only that, but the HIV infection rate for Black youth is much greater than any other race (White .8%, Black 7.1%, Hispanic 1.4%), and the life expectancy for the Black population is about five years less than Hispanics (which have the highest life expectancy of 79 years, White 77.9, Black 74.1). The reasons for these statistics are not what people tend to think they are, and they are unforgivable.

The Texas Model (for changing the system and hopefully these statistics), as the title refers to, is the following:
- Data Driven Strategies
- Leadership Development
- Cultural Competent Workforce
- Community Engagement
- Cross Systems Collaborations
- Training Defined by Anti-Racist Principles
- Understanding of the History of Institutional Racism and the Impact on Poor Communities and Communities of Color

Many of the systems we have set up now, to assist and serve people, were not set up for people of color, and so white people have the best outcomes within these systems, while others are not being served well. We spoke about the need to revise policies and systems that have these unintended consequences. "We all make decisions that sustain disproportionality," whether that is driven by a sense superiority for Whites, or inferiority by Blacks. Anyway, I will wrap this one up here. It gave me a lot to think about. I apologize for not providing citations. Figures are from notes I took during the presentation.

"Women's Issues Committee: Focus on the 83rd Texas Legislature for Women"
This session was a helpful review of what went on regarding women's issues in the TX legislature. The whole country heard about Wendy Davis and her filibuster attempt, so this session was probably a bit more popular than it might have been without the exciting recent events. The format was also guided by a PowerPoint, but there was a lot of discussion. There were questions raised about whether the NASW Committee could and should be more involved and active in advocating for women's rights, in ways outlined in Social Work Speaks, the book which catalogs the NASW's position on issues. You might think it would be only expected, since the NASW has stated their general position, for an NASW Committee to advocate in line with that position, but it is apparently more complicated, as they are a group that also represents a diversity of opinion. I understand that, but the feeling in the room was pretty obvious, and at some point for progress to happen you have to pick a side to stand on and rise up.

"Exploring Career Trajectories of Macro Practitioners"
While I am very confident in my decision to pursue macro/community practice social work, it was still nice to hear some evidence based reassurance and learn more about what career pathways might look like for me in the future. If you're not familiar with social work, it is a broad field, and the majority of people end up taking a more clinical/micro-oriented route (Baylor has 13 students currently in the macro concentration), providing therapy and direct services. With the path I've chosen, however, my jobs likely will not have the title "social worker" in them, and they will probably be jobs that business and public health folks will go after as well (among others). In this session we reviewed a study that the presenters from the University of Houston conducted, where they surveyed macro practice alumni, to find out about their career path, salary, job responsibilities, and things like that. Here are some interesting things they found.

- Macro practitioners had a wide range of job titles, including but not limited to: CEO, Associate Executive Director, Director of Public Policy, Program Manager, Fund Development Manager, Staff Services Administrator, Research Coordinator, Professor, Community Outreach Liaison, Consultant, and Grant Writer.
- Their most frequent job responsibilities were: administration, program planning and development, program and project management, advocacy, program evaluation, coalition building, organizational development, and budgeting.
- The average salary was $63,750.
- 35.1% had no social work license. 42.3% had an LMSW. 96.8% passed the LMSW exam on the first try.
- Fun fact: their salaries are higher on average than the general population of social workers! 21.7% macro practitioners earn $90,000 or more a year, compared to 12% of social workers nationally (just one of the statistics on this).

Sounds good to me! I came into social work not even knowing social workers did these kinds of things, and I'm glad I had my foundation year to figure out that (for now at least) macro practice is for me.


Anyway, those are the three I think were worth writing about. I heard mixed reviews from others about the conference, but I would say it was worth it for me.

- From the desk of Mrs. M


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