The more supervisors are able and willing to understand how policy affects their practice, the more students are able to do the same. By considering the varying roles discussed below, we empower ourselves and those coming into our professions to accept that understanding and acknowledging the impact of policies is one of the profound responsibilities and capabilities of social workers and public health professionals. It is our hope that you will incorporate the following frames into supervision regularly and with enthusiasm.
One of the trademarks of our professions is that we have multiple skill sets: people skills, communication, systems thinking, research, data analysis. Increasingly at the Brown School, we think it is essential that social workers and public health practitioners also recognize their role in policy-making. Too often we think of that as the exclusive purview of the CEO or Policy Director. But consider:
- The treatment protocol in a behavioral health agency sets rules: What clients do you see? For how long? With what diagnoses or challenges? Each time you consider these things you are a POLICY IMPLEMENTOR.
- New child care regulations are promulgated: How does programming have to change? What will it cost and what trade-offs must be made? In order to answer these questions, you become a POLICY ANALYST.
- Clients are waiting months for pre-natal health care or children are aging out of foster care without a safety net: when you think “there ought to be a law” and raise the issue to decision-makers in the organization you are acting as a POLICY ADVOCATE.
- Collecting outcome data is a requirement in every organization: while it may feel routine (and occasionally meaningless), when these data are aggregated they become the fodder for those specifically attempting to affect systemic change. You are in the POLICY ARENA.
As a field instructor, you assume familiar roles during the course of a practicum experience. We encourage you to discuss policy roles within the agency with your student(s).