December 13, 2011
Alissa R. Bleecker
• To obtain a position as a Case Manager position.
• University of Michigan, School of Social Work, Ann Arbor, MI
Masters in Social Work: Interpersonal Practice and Mental Health
Expected graduation: December 2012
• Overall GPA: 7.8/8.0
• Albion College, Albion, MI
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, 2011
Concentration: Secondary Education
• Major & Overall GPA: 3.8/4.0
• Dean’s List every semester
• Who’s Who Among American Scholars 2011
Case Manager Intern
Assertive Community Treatment: Ypsilanti Team, Ann Arbor, MI. January-December 2012
• Engaged clients in person-centered treatment planning and individual therapy sessions.
• Monitored as a case load of 70 clients set-up and took daily medications.
• Conducted daily mental status exams, periodic progress reviews, and updated annual Biopsychosocial Assessments.
• Coordinated client care with Primary Care Physicians and utilized community resources.
• Assessed clients for suicidal and homicidal risk.
• Led and created thematic projects for Art Group.
• Advocated for client’s to maintain independent living and to receive appropriate state and federal benefits and resources.
Jackson High School, Jackson, MI. January 2011-April 2011
• Taught three Junior English classes, Mythology, and Shakespeare for 14 weeks.
• Implemented state teaching standards while fostering student creativity.
• Practiced conflict management and positive reinforcement.
• Planned and implemented daily lessons and made real world connections.
Mental Health Practitioner Intern
Oak Lawn Psychiatric Hospital, Marshall, MI. May-August 2010
• Assisted with group therapy at an inpatient and partial hospitalization program.
• Maintained patient goals though-out the day at each facility.
• Observed intakes, family sessions, individual therapy sessions and after-care planning meetings.
• Observed and contributed to treatment team meetings.
Albion College Residential Life, Albion, MI, August 2008-May 2010
• Planned 16 educational and social programs each year which helped 30 upperclassmen students build a community while learning about health and safety.
• Enforced college policies and ensured student safety by doing rounds in the building and socializing with students on a regular basis.
• Interviewed potential Resident Assistant applicants for the 2009-2010 academic school year and evaluated leadership qualities.
YMCA of McHenry County, McHenry, IL, Summer 2008
• Won “Counselor of the Summer” award based on leadership skills and interactions with the campers.
• Supervised a group of 20 second grade students with one other co-counselor, and supervised 120 other campers during all camp activities.
• Implemented and incorporated the YMCA’s four core values (honesty, respect, caring, and responsibility) into daily activities to enhance camper’s social and civic awareness.
• Improved each camper’s distinct personality through positive feedback and motivated campers to participate in sports, crafts, and swimming to increase self-esteem and confidence.
OTHER WORK EXPERIENCE:
Crew Member, Family Video, Marshall, MI, April 2010-September 2010
Intern, Oak Lawn Psychiatric Hospital, Marshall, MI, June 2010-July 2010
Cashier, Best Buy, Crystal Lake, IL, June 2006 – May 2007
• Won Most Valuable Employee in Fall 2006.
Crew Member, Wendy’s, Crystal Lake, IL, May 2005 – June 2006
Volunteer, Big Brother/Big Sister, 2007 – present
• Mentored a fourteen year old girl and spent 10 hours with her each month to increase her confidence and sense of self.
Member, Psi Chi Psychology Honor Fraternity
Member, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Fraternity
COMPUTER SKILLS: SPSS statistical analysis program, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel
LANGUAGES: Semi-Proficient in Spanish.
PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/~desolada/
December 2011 Reflections
My population of interest is adolescents because this is a time in which there are lots of changes occurring biologically, socially, and psychologically. Also, since this population is under 18, they are considered minors and do not have legal rights that adults have, such as confidentiality from parents or the ability to move out of the home unless the living situation is extremely bad. Since so much is changing in the lives of adolescents each day, it is important to view clients in through the lens of the multidimensional framework.
Recognizing biological changes such as puberty (bodily changes) and cognition (increased brain functioning) are important because puberty can be a great stressor as youth develop at either similar or different rates from peers. It can also cause tension between adolescents and parents as they realize that they too are aging and their bonds with their children begin to change into more adult relationships. Psychologically, it is important to acknowledge Erikson’s stages of development, as youth face identity vs. confusion as they learn more about their interests and try to discover more about who they are and who they would like to become. Socially, the structure of school changes, and so do the expectations of society, parents, and others.
While still developing, adolescents face these many changes and may react to the changes in both positive and negative ways. It is important for social workers to learn to identify the many facets that may be affecting an adolescent when working with them. It is of utmost importance that no dimension of the multidimensional framework is ignored because they all play a role in the development of all people. Neglecting one aspect can skew the framework of the client, and then the client might not receive the help s/he needs.
My professional goals have generally remained the same throughout the semester. However, I have thought more critically about how I can achieve them and really work to make a difference for my clients. During one discussion with peers, a discussion of advocacy arose, and the question of whether or not a therapist was an advocate was raised. I had never considered this, and my peers said that who you take on as a client makes the difference. It is social work if you work with oppressed populations and help those in need. This discussion helped me to realize that I want to work with these populations and really fight for equality.
I am honestly surprised by how much I am learning and how useful I find the information. I had never considered many of the policies and infrastructures that affect how people live and function. I now understand the importance of learning about policy level work and have even seen this live as I witness and am involved in the occupy Wall Street movement. This movement is aiming to achieve policy changes in order to help the oppressed in the United States. I am shocked that of all the times in history that this could happen, it would happen now, when I am learning about the history of social work, what makes social work, policies, and the role of communities. It is an exciting time to learn about macro practice and to be able to help affect change.
One of the most beneficial topics that I learned about was SWOT because I can put that into practice when studying Albion High School. This will help organize our data in a way that my classmates and other social workers can understand. I also found the Checkoway article to be interesting because it deals with the same group skills that I am learning in interpersonal practice. These types of intergroup dialogue would be something that I would be interested in conducting in schools with my degree. Similarly, the differentiation between a problem and condition and breaking down elements of a social problem will also help me in interpersonal practice because it will help me to understand what larger barriers my client may be facing.
The Effects of Familismo on First Generation Latino Adolescents
When families immigrate to the United States, they are often hopeful and excited to start a new life. However, many face problems and pressures at both the personal and societal level. Each person must make conscious decisions of what new activities to engage in and how much s/he should immerse her/himself in the dominant culture. Acculturation, which is the retention of native customs and life style and the adaptation to a new culture, can cause personal and familial stress as the family changes at different rates and has different ideas about how much they should immerse in a new way of life and whether or not they should hold onto or relinquish native customs (Phinney et al. 2002). Acculturation is particularly stressful for first generation adolescents as they struggle to fit in with peers who may be of the dominant culture, but also because adolescences is time in which people explore who they are.
In recent years, the amount of Latinos entering the United States has increased drastically. The negative stigma of illegal immigration is affecting the Latino population as a whole, and race and socioeconomic status has everything to do with it. Little is said about the Canadians or Irish entering the United States illegally. This is likely due to the fact that Canadians are privileged in being Caucasian, and English speaking. The Latino population is one of the most oppressed groups and is often discriminated against in the United States.
Living in the United States as a first generation Latino adolescent can be a particularly difficult experience, as this group of immigrants must face discrimination each day at school for uncontrollable factors such as race and socioeconomic differences. However they also face language barriers and differences in family structure. As this population reaches puberty and face a time of great personal change, they face many societal pressures while wrestling with the question of how much to adapt and conform to society while also holding onto their own customs, culture, and beliefs.
Acculturation can be positive because it leads to feelings of belonging in one’s society, but it can also lead to alienation from family and community and it can lead to increased pressure to fit in with peers. For example, research by Adam et al. (2007) found that highly acculturated Latino teens were more likely to have sexual intercourse at an earlier age, followed by Caucasian Americans, and then less acculturated Latinos.
Family Structure based on Familismo
According to Altamirano (2011), one unique cultural concepts in the Mexican community include the idea of familismo. Familismo is the importance of family cohesion, and is often tied to machismo, which is a patriarchal family structure and a belief in traditional sex roles. Families that are less acculturated tend to place more importance on the familismo. Her research also indicates that a lack of acculturation can be utilized as a protective factor for the family because it minimizes the negative consequences of acculturation. Some of these negative consequences include dating violence (Galvan et al. 2007), suicidal behavior(Goldston et al. 2008), substance abuse (Okamato et al. 2009) and teen pregnancy (Adam et al. 2007).
Familismo is considered to be one of the positive factors in Latino families because parents are more involved in the children’s lives and often require their youth to bring friends and partners home for their approval (Altamirano 2011). This family involvement keeps adolescents accountable and encourages them to rely on their family. Familismo also instills the idea of helping other members of the family and the importance of being an accountable and productive member of the family (FAADA RADAR 2011). Familismo places importance on respect, honesty, and making decisions together for the benefit of all family members.
Research by Aretakis (2011) also suggests that first generation immigrants have more academic success than second and third generation counterparts. While this may seem to be a paradox, the role of familismo and a strong family foundation facilitated academic achievement. Aretakis attributes this to the family’s idea of the American Dream and a better future, which is why many people immigrate to the United States. Families who told their adolescent stories about their own school struggles had even greater academic efficacy. This collaboration between parents and youth enhances the views and tightens the bonds between family members.
The concept of the familismo tends to slow down the process of acculturation in the dominant society because members of the family are more often relying on each other than their peers. However, this concept is usually tied to machismo. Based on the culture, history, and Catholic faith of Latinos, most families follow this form of patriarchy within the family (FAADA RADAR 2011). The idea of the father or eldest male being the head of the household leads to stigmatized sex roles as the male becomes the sole decision-maker and the bread-winner. The role of the wife is to listen to her husband and takes care of the home and children. While machismo has positive aspects, such as the father striving to be the best possible father and husband and providing for his family, it has negative outcomes as well. For example, machismo is related to less help-seeking behavior and a belief that males are superior to females. This idea of male superiority can sometimes lead women to keep silent about abusive relationships or feelings of inferiority and lack of control.
The Problem of Acculturating at Different Rates within a Unit
When asked about desires for the future, less acculturated youth related their wants and needs tied to familismo (Altamirano 2011).
More acculturated teens tended to deviate from the familismo values. In less acculturated families, the familismo is a strong ideal in which the family strives. However, problems arise within families and couples when one person begins to acculturate at a faster rate than the other. And there does seem to be trends in rate of acculturation. Findings by Phinney et al. (2002) suggest that first generation males who were less educated maintain the most traditional sex roles and attitudes for machismo when compared to later generations. Also, women who were more acculturated held more egalitarian sex role beliefs. Galvan et al. (2007) suggests that as families continue to reside in the United States, they face more and more acculturative stressors.
These acculturative stressors include family acculturation conflicts (such as gender roles) and conflicted ethnic identity. Adolescent Latino immigrants begin to observe their non-immigrant peers and notice the different types of family structures and relationships, and they start to question their own families and selves. This questioning can often lead to conflict within the home. This in turn leads to identity questions, such as: Who am I? Am I an American? Do I have a voice in my family? Should I?
Life can get even more complicated when the female begins to acculturate at a faster rate than her male counterpart. Much dating violence between adolescent Latino couples occurs when the female begins to acculturate and achieve independence, because the male feels that this is an attack of machismo (Altamirano 2011). Also, disapproval of dating violence and reporting dating violence was more common among highly acculturated Latinos compared to those who were less acculturated. Also, females who acculturate faster than others report feelings of hopelessness and suicide ideation because of the stress of adapting to an individualistic society when coming from a familismo upbringing and the stress of different rates of acculturation within the family (Goldston et al. 2008).
This phenomenon occurs when females begin to observe non-immigrants and realize that the female can attend college, begin a career, and attain success just like a male. These new ideas seem like an attack to the male, because in machismo, the male is central and necessary. So, if a woman no longer needs a man, then he often feels worthless and unappreciated, leading to stress within the family. This can also cause unrest within the familismo because there may be two dominant people in the family, and the others may not be accepting of this change.
There are also many adjustment discrepancies between parents and adolescents when someone in the family begins to acculturate more quickly than others. According to Goldson et al. (2008), Latino youth often face structural and cultural barriers when trying become a part of dominant society. Non-immigrant peers may not socialize with Latino youth based on language differences, racism, or parental views of associating with oppressed populations due to stereotypes based on illegal immigration. Structural barriers may include inability to obtain legal, medical, or financial assistance if a family is undocumented, and difficulty keeping up in schools that do not offer bilingual education. It is also difficult for Latino families to obtain family therapy to work through problems because many therapists do not take familismo into account and counsel clients in ways that include this important way of life. Also, the father may have feelings of loss of machismo and pride at needing outside assistance and resent the counseling.
Why is this Important for Social Work?
Understanding the acculturation of first generation Latino adolescents is absolutely necessary in today’s society. As the amount of Latino families entering the United States increases each year, it is important for social workers to understand how Latino immigration is unique because of the unique cultural beliefs of this population. Many Latino families may resist seeking help and be resistant to therapy once there because of loss of pride. Latino families pride themselves on familismo and taking care of the families problems within the family. Outsiders are not welcome in the familismo, so seeing a social worker would already be viewed a personal failure to members of the family. Social workers need to take this into consideration and assist the family in working through and solving their own problems instead of giving advice and attempting to place themselves in the shoes of family members.
It is also important for a social worker to observe the family’s view of machismo. Since many families place the father or eldest male as the dominant person in the family, it is important for social workers to recognize this and respect it. It is not the social worker’s role to acculturate the family and change their dynamics and beliefs. Social workers should certainly help the family communicate with one another and promote equality, but it is imperative that the social worker respects the family’s values of machismo in order to maintain respect and trust with the clients. Machismo has positive implications, such as pride and looking out for the family by the dominant male, so these strengths can be enhanced through therapy instead of trying to break down the family’s structure and views.
Finally it is important for social workers to be able to observe how acculturated each family member is when working with them. Members of the family will be facing different stressors based on their level of acculturation, so the best way to assist is to learn who is moving at quicker paces than others. This information, along with information about acculturation, can be shared with the family in order to open communication between members. This will help parents and children learn what each other is experiencing and can strengthen their familismo bond while also allowing each member to be a part of the dominant society, if that is their desire. Family is important, and if a social worker can help a family to realize that they can acculturate but also maintain familismo, then the family will be able to benefit from each other’s care and companionship but also feel like they fit into dominant culture as well.
The Biopsychosocial Dimension
As in most aspects of social work, the issue of familismo on first generation Latino Immigrants can be viewed from the Biopsychosocial dimension. The biological approach is relevant as Latino adolescents deal with many health care issues. According to Cepeda (2010), Latino males are three times more likely than white males to contract HIV, and Latino females are five times more likely than white females. Cepeda suggests Latinos are in great health when they first immigrate to the United States, but their health declines after acculturation. This is often due to substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and obesity. These issues in the Latino community are based on the familismo and machismo views of taking care of everything within the family and relying on the father-figure instead of an outside source. Research shows that there is often less help-seeking (medically) in less acculturated adolescents. An adolescent’s knowledge that s/he may not be able to receive adequate health care due to the previously mentioned factors, along with immigration status and a possible lack of documentation and language barriers, can be a great stressor for the adolescent and the family.
Similarly, less acculturated Latino adolescents are also less likely to seek help for Psychological issues. Once again, the reason for this is often due to the familismo and machismo. However, many adolescents face great psychological stressors. Much stress is caused by the question of identity, the family structure, and how much to acculturate. Based on the stress that Latino youth face, this is the second highest group to engage in suicidal behavior (Goldston 2008). Clearly, social workers need to find new ways of helping the Latino population and to do so in a way that incorporates familismo.
The social dimension is more difficult to address at an individual level. Current immigration policies in the United States make obtaining Medical and Psychological care difficult, but they also affect other social aspects as well. For example, many schools do not have strong programs for Spanish speaking students and require that they quickly learn English in order to engage in school work rather than integrating Spanish into the curriculum. Taking large amounts of time to learn English takes away from learning other subjects and often leaves students behind in lower level classes. If students are highly acculturated but are in lower level classes, they will likely engage in other activities that encourage substance abuse and sexual intercourse at a young age. As mentioned previously, this is not the case for less acculturated adolescents. This may negatively or positively affect females who are less acculturated. They may place less importance on school because their aspirations are not as high because of machismo views, or they might do very well in school because of the support from home based on familismo. Nevertheless, policies such as forcing social workers to report undocumented immigrants negatively affect many Latino families.
Living in the United States as a first generation Latino immigrant is difficult for a variety of reasons. Youth, who are already searching for their identity, must now add the role of immigrant and minority to their perception of self. Latino youth face discrimination based on race, language, and customs such as familismo and machismo. They have more difficulty obtaining biological, psychological, and social assistance because of their customs and the oppressing policies that the United States enforces. Acculturating has both positive and negative effects on the individual and the family, and it is quite difficult to mediate between family members because of different views on acculturation and how that affects familismo. Social workers need to become more knowledgeable about Latino culture in order to support the family and help them mediate their own way without forcing acculturation or dismissing their customs. There is so much social turmoil being raised in the media and by oppressed populations in recent weeks, that now is the time for change.
Adam, M. B., McGuire, J. K., Walsh, M., Basta, J., & LeCroy, C. (2007). Acculturation as a predictor of the onset of sexual intercourse among Hispanic and white teens. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41,5.
Altamirano, B. (2011). Effects of acculturation and gender of Mexican American teen’s perception of
dating violence prevention programs. Arizona State University Libraries.
Aretakis, M. T. (2011). Immigration, acculturation, and academic attitudes and performance among Latino adolescents.
Cepeda, E. J. (2010). Latino acculturation: A paradox that points to the health system’s failings. The Oregonian.
FADAA Radar (2011). Just the facts. Regional Alcohol and Drug Awareness Resource. www.fadaa.org. Accessed October 17, 2011.
Galvan, D. B., Malcarne, V. L., Castaneda, D. M., Hokoda, A., & Ulloa, E. C. (2007). An exploratory study examining teen dating violence, acculturation and acculturation stress in Mexican-American
Adolescents. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma, 14,3.
Goldston, D.B., Molock, S.D., Whitbeck, L.B., Murakami, J.L., Zayas, L.H. & Hall, G.C. N.
(2008). Cultural Considerations in Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Psychosocial Treatment.
American Psychologist 63: 14-3.
Okamoto, J., Ritt-Olson, A., Soto, D., Baezconde-Garbanati, L., & Unger, J. B. (2009) Perceived discrimination and substance use among Latino adolescents. AM J Health Behavior, 33, 6.
Phinney, J. S., Flores, J. (2002). Unpackaging acculturation: Aspects of acculturation as predictors of traditional sex roles attitudes . Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 33, 3.
Solution Focused Therapy
A: What would you like to talk about?
C: I have a problem with my friend. We’re not as close as we used to be. We both kind of went off and did our own thing the last couple years, which was great, and we maintained a friendship that was manageable long distance. And we had phone calls every now and then and get togethers when we were in town, but now that I’m home again, we’re just finding that we don’t have a lot in common anymore. Which sort of makes it difficult to hang out or do much other than just get a coffee once every other week.
A: What have you been doing other than getting a coffee?
C: We’ve just been getting coffees, or going for a walk.
A: How was it when you went for a walk?
C: It was fine. It was fun, but we didn’t really do anything. It was just like small talk and catching up, conversation. It wasn’t going to do something fun, per se. I didn’t really get much enjoyment out of it.
A: What are some of the things that you used to do together before?
C: We would do really silly things, like go for drives to random places or we would plan trips together. We went to Chicago once, and she came to Europe once, to visit me when I was done with school. And we would carve pumpkins together, and like I don’t know, just do random activities that were fun. We baked things together, we made cakes a lot.
A:It sounds like you really had a lot of fun together!
C: We did. It was great.
A: Have you brought up any of these ideas to her recently when making plans to get together? Like instead of going to get coffee or go for a walk?
C: Yes and no. She’s very busy now, or she represents herself as being very busy. Which, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with entirely. I mean, she’s busy, but I don’t think she’s that busy. But, it just often comes down to, we don’t have the time to watch a movie, or we don’t have time to watch a whole movie. Or we don’t have the time to bake a whole cake. Or, for example, if we are carving pumpkins, she’ll have already done it with her boyfriend, or something. And a lot of the things we used to do, she does with her boyfriend, or she doesn’t have the time to do.
A: It sounds like, when she says she’s busy, you’re wondering, is she too busy for me, rather than maybe busy in general?
C: Yeah, I think that’s a fair statement.
A: So you said you had kind of and kind of not brought up this idea before, about doing something different. Can you tell me about a time when you brought up a new idea.
C: I’ll just suggest something, and she’ll just say, oh yeah, that would be fun, but then she’ll follow up, ‘but, I have a paper’ or ‘but I told my mom I’d do this with her’, and it just seems that time and time again there’s always a but, and so I just stop asking after awhile.
A: What could you say to her to express how you feel, like how you’re telling me right now?
C: I have a feeling that if I said anything blatant about it, we would both sort of realize that it’s sort of true that we don’t have much in common, or that we both have additional priorities that sometimes take away from our friendship. So I have a feeling that even if I brought it up, we would both realize some things that I just don’t want to realize.
A: It’s interesting to me that at first you had mentioned that it was that you don’t have anything in common anymore, and you just said that you think she has additional priorities now. Is it more about your changing interests, or is it about the amount of time that she has to spend with you?
C: I think she has less time, and because of that, we don’t do things. So then I think that we don’t have as much in common. So I guess, deep down, we probably both like the same things, but we also like different things. We’ve both grown to like different things when we were apart. And those things aren’t necessarily the same, which may intersect with time obligations, as well. So I think it’s a compilation of things, but ultimately at the end of the day, I feel that we don’t have that much in common because it seems like we can never actually get together to do something, other than just catch up.
A: What are some things that you still do have in common?
C: We love to kayak. This summer I suggested kayaking on multiple occasions, and she was always too busy. She had legitimate excuses, I thought, like going up north for the weekend, or it was someone’s birthday, a family member. It’s not like she just said no, but we ended up not going out at all this year. Which was really sort of upsetting because summer is quite long and there’s so many weekends, and really you can go in Spring, Summer, or Fall. So I just felt like it was kind of pathetic that we could never really find a time. Especially since I’m pretty available. I don’t have that much going on, and I just felt like it was kind of weird that it wasn’t more of a priority for her to then come back and suggest a time that she was free.
A: What are some other things that you have in common?
C: Well, I mean we like a lot of the same music groups, so sometimes we would get together and share music a lot or we might send each other emails, saying have you heard of this band. And occasionally, we’ll send each other songs still, but it’s nothing like it was, and I feel like a big part of my music collection came from her. But then, and this sort of comes in to where we changed, she just sort of got bitter when I was away, and I’d be listening to the radio, to pop hits, and she would turn to me and say, “How can you listen to that shit?” And like something really blunt, and almost borderline offensive. And she said, I took this feminist class where we analyzed the lyrics and they’re so degrading to women. And I can understand that, because they are not nice lyrics often, but I don’t sit there and like think about the cultural ramifications of the youth of America. I just want to dance, and it’s just little things like that that just drove this little splinter into my hand, figuratively, and just little things began to set us off, and the things that we had in common, I started to resent, so it’s just this transition.
A: It sounds like you’ve been friends for a long time and have grown and changed a lot during those years, and she has too. Has there been other times in your relationship when you’ve noticed yourself growing apart from her and how did you work through that?
C: It really started when I moved away to undergrad. She stayed at home and still lives with her parents. She’s never left, so I just felt like she wasn’t stuck in the same high school mentality. She definitely changed in a way, but she had a couple of boyfriends in that time. And she went from being really giggly and carefree to not. She had one boyfriend who she thought thought she was really stupid, so then she got really strict and straight laced and never laughed and never smiled, and now she whips her new boyfriend around like she’s the boss of him. I think after that relationship, she changed, and also, since I was away, it could have been gradual, it could have happened over 2 or 3 years, but since I was gone, I just saw the before and after, and it was kind of a shock.
A: It seems like your interests have really changed in the last few years. Also how she’s reacting to you. What changes have there been in the past few years that you view as positive?
C: She’s certainly changed for the positive, but it’s hard to compare two things, because I’ve changed too, so I don’t know if it’s her change that makes me uncomfortable or my change that makes me feel uncomfortable. So that’s one thing, but I don’t know.
A: People do grow and change, and it is hard, when you’re friends and you come back and see them as a different person. If you think about what your relationship was before and you both have grown now, and your relationship is different now, what would you like your relationship to look like?
C: That’s a really good question because I was sort of evaluating that myself, awhile back, and thinking what are my expectations, and I’ve actually grown more content with our current level that I had been, in the last couple months. It was sort of discomforting knowing we were so different, but then I sort of grew, and I’m not one hundred percent with it, but I’m okay with where it’s at now, and at this exact moment, I don’t want to go back and have it be what it was in high school. Because we are different, and there’s no point in going back and recreating something that’s not real for the sake of doing it, but at the same time, not that she’s a stranger, but just that I’m not an active part of her life, and she’s not an active part of my life, and even though we live like a four minute drive away, I feel like I’m closer with my friend who lives out in Boston, and I feel like I never communicate with Jen as much, which is both of our faults, for that aspect of it, but I guess it’s turning into what it is, and I guess I’m more okay with it, and in a way, I’ve found new friends that fill certain voids in my life because I’m still going out and doing fun things, they’re just with different people, and in new contexts, and it’s just a new direction in a way. And while it is unsettling at the same time, I do see some good that can come of it because it just develops into a new type of friendship.
A: So you can see how you both have changed, and you don’t have the same the same things in common. You know, it’s curious to me, because when we first started out, you talked about how it’s really bothering you how you don’t have things in common anymore and how you feel like you’re not a priority to her anymore, and now when I ask you what you’re looking for in a relationship with her and how you’d like it to be, it’s almost like you’re saying ‘as it is’. Tell me more about that.
C: I guess change is always unsettling in some form and takes getting used to, but I mean, it bothers me because it feels like a loss, and I’m starting to understand that it’s not really a loss, it’s a change. So, it’s unsettling, but I’m getting used to it, and I guess I don’t know if I’m okay with it. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m okay with it, to make it less awkward, because I think that if I tell myself that this is what it is, there’s not much that you can do, so as long as you’re happy you can embrace it, kind of thing. I think it wouldn’t help anyone if I was just like ‘I need you’, ‘I want you’, ‘be my friend’. Because it’s just not what it is, and you know, it’s not like I don’t see her at all, we’re just different. It’s just hurtful in a way because we’re not as close. I don’t tend to share things with her that are close and personal. So, I feel like, the role she used to play in my life, like a support role, she doesn’t really play that role anymore. And that was kind of a hard change too. And since I’m not telling her, I’m at fault too, certainly. Because it’s not like she wouldn’t want to listen to it. She’d be more than willing to chat and stuff, but I have reservations because of the situation, so it’s not really like it’s her fault at all.
A: It’s really interesting to me because you’re main concern initially was your relationship with her, but to me it almost sounds like it’s more of an internal struggle. Maybe not really improving your relationship with her, but accepting your relationship with her inside yourself, and recognizing that you have all these other people in your life who are maybe stepping up and fulfilling these roles that she used to play, like your friend in Boston, who you mentioned feeling very close to. Would you say that that’s a fair statement?
C: Definitely, and it’s just that internal struggle and finding like what’s comfortable and dealing with the uncomfortable aspects. And I think it’s just a control thing. I think a lot of things come down to control and how what once was isn’t, and there’s nothing I can really do about it, and I’m starting to figure out that it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The move I used is matching. It was effective because I was hoping for him to clarify his thoughts about her being too busy for him. Evidence: “Yeah, I think that’s a fair statement”.
The move I used was a closed question. It was an ineffective move. My desired outcome was to find an exception, but it didn’t work because I used a closed question. Evidence: “I’ll just suggest something, and she’ll just say, oh yeah, that would be fun, but then she’ll follow up, ‘but, I have a paper’”.
The move I used was role play. It was an Ineffective move. My desired outcome was to encourage him to think about what he would say to her, as a form of planning, but he did not think talking to her about their relationship would be effective in solving the problem. Evidence: “So I have a feeling that even if I brought it up, we would both realize some things that I just don’t want to realize.”
This move was my attempt at thinking laterally, but it was an Ineffective move. I hoped to find an exception, but it led to problem saturation instead. Evidence: “She definitely changed in a way, but she had a couple of boyfriends in that time... I think after that relationship, she changed, and also, since I was away, it could have been gradual, it could have happened over 2 or 3 years, but since I was gone, I just saw the before and after, and it was kind of a shock.”
This move is transforming. It was effective because he was focusing a lot on the problem and the negatives, and my desired outcome was for him to think about the positive changes in the relationship, which for him was a new way of viewing it. Evidence: “so I don’t know if it’s her change that makes me uncomfortable or my change that makes me feel uncomfortable”.
This is the miracle question. My desired outcome was for him to think about what a realistic relationship would look like now that they have both grown and changed. It was effective. Evidence: “That’s a really good question because I was sort of evaluating that myself, awhile back, and thinking what are my expectations, and I’ve actually grown more content with our current level that I had been, in the last couple months.”
2nd Transcript: Narrative Therapy between Helper (Alissa) and Help Seeker (Susan)
A: What is something that you’ve been struggling with lately?
S: I have this friend who I went to college with and who was my roommate that recently decided to move to Colorado and followed a boy who’s not very good to her there and to take a job that pays very little money. She has lots and lots of loans. She’s in pretty serious debt and she didn’t really think through any of her decisions. And when she was leaving was very cold and now that she’s there things are going terribly and she’s talked to me about wanting to come back and has asked if she could live with me, which I’m very hesitant to do because of how she acted before.
A: Wow! It sounds like you have a lot on your plate. That’s really tough. How has all of that which has been going on with her been affecting you?
S: It just stresses me out a lot because I worry about her and her money situation is very scary. And in the past I’ve helped her a few times with it, just trying to help her get out of a hole, but I kind of feel like she’s abused that in some ways and now she’s kind of taking advantage of the fact that she knows I have a hard time saying no to her and that’s why she feels comfortable even though she was pretty mean when she was leaving, asking me to help her out again and possibly let her live with me. So that’s a huge stress because I feel like our relationship isn’t the same, and I wouldn’t be comfortable letting her come live with me.
A: It sounds like things have probably changed because she’s been gone so long and making these decisions. You mentioned that it’s been stressing you out and causing you to worry. What does that look like? How do you act when you’re worried or stressed out?
S: It’s very hard for me to sleep. That’s probably the biggest one. I lose a lot of sleep over things that stress me out because it’s very hard for me to kind of turn my mind off at night. When I’m stressed I just constantly play over things that are happening and try to think of solutions to the problem. And I definitely lose sleep over it.
A: Sleep is important, I can see how that would not be a good thing to be losing out on sleep. So, how long has this been going on?
S: She moved at the end of August, but kind of all summer long she was kind of distancing herself when she was preparing to make this move, even though she didn’t get this job till the end of August, and the day she got it, she left. And even though she didn’t know anything about it, like she didn’t know how much she’d be making, and she didn’t plan ahead, she already kind of made up her mind to go live with this guy who is not very nice to her and has treated her poorly in the past. So that was, you know, in the summer, and then she started distancing herself and just kind of pushing people who were important to her away. And so it’s been going on awhile and now that she is really far away, I don’t really feel as bad about our friendship anymore. It’s just easier to forget about it and let it go.
A: It sounds like this has been going on for quite awhile if it was happening even before she left during the summer. During that whole time when she was being distant and after she moved, have there been times when your relationship has been good and you’ve felt positive about your friendship?
S: Not really. I feel like the times she’s called me are when she was feeling lonely and felt like she didn’t really have anybody, you know living in a new place, so she doesn’t really have any friends. So when she calls and is friendly and acts like nothing’s wrong, that just kind of tells me that things aren’t really going well for her and she needs somebody that she knows she can count on but because of how she treated me before she left, I really don’t feel good about her. I don’t feel we have a normal conversation anymore. I try to make it normal, but I feel differently about the entire situation.
A: That makes sense. How would you like your relationship with her to be different? If you could have a miracle happen, and you wake up tomorrow and your relationship is exactly as you would like it, what would that look like?
S: I don’t know. It’s hard to kind of picture that because of how she acted. I’d like for her to be able to call and have a talk and share things that are going on in our lives and such, but not have me feel weird about it and think I’m being used again. But because of everything that’s happened, I don’t think I could actually feel that way. I’d like to stay friends and be able to call her when something’s wrong and have her be able to call me when something’s wrong, but because I’ve felt kind of used before, I don’t see how that could happen.
A: Right. I’d like to kind of challenge you to describe a time since she’s moved away that you’ve talked and haven’t felt used.
S: I can’t really think of a time. She sometimes calls or texts me when something funny has happened or something reminds her of me and things like that, so I guess that’s ok and those are nice things. But generally she calls because she’s upset about something and something has gone terribly wrong again and she needs help.
A: Tell me about one of those times when she’s called you and said something that’s positive.
S: She just called me and said she made it through the first stage of the teach for American process, and so she just jumped through one hoop and has other things to do, but she did call with good news.
A: How do those conversations with her differ from the ones in which she’s kind of using you?
S: Yeah, they’re different. I think that when she calls with something good like that, which doesn’t happen very often, but when she does, she kind of tells me her good news and then she’s more, it’s more likely that she’ll ask me about me. And how things are going with me if things are going good with her, and she’s in a good mood. But when it’s the opposite, then she mostly just kind of talks about her and her problems.
A: Right now if we were looking at a scale from one to ten and one was that you’re relationship was absolutely horrible and ten would be that you have the perfect relationship with her, where would you fall right now?
S: Probably a three.
A: If we wanted to make that three in to a four, not making huge strides and going to a ten, but if we wanted to turn this into a four, what do you think would have to happen for it to become a four?
S: I’d really like to hear her admit that she’s messed up and made some mistakes and didn’t treat her friends as well as she should have when she was leaving.
A: Have you talked to her about that at all since she’s been gone?
S: She has talked a couple times about how she thinks it might have been a mistake to move out there, which is sort of nice to hear, but she hasn’t said anything about how she’s acted. And she still continues to act defiant if any one of my friends tries to talk to her about her actions and the things she did and said to people. So, I feel like she’s sort of made those steps, but the thing that hurts the most is the way she treated everybody.
A: It sounds to me like it’s really her actions that are causing you to feel a lot of stress and worry and lose sleep over it. And when I asked what you would like to be different, you said that you wanted her to admit that this was a mistake and was wrong, but that’s really looking at something that you want her to do. What is something you can do to kind of feel better about the situation and to improve the situation?
S: I mean, I could bring up how I feel and let her know what’s going on in my mind and how this causes me stress. I guess what worries me about that is that she’s going to completely block me out because she’s very stubborn and her way is usually the right way, and if she doesn’t see that she’s treated people poorly, then she’s not going to listen to anything that I have to say.
Effective Move: “It’s very hard for me to sleep”. She externalizes who emotion by stating how it effects her behavior.
Ineffective Move: “And even though she didn’t know anything about it, like she didn’t know how much she’d be making, and she didn’t plan ahead, she already kind of made up her mind to go live with this guy who is not very nice to her and has treated her poorly in the past.” This question causes her to problem saturate and go deeper into the problem instead of continuing in a goal-directed manner.
Ineffective Move: “Not really. I feel like the times she’s called me are when she was feeling lonely and felt like she didn’t really have anybody, you know living in a new place, so she doesn’t really have any friends”. I was trying to find an exception, but since I used a closed question, she said no instead of finding an exception.
Effective Move” “they’re different…she kind of tells me her good news…it’s more likely that she’ll ask me about me”. She finds an exception and start to notice the positive aspects of the relationship.
Ineffective Move: “And she still continues to act defiant if any one of my friends tries to talk to her about her actions and the things she did and said to people.” I used a closed question and got a closed answer. She shuts down and doesn’t move towards a goal.
Effective Move: “I could bring up how I feel and let her know what’s going on in my mind and how this causes me stress.” She recognizes that she can’t change her friend, but she can do something to improve her relationship.
Goal Directed Therapy
Goal-Directed Therapy between Helper (Alissa Bleecker) and Help-Seeker (Lorraine)
A: Hi Lorraine, what would you like to talk to me about today.
L: Well before I go to sleep at night, I always think about my son, Jeff, and that goes on and on and on.
A: Well what have you been worried about with him lately?
L: About his future and the decisions he makes, you know, the ups and downs of his telephone call. Sometime he talks to me and he’s all concerned and the next night he doesn’t bring up the problem again. So I don’t know if he’s dealing with it. I don’t know how he…and then I can’t get a feeling for it. And I don’t get together with him because he’s always so busy. So it’s one thing to talk to a person in person and actually see the facial and physical reactions when we’re talking or I’m listening. And I’m not getting that. It’s worse than…it’s similar to texting or email. You know, to hear the words and the expressions over the phone, but yeah I’m really worried about his future.
A: You’ve just mention two different concerns to me. The first, from what I understand, being your worries about the things he’s struggling with in his life right now, and the second being your inability to communicate with him properly about these things based on the cell phone or technology in general. Which is the most concerning to you?1
L: Well I think it’s all related. When he talks to me over the phone it’s about his decisions that he’s making, or lack of them. And I don’t know if he understands everything about his future.
A: How would you like it to be different?
L: I would like him, as I said to him awhile back, to move on and make a go of his business. And Jodi, his sister said the same thing. He seems to be kind of a night person. He does most things at night, instead of in the morning when his employees are there, and he’s got to correct that. It’s not healthy. He’s gotten his life turned around. And as a result of that, he’s in the dark. Then people take advantage of him because of his hours. And I feel that he…and I ask, and he really doesn’t want to hear that.
A: It sounds like if…
L: If he were there then people wouldn’t be out smoking all the time, do you know what I mean?
A: It sounds to me that you’re very concerned about him and you said that the thing that concerns you the most is his lifestyle. How do you think…I mean you told me how you want that to be different, but those are his life decisions, and seeing that you can’t control what he does, what can you do so that you yourself don’t have to stress out so much about what he’s doing?
L: Well, first of all, I feel that there’s no one else that he can confide it other than me because he has had these physical problems and my husband and I were always there for him. And we went through a great deal of ups and downs.
A: Ok, but right now you’re talking a lot about what’s already happened. What are some ways that you can now deal with the stress in dealing with him?
L: I just tell myself, it’s in his hands. He is making these decisions, and this is all I can do is listen to him and give him some advice, and I try to find answers. Saying, you know to deal with life differently. Perhaps to deal with your employees differently, you won’t have these problems, and you’ll be more efficient.
A: I understand that Jeff is having a difficult time right now, but the things that he’s dealing with in everyday life are not the things that you’re dealing with. What you’re dealing with is him talking to you about these things, and the way he’s doing it is also stressing you out. What are some ways you can make your life less stressful? Maybe in the way you both communicate? Or is your primary stress his actions in general?
L: What I’m telling you is that the way he talks to me is, it’s a need he has. He has this need to talk things over and be in touch. Although I don’t know that much about his relationships. I’m concerned for his future, you know, he’s 52 and I want a good life for him, and he came real close to it, but then things happen when you get hit by a car, hit and run driver. And then he had a rod placed in his leg and he’s still in a wheel chair. So I was hoping he’d be getting around a lot better, but he still needs help going up and down just one or two steps. I think that he really has more problems than he’s had in the past. So I just don’t know about his future, really. And I’m his mother.
A: What about you? What can you do to make your life less stressful?
L: Get a good night sleep.
A: Didn’t you say earlier that he was calling you at night?
L: yep. And that way too, I just enjoy the moment. I try to find beauty in my life. There’s a lot of beauty in my life that I see, and I enjoy those moments. And I am just very aware that I make decisions all the time. And I’m healthy and am aware of an organ in my body that helps me to realize that I’m making decisions all the time. If I feel unhealthy, I try to change the way I’m thinking. I say, you know what? This is really making me uncomfortable, these thoughts, and I don’t like that. So then I try to have other thoughts, and through my illness, I learned to be kind to myself.
A: It sounds like you stay really positive by finding the beauty in life. How can you find beauty in life when you’re feeling stressed out or down?
L: Just to enjoy humor, to enjoy life as it comes, being with my family is very important to me. Knowing that what we have is precious. I don’t take it for granted at all.
A: Based on your enjoyment of humor and family, what are some specific things that you can do to help you feel beauty in life when you’re feeling stressed out about Jeff.
L: I’m an artist, I can enjoy just color. I get up in the morning and enjoy colors. And I enjoy nature. In fact, my husband would say, I would be real worried about something, and I would say, I’m going to go do some gardening, and I would be kind of sad and then I would return to the house, and I was just a different person. And I was relieved, and I didn’t feel all the stress that I felt on the way out. And Don asked, well how does that work out? And I would just work through things. Another thing that I’ve discovered and discussed with other people is when one prunes, it can almost become a spiritual experience. Because you’re out of your body. You’re working on beauty and watching the branches of the tree and you’re completing centered on that trunk and project. And I can do that. And I told me neighbor, and he rolled his eyes because he goes out there with the electric tool and gets everything down at the same level and all, and he gets the job done quickly, and I see the beauty in the bush. Then I can watch it grow.
A: That’s great. So next time you talk to Jeff, if you’re feeling a bit stressed after your conversation, do you think you could do some gardening or art afterwards? Would that help make you feel more relaxed?
L: Not at nine at night. What I do is find comfort in my bed at that hour, and fortunately it works, because I have my favorite blanket and all that stuff, and I’m very comfortable in the bedroom. It’s very warm, and I feel comfort in the room.
A: You’ve mentioned a couple times about him calling at night. And it doesn’t seem like an ideal situation for you. Do you think that it would be better for you, if he were to call you during the day, because if he did, then you’d still be able to talk to him about the things he’s experiencing and at a better hour for you?
L: No, I won’t request that because he has the need for it at night. He’s a night person, so no, I’m willing to do it because I feel I can deal with it. Another thing that I’ve done, I don’t ask him any questions that could make him feel miserable. To go through all the stressful times. I feel a little guilty about not asking some of these things, but if it bothers him enough, he will share it with me. And I don’t bring up the things he’s shared with me in the conversation the night or two nights before. I’ve learned not to deal with the heavier things.
A: That’s good, that you have that system working for you. Could you make it a goal to continue to avoid those topics in order to feel better before bed?
L: Yes, I think I can do that, since he can still talk to me and reach out to me if he wants to.
Examples of Moves and Desired Outcomes:
Leading. Desired outcome: She had mentioned a few concerns, and I wanted to narrow it down to the main one.
Transforming. Desired outcome: For Lorraine to think about what would be a positive and ideal change.
Eliciting Goals. Desired outcome: For Lorraine to make a goal about what she can do to make the situation more positive for her.
Eliciting Goals. Desired outcome: Attempting to lead her into forming a goal instead of problem saturating.
Smalling. Desired outcome: For her to identify small steps towards approaching her problem.
Compliments. Desired outcome: To praise her outlook on life and encourage her to use this as a way to approach her goal.
Children Lose When the Government is Involved
Last week, tragedy struck Ann Arbor, Michigan. Seven year old, Cecilia Lewis suffered not only the death of her biological father, Jeremy but also has been removed from her other parent, Taylor, and placed in foster care. Cecilia had spent her whole life with her Jeremy and Taylor, and both Taylor and Jeremy were both adored by the community. Jeremy was the principal at the local high school and an avid member of church, and Taylor was a social worker who created an afterschool program for disadvantaged youth. However, their elevated status in society could not help their situation. Taylor and Jeremy were not legally married, so Taylor did not have any legal rights over Cecilia.
If Taylor had been a woman, she would have maintained custody and been granted all of the legal rights that married partners are granted when having a child, even if she and Jeremy were not married. However, because the couple live in a state where same-sex marriage is illegal, and since Taylor is a man, not only does he lose out on those rights, but young Cecilia does too.
Second parent adoption, a process in which the partner of the biological parent is granted joint custody of a child, is a complex process regardless of who is attempting to adopt a child. However, homosexual couples face even greater challenges than most. Current policies are unclear as three states in the nation (Arkansas, Mississippi, and Utah) prohibit same-sex adoption, and the statutes for other states are vague. This vagueness allows for bias, discrimination, and personal beliefs of the organization to make the decisions about who can adopt. For example, 47 states allow a single male or female to adopt, and only 10 states clearly state that joint adoption is legal.
The United States needs a federal law that allows same-sex couples to participate in second-parent adoption because it is the child who feels the negative effects of current policies. Some of these important benefits that homosexual families do not receive are that the children cannot use the adoptive parent’s insurance, social security, or inheritance, nor can they be treated in an emergency room without the biological parent present. The most important benefit that the children are denied is the right to live with their second parent if the biological parent dies.
The problem is that currently, adoption agencies are essentially deciding whether the couple’s character and morals adhere to that of the reasonable man. And herein lies the crux of the matter; the adoption process is too subjective. The definition of morality is abstract and viewed quite differently by different people. Religious institutions may view homosexuality as immoral and may deny a homosexual couple the right to adopt a child based on these beliefs. But this is the United States, where all are created equal. For a country which preaches the importance of equality, there is a large population who are discriminated against, and a change needs to be made. Only a federal law can erase the subjectivity that is oppressing homosexual couples and denying them equal rights to their children.
One of the main arguments against same-sex adoption is that a child is negatively impacted by homosexual parents. But this is fabrication. Research, by Stacey & Biblarz (2001), shows that just because a parent may be homosexual, there is not a difference in sexual preference when compared to the children of heterosexual parents. Sons of homosexual males tend to be less sexually adventurous and chaster than the sons of heterosexual couples, and children living with homosexual parents may act in less gender stereotypic ways.
Another important factor to consider is the mental health of the child. Once again, research indicates that contrary to popular belief, there is no significant difference in the level of anxiety, depression, or self-esteem in children living with homosexual parents, compared to heterosexual parents. Also, homosexual parents often have greater synchronicity in their parenting techniques that lead to more harmony within the home.
Children need psychological and legal security. Children cannot control the type of family that they are born into and should not be discriminated against and punished for the type of family in which they are raised. This is a federal issue, as it is evident that there is much gray area and discrimination in each state, and it is children who are suffering because of it. We as a country need to vote to make legal changes in order to help these children.
1st year MSW student
University of Michigan School of Social Work
Striving to insure equality for all children.
Word Count: 746
To be sent to “The New York Times” because, as the paper describes, this is a Federal issue, and the New York Times is well respected national publication.
Holmes, O.W. (1929) The reasonable man. Supreme Court, 150-151.
Huss, M. T. (2009). What is Forensic Psychology? An Introduction. Forensic psychology: research, clinical practice, and application. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 5-6.
Johnson R. (2008). Where is gay adoption legal? Gay and lesbian adoption. About.com Retrieved September 13, 2011.
Kennedy, R. (2005). Lesbian and Gay Families: The changing and unsteady legal and social environment. Social Work Practice with Children and Families: A Family Health Approach, 165-182.
Knowles, D. (2010). Florida gay adoption ban overturned, but three states still restrict it. Aol News. http://www.aolnews.com/. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
Stacey, J., & Biblarz, T. J. (2001). (How) Does the sexual orientation of parents matter? American Sociological Review, 66, 159-183.
The Undeserving Poor: A Comparative Analysis of Welfare Policy in 1601 and 2011
As America has continued to develop as a country, its social ideologies have continued to change as well. The first major welfare reform in the United States occurred in 1601 and was known as the Elizabethan Poor Law. This law began a new way of thinking about poor people as it characterized them as either deserving or undeserving. Based on these stratifications, different types of assistance were given. Since 1601, much has changed, but the philosophy of a deserving and undeserving poor has remained. The idea of an undeserving poor has posed as an interesting problem in both 1601 and today. The government has struggled with the questions such as: what kind of welfare and how much welfare should the government provide? And the greatest question of all is: has our poverty policy really changed over the last 400 years?
After the reformation occurred, Queen Elizabeth I established the Church of England and much changed in society, including poor laws. In the 1500s, there had been rampant inflation which caused more poverty than ever, and people did not know how to react to it (Hanson 1997). They even had outlawed begging. According to Bloy (2002), the poor had previously been cared for by the church based on the 7 corporal works of mercy. Beginning in 1552, new laws began to form regarding the poor and were consolidated into one bill; it was known as the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601. Some of its provisions included that the poor must register at the parish, money could be raised for the poor by the justice of the peace, a poor law tax and a job entitled overseer of the poor were introduced (2 people were elected for this unpaid position each Easter and they would calculate how much money the poor needed, collect the taxes, supervise the poorhouses, and distribute resources), and the poor were categorized. Jansson (2009) suggests that these categories included: those who would like to work but could not based on climate or lack of jobs (deserving poor), those who were too old or ill to work (deserving poor), and those who were able to work but would not (idle poor).
During this time, the idle were humiliated and whipped in the streets and placed in workhouses and poorhouses to help them learn (Bloy 2002). The able-bodied were given outdoor relief, in the form of money and clothes, and they continued to live at home. The ill and elderly were placed in almshouses, hospitals, or orphanages. The children of the poor were often given to others to learn a trade and become an apprentice. There were many differences in how the parishes enacted these laws because there was no one to enforce the law. For example, if the parishes lacked funds and could not provide for the poor, then the county was required to provide relief (Jansson 2009). This law was a huge change because it gave the government the responsibility for the poor instead of the church. This law also encouraged family members to care for their poor.
Criticisms of the law included that the taxes were based on land, so not everyone paid as much in taxes (Bloy 2002). It helped the commercial and industrial citizens because it didn’t take personal or moveable wealth into consideration. According to Hanson (1997), one of the reasons for change in philosophy about the poor in the 1600s was the move from the idea of collectivism to individualism and self-reliance during the time period.
Although the Elizabethan Poor Law was English legislation, the ideas of the importance of individualism and self-reliance were carried across the ocean to the new colonies that would soon become the United States. Because of the increasing importance of individualism, it makes sense that the stratifications of a deserving and undeserving poor would dominate the characteristics of those living in poverty.
The qualifications for the deserving and undeserving poor are currently similar to those of 1601. While in 1601, the qualifications for the deserving poor accounted for age, illness, climate, and lack of employment opportunities, current views of the deserving poor based on current welfare reform simply account for if the person is able-bodied (Hanson 1997). Today’s view of poverty, based on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF,) does not always take into account whether a person is able-minded or able-cultured because of growing-up in poverty. Although Social Workers recognize that poverty is an “institutional structure that denies equal opportunity to the lower classes, often exacerbated by racial discrimination”, the majority of the population does not recognize this as an important factor as a cause of poverty (Hanson 1997). Also, just as the poor in 1601 were mocked through whippings, the poor today are portrayed in a negative fashion and often ignored or spoken of with disdain.
Current legislation is based on the PRWORA which is largely based on work requirements and an idea of self-empowerment through work (Administration of Children and Families 1996). Working families are allowed time-limited assistance that includes child support funding and medical coverage. Each state is also given bonuses for helping families find employment. With this act, families must work after receiving two years of assistance. Single parents must work 20 hours per week during the first year and two parent families must work 35 hours per week. Families are given one year of transitional help through Medicaid, and mothers are exempt from working if they have a child under the age of one or if they have a child under the age of six and cannot find childcare. Also, families can only have cash assistance for up to five cumulative years. After that, states can provide state funds or non-cash assistance. The state assesses individual’s skills and helps families to formulate a plan. The legislation also enforces child support laws with state to state registries and harsh penalties which include seizing assets for parents who are not paying child support.
Another welfare reform, TANF, was passed in 2006 that accounted for the same values as PRWORA (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2008). TANF is responsible for administration of programs and social security. States are given funds to implement their own welfare programs as they see fit. It replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Job Opportunity and Basic Skill Training (JOBS), and Emergency Assistance (EA) in the PRWORA. Similar to PRWORA, the main focus of TANF is to help families attain self-sufficiency. The mission of TANF is to create welfare legislation, present this legislation to the director, oversee the programs implemented by the organization, and to provide leadership.
Welfare legislation continues to change, and recently the welfare reform act of 2011 was introduced. This legislation builds on PRWORA and now requires families who use food stamps to work or prove that they are trying to find work. This act was created as a way of helping families empower themselves by becoming independent without government assistance (The Caucus of House Conservatives 2011). According to Michigan governor, Rick Snyder, cash assistance has been misused in the past and needs to return to a transitional program that leads working families toward self-sufficiency (Luke 2011). Snyder also discussed the problem of able-bodied people taking advantage of the welfare system and staying on it for up to 14 years. Based on the concern of people taking advantage of the welfare system, he signed legislation that will enforce a 48 month cap on cash assistance. However, Snyder says that the affected families will “receive extended job and housing placement assistance for three months…and funds are targeted toward those recipients who need a helping hand while they find employment” (Luke 2011).
Similar to the Elizabethan Act of 1601, Snyder’s new bill categorizes the deserving poor as those with disabilities and people who are elderly, at least 65 and with little social security (Luke 2011). And although, Snyder also provides exemptions for those suffering from domestic violence, he does not account for the current lack of jobs due to outsourcing and de-industrialization, nor does he account for factors such as climate, which are important for employment opportunities such as farming and construction, which are seasonal. Criticism of current welfare reform also includes that the new legislation does not take into account people who are suffering from mental or physical illnesses (Deparle 2009).
Another important difference between the 1601 act and today’s welfare reform is who is providing the assistance. In 1601, the federal government gained control of assisting those living in poverty, where the churches had previously cared for the poor. Current welfare reform gives the federal government control of food stamps, while the states maintain the cash assistance programs (Deparle 2009). Because of this, the number of case loads in each state can be a great determinant in the amount of funding that families can receive.
Although there are many similarities between current welfare reforms and those of 1601, one of the most drastic differences lies in our perception of the effectiveness of these reforms. For example, the poverty witnessed in 1601 was a new concept, as the population had currently been organized around a Feudal system in which serfs were cared for by their masters. Although the serfs may not have owned land, their needs were met by the families in which they worked. The concept of poverty in 1601 was a direct result of the end of the Feudal system, and the churches and government struggled to find appropriate ways to assist these needy families. It is shocking that 400 years later, the government still does not know how to account for families living in poverty. Although there are new statistics of people being taken off of welfare rolls, it is only because they no longer qualify for assistance. It does not mean that they no longer live in poverty. Just because the government changes the definition of poverty, it does not mean that there are less people suffering.
Not only is it shocking that policies have remained the same, but it is also shocking that the government still stratifies populations of people as deserving an undeserving. The underlying assumption that the poor are lazy and do not want to work is a misled idea that has hindered the welfare state for hundreds of years and needs to be challenged.
Although it seems obvious to Social Workers, the general public needs to be educated about the causes of poverty and the underlying structures that make it impossible to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. The greatest problem in fighting poverty both today and in 1601 is that the poor are not heard. Their voices are not often represented in a political vote, and because of this, lobbyists for the wealthy are able to better the outcomes for the wealthy (Hanson 1997). According to anthropologist, Oscar Lewis, poverty is difficult to overcome because it is its own culture. People are born into it and grow up with a certain mentality based on an unprotected childhood, psychological distress, feelings of inferiority, and family stress. Neither in 1601, nor today, are these factors beings accounted for within the welfare system. In 1601, when welfare was new, it is more acceptable because of a lack of knowledge about poverty. However, in 2011, this excuse is no longer acceptable.
In order to help those living in poverty, the welfare system needs to be reformed. Instead of having a reluctant welfare system, the United States needs to adopt a generous welfare system that actually takes into consideration the needs of the poor. Creating laws which prohibit corporations from moving their businesses out of the country will create jobs, and enforcing a higher wage will prohibit exploitative behaviors of corporations. Finally, cash assistance should be given out more abundantly and with longer time constraints because finding a job is more difficult than the government likes to believe. With these reforms to the welfare system, the lives of many will improve significantly. It is time for change. It is time to actually help families in poverty.
Administration of Children and Families. (1996). The personal responsibility and work opportunity reconciliation act of 1996. Fact Sheet. Accessed October 7, 2011.
Bloy, M. (2002). The 1601 Elizabethan Poor Law. The Victorian Web. C:\Users\Lissie\Downloads\tbglenn_91811_144915The_1601_Elizabethan_Poor_Law (2).mht. Accessed October 7, 2011.
The Caucus of House of Conservatives . (2011). Welfare reform act of 2011: The most effective welfare benefit is the one that leads to a job. Accessed October 7, 2011.
Deparle, J. (2009). Welfare Aid Isn’t Growing as Economy Drops Off. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/02/us/02welfare.html?partner=rss&emc= rss&pagewanted=all. Accessed October 10, 2011.
Hanson, F. A. (1997). How Poverty Lost its Meaning. The Cato Journal, 17, 2. Accessed October 7, 2011.
Jansson, B. S. (2009). Fashioning a new society in the wilderness. The Reluctant Welfare State,7th ed. 64-65.
Luke, P. (2011). Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan welfare system returned 'to its original intent' after signing law putting tighter 48-month limit on benefits. http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/09/gov_rick_snyder_signs_tougher.html. Accessed October 10, 2011.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). About TANF. Administration for Family and Children. Accessed October 10, 2011.
A Depressed Community and the Struggle for Transformation: Albion High School
Ever since industry began to leave Michigan, Albion has suffered economically. Many families moved to find work, while others began working two to three jobs to provide for their families. As the town lost industry and residents, many other businesses began to close and the population continued to dwindle. These factors, along with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education legislation, have posed great threats to Albion High School. During the last 10 years, Albion did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) most years which led to severe funding cuts that were further exasperated by losing so many students to school of choice in the nearby towns of Marshall and Homer. Socially, as students left the district, Albion High School flipped its minority/majority population. After closing the middle school and failing to meet AYP once again in 2010, Albion had the choice to either close the school or transform it based on a three-year education plan. Choosing to transform the school, the school also received a federal $2.7 million grant which was spent on professional development during the summer, an instructional mentor, and after school tutoring, among other facets. Recommendations for Albion High School to further improve include implementing sustainable programs, increasing staff cohesion, partnering with community organizations to create student programs, meeting the annual budget, and enhancing instructional techniques based on Best Practices.
Introduction to Albion
The geographic community of interest is Albion, Michigan, which is located in southern Michigan on the Kalamazoo River. Once a booming and prosperous city, particularly back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Albion was highly industrialized. It was filled with many manufacturing companies, including those for automobiles, iron, steel, and glass.
This time period is coined as “the golden-era in Albion’s history” (Passic 2006). Albion was also named an ‘All American City’ in 1973 by the National Civic League (Latent Dirichlet Allocation 2011). The population grew from 10,406 in 1950 to 12,749 in 1960 (Passic 2006). This growing population could not be met fast enough, resulting in a housing shortage. Neighborhoods, schools, and community businesses and services were expanded to meet the growing needs of the community. However, this period of prosperity ended with the closing of factories starting in 1975. Lost jobs and unemployment led to empty houses and emptying schools. This current community of Albion resembles an empty shell of its past. According to the US Census of 2010, Albion’s current population is 8,616.
The racial background of the population is 63.6% Caucasian, 29.9% African American, 2.2% mixed Caucasian and African American, and 5.8% Latina/Latino. Albion is considered an impoverished community with 12% of families living below the poverty line and with home values half the national average. Due to the conditions surrounding this community there are a plethora of social issues. In this community profile, the specific problem of focus is the failing educational system in the area. The problem came into view when Albion Senior High School was rumored to be closing, following the actual closure of Washington Gardner Middle School in 2010. Due to funding from a large federal grant, the school is no longer in danger of closing. However, the quality of education is in question as Albion High School has been on the state’s list of “lowest achieving schools” three years in a row, and the student population and graduation rate is continuously decreasing.
There are a number of diverse factors contributing to the current state of the high school and its students. Therefore, the population of focus is middle and high school aged youth (grades 7th-12th) residing in the city of Albion. The community and its citizens continue to suffer due to high unemployment, low salaries, and the suffering quality of education. If the problems affecting the educational system can be determined, then solutions can be made, and the circle of low-achievement can be broken.
Social and Economic Factors
Albion High School’s problems are intertwined with the social and economic plights of the community.What is most telling is the data from students (ages 5-17), as this provides the highest group who has experienced poverty in the last 12 months. Therefore, the students are directly influenced by economic hardships and the school has to provide more programs and services to accommodate the needs that result from poverty. The second biggest group is that of the 25-44 age group, this is relevant in that the parents of students attending school are also faced with the adversity of poverty. The school, therefore, has to make certain accommodations and confront the challenges that go along with having such a high population in poverty, which drains resources and funding. This high amount of poverty in turn also affects the amount of revenue to be gained from taxes that can in turn be used for the district public schools.
Not only does the school have to deal with issues of poverty in terms of its students, it also has to accommodate for decreased funding. As the chart below demonstrates the district has been suffering from decreased amount of total revenue for the last three school years.Due to the financial hardships of the district, many students began to leave. The 2006-2007 District Annual Report notes that between September 2004 and September 2006 38% of students transferred to other schools in Michigan, the second highest reason for exists was 28% and that was the population of students who graduated or received their GED. This data compiled with the decreasing amount of enrollment alerted the schools to a trend that would threaten whether the high school could remain open.
In an effort to better understand what population is actually leaving the school a comparison of the racial break down of the school district with that of Albion High School is helpful. The two pie charts are almost the inverse of each other. Due to the fact that there is such a high population of whites in the school district, but not at Albion High School, it seems like the population opting to attend other high schools is the white population. The trend seems clear, black students are staying, while white students are leaving, indicating white flight and potentially some underlying racial issues.
However, when interviewing ‘Mrs. Smith’ (source wishes to remain anonymous), a teacher working with Albion High School for over 25 years, she repeatedly commented that the students leaving to attend other schools is a socio-economic issue and not a racial one. Although, she admitted there has been a majority-minority flip within the school, she believes that the school is losing a significant number of more affluent black students too.
The high percentage of students leaving Albion High School as well as the flip in minority and majority populations can be better understood by analyzing specific policies that have affected the school for the past ten years. With the creation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2001, education began to change throughout the United States. Although NCLB was created to support struggling students and decrease achievement gaps, many schools have actually been threatened because of new policies implemented by this new legislation (U.S. Department of Education 2005). NCLB bases a school’s success on the standardized testing that takes place annually and is measured by Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Each year, the state sets the achievement bar, which is the percentage of students that must pass the exam in order to meet AYP. Also, 95% of any minority group and special education students must pass the exam to meet AYP. In Michigan, the exam at the high school level is called the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and is distributed during Junior Year. If a school fails to meet AYP, they are given a warning, and there are penalties for every subsequent year that AYP is not met which may include funding cuts, students being allowed to go to a school of choice, school transformation, or closing the school.
Political and Policy Context
Although the goal of NCLB was for schools across the country reach 100% testing scores by 2012, many schools have struggled to meet these high standards and have suffered drastically due to the policy. Albion High School is one of the schools most impacted by NCLB in Michigan and has been continuously listed in the bottom 100 Public Schools in Michigan (Wheaton 2011). NCLB has been a great threat to Albion High School and the students that attend the school. As the school continued to fail to meet AYP almost every year since 2001, the school lost both their funding and also lost many students to schools of choice such as Marshall High School and Homer High School.
After closing Washington Gardner Elementary School and moving the 7th and 8th grade students to the high school in June 2010 and failing to meet AYP once again in spring 2011, the school was given the choice between attempting a three-year transformational model or closing the school. With this new opportunity for change, the school chose to try the transformation, which was facilitated by a $2.7 million grant (School Improvement Grants). This money along with the new education plan has provided opportunities for teachers to attend professional development seminars, for the school to hire a new teacher, to pay for a tutoring service to work with students after school, and for an instructional coach for teachers (Smith 2011).
With the hope of this new opportunity to improve the school and help students succeed, the staff began the current school year with much enthusiasm (Smith 2011). According to Smith, the teachers are one of the school’s greatest strengths. Another important strength is the enthusiasm of the students and members of the community. When walking through the school on a Sunday during alumni weekend, many students were eagerly decorating the hallways of the school. Upon walking through Albion High School, it is clear that the school is very well cared for, and that students are motivated to be there, even on a Sunday. The all around motivation of people living in Albion along with the new education plan, and other strengths such as after school tutoring and advanced programs for students such as ATIP and the math and science center will hopefully make the difference for the students and Albion High School itself in the upcoming years.
In order to improve the educational environment and rate of achievement at Albion High School, it is proposed that the school think strongly regarding the implementation of sustainable programs so that these programs can continue to operate once the school ceases to receive the three years worth of federal grant money. Sustainable programs would include professional development seminars that educate teachers about Best Practices that can be implemented within the classrooms. Also, the stability of the school could be improved by reducing the turnover of important leaders in the district and the high school such as the superintendent, the principal, and the teachers. This will also improve the cohesion between staff members.
Cohesion should also be extended to the students. Programs for joint participation amongst staff and students could facilitate this process. By learning to work together outside of the classroom, the environment and relationships between the staff and students could change for the better and add to the further success of students, and maintenance of the student body population. Similarly, community outreach to organizations such as faith-based organizations and Double Vision Recreation Center can be utilized to create after school programs for students. A final recommendation is for Albion to make the necessary changes to meet the annual budget.
Albion Public Schools Annual Report 2005-2006. Albion.k12.mi.us
Albion Public Schools 2006-2007 District Annual Report. Albion.k12.mi.us
Albion Public Schools District Annual Education Report 2007/2008. Albion.k12.mi.us
American Fact Finder. (2010) Profile of general population and housing characteristics. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved: October 1, 2011.
The Annual Education Report 2003-2004. Albion.k12.mi.us
Latent Dirichlet Allocation (2011). Albion, Michigan. http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/users/08/ajb/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Albion,_Michigan.html. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
School Improvement Grants Grant-LEA Application 2010. Albion.k12.mi.us
U.S. Department of Education (2005). Introduction: No child left behind. http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/index.html Retrieved: October 9, 2011.
Wheaton, B. (2011). Update: Albion High School is on state’s low achieving list for second year in a row; principal optimistic progress is ahead. Jackson Citizen Patriot. http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2011/08/albion_high_school_is_on_state.html
A Comparative Analysis of Two Communities
The two communities to be compared are Barton Hills Village, Michigan and Albion, Michigan. These two communities differ greatly in median family income, with Albion at $37,399 and Barton Hills Village at $219,063. Albion is a community of 8,616 located in southern Michigan (American Factfinder 2010). The median age is 28.1 years old with a population of 46.6% female and 53.4% male. Racially, the population is 63.6% Caucasian, 29.9% African American, 5.8% Latino, and 2.2% mixed race. 42% of people living in Albion have graduated from high school and 8.9% obtained a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. Albion is considered an impoverished community with 12% of families below the poverty level and 55.5% as homeowners.
Barton Hills Village provides a stark contrast to Albion. The median age is 53.7 years old with a population of 48% male and 52% female. Barton Hills Village is home to an 88.1% Caucasian, 1% African American, and 6.8% Asian residents. 97.5% of residents completed high school and 83.5% have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. No one in the population is below the poverty level, and 93.5% are homeowners.
Based on the demographics, problems facing Albion include high poverty levels and low education rates. Barton Hills Village is quite different in that there is no poverty and high rates of home ownership and education. The racial breakdown between each community is also vastly different in that Albion is racially diverse and Barton Hills Village is overwhelmingly white. The demographics indicate that there may be fewer job opportunities in Albion because of the low education levels. Also, due to the elevated age and racial breakdown, it seems that Barton Hills Village is a highly segregated community.
Upon entering Barton Hills Village, one immediately notes that this is indeed a separate community from Ann Arbor. The streets leading up to the village work to contain the small community as a secluded sector, cut off from the rest of Ann Arbor. A sign posted along the entrance warns “No Thoroughfare”, letting others know this is a private community. Signs posted with addresses on the entrance for each street are displayed keeping unnecessary street traffic to a minimum. One only uses those streets to get to these assigned houses. Immediately upon entering the vicinity, residents are welcomed in with lush green forestry on all sides. The houses hide behind the trees, found only after long driveways that separate the home into its own world. Each house is secluded within its own property; one can barely see the neighbors through the trees. It offers a privacy not commonly seen within the suburbs. There are no sidewalks and no way for one to travel around besides driving down the twisting roads. “Speed tables” pop up to keep drivers from going too quickly, and the roads have beautifully manicured flower medians. On a given day, six or seven houses have landscaping trucks parked out front, maintaining the aesthetic perfection.
Within the community are several tennis courts that featured women in full tennis gear engaged in play at 11am on a Thursday morning. Barton Hills Village also offers paid access to the country club that sits proudly within the middle of the community. For a mere $31,000 one-time fee and a $6,000 annual fee, members have access to a sauna, gym, golf course, and fine formal dining within the clubhouse. Dress code is enforced strictly; some rooms cannot be entered without a suit jacket. Workers within the country club are friendly and accommodating, greeting one as soon as they walk in the door.
A realtor and member of the country club, however, was not as welcoming. While proud to be a member, she was notably skeptical and defensive to questions about her community. She was quick to comment that she would have lived there, but it used to consist of mostly older residents. When starting a family, it seemed unpractical to live in a place that lacked sidewalks for children to ride their bikes and play. Now, however, she calls it “very diverse” in that both younger and older families reside there. After passing on the information, she was quick to leave the interview without even so much as a goodbye.
The town hall nestled within the community is brand new, clean, and very white-and-beige. There are handicapped parking spots and handicap-accessible bathrooms, demonstrating how Barton Hills Village tries to accommodate all. Indicating an emphasis on privacy and maintaining barriers, the lone woman working there has to open the sliding glass window in order to acknowledge those walking in. Despite the physical wall which created a hierarchy between the visitors and herself, she was helpful in offering a town newsletter and answers to any questions.
Albion presents a very different picture. It was more spread out, with potholed roads and a general dreariness. Driving into town requires passing numerous run-down, dirty, and closed businesses. The downtown area has seen better days and instead boasts only a handful of stores still open. Then one comes onto the Albion college campus, and the shiny bright white buildings and large student housing contrast against the otherwise seemingly depressed community. All the resources and stores in the area are near the campus community, showing signs of a town that is functioning fully around its college campus.
Upon leaving campus again, the visitor is greeted with small houses, a lack of resources, and buildings falling apart. While the government housing is small, it is clean. There are signs posted throughout warning the residents to call in any suspicious activity, and cameras around letting passersby know their actions are being recorded. There is a small playground with a few swings for the children to play, and on a Sunday afternoon a couple of children no older than seven were playing alone without supervision. There are no flowers, no speed bumps, and no landscaping trucks in sight. Nearby, an abandoned schoolhouse gleams with its shattered windows and walls falling down. A home for many homeless and a place where drunk college students visit, it is slowly falling apart and sits as a definite eyesore within the area.
These communities differ exponentially in the types of environment in which people are surrounded. While Barton Hills has flowers, forestry, and privacy, Albion has small yards, houses cramped together, and broken down buildings. The contrast between the two communities is a clear example of stratification as described by Massey (2007) in that there is obvious “unequal distribution” among different classes of people, meaning “differential access to scarce resources”. While landscaping trucks maintain yards and flowers within Barton Hills, there are scarcely yards to enjoy within neighborhoods in Albion. Due to the division of people into different social categories, those who do not fit into the prestigious categories created are not invited in. Reliable means of transportation, like new cars, means that Barton Hills Village residents can live in a secluded community and still be able to travel to work at the nearby hospital or business. This is an example of an opportunity allocated and hoarded by those with the power to do so (Massey 2007). By keeping membership dues high at the country club, it keeps the boundary high and the risk of interacting with those in a different strata low. This is further explained by Massey’s (2007) idea that if “social boundaries can be made to conform to geographic boundaries…than the fundamental process of stratification becomes considerably more efficient and effective”. By enforcing dress codes and signs, it is clear that one must be part of the group in order to even enter the community, and therefore keeps the resources and social capital confined in this community as opposed to another, such as Albion.
Furthermore, the lack of diversity within a community such as Barton Hills Village may be explained by the power of the realtors. As discussed in Massey (1993), discrimination may impact racial makeup of a population as black home-seekers are sometimes “met by a realtor with a smiling face who, through a series of ruses, lies, and deceptions, makes it hard for them to learn about, inspect, rent, or purchase homes in white neighborhoods.” The homes in Barton Hills Village are all maintained by one single real estate company, and one realtor within that company. This realtor is also a member of the country club as mentioned earlier. As someone who describes a “very diverse community” as being composed of both young and old people, it begs the question of how much of her own prejudices are impacting the community. She was rude and skeptical of outsiders coming in the form of well-dressed professional graduate students, implying that she may be that way to others as well.
Furthermore, some of the greatest differences between the communities can be observed in the social institutions available. The educational systems within the town are one of the most evident aspects of the wealth distribution in each neighborhood. Children who live in Barton Hills Village attend either the Ann Arbor Public Schools (Skyline High School) or private schools, such as Greenhills School. When speaking with the realtor about the school system in Barton Hills, she stated that while some students attend Greenhills School, it is not necessary to attend private school because Ann Arbor Public Schools have a great reputations for high achievement. Educational outcomes differ significantly from Albion which has been listed as one of the worst performing schools in Michigan during the last two consecutive years (Wheaton 2011). The Albion school district has not only performed poorly but lost funding because of it and had to close Washington Gardner Middle School in 2010. The closure was due to this lack of funding and decreased amount of students (leaving the district to attend the school of choice in Marshall or Homer). During an interview with a teacher at Albion High School, “Ms. Smith” described that although the Albion school system has been suffering, teachers and administrators are enthusiastic that change is coming. With a new transformation plan and a $2.7 million federal grant for the current school year, teachers are excited to work towards a brighter future for the students.
While the communities differ greatly in the quality of education, both communities have many churches. Albion has roughly 30 churches (Lanoue 2009) and Barton Hills Village’s local community of Ann Arbor has nearly 50, with nearly all of the churches in both areas based on Christianity (Info MI 2006). There are differences, however, in how the churches are utilized in each community. In Ann Arbor, the churches are seen primarily as a place of worship, but in Albion, they are centers of the community. Because Albion does not have many recreational programs or educational funding for such programs, the church is seen as a place for students to come to spend time after school. For example, in an interview with Kids at Hope leader, Mr. Bonner, he described his program which takes place at the First United Methodist Church in Albion. While involved in the program, students do homework, receive mentoring, and play games after school. Both Pastor Williams of the Methodist Church (Caucasian) and Pastor Williams of Grace Temple (African American) believed that the churches were great resources for all community members for both recreation, faith, and educational programs for adults.
Other recreation programs in the Albion community include Double Vision Recreation Center. Set in a small building downtown, the recreation center has pool tables, computers, and study space and hopes to open a roller rink in the near future. This is much different from the available activities in Barton Hills. The Barton Hills Country Club provides many recreational activities for both children and adults. At the club there is swimming, golf, tennis, and many events that occur year round (although there are typically more in the summer). Also, it is noteworthy that their primary activities are those which have been historically segregated, such as blacks and whites swimming in separate pools and golf being a predominantly white sport (Wolch et al. 2005).
For those unwilling to pay the fee or if community members are looking for other types of recreation, nearby Ann Arbor has many other activities, such as a movie theater, concerts, football games, bounce houses for children, YMCA, museums, and much more. And while both communities have libraries, bowling, trails, and shops, the quality of these differs greatly between Albion and Barton Hills Village. Those in Barton Hills are cared for and utilized extensively, while in Albion they are run down or closed, small, and largely attached to the college, making them less accessible to the community. It seems that this may be largely due to the general trends of concentrated poverty decreasing the amount and quality of social institutions (Wilson 1996).
In speaking with community members in Barton Hills Village, it was difficult to entice people to describe challenges to the community. The only negative commentary was that there were no sidewalks along the winding roads, which made it difficult to visit neighbors or walk through the community. Personal observations include a lack of public social institutions within the neighborhood, (although community members may view this as a strength to keep the less affluent out) and a lack of diversity. In Albion, the challenges were more apparent. Between the lack of funding within the school district and a very small and rarely used recreation center, Albion is lacking in social institutions.
As for how the social institutions meet racial needs within the community, once again, Albion is lacking. Over the last 10 years, Albion High School has lost nearly 100 students per year creating a minority/majority flip, indicating that the needs of Caucasian families are not being met within the school system. Similarly, all of the youth who attend Kids at Hope are African American. It seems that most of the efforts in the town are being utilized by the African American population. In Barton Hills Village, there is no diversity. Wealthy Caucasian families seem to feel that their needs are being met by isolating themselves in a community where they do not have to associate with people of less affluent means or different races.
One of the reasons that Albion has continued to suffer since 1975, while other affluent communities (like Barton Hills Village) thrive is because there is a culture of poverty in Albion that is continuously reproduced due to policy (Schneider & Ingram 1993). Current welfare policies still account for an idea of a deserving and undeserving poor which is reproduced in low income communities, like Albion, which leaves them at a great disadvantage. Meanwhile, communities like Barton Hills Village are able to reproduce wealth through strong education systems, social and economic resources, and tax cuts.
Whereas poverty is nonexistent in Barton Hills Village, poverty is common in Albion, where 28.2% of the population is below the poverty level (American FactFinder 2005-2009). The economic disparity in these two communities can largely be attributed to the high unemployment, low education, and deindustrialization experienced by Albion. Barton Hills Village residents are mostly employed in educational, health, and social services—occupations that general require high levels of education. However, Albion continues to rely heavily on manufacturing as its primary source of employment. Interestingly enough, Albion also relies heavily on educational services, health care, and social assistance for its population’s employment, but this may be a result of Albion College’s presence in the community (American FactFinder 2005-2009). The fact that manufacturing jobs have decreased as deindustrialization has occurred and more jobs have been sent overseas as a result of globalization, makes Albion an at risk community for high unemployment. As Wilson explains, “fundamental structural changes in the new global economy, including changes in the distribution of jobs and in the level of education required to obtain employment, resulted in the simultaneous occurrence of increasing joblessness and declining real wages for low-skilled workers” (1996). Albion, without appropriate educational supports, suffered greatly from this collision of threats. However, a community like Barton Hills Village, with the available educational resources and the lack of high job loss was not as impacted by deindustrialization.
Additionally, Johnson’s theories of capitalism are clearly demonstrated in Albion. As manufactures had to keep up with cheaper prices as a result of globalization, they had to continue to maximize their profits. As Johnson explains, this leads to exploitation of the workers as they continue to accept lower wages because they have no alternative (2006). The basic system of capitalism locks communities like Albion into a cycle of poverty, where exploitation is commonplace.
In terms of political systems, Albion and Barton Hills Village also differ greatly as well. Barton Hills Village is a part of the Township of Ann Arbor and yet it maintains a certain amount of independence from Ann Arbor. In a way, Barton Hills Village is able to hoard opportunity even from the affluent suburb of Ann Arbor. Barton Hills Village is able to regulate its own private roads, control the waterways and streams within its boundaries, “to enforce all police, traffic, sanitary and other regulations in conflict with general law,” as well as other powers (Barton Hills Village Charter). These give Barton Hills Village the benefit of better sanitation and roads, but most importantly it allows residents to have autonomy and privacy. Barton Hills Village is able to use their unique position to reap the benefits of being a part of Ann Arbor Township and also hoard the opportunities that being a village allows them.
Barton Hills Village residents are highly invested in their community and take their autonomy seriously. In a recent election for the Board of Trustees (the governing board for the village) and for the maintenance corporation, there was a 42% and 60% voter turnout respectively (The Barton Bulletin September 2011). This is high compared to the voter turn-out in national elections and demonstrates how important these positions are to residents. Yet, when reading through the Barton Bulletin as to what the committees actually do, a lot of time seems to be spent enacting ordinances and maintenance with regard to lawns or property. An article from the Ann Arbor Observer notes that Barton Hills Village residents place a high value on environmental issues and spend significant funding to this end (Kane and Shackman 2005). However, it seems more likely that considerations are not so much environmental and rather, are more focused on maintaining high property values. Most of the June 2011 section of the Barton Bulletin was dedicated to “healthy lawn care,” in an effort to “encourage residents to follow best management practices for maintaining a healthy lawn while also protecting the environment and watershed.” Though the Bulletin is careful to frame this in terms of an environmental issue, it is clear from the instructions that follow that most of the concern is on aesthetics. In a way this regulates the community and keeps out undesirables, who may not take care of their property and therefore, drive down property prices. This idea is discussed by Massey (1993) who noted that the white stereotyped belief that “blacks do not keep up their homes” lead to many whites not wanting an integrated neighborhood. This emphasis on lawn care also presumes that residents are wealthy enough and have time enough, or more likely can hire a landscaping crew, in order to comply with the best practices. Therefore, exclusivity is maintained even within the community—ensuring that residents both have the means to own a home and maintain it in the “proper” way. In this way, even Barton Hills Village’s political system works to eliminate undesirables from its population.
Albion’s political structure is very different from that of Barton Hills Village. Instead of a Board of Trustees, the government features a mayor and representatives from each district (Resident’s Guide to City Services). In this way, in theory, all of Albion’s population should be represented in the local government. Little time is spent on discussing ordinances or lawn maintenance, as lawn upkeep matters little when so much of the town’s homes are in foreclosure or abandoned. Whereas, Barton Hills Village has few subcommittees, Albion has many ranging from the Board of Review to the Housing Commission. The political systems of these two communities mimic the communities themselves. Albion has a large system and focuses on trying to represent the entire population. Barton Hills Village, however, enforces privacy, exclusivity, and supports opportunity hoarding.
Barton Hills Village and Albion are two very different communities. The wide division of wealth and employment in these two communities can be attributed to capitalism. As discussed, capitalism leads to stratification with those who hold the means of production exploiting those who do not. This stratification expands to, as Massey explains, opportunity hoarding and exclusion (2007). Barton Hills Village maintains their opportunities by isolating themselves from the rest of the greater Ann Arbor community. Its roads are private, its properties expensive to buy and maintain, and membership to its social institutions (specifically the country club), even more expensive and creative of a culture that outsiders cannot access. This opportunity hoarding contributes to the high segregation in Barton Hills Village. It is predominately white and inhabited by those who have higher education, demonstrating a trend in how segregation is no longer exclusively racial, but also based on class and education level.
The disparity in wealth in Barton Hills Village and Albion demonstrates the high level of inequality capitalism creates. Whereas, communities like Barton Hills Village have access to better education and resources and are therefore able to attain jobs that are stable and come with a higher paycheck, Albion’s lack of resources leaves residents in low-skilled, unstable, low-paying jobs. The exploitation of the manufacturing industry keeps Albion’s residents in constant flow in and out of poverty. The economic failing of the community negatively impacts everything from home prices to the educational system. Segregation is also visible in Albion, specifically within the minority/majority flip that has occurred between the district population and the high school population. Though it appears that mostly white students are leaving, it is unclear whether this is exclusively white flight, since many teachers report that African American students with higher socio-economic status are also leaving the community. This too, supports the trend that segregation is now not exclusively based on race, but also class.
The underlying cause of all of these discrepancies between Albion and Barton Hills Village continues to be capitalism. The idea that everyone can succeed is blind to the fact that many are coming from an entirely different starting point, way behind the front lines. Those who are exposed to high amounts of hoarded resources will be able to go to the top schools in the state and continue to perpetuate the cycle of high income and success. Likewise, those whose parents struggle to keep a job in a desolate area and are attending schools that are losing funding are not on the same simple path. Capitalism, which fosters opportunity hoarding and exploitation, which in turn creates segregation, poverty, and inequality, can be seen in the lack of unemployment rates and poverty in Albion and in the private lives of those hidden behind the trees and winding roads of Barton Hills Village.
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