Saturday, May 5, 2012

School Lunch Program Deserves Support


This is an editorial written by a student.

The commercials on television play slow sad music and show depressing pictures of young children to depict the suffering they are going through because they are hungry.

Often times when I see these commercials I let it play or switch the channel because I did not care to see the problems in America.

After studying the issue of hunger in America more in depth in my classes I have a whole new perspective on the issue.  I now believe that it is a human right to have the means to satisfy their hunger.

There is not one reason that a person should not be given the opportunity to eat, yet according to statistics we have discussed in class, about 1.14% of households will not eat on a given day. As human beings, I think we should have the duty of making sure people are given food to satisfy their need.


Certain programs are put in place to try and ease the suffering these people are going through. One of these programs is SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This is set by the government to help families that do not have the ability to pay for food, to purchase food necessary. According to the lessons we discussed during our class, during any given month, around forty million people in the United States, participate in the SNAP program. I think that if the government would pay more attention to the families that apply for SNAP, they would be able to prevent the families from going hungry in the first place. If they did more research on what different problems the families are facing, I feel their situations would be helped and they could be directed in a better way of living.

Another program that the government has put in place is Free and Reduced Lunches for children and teenagers attending school.

This program is a federally assisted meal program that helps families who otherwise could not pay for their children’s food at school.

According to the USDA, the budget for these school meals is $87 billion dollars. Though this seems like a lot of money, to me, I do not feel that this is an adequate amount given the amount of people who go without food in this country.


Knowing that millions of people suffer from food insecurity and very low food insecurity, I feel that the next step it so make more people more aware.

If everyone in America knew the numbers of people who are suffering and could actually see the faces of these people, I feel a big change would come. If people would donate more of their time to help people in need, then maybe, just maybe, less people will go hungry. I know that I now want to do my part, even if it means just donating canned food to a food drive, I want to help people to the best of my ability.



Resources

"National School Lunch Program." Web. 03 May 2012. .

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reaction to Winter's Bone


Here is a student reaction to a film we saw in class.
A few weeks ago, in class we watched a movie: Winter’s Bone. This movie was very eye opening and interesting to me, I never took my eyes off the screen. The movie, Winter’s Bone, encompassed many topics that we have discussed in our class; poverty, substance abuse, housing issues, and family violence, etc. I was very impressed with the number of issues in just one movie. Not only did this film relate to our class so well, but it was eye opening and filled with the anticipation of overcoming the struggles and obstacles of the poverty life.
Along with the issues that correlated with the class, there were social welfare policies that the family could have used to better their lives but they did not take advantage of these helping aids. The family could have been a part of TANF, which would have helped them to buy healthy food instead of relying on their neighbors to be generous enough to share. Since the mother was ill and unable to work, the family could have benefitted from SSI, the mother could have gotten a better medication that actually helped her. I believe where the family needed the most help was taking care of the mother. Ree was just 17 years old and she was not in school, but she was taking on the parent role and taking care of her own mother.
In the movie, Ree and her younger brother Sonny see a neighbor skinning an animal outside. Sonny said they should ask the neighbors if they would share. Ree replied with “Never ask for what oughta be offered.” This shows the audience that the family does not ask for help, but expects other to see they are suffering and help them out. It astonishes me that there are families out there like this; that need help but have too much “dignity” to ask for it. If I was in a situation like Ree’s family was I would try to get every social welfare policy that I could to help my family out. But one has to think the type of environment that family lives in; out in the country, shooting squirrels for dinner, not having a car, and having a young adult stay home to do household duties rather than go to school. Some of the families that fit into that category do not want anything to do with the government or government funded aids, it is just the way they were brought up. One cannot judge another’s family until they walk in their shoes and seen what they have gone through.
It is sad to think that there are families just like Ree’s out there that need help. These families are struggling on a day-to-day basis. This is where a social worker’s duty comes in.
 And, as her father was a drug manufacturer, cooking Crystal Meth in labs, this is exactly the sort of family that would be considered undeserving by many observers, although the father was murdered when his extended family and neighbors suspected he was cooperating with police and informing on them to reduce jail time, so perhaps this fact might have reduced prejudices against the family.  

If this family was seen by a social worker, I’m sure the family would be standoffish at first, but then realize that they are there to actually help the family and not take the children away. A good social worker would see that Ree is 17 years old, the children would be better off staying with their sister to care for them rather than be split apart. Overall, this movie was a very touching one in many aspects; family bonding and loyalty just to name a couple. I am glad I got the chance to see this movie; it opened my eyes to situations that I have never personally been in.

No Kid Hungry Campaign


Here is a student essay describing a policy or program. 

On March 14, 2012, Governor Patrick Quinn announced a new partnership in efforts to end childhood hunger in Illinois. A 2011 report from Feeding America found that more than 745,000 children in Illinois are at risk of hunger. Families are struggling to put food on the tables and provide nutritious meals. The organizations, Share Our Strength and Illinois Commission to End Hunger gathered at Parker Elementary Community Academy in Chicago to announce the Commission’s report and start off the Illinois No Kid Hungry campaign. The campaign will work to help teach more families about federally funded programs to help assist in hunger needs such as; school breakfasts and summer meals which provide children with a healthy start they need. They will also help families learn how to cook healthy yet affordable meals for their families. Share Our Strength and the Greater Chicago Food Depository have joined together to begin the Illinois No Kid Hungry Campaign. With the help of their sponsors; Jimmy Dean, Walmart, Arby’s Foundation, and supporter- Weight Watchers, Illinois will soon be looking at a shrinking number of children who are hungry.
Any school that is a public school, nonprofit private school, or a residential child care institution can choose to take part in the School Breakfast Program. More than 770,000 students are eligible for the free or reduced breakfasts and lunches at school, yet less than one half of the students are participating in this program. This means children are coming to school hungry because there is not enough food to eat at home. Hungry children are less likely to perform to their highest potential in the classrooms. Also, less than 15% of the children who are eligible for the summer meals receive them. Illinois is actually in the top five states that have actually lost federal funding due to low participation rates for these services. The young children of our communities need good nutritious meals in order to grow physically and keep up with their academics to their full potential. Through the help from Share Our Strength, children who are in need will be enrolled in federal nutrition programs and families will be taught how to cook healthy and affordable meals. The families will learn how to select nutritious, yet low-cost ingredients and prepare meals in ways to ensure the best nourishment for their family.
 With the help from Illinois Commission to End Hunger and No Kid Hungry students and their families will be better aware of the programs available. With the generous help from numerous not-for-profit programs, the people of Illinois can receive help without using any state money or without raising taxes. This is a big relief that the state is not going further into debt with this Commission to End Hunger program. Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry campaigns in 16 other states besides Illinois. These states include Maryland and Colorado, where it has been an incredible success. In Maryland, this campaign has helped to increase the number of children eating summer meals by 7.5%. In Colorado, has increased the participation in school breakfast program by 430,000 more meals served. It looks like Illinois is on the same road to success as these other states are to end hunger for the children.

Recognizing Mental Health Symptoms in Adolescents

This is a letter a student wrote to a state representative about a bill that would dictate to school districts that they must have a certain type of in-service training for teachers, counselors, and social workers:


I am writing to you in regards to HB4495. I think that it is very important that school guidance counselors, teachers, school social workers, and any other school employee who works with students in grades 7 through 12 should be trained to identify the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior.

I have been a Springfield citizen for 22 years now and I believe this bill has been a long time need for our society. Children spend most of their time at school, and their teachers see more of them than their own parents do. Teachers and other school personnel should have been trained to recognize these symptoms outlined in HB4495 a long time ago. I believe this bill could help prevent a lot of suffering and make a big difference in the number of teen suicides. Before HB4495, these employees were only trained to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior. With this in-service training on the basic factors of mental illness outlined in HB4495; the counselors, teachers, and other school employees will now be able to recognize the symptoms of mental illness and know how to approach situations.

Many people who develop mental illness show symptoms by the time they are 14, that is why I believe HB4495 has a very good focal age group. Not only are these school personnel being trained to recognize the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior, they are also being taught the appropriate intervention and referral techniques to handle situations. Knowing what resources are available will be key to success. According to HB4495, at least once every two years an in-service training program for school personnel will be held. It is important to keep the training up-to-date with the changing resources available. I believe the in-service training should be held once every year at the beginning of the school year. With the help of HB4495, school personnel will be better able to communicate with youth victims of domestic or sexual violence, and refer them to agencies or programs.

I believe with bills like HB4495, there would be a less likely chance of a school shooting happening. It seems like at least every month there is some school shooting or a threat. When the story comes out, we always talk about the warning signs the classmates saw, but now with this in-service training teachers and school personnel will hopefully see those warning signs as well. This bill could also help the suicide rate from bullying go down as well. I think that it would be a wise decision if other states adopted this bill. All schools should have guidance counselors, teachers, school social workers, and any other school employee who works with students in grades 7 through 12 trained to identify the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior.

I do have one concern though, how will this in-service training be funded and how much would it cost? Although I believe this bill is necessary, it is also necessary to keep in mind the struggling economy.

Letter supporting the Hospital Uninsured Patient Discount Act


This is an example of a letter to an elected representative or executive on a social welfare topic.  This student has written about a proposed law to force hospitals to lower prices for uninsured patients. The law was, as I understand it, proposed because many hospitals have a policy of raising prices for the uninsured.
I am writing to support the Hospital Uninsured Patient Discount Act SB1881. I am a junior at the University of Illinois- Springfield studying in the Social Work Program. I am urging you to lobby for this bill because it provides a discount to hospital bills of uninsured people in Illinois. Most people who do not have health insurance simply cannot afford health insurance. Obviously, if that person cannot afford insurance, it will be very hard to them to afford a monumental bill for services provided at a hospital. Most people, because they lack the funds, will not pay the bill that they did accrue because they are being charged a very high price for services that they needed, most likely in an emergency situation. By applying a discount to uninsured persons’ hospital bill, the patients will be more likely to pay their bill. By discounting the hospital bill, hospitals will be more likely to receive money for their services because fewer bills would have to be sent to collection agencies (where they would settle for far less than even the discounted price).
You may be concerned that by discounting the prices for procedures performed by healthcare professionals, those professionals would not get paid enough for their services. But, that’s not really the case because healthcare services are already so overpriced that cutting the cost of treatment won’t be unfair.
Every person who is uninsured and qualifies for the discount, should receive the discount, even residents who are undocumented. It’s a shame that there is anyone in this country that has to go without health insurance; it’s the least we could do as a state to give those people, who can’t afford health insurance, a discounted price. Just think about people you know, I’m sure you know someone right around you, who does not have health insurance. You would hate for them to lose their house or mode of transportation because they couldn’t afford their hospital bills they accrued during an emergency. I don’t think anyone would want that, that’s why it’s vital for you to support this bill.
Thank you so much for your time and I hope you will support the Hospital Uninsured Patient Discount Act SB1881.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Student paper on aging

Here is a short descriptive paper by a student.

Defining Aging

    Obviously, part of life involves growing older. It is a process that some people dread, and other people embrace and accept. Consequently, when it comes to defining aging and at what point someone is “old” there is a lack of clarity. However, a couple distinctions have been made to create categories. One category is considered the “young”; this consists of people ages 65-74 and the people in this group are still fairly active and do not experience very many restrictions (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).  The other category is termed the “old old;” the individuals in this group may be considered frail, and suffer from serious health issues, and are in need of a variety of social services (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).

Historical Context & Policy Development

    Perceptions of old age and the elderly have shifted throughout American history. Early in our history, the elderly were seen as an asset to a developing nation  (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Although the elderly were held in a little more esteem than they may be today, it was still generally known that old age brought on pain. The shift to a more negative view of the elderly occurred by the mid-1800’s. There are a couple different thoughts as to what brought on this negative perception. One reason is that new technology was developing, and the knowledge that the elderly had was perceived as outdated (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). The other thought as to the change is credited to the intellectual shift of Social Darwinism, which emphasized the survival of the fittest (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). At this time, science and technology were providing answers to people about life, which previously came from the older generations. Therefore, the ideas of the elderly became less important.

By the 1890’s, a large portion of the elderly lived in big cities, which is where there was a perceived welfare problem growing (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). It was in the 1800’s that retirement  programs were developed; the elderly were seen as less productive workers, and retirement pensions allowed the companies to pay off their older workers (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Due to a lack of care from adult children, and resources, the number of elderly who were institutionalized at this time increased (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). 

When the great depression struck in 1929, the elderly were particularly at risk, which influenced Roosevelt’s New Deal welfare programs such as Social Security (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Eventually, a program was established that assisted the needy elderly and established a social insurance for people 65 years old and older; this was known as the Social Security Act of 1935 (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).  The Social Security Act 1935 was based on an idea that people “paid into” this fund throughout their working lives (both employers and employees).  Over time, various changes were made to this act in order to include more people, which bring us to today in which almost all retired people qualify (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).

Another policy that has been developed was the Older Americans Act of 1965. This act brought together a partnership of federal, state, local public and private agencies that provided various services for the elderly (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).  Additionally, in 1970 Congress created the Supplementary Security Income program which took over the old age assistance programs that had been run by the state, and provides services for the needy elderly (Popple & Leighninger, 2011). Today, there is concern in regards to the sustainability of these programs, especially social security.  The fear is that the government is giving out more money than they are taking in, which would mean Social Security would run out.  However, there is debate as to how dire the situation really is.  Other analysts note that the baby boomer generation has earned more than their parents; therefore they have accumulated more savings (Popple & Leighninger, 2011).


References
Aging. (2011). In Social Work, Social Welfare, and American Society (8th ed., pp. 542-575). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Profiling of African Americans by Law Enforcement

This is a student's reaction essay, the sort of thing where a student spends an hour just writing whatever they like about an issue connected with social welfare and policy:

    Racial profiling has long been a problem in our society. In many ways we have become better within the past twenty years or so. Unfortunately, our society still has a long way to go as you will see from the examples within this paper of the racial profiling that African Americans still endure today by law enforcement.

    Racial profiling can be defined “as an act of enforcement by police officers that are more motivated by racial bias of any reasonable suspicion or probable cause that may exist under the circumstances. It is also referred to as the practice of targeting African Americans for traffic stops because the officer(s) seem to believe that blacks are more likely to engage in some kind of criminal activity” (Grant & Byers, 2009). This practice of racial profiling is not only done by police officers, but also by various others forms of law enforcement. “Law enforcement agent includes a person acting in a policing capacity for public or private purposes. This includes security guards at department stores, airport security agents, police officers, or, more recently, airline pilots who have ordered passengers to disembark from flights, because the passengers' ethnicity aroused the pilots' suspicions. Members of each of these occupations have been accused of racial profiling.” (ACLU, 2005).

Those committing racial profiling are more numerous than most would expect. Most individuals would only expect police officers and those working in airports to racially profile. We can see now that this is not the case. Those of the African American race do not only experience racial profiling in their cars on our highways by law enforcement, but also while on a simple shopping excursion. “The targeting of shoppers/business patrons of color for suspicion of shoplifting by private security and other employees has disproportionately affected both working and prominent African-American women. TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey said she was refused buzz-in entry to a store even after seeing white women admitted and making a second attempt. After calling from a pay phone and being assured the store was in fact open, a third try failed as well” (ACLU, 2005).

This is blatant racial profiling. Many prominent individuals are stopped, searched, or suspected of crimes based solely on their color of their skin. The article written by Harris states that no matter what a minority races status of life, transportation, or their willingness to abide by the law is they are subject to being stopped by police and their race used as “evidence” against them. (Harris, 1999). Another article also mentioned this same situation; they referred to it as racial vulnerability.  “As a result of racial vulnerability, a black man is more likely to have several encounters with police. During these encounters, the officer(s) may ask the man to show his identification for proof, have him explain where he is traveling to and from, and the officer(s) also may ask if he uses, distributes, or even manufactures any drugs.” (Grant & Byers, 2009).

Racial profiling largest stage is on our roads. On the interstates and highways of the United States is where some of the largest violations of minorities’ rights are violated. Many wonder if this is such a big problem, why is it continuing. Surely our laws provide some protection. In a way they do. “One of the core principles of the Fourth Amendment is that the police cannot stop and detain an individual without some reason – probable cause, or at least reasonable suspicion – to believe that he or she is involved in criminal activity. But recent Supreme Court decisions allow the police to use traffic stops as a pretext in order to "fish" for evidence. Both anecdotal and quantitative data show that nationwide, the police exercise this discretionary power primarily against African Americans and Latinos.” (Harris, 1999). The law enforcement of our nation often abuse this practice. They will stop and search anyone based on their color to “fish” for evidence as Harris put it. Most often the law enforcement officials are not “fishing” for evidence because they believe that individual to have some sort of contraband because of their actions. Rather they search them and “fish” for evidence because they are racially profiling them. 

Racial profiling does not just affect those believed to be committing crimes based on their skin color. It also affects those trying to assert basic human rights such as voting in a presidential election. “Untold numbers, estimated to be in the thousands, were not given affidavit ballots that would preserve their votes pending resolution of any qualification issues. Even the state NAACP president was denied one until she stated her willingness to be jailed over the issue.

Most serious were the hundreds of reports, in African-American communities, of state police harassment of voters at polling places and traffic checkpoints, where they lined up cars, checking driving papers and inspecting vehicles. Racial profiling at its worst, this tactic appeared to be designed to delay and intimidate voters of color.” (ACLU, 2005). These individuals were purposely targeted because of the color of their skin. Many were denied their American right to vote. This was in the 2000 presidential election. Less than 12 years ago members of the African American race were being treated very similar to how they were treated when they first received the right to vote. In this election they were not terrorized by the Klu Klux Klan but by our own law enforcement officers.

    The age of an individual being racial profiled by our law enforcement is one thing that law enforcement officers do not discriminate on. Young or old they may stop you simply because of the color of your skin. Some youth in Michigan learned this first hand. " In April, 2001, the ACLU joined a suit against Eastpointe, Michigan , representing 21 young African-American men who were stopped by the police while riding their bikes there. The ACLU argued that the bicyclists were stopped in this predominantly white suburb of Detroit because of their race and not because they were doing anything wrong. In a 1996 memorandum to the Eastpointe City Manager, the former police chief stated that he instructed his officers to investigate any black youths riding through Eastpointe subdivisions. Police searched many of young men and, in some cases, seized and later sold their bicycles. Police logs and reports in Eastpointe have identified over 100 incidents between 1995 and 1998 in which African-American youth were detained.” (ACLU, 2005).

The state police of Maryland took no pity on an elderly African American couple when they pulled them over and searched them extensively. “In Maryland, in 1997, Charles and Etta Carter, an elderly African American couple from Pennsylvania, were stopped by Maryland State Police on their 40th wedding anniversary. The troopers searched their car and brought in drug-sniffing dogs. During the course of the search, their daughter's wedding dress was tossed onto one of the police cars and, as trucks passed on I-95, it was blown to the ground. Mrs. Carter was not allowed to use the restroom during the search because police officers feared that she would flee. Their belongings were strewn along the highway, trampled and urinated on by the dogs. No drugs were found and no ticket was issued.” (Harris, 1999). Law enforcement officers treated these elderly couple like criminals. They had done nothing wrong, had done nothing to instigate the stop other than ‘driving while black’.

    How long will we as a society stand for this? To what point will we watch individuals be treated in such a vile, unconstitutional manner? Many of these people are hardworking, good, honest people who are being judged and violated with searches of their property simply because of the color of their skin. As we all know an individual’s race does not make them a criminal. We need to instill this idea in our children and fellow human beings. Everyone deserves a fair shake in life. 


References
Grant, K., & Byers, T. (2009). Missouri western state university. Retrieved from http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/403.php
In Text (Grant & Byers, 2009)

Harris, D. (1999, June 7). American civil liberties union. Retrieved from http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/driving-while-black-racial-profiling-our-nations-highways
In text (Harris, 1999)

ACLU. (2005, Nov. 23). American civil liberties union. Retrieved from http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/racial-profiling-definition
In text (ACLU, 2005)