Introduction: Social Problems,
Social Policy, Social Change
Social work students come from varied backgrounds. Some have arrived directly from school; others have worked in the human services for a while and want to refine their skills; still another group of older returning students wish to learn but are uneasy because they have not written a term paper in twenty years. Although a few of you are interested in and committed to advocacy, organizing, and political change, probably a larger number mostly think about using counseling to help people. Whatever your background, you all expect to succeed because you know your intentions are good, and you will work hard.
Then you start running into obstacles. You want to do something for a client, but your supervisor says the program will not pay for it. Or, as hard as you look, there is no apartment in the community for $400 a month. Soon you discover that day care is scarce and real job training even scarcer. And, even though you believe that your client's daughter needs more, not less, time with her mother, you have to do what the law says, and the law says the mother must find paid work. Gradually, it dawns on you: though you may be full of good intentions, good intentions alone are not enough.
That is when the frustration sets in and you start asking questions: Why won't the system let me do what I know is best for my client? Why won't it let me just do my job? Is there something lacking in my social work skills, or even with me as a social worker?