Thinking like a social worker

…any questions? Yes. I have plenty.

National Poverty Panel: Not inclusive, but important start

on January 18, 2013

I typically hate panels.  They consist of “important” people talking without respect for time or content.  With that being said I thoroughly enjoyed the intensity and clarity of thought at the “Vision for a new American” panel.  The beauty of the panel was that the soliloquies (which I typically hate) produced some great quotes and sound bites!  In the end, it was just refreshing to spend 2 ½ hours listening to passionate people talk about poverty in the U.S.

I am typically skeptical of too much talk (not enough action), but around poverty, we need more talking.  The government needs more input from individuals living in poverty, working to fight poverty, and researching poverty, so that as a nation we can improve our current approach.  There are great programs, data, and practices being used all over the country (and other countries) that should be supported at a national level.

The problem: poverty is complex. So where do you start on a national level? Housing? Health care? Criminal justice? Education? Food? Safety net programs? Jobs?

Tavis and the panelists were focusing their attention on child poverty, especially around quality of education.  I was disappointed that other populations and factors did not come up.  I did not hear any talk of men, mental health, housing, or substance abuse – topics that are often associated with lack of personal responsibility.  Children living in poverty is an easy sell.  They are seen as vulnerable and innocent to the failings of their parents and of the system.  So maybe we start there – focusing on education, social safety net, and health care to make sure that children have a “sidewalk” out of poverty.  But eventually we need to move to a discussion about “the guilty ones”, the single adults who also deserve a chance at social mobility.

For now, I am glad that this panel sparked more conversation around poverty, and I want to see the conversation continue.  The panel discussion is available at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/TavisSm.  You can also learn more about the project and sign a petition to the president at http://www.tavistalks.com/visionforanewamerica/.

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