Taking the Macro Practice Path

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    • 00:00


    • 00:09

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Hi.I'm Rachel Leblond with Sage Publishing.And I'm here today with Dr. Tamara Hunter, who'sthe executive director of the LA County Commission for Childrenand Families.Tamara, welcome.

    • 00:20

      TAMARA HUNTER: Thank you.It's great to be here.

    • 00:22

      RACHEL LEBLOND: So could you tell usa little bit about what led you to social work?

    • 00:26

      TAMARA HUNTER: I think of myself as a natural-born helper.I work in the public child welfare field.I've worked in this area for about 16 years.And I actually began my career as a professional social workerwith a very large public Child Protective Services,or CPS, organization.

    • 00:47

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: And while I was with this organization,I worked with children and familieswho were involved with CPS due to allegations or incidentsof child abuse and neglect.

    • 00:59

      RACHEL LEBLOND: So what led you to macro practice?

    • 01:02

      TAMARA HUNTER: I realized very early in my careerthat I am not a micro practitioner.Instead of the work that was done with individual clientswith the children and their families,I was more interested in the ways in which the systemsand programs that they interacted with

    • 01:23

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: worked or did not work.So very early on, I knew that I was driven to that.And I actually sought out opportunitiesto do the type of work that I enjoyed whenever possible.

    • 01:34

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Can you walk us through a little bitthe differences between the micro, mezzo,and macro realms of social work?

    • 01:41

      TAMARA HUNTER: Sure.So social work practice is typicallydivided into three levels.There's micro practice, which involves workwith individuals and families.It's what we think of--it's therapy, or it's case management.That's sort of in the micro realm.And then there's mezzo, which can reallybe considered an extension of micro practice

    • 02:04

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: because it involves work with small groups, so neighborhoodsor schools.And then there's macro practice, whichis large-scale systems change to impact groups of peopleor populations.

    • 02:19

      RACHEL LEBLOND: So I'm glad we're heretalking with you about macro because, often, Ithink when we think about social workers,we think about the micro practice,so working on an individual level.What's been your experience there?What's your understanding of the macro practice in relationto the micro practice?

    • 02:38

      TAMARA HUNTER: You're absolutely correct.In child welfare, unfortunately, social worker turnover rateis pretty high.And a lot of that is because social workersdon't know about the macro options thatare available to them until it's too late.And this is really an issue with the social work field overall.

    • 02:59

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: As you stated, when we think about social work,we really-- what comes to mind is the micro work,the work with individuals, with family, therapy, and thingslike that.Macro practice is really the root of social work.The field began with efforts to impactlarge-scale systems change for groups of people in need.However, somewhere along the way,

    • 03:21

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: social work became synonymous with micro practice.And that's really unfortunate.

    • 03:26

      RACHEL LEBLOND: So you've mentionedthat macro practice is very large scaleand working across different organizations and communities.Can you talk to us a little bit about that?Can you break it down a little bit about whatmacro practice entails?

    • 03:41

      TAMARA HUNTER: Sure.So macro practice is traditionallydivided into three areas of practice.There's administrative or organizational macro practice,community macro practice, and policy and advocacy practice.

    • 03:57

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Can you tell us aboutadministrative and organizational practice,what that entails?

    • 04:01

      TAMARA HUNTER: Sure.Administrative or organizational macro practiceinvolves work with the programs, agencies,and systems with which individuals, families,small groups, and communities are involved.Administrative macro practice involveswhat typically comes to mind when you think

    • 04:23

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: of organizational social work.So that's everything from program design and programmanagement to leading large organizations and agencies,and all that that entails, but doing soin a way that's consistent with social work values.

    • 04:42

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Could you give usan example of the work you've done within the administrationand organizational piece?

    • 04:49

      TAMARA HUNTER: So when I was with the CPS organization,I did everything from managing programs to managingadministrative operations.And now during my work with the Commission for Childrenand Families, we're in a really unique spacein Los Angeles County in that we have an opportunityto work with the various entities, organizations,

    • 05:11

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: and systems that really comprise the child welfare system.And our role is really to connect the dotsand help multiple systems and disparate organizationswork together to create better outcomesfor children and families.So in addition to what typically comes

    • 05:33

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: to mind when we think about organizational social work,this type of macro practice also includes thingsthat we don't typically think of, such as using technologyto promote social good or using data to better informour decision-making.

    • 05:51

      RACHEL LEBLOND: You also mentioned community workis also part of macro.Can you tell us about that?

    • 05:56

      TAMARA HUNTER: Community macro practicetypically involves work with communitiesthat are underresourced, disinvested, and oftendisenfranchised.And this type of macro practice is reallyabout working to achieve equity and justicefor these communities and, of course, for the residents.

    • 06:18

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: Community macro practice is what--I'd say it's the closest to the origins of the social workprofession.It involves a grassroots organization.It involves grassroots organizing.It involves coalition-building and mobilizationto drive change.

    • 06:40

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: But it also includes things that we don't typicallythink of, such as developing and implementingnew and innovative economic development strategies.It also involves using data and technology to identify needand map it to better inform the ways in which resources

    • 07:01

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: should be allocated to communities in need.

    • 07:03

      RACHEL LEBLOND: So the third componentthat you mentioned of macro practice is, I think,actually what we might think of generally as macro practice,is the policy component and the advocacy component.So what does that look like?

    • 07:17

      TAMARA HUNTER: Policy and advocacy workis key to improving conditions for the most vulnerableamong us.So policy and advocacy macro practiceinvolves the creation of an implementationof fiscal, social, and administrative policy that

    • 07:40

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: impacts large groups of people.Social workers can play a tremendous rolein the policy space.And this work can be applied to policy and legislationat the local, state, and federal level.Really, it's anywhere that can impact large groups of people.

    • 08:01

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: And that includes the various organizations, and agencies,and systems with which they are involved.

    • 08:07

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Do you have any examplesfrom your own personal experiencein terms of being an advocate or working towards policy change?

    • 08:15

      TAMARA HUNTER: So as I mentioned,the Commission for Children and Familiesplays a unique role in LA County.We have been involved in lobbying for policy changeat local and state levels.Oftentimes, this involves lobbying our local governing

    • 08:35

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: body, which is LA County Board of Supervisors.When there is an issue that the board of supervisorshas already taken a position on, we are then able to travel,and sometimes we do travel, up to the state capital,which is Sacramento, to testify before committees in support

    • 08:58

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: of policy or legislation that will impactthe communities that we serve.

    • 09:06

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Can you tell us a bit about what rolesocial workers play in terms of policy changeand being an advocate?

    • 09:12

      TAMARA HUNTER: We use research to identifysocial problems that would benefit from policyor legislative solutions.We help to draft policy to address social issues.And we also advise and inform the decision-makerswho have the responsibility of determining

    • 09:33

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: whether or not to adopt and implementpolicy or legislation.

    • 09:37

      RACHEL LEBLOND: So earlier, you had mentionedhow important data was and research to get that datato help inform practices.Can you talk a little bit about howdata and technology kind of interweaves into macro practiceand maybe how it's informed policy change?

    • 09:54

      TAMARA HUNTER: Certainly.So increasingly, the social work fieldis relying on data and technologyto guide our decision-making, to shape our work with clients.And in many cases, the technologyitself is actually a solution to a social problem.

    • 10:15

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: Given the significant advances in technology,the use of data and technology in macro practiceis really a burgeoning area of the field.Data and technology is used to map needin underresourced communities, which is extremely helpful whenadvocating for additional resources

    • 10:35

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: to underserved or underresourced communities.Within child welfare, apps have beendeveloped to help coordinate visitation,for example, which can be an incredibly complex thingto coordinate.And you wouldn't imagine it, but appshave been developed to help facilitate visitation

    • 10:58

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: between children who are placed in foster careand their parents.The coordination of visitation requires coordinating,oftentimes, the child's schedule,the foster parent's schedule with the parentas well as the social worker.So that's a really unique exampleof how technology really benefits kids and families

    • 11:19

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: because we all know that children-- the visitationis incredibly important for children and families.And it really aids in reunification.The field has been increasingly puttingon hackathons, which are really cool.And these are events in which we draw experts in tech,

    • 11:41

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: in IT to come and meet with us and helpdevelop tech solutions to some of the problemsthat we experience.And the visitation coordination is one example of that.That piece of technology actually came from a hackathon.

    • 11:56

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Oh, wow.That's incredible.

    • 11:58

      TAMARA HUNTER: Yeah, that is just really cool.

    • 12:00

      RACHEL LEBLOND: Given your experiencestarting as a micro practitioner,and realizing it wasn't for you, and transitioninginto macro practice, and really embracingthat, what advice do you have for people who are embarkingon a career in social work?

    • 12:15

      TAMARA HUNTER: Well, as I've mentioned,there is a significant overlap between micro, mezzo,and macro social work practice.And social workers should not feel limited to just onetype of practice.This is also true for social work students whomay be in academic program concentrations thatare designed to prepare them for a career in micro practice.

    • 12:39

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: It is not uncommon for social workersto move between micro, mezzo, and macro practicethroughout their career.And in fact, those with direct practice experiencewith clients, be it individuals or communities,are often uniquely qualified to design programs, shape policy,

    • 13:00

      TAMARA HUNTER [continued]: lead organizations, and lead organizationsbecause they have the firsthand knowledgeabout client experiences, needs, and strengths.The same really applies to the various areasof macro practice.Organizational, community, and policy practiceoften go hand-in-hand as they inform one another.

    • 13:21

      RACHEL LEBLOND: That's excellent advice.Thank you so much.

    • 13:23

      TAMARA HUNTER: Thank you for having me.It was great to be here.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Taking the Macro Practice Path

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Tamara Hunter, MSW, discusses her experience and career in macro social work, including advice for future social workers.

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Taking the Macro Practice Path

Tamara Hunter, MSW, discusses her experience and career in macro social work, including advice for future social workers.

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