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Social Welfare Policy and Services

Understand how welfare helps and hinders those in need.

Social welfare programs are in place to provide the neediest among us with basic tools of survival such as food, shelter and health care. Many people living in poverty often rely on these programs, but few are able to rise above poverty level. In SOWK 6321 Social Welfare Policy and Services, you will look at how these programs work and how they could be improved to better serve and elevate those in need.

Course Description

The contemporary social welfare system in the United States is made up of six main programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Medicaid
  • Public Housing
  • Child Care Assistance
  • Social Security Disability

In this course, you will focus on these programs as a response to social problems, with special attention to structural oppression and how policy affects practice. You will examine the idea of populations-at-risk, individuals and groups of people who experience a disproportionate share of difficulties in achieving and maintaining well-being.

Because of social structures in society, people who do not look or live like the majority population in power (e.g., ethnic/racial minorities, women, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender people, persons with disabilities, etc.) often encounter deeply entrenched obstacles and barriers to health and wellness in the form of discrimination and oppression fueled by prejudice. You will evaluate policies that create and sustain such obstacles and barriers or are designed to reduce or eliminate them.

Using case studies, films and other sources, you will get a feel for what it’s like to live on a low income and will consider how the major social welfare programs are presented, could have helped, or would have been difficult to utilize in the scenarios presented. To the extent that our society achieves greater social and economic justice for all people, social welfare policies may become less necessary and you will examine ways to help level the playing field in the U.S. so that equal opportunities are truly available to everyone.

Assignment Example

Work as part of a team based on your mutual interest in an existing welfare program. Over the course of this class, your team will role play as eligibility workers for that program, reviewing case scenarios to determine eligibility and justifying your decisions.

Sample Learning Exercise

You will experience the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) firsthand by living off a SNAP budget for two weeks.

Course Topics

Throughout each week of the course, you will focus on a core topic or theme. Sample topics are listed below and are subject to change based on the instructor.

  • Six Main Social Welfare Policies
  • Social Welfare Deep Dive
  • Benefit Programs
  • Analyze Social Welfare Policy
  • Self-Care and Catch-Up
  • Structural Oppression Overview
  • Structural Oppression Deep Dive
  • Values and Ethics in Social Policy

Learning Outcomes

Through SOWK 6321, you will gain a better understanding of topics specific to professional social work identity, values and ethics, diversity, human rights, social and economic justice, and cultural competence with emphasis on Hispanic families and children.

  • Know the attributes of welfare programs and major events, themes and tensions in current social welfare policy.
  • Understand how social policy impacts micro level practice.
  • Recognize and discuss the issues of distributive justice, human and civil rights, and the global interconnection of oppression.
  • Experience and discuss the difficulties encountered by those living in poverty.
  • Apply major principles, dynamics and provisions of welfare policy in the U.S. to cases with emphasis on groups that have limited access to resources and opportunities.
  • Use policy practice skills, including advocacy to improve social welfare policies, in ways that are consistent with generalist social work practice.
  • Analyze social work values and ethical dilemmas within the framework of social welfare policy and services.

Learn More About Helping Others

In SOWK 6321, you will consider how the contemporary social welfare system in the U.S. responds to social problems. To learn more about this course or any other course in the online Master of Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University, call 855-275-1082 to speak with an admissions advisor right away, or you can request more information.

The content presented on this page is representative information for example purposes and is subject to change as course and student needs change over time.

Programs that include this course