The purpose of doing a policy brief from a social work perspective is to assess in a systematic manner the extent to which a particular policy has the potential to empower marginalized groups in society and/or to create obstacles to realizing one’s potential–self-actualization. As practitioners, we also seek to understand a policy within a particular social, cultural, political and economic context. Given the context, is the policy feasible? As social workers, we are also concerned with the extent to which a policy, whether at the agency, county, state or federal level, in congruent with the mission of social and economic justice. For every policy put is place, we seek to derive optimal social benefit, and minimize social cost. What is the potential impact of a policy on the public at large, and more specifically, those who are already disadvantaged? The ideal policy helps at least one person and hurts no one. Below is a framework for policy analysis adapted from Karger & Stoesz (2003) model and Chambers & Wedel (2005) textbooks. Use it as a guideline for exploring your policy area and coming to conclusions about the extent to which it adequately addresses the problem it was designed to resolve.
Instructions: You will be using this outline as a guide throughout the semester as you complete the first two (2) sections of the policy brief as a mid-term assignment, and revise those sections and add the final three sections at the completion of the course. The entire brief will be at least 25 pages.
I. Historical Background of the Policy

In the US we tend to create new policies using an incremental approach. That is, we make small changes in already existing policies rather than making radical policy changes. For this reason, it is very helpful to have an understanding of the origins of a given policy and how it has changed over time. It also provides historical contexts for understanding social problems. The extent and nature of social problems can vary dramatically over time. Use the following questions to guide you in your exploration of the history of the particular policy you are examining.
a. What were the historic problems that lead to the creation of the original policy? Discuss each in detail and make links between the problem(s) and the original policy and its intent.

b. What was the original policy adopted to address the problem? From a historical economic, social and political perspective, why did these policy options make sense at the time? What were the sources of policy addressing this problem in the past? (i.e.

1 ASSIGNMENT #1 & 2 SW 640 Advanced Policy Meets Course Objectives 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

legislative, regulations, budget, court decisions, executive decisions, etc.). Discuss each over time within the context of social, economic, and political forces.

c. How has the problem and the policies addressing this problem changed over time? Chronicle the historical events and historic context that lead to policy changes up to the present.

d. How effective have past policies been at addressing the problem? To what extent have they alleviated the problems they sought to address. What new problems have they created?

II. Description of the Current Problem that Necessitates the Policy

a. The US has historically been reactive in the approach to policy making. In other words, we only adopt social policies when a significant social problem exists. We tend not to develop preventive policies. To understand the emergence of the policy you are examining, you will need to identify the social problem it was designed to address.

b. What is the nature and extent of the problem? (How big is it and who is affected?). Social policies are typically only adopted when significant numbers of people are affected by a problem. Sometimes the class or power of a group affected can also influence whether or not policies are adopted to address the problem.

c. Why is it a problem? (Who defines the problem? Who sanctions the problem?). What social, economic, political and media forces converged to define the events of the era a ‘social problem?’

d. How is the problem understood by the public? How is it defined? What values/ideologies are reflected in the definition of the problem? What underlying assumptions support the existence of the problem? In what concrete ways is the problem understood? Is it understood differently for different segments of the population? Be specific in your discussion and support all claims with valid statistical data.

e. Who does it affect? Who is the target population? How many people are affected by the problem? Who are they? How does it impact their lives? Are there elements of social injustice associated with the problem? Discuss these in-depth.

f. What are the social values that relate to the problem?

g. What are the prevailing theories about why the problem exists? (consider a wide variety of social theories in order to avoid your own bias) What are the causes of the problem? Are they individual problems, geographic problems, budget problems, structural problems? Or many of these?

2 ASSIGNMENT #1 & 2 SW 640 Advanced Policy Meets Course Objectives 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

h. What are the antecedents (causes or contributing factors) to the problem? What are the consequences of the problem? Create a causal chain that attempts to explain your problem of interest.

i. Who benefits and who suffers from the existence of the problem and the way the problem is defined? Think beyond the obvious here.

j. Are there currently programs to deal with the problem? Provide an overview of these policies and programs.