I Am Incredible

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Quantity VS. Quality: Researching the Conflicts between Social Work and Bureaucracy 5/15/2011 CJ 680 Professor Brown, SFSU Word Count: 7,386

5/9/11 CJ 680 Professor Brown Final Paper  

Introduction
In order to fill the need for support for families coping with economic and domestic hardships, social work organizations have evolved in modern, urban society. Among the numerous and varied social work organizations, there are supervised visitation programs, such as the one I completed my internship with. Supervised visitation, by definition, is providing an opportunity for contact between a child and an adult, typically the non-custodial parent, in the presence of a third party. This third party is responsible for ensuring a safe environment for the individuals participating in the visit, primarily concerning the child being at risk (Straus, 1995). Overall, the purpose of supervised visitation programs is to provide a safe and friendly environment that maintains and nurtures the relationship of a child with his/her parent(s). By facilitating contact, supervised visitation centers may provide a safe, supportive environment for families to learn healthy ways of interacting, in an effort to abolish abuse and violence. In this way, visitation programs are valuable assets to society at large (Perkins, 1998). Because there are benefits for children who otherwise could have little or no time with their noncustodial parent(s), visitation programs are receiving the praise of the courts that use them, the parents who exclusion or fears have been relieved, and of the community at large (Newton, 1997). However, society’s increasing emphasis on rationalization and economic instability heavily influence all social work organizations, including visitation programs, and impede their ability to provide personal, humanistic service to clients in need. My research focuses upon the structural components and policies of social work organizations that emphasize bureaucratic values of standardization and efficiency, which are in actuality in direct conflict with the goal of providing compassionate, personal care to families in need. Supported by my own observations as an intern case manager at a local supervised 2   

5/9/11 CJ 680 Professor Brown Final Paper  

visitation center, my research will explore four themes: “Us Versus Them,” “Rationalization of Social Work,” “Lack of Efficiency,” and “Conflict of Aims.” The first theme addressed in this research, “Us Versus Them,” describes the divisive tension present between social workers and clients, directors of social work organizations and their staff, and even a particular social work organization and outside agents. There is a great deal of tension between these groups because they all believe that they are acting in the best interest of the clients and that they must defend clients against interference from anyone else. I will also address the tactics used by social workers to cope with these tensions: “Resiliency” and “Community.” The next theme addressed, “Rationalization of Social Work,” explores different mechanisms used within social work organizations to control and standardize work in order to be as efficient as possible. Also observed during my own experience at my internship, social work organizations are structured bureaucracies that seek efficiency through technology, surveillance, and the compartmentalization of duties. Though social work organizations, including the visitation center, are constantly striving to be as efficient as possible their efforts frequently backfire and result in more inefficiency. I explore this phenomenon, (“Lack of Efficiency”), by examining redundancy, fragmented staff, and breakdown of communication between social work agencies. Finally, my research addresses the issue of “Conflicting Aims” within social work organizations. Drawn from my experience at the visitation center, I have identified a conflict between the economic needs and autonomous...
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