Introduction
The group examined their respective placements and found that demographics from each varied according to the population that was served. The placements were Catholic Charities, Reconciliation Services, Comprehensive Mental Health Services, and Happy Bottoms. The diverse populations, when compared to one another showed that it is very important to be culturally competent as well as educated in certain areas (this includes demographics) to best serve the agencies clients.
This study is a very broad overview of the demographics of the practicums involved and the disparity of poverty, working with domestic abused women, aiding clients in a mental health agency, as well as working with mothers and their infants. It has been the intent of this study to draw attention to the issues and importance of the social worker student to be competent when working with diverse populations and the issues surrounding them. Further, it will give the reader a sampling of the differences and general information that can be viewed as a micro phenomenon that is part of a greater macro phenomenon of these same realities that occur in every major city in the United States.
Literature Review
It is vital that every social worker that labors in any social service environment, be culturally sound and to be aware of the demographics of the clients they serve. Without this knowledge the social worker will be ineffective in their work. In this study the researchers (either from at etic or emic perspective) have observed, taken notes and have conducted interviews to obtain some understanding of the clients they serve.
Catholic Charities does many services for the clients that come to their agency for various reasons. One such service is to work with women who have experienced the ill effects of domestic violence. The demographics presented from one agency in this study observed the effects of women who have been the victims of domestic violence. The importance of being educated in understanding domestic violence and how it effects women is a vital asset to have. In one article on domestic violence the author writes,
Because social workers constitute the largest professional group providing mental health services, a comprehensive assessment of domestic violence and sexual abuse or victimization is crucial in all practice settings. In addition, education efforts should cut across the diverse areas of social work practice. Awareness and education efforts must ensure an understanding of violence against women as a gender issue (for example, that domestic violence and sexual abuse disproportionately affect women), the impact on both the individual survivor and family members, and the responsibility of the larger society to work toward ending violence against women. Awareness efforts also must include ongoing education of social work students and social work professionals. (Equity, 2002)
One researcher works with this population and has observed the effects of domestic abuse. Taking notes, consulting appropriate journals and interviews with colleagues have aided the researcher in better understanding abused and battered women. The researcher also found that training, empathy and education in aiding and counseling women who have suffered domestic abuse is something the student social worker must have to work with this population.
One other researcher works in an environment whose demographics are mothers and infants. Although direct contact is not part of the researcher’s placement, observations and notes as well as consulting literature in regards to the placement, have given the researcher the ability to evaluate the population that the researcher works in. The agency, Happy Bottoms aids mothers in obtaining diapers for their children. Donations are accepted and then distributed to those families in need of diaper assistance. Again, it is important for the student social worker to understand the needs of the clients they serve.
Parents are often under a great amount of stress when financial disparity effects their means to take adequate care of their infants. When parents are not able to provide some of the basic needs for their child, such as diapers, the results can be not only stressful but can cause feelings of despair. Diapers are an important need for infants in their overall health. In a journal article of Pediatrics a study was done to specifically look at the need for parents unable to afford diapers for their infant children. The study was the first of its kind to quantify the issue of diaper needs for parents unable to afford them. The study looked at variables such as income, employment status and education. The author’s conclusion states,
Although a majority of studies have examined family socioeconomic status as income and educational and employment status, emerging research suggests that indicators of material hardship are increasingly important to child health. This study supports this premise with the suggestion that an adequate supply of diapers may prove a tangible way of reducing parenting stress, a critical factor influencing child health and development. There is potential for pediatric providers to inquire about diaper need and refer families to a local diaper distribution service as 1 method to reduce parenting stress. (Smith, Kruse, Weir, and Goldblum, 2013)
Happy Bottoms is such a place that works to distribute diapers to those families in need. The health and wellbeing of both the parent(s) and the infant child are able to get their needs met. It is perhaps an overlooked need but one that is very important and crucial for low income families.
A third researcher works with the urban poor at Reconciliation Services. The agency is sponsored by the Serbian Orthodox Church and so the placement is a faith-based placement. Reconciliation Services works mostly with an African-American population. Men and women are equally represented.
The services that Reconciliation provides are a food pantry every Monday. Internet café and computer classes every Wednesday and Friday. It should be noted that during the internet café a computer class that has a duration of four hours is available and on completion the client may obtain vouchers for ID’s, birth certificates and driver’s licenses. The agency also does casework with clients and provides some funding for utilities. There is also a Friday night dinner that runs from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. The researcher used some of this time to observe clients who came to the Friday night dinners.
The researcher at Reconciliation services took notes to make observations and interviews with Reconciliation staff to gain information on the diversity and demographics of the agency. The researcher also took more of an etic point of view when observing the clients who availed themselves of services that the agency provides. As the majority of those served at Reconciliation Services are African-American’s it is important for the researcher to be culturally competent to meet the needs for the clients that utilize the services of the agency. One author in our literature review wrote of the importance of being in touch both culturally and ethnically when serving minority clients. The author wrote,
The rapidly increasing diverse population in the United States demands that the social worker….be professionally and ethically responsible for being culturally competent in their assessment and intervention skills when working with ethnic minority populations. This is necessary in order for practitioners to effectively facilitate the rights of their clients to have access to culturally appropriate and effective current best practice treatment intervention approaches in the care of their racially and ethnically diverse populations. (Theyer, Wodarski, Myers, and Harrison, 2010)
At Reconciliation Services the researcher noted that every effort is made to meet the needs of the minority client. In fact, the staff were observed to go to great lengths to serve Reconciliations clients respecting both their racial and ethnic diversity.
Finally, the fourth researcher works at Comprehensive Mental Health Care. This researcher works with a diverse population who come to the agency for their mental health needs. All patients are low income and so the agency accepts only Medicaid or provides for those who have no insurance at all.
The researcher took notes, interviewed co-workers, used software called the I-drive system as well as consulted articles to do research. The demographics for this researcher are low income clients with a mental illness. Here too the student social worker must be able to relate to the multi-diversity of cultures that come to the agency for their needs. One article wrote,
To be effective, social workers must have a deep understanding of human development and behavior. They also must have an appreciation for the effects of various social, economic and cultural factors, and an understanding of how these factors interact. (Social Worker, 2015)
Mental Health agencies that work with low income families offers the researcher a challenge when working with this diverse population. It gives the student social worker an opportunity to not only serve the needs of this particular population but allows the researcher to better understand this population via the study that this researcher has done.
All four practicum placements have populations that are very diverse. From working with mothers and infants, women who have suffered from domestic violence, the urban poor to low income families who have mental illness needs. Each placement has given the researchers in this study some insight on the demographics, cultural diversity as well as information gained through observation, interviews and consultation with various journals. A little should be said in regards to critiquing the methods used by the group study. Though there did not seem to be a specific phenomenon other than the diversity and demographics of the group’s placement, the group’s methods did aid in supporting the group’s findings. This then leads the study into the methods of the research the group has done.
Methods Section
There were many participants involved in this study of demographics pertaining to diversity within the four practicum sites. Within Happy Bottoms, the participants are new mothers, therefore the participants are women aging from teenagers to mid forty years old who needs assistance with purchasing diapers or baby supplies for their new borns. For Catholic Charities, Relationships KAN! Program, the participants were also women from teenagers to adult women of any age who are below the 100% poverty line and in need of a fresh start. Our participants through Comprehensive Mental Health Services are from youth to adults. There is a wide range of involvement within this practicum who are in need of mental health services. The last organization is Reconciliation Services and the participants are individuals who live below the poverty guideline, single adults or families.
Other participants are a few select staff we have approached to help us with our findings and methods of our study from each of the organizations. We chose the clients because our focus is demographics therefore by seeing who comes to each agency we get an idea of their diversity, unique demographics, and the kind of people the agency help and who comes in for assistance. We chose few select employees from all four agencies because we wanted a professional outlook on demographics and how diversity is related with each organization. It is important in our study to know who is seeking assistance and services and the different demographics within the Kansas City area.
We found our participants by participating in each of our practicums and forming rapport and a relationship with our clients we serve. We acted the same with the staff, we got to know each other and explained our study to them. Some of the staff included a class educator, field liaison, field instructors, case workers and preceptors. They were happy to help and sought this out as a learning experience for themselves as well. We explained to the clients about the research study and explained no harm would come from this study. Some clients were more enthusiastic about participating in the study than others but all of who we asked agreed to participate in the study in various ways.
We used several mechanisms to record all of the participants’ information. Evidence was gathered by peer interview with agency social workers, and other staff. Naturalistic Observation was used by us, the research students, to collect data about the environment and day to day practice. Interviews with staff were also a part of our methods for this study. We constructed an outline of questions that both participants answered thoroughly. To reduce bias the interviewer listened and made notes rather than leading the interviewee in discussion. Since the questions were open ended, the goal was to remain objective throughout the interview for the purpose of discussing Cultural Diversity.
Another method we used were creating surveys and focus groups about diversity and demographics. We surveys staff to find out their experiences with diversity in each agency. We also observed the clients in each agency while on site to learn who is seeking assistance and what demographics these clients possess and their diversity backgrounds. Focus groups were a part of our method because we wanted the clients to be in one room together to find different perspectives on demographics and let each client aware of others’ opinions and thoughts toward the subject.
Other sources of data used for our methods of findings were peer reviewed articles and journals on cultural diversity topics to better understand the subject. We also took advantage of Google Scholar and the university library to find articles and journals over the study. Some of us were fortunate to attend cultural competent and diversity training provided by our agencies which we found was a useful source for our study.
Our analysis scheme for this study consisted of mainly literature reviews to learn about what other researchers have done in the past, which helped us prepare for our own research study. We attempted to choose indicators that would not show biases or past judgments. Throughout the study however, since we used mainly interviews and surveys, we were prepared to receive subjective feedback as well as objective. Lastly, we asked adequate questions to exclude third variables and did not allow other influences than those participants work their way into the study.

Findings

Our findings are from all four different locations, Comprehensive Mental health, Catholic Charities, Happy Bottoms, Reconciliation services. The four locations work with at risk populations, the mentally ill, domestic abuse victims, and small children. This research contains a broad population with the underlining theme of poverty. All four organizations are non-profit, and are limited to individuals with low income opportunities. We researched the organizations demographic information about the clients serviced by the organizations.
Demographic Findings
A) Catholic Charities: Twenty-seven percent of residents in the Kansas City region are people of color, including many different racial and ethnic groups. The Latino population is predominantly of Mexican ancestry (80 percent). Despite its relatively small share of the overall regional population, the Asian population is quite diverse; large groups include Asian Indian, Chinese/Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Korean. Ancestry Population Mexican 119,691 All other Latinos 30,552 Total 150,243; Asian/Pacific Islander Ancestry Population Asian Indian 12,434 Chinese or Taiwanese 7,155 Vietnamese 6,550 Filipino 4,115 Korean 3,856 All other Asians 9,846 Total 43,956. Catholic Charities is an organization that works with women fleeing from domestic abuse.
B) Happy Bottoms: They work with low income families, but mostly single mothers. They have a far outreach of clients due to their partnership with other agencies. Agencies that are partnered with Happy Bottoms are Hope House, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, True Light Family Recourse Center, Mattie Rhodes, Colonial Hills Necessities Pantry, Good Samaritan Center, Love, INC of Clay County, Avenue of Life, and Wyandotte County Healthy Start. These organizations only provide service to poverty filled individuals, most of which are on Medicaid.
C) Reconciliation Services: The agency is sponsored by the Serbian Orthodox Church and so the placement is a faith-based placement. Reconciliation Services works mostly with an African-American population. Men and women are equally represented. The services that Reconciliation provides are a food pantry every Monday. 83% of individuals served are African American, 13% are white, 4% Hispanic or Latino.
D) Comprehensive Mental Health: This agency only provides services to individuals who are mentally ill or have a mental illness along with a substance abuse habit. 17% of the clients served ae African American, 78% are White Americans, 3% Hispanic, 2% Asian. Approximately 70% of the clients are over 40, approximately 20% include adults 18-39, and approximately 10% are minors.
Client and Faculty Reports
Several Clients and staff members have been interviewed during our research below are the recordings of those conversations and 40 survey reports.
Survey Questions
1. What is your gender, age, race, and level of education? The average age of the age of the individuals, who returned the survey was 35, 24 of the surveyed individuals were black and 16 were white. 74% were women and 26% were men.
2. What is cultural diversity? Staff member report, “Cultural diversity is a broad topic, but I would say it’s what makes us different from one another,” “It’s the difference between how you’re raised and also where you’re raised.”
3. How important is diversity in relations to working with others in an organization or company?
Staff report, “I believe diversity is important in the workplace because we serve many clients and having workers from broad cultural and ethnicity backgrounds, helps up provide better service.”
4. Please describe any incident of discrimination due to race, gender, ethnicity, etc you have experienced or witness. How was the situation handled? N/A
5. What are the challenges associated with diversity in an organization or company? Staff report,” we don’t have any minority staff in administrative positions, there are many in supervisor roles but no director or board members. “
6. What are the benefits of having a cultural diversity training program? “Cultural diversity trainings are important because we some time forget that not everyone see things the way we do” “you’re never really culturally competent and trainings helps you remember that.”
We’ve found that every organization has mandatory cultural competency training, and staff members are required to take the course multiple times throughout the year.
Discussion Section
The practitioner and consumer have many capabilities with regards to research. They both are capable of finding real-world data versus technology date one can find. This can be achieved through focus groups, in which we interviewed 5 individuals from diverse populations from our practicums to get a clear understanding of their opinions, biases, knowledge, and other information regarding our demographic topic. Racial identity, communication styles, ethnographic information, and diverse experiences among the participants were discussed in these focus groups. Each participant learned more about diversity from those groups, including some of the staff and ourselves as researchers.
While conducting these focus groups we wanted to remain neutral and unbiased. To avoid this we avoided biased questions, biased answers, biased picked participants in focus group, biases samples, and biases reporting. We avoided these biases by picking a neutral moderator, avoid leading, unanswered questions, difficult questions to answer and biases questions, avoid biased sample by screening in the sample, and kept an open mind when reporting and strived for objectivity.
Another practitioner and consumer perspective was through the use of interviewing our practicum’s staff. We asked questions such as the position of the staff member, amount of cases they have currently, what are the ethnicities of the clients they are currently seeing, what is the gender ratio, what the clients’ religious affiliations, and how the clients’ lifestyles differ from one another and differ from that staff member. We reduced bias risk by following up with interviews, making sure all questions are not loaded and contain zero biases.
The practitioner perspective is to simply help the client in the best way they can, keeping ethics and values in mind. They can help their patients/clients through trainings, program evaluations, multiple intervention research, seeking out supervision, and sometimes past experience. In this study the best way to serve clients is to be culturally competent and to show no biases or judgments.
The consumer perspective has grown over the years in social work and a movement has begun to empower consumers in all areas of practice. This is done by assessing and monitoring providers and agencies. It is important to give consumers a voice to share their opinions on what they expect from the practitioners and how they want to be treated. They want to feel like they have a say in the quality of care they receive. By showing that the client has a right as to their goals, expectations of the practitioner, and level of service then the consumer and practitioner can have a positive relationship and can reach the same objectives.
According to “Best Practices in Wraparound: A Multidimensional View of the Evidence,” by Ufa M, Walter and Christopher G. Petr, the values perspective,
A broader ecological frame for wraparound highlights the need to include more natural supports on teams, to ensure backing from higher level administrators, and to emphasize client self-determination. Youths and families should be afforded leadership roles on teams and be supported by parent advocates. To extend the empowerment idea of wraparound beyond the individual case level, a clear commitment to social justice by working toward systems changes must be added. (Walter, U., & Petr, C. (2011)
With adequacy in mind, improvement needed is value-critical analysis. If this became more adequate, if wrap around were evaluated not only for empirical support but also for the extent of practice (Walter, U., & Petr, C. (2011).
In regard to equity, “The wraparound model resonates strongly with many social work principles and values. Its acceptance and popularity is currently rooted mostly in the values that wraparound espouses and the positive experiences and perceptions of families and professionals” (Walter, U., & Petr, C. (2011). This promotes the fairness and equality of this model. Lastly, with reasoning to efficiency, “Empirical support is likely to grow with increased efforts to operationalize key components and processes and with increased attention to fidelity” (Walter, U., & Petr, C. (2011). This model demonstrates efficiency and empowers leadership, team work, and a clear commitment to social justice.