Weber State University’s American Social Welfare Policy class attended “Day at the Legislature” at the State Capitol building Monday.
Students witnessed debates and sessions inside the Utah House of Representatives and Senate chambers. The class also met Senator Ross Romero, who has introduced the Adoption by a Co-Parent bill to the Legislature.
“It basically says if you are the parent of a child, you can decide who will be the co-parent,” Romero said. “It allows the parent to decide who they think would be the best co-parent for their child.”
Many students in the American Social Welfare Policy class plan to pursue social work careers at adoption agencies or similar companies. The bill would allow a parent to legally make another person who would not normally have parental rights a “co-parent” to a child, whether it’s a family member, friend or life partner.
“It does have implications for the LGBT community,” Romero said. “However, it has implications for a lot of people. If you think your sister would be the best parent to your child should you pass away, you can legally make it so. As our community gets more diverse, and as families become more integrated, it’s important to remember we are all Utahns.”
Professor Sean Pressey, who teaches the American Social Welfare Policy class, said there is no better way to learn about how legislation can affect certain areas within social work than to see it actually happening.
“I want my students to ask questions,” Pressey said. “I want them to start opening doors to what things mean. What is this policy? How is it paid for? Who funds these programs? Who implements them? How do we know if it works?”
The students also attended some legislative sessions, including an appropriations committee meeting for higher education and saw how the policies process works.
“Part of my major is policy,” said Amanda Best, a WSU junior. “I’m excited to meet the representatives and just get to know who people are and learn what it’s all about.”
Many of the students in the class want to work as lobbyists or for organizations whose funding and rules are decided by the Utah state legislature.
“In this class, we look at policy and how it affects our field,” said Jared Reber, a WSU junior. “We also look at how we can influence these policies.”
Pressey said this experience teaches students how the system they are going into actually works.
“I think social work, by default, is a micro-practice system,” Pressey said. “It’s individualized. This experience sends the students into the macro world where they can learn more about how it works. Some people can go work at adoption agencies, DWFS or other nonprofits, but not know how it all really works.”
Pressey said he tries to make his students see the social work field in individualized ways, but also to know how the “macro world” works as well.
“This makes them see how changes happen,” Pressey said. “If you work at a nonprofit, and funding gets cut, who do you go to? This experience provides the tool to open and invite questions.”