Policy: Where The Rubber Meets The Road

In honor of Social Work Month this year, MSW Student Blair Doucette hosted a UNE Policy Class Day at the State House.  Blair had already been working in the field of social work for 12 years at DHHS’s  Office of Child and Family Services  when he applied to UNE’s MSW Program.  He decided to pursue an MSW not only because he knew there would be greater job opportunity, higher salary, and plentiful job security, (which as a father of 4, are all very important),  but because he cares deeply about social justice and the inherent worth and dignity of all people.  As a DHHS employee, he was also able to take advantage of UNE School of Social Work’s 30% per-credit-hour discount to all DHHS employees.

Blair entered the program with energetic passion and work ethic, which did not go unnoticed.  In 2018, he was awarded The Charlene B. Rydell Endowed Scholarship.  This scholarship was established at UNE in memory of Charlene Rydell, HON ’95, who believed in the power of local community action to inspire and empower people on behalf of a just and equitable future.  She was “a tireless advocate for policies that promoted the public’s health including access to affordable health care for all, the right of individuals with disabilities to live normal lives within their own communities, and for services to children and families.” (Bangor Daily News) See UNE website for more details around scholarships, tuition reduction opportunities, and stipends. 

Blair’s experience in the field has taught him  a great deal first-hand about how the many intersectionalties of social work interact and influence one another (gender, identity, nationality, race, class, sexual orientation etc.).  He also has seen first-hand how directly policy can influence clinical social work practice and the bi-directional nature of this relationship.

“I feel that many so-called “at risk” groups are purely those that need greater empowerment, a greater sense – and confidence for – self sufficiency.  The reality though, is that there are many at-risk families, particularly in poverty,  struggling with the weight of so many decisions and pressures on such tired shoulders. [ . . . ] To be effective advocates for our clients and informed participants in the public policy arena, we as social workers must have a firm grasp of possible solutions” says Blair.

He was yearning to really dig in to this more deeply and glean more skills in order to return to the field to continue the fight for a more equitable society.   “Nothing would bring me more personal or professional satisfaction than to tip the scales in favor of at-risk families, helping them at what is probably the most critical junctures of their entire lives.”

Blair is now in his final year of UNE’s MSW program and is doing exactly what he set out to do.  In his time here, he has learned a great deal about the field of social work and grown even more passionate about integrated social work.  He completed his Field placement this year at the Maine State House interning with Maine State Representative Charlotte Warren.  It is through this placement, he hosted UNE Policy Class Day at the State House as part of celebrating 2019 Social Work Month. 

Highlights from the day included a group tour of the State House and being introduced and recognized by the House Democrats during morning caucus.  The group was then invited in the house chamber and introduced during the Legislative session.  They also met with newly elected Governor Janet Mills who talked to them about the Opioid epidemic/response, work with children and families as well as some of her social initiatives.  Three guest speakers spoke to the students about policy and macro social work policy in particular.  After lunch the students had their choice to attend work sessions or public hearings of their choice.  Most chose to hear and watch UNE’s own MSW alumni, Rep. Charlotte Warren’s testimony on Step Therapy.


When asked what inspired him to host the event, Blair remarked “It is important for social workers to be involved with and understand how policies are developed at the State level because we are required to intervene at all levels of practice and to pay attention to the socio-political aspects of our work. This can allow us to have a holistic perspective on the needs of the populations we serve; to provide effective interventions at the macro-mezzo-micro levels; to promote equal rights and social justice; to engage in social activism; and, ultimately, to promote social change.  Policies have an impact on the work we do as social workers and may limit our ability to promote efficacy in service delivery to clients.  It is our responsibility as social workers to abide by the NASW Code of Ethics, and we can do this by participating in policy practice, and integrating it in our work with individuals in direct practice interventions, with groups, and at the organization and legislative levels.”

We are excited to watch Blair Doucette as he continues to accomplish great work in our community and beyond.