Session: Because Passing Laws Is Not Enough: Unpacking the Black Box of Work-Family Policy and Program Implementation (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

36 Because Passing Laws Is Not Enough: Unpacking the Black Box of Work-Family Policy and Program Implementation

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Continental Parlor 9, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Work and Work-Life Policies and Programs (WWLPP)
Symposium Organizer:
Susan Lambert, PhD, University of Chicago
Jennifer Romich, University of Washington
The papers in this symposium examine the "black box" of implementation for a set of public policy and program initiatives that are critical to the wellbeing of vulnerable workers and their families: new municipal-level efforts at minimum wage and scheduling legislation, state-level child care subsidies, and innovative nonprofit employment support programs. Too often, public policy falls short of good intentions when put into practice, a reality with which many social workers are well acquainted. Indeed, an extensive literature demonstrates that implementation is itself a key part of policymaking - a complex and contested process in which those involved in implementation interpret, negotiate, amend and, sometimes, evade policy in the course of establishing day-to-day routines and navigating challenges to time, values, and loyalty that new policies and programs impose (Brodkin, 1990; Edelman & Talesh, 2011; Weaver, 2009).

In this symposium, the process of policy implementation is viewed from the perspective of diverse stakeholders: managers in low-wage workplaces, child care providers receiving payment through state agencies, and caseworkers in an experimental nonprofit employment program. The papers examine three factors that shape implementation: the complexity of policy and program provisions, organizational accountability requirements, and organizational supports for compliance. The more complex the policy, the harder it is for stakeholders to understand and comply with it. Policies and their rules of implementation can, in turn, conflict with organizational accountability requirements - such as the labor budgets assigned to business managers that must be reconciled with increases to the minimum wage and new work hour standards. Administrative rules can create barriers to implementation - for example, program requirements for recertifying child care subsidies can make it difficult for providers to receive payment and thus children stable care. Finally, an organization's investment in training and tools to support implementation, such as updating information systems and training workers in collaborative approaches, can also ease or hinder stakeholders' efforts to enact new policies and programs.

Each of the papers in this symposium provides a window into the intersection of these factors in shaping implementation of a particular work-family policy or program. Two papers examine policy implementation by frontline business managers of minimum wage and scheduling legislation, another examines the implementation of an experimental employment program by frontline caseworkers, and the fourth examines implementation of child care subsidies from the perspective of child care providers. The focus of all papers is on the implementation of policies to support low-income workers and families, and all consider how problems in implementation may help sustain social and economic inequality and injustice. A discussant will draw insights across the papers to spark discussion among attendees of how social work researchers and practitioners can improve the fit between policies and programs defined on paper and implemented in practice.

* noted as presenting author
Subsidy Implementation from the Provider Perspective: Provider Experiences with Child Care Subsidies
Julia Henly, PhD, University of Chicago; Amelia Coffey, Urban Institute; Heather Sandstrom, PhD, Urban Institute; Juliet Bromer, Herr Center for Children and Social Policy
Can Case Management Teams Solve the Dilemmas of the Street-Level Bureaucrat? Evidence from Texas
Marci Ybarra, PhD, University of Chicago; Bridgette Davis, University of Chicago
Employers' Views of Labor Standards Laws: Paid Leave and Minimum Wage Mandates
Cynthia Moreno, MSW, University of Washington; Jennifer Romich, University of Washington
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