Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology

Abstract

In an effort to better understand how federal social policy changes shape the ways in which public service workers assist their clients in obtaining food benefits through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, this study uses ethnography and interviews to capture the experiences of workers and their clients. Specifically, it examines how public service workers implement new policies while maintaining their professional identities and responding to the mission of their organization. These goals may be in tension. The key findings are that workers do not resist changes in policy because of the limitations of their job function, and their belief that any assistance from governmental programs should be temporary, in part because workers are always in positions to alter or bend regulations to meet client's needs. Second, workers were emotionally involved with their clients, but mainly through a focus on client success, not through criticisms of the program as the street-level bureaucracy literature expects. Third, this research shows that the workers did identify with the idea of self-sufficiency, but through the very specific lenses of two African-centered principles: ujima and kujitegumea, which suggests that the workers did not directly identify with the government's definitions of self-sufficiency. Since the organization's mission is to develop and assist families to become self-reliant which as a result will hope to improve the quality of their lives, and provide them with the opportunity to participate in rebuilding their community, these principles are a foundation of how workers see their clients. Ujima means in order to build and maintain a community individuals must take on social problems as a unit and work as a collective in assisting individuals to solve their problems. Kujitegumea means to become self-reliant and independent of state assistance (government aid programs) in order to financially sustain a household.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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