By Tiela Chalmers, CEO & General Counsel, Alameda County Bar Association and Volunteer Legal Services Corporation
Why is it that so many child support customers miss their appointments? Fail to bring in the paperwork we need? Promise to send us papers, and then don’t? Spend their limited funds on things we think are wasteful? Lose jobs by showing up late? Act sharply with you – even though you are trying to help them? Go on and on with a very long story when you asked a simple question?
And is our service delivery model effective – or are there things we are doing that are perpetuating the problems?
The Child Support Directors Association is bringing a series of workshops around the state to help us grapple with understanding these frustrating situations, and think about creative approaches. The Poverty Workshop, put on by Tiela Chalmers, the Chief Executive Officer of the Alameda County Bar Volunteer Legal Services Corporation, offers participants a chance to role-play living a month in poverty. Each participant is given a particular family role to play – a grandfather raising two grandchildren, a woman living with her baby and boyfriend, a teenager in a family of five. We go through four 15-minute weeks in the life of this community, and during that time, the participants must figure out how to keep their family safe, fed and healthy, pay their bills, and deal with issues as they arise.
At the end of the workshop, we spend some time debriefing. What did we notice? What was realistic, and what wasn’t? What conclusions can we draw from this? And what might we change about the ways we work with people in poverty, in response?
There are, of course, different ways to learn about poverty (and everything else). This workshop aims to move away from the lecture format, and bring participants some of the visceral experiences of poverty, as a way to learn in a more kinetic format.
Of course, the workshop isn’t perfect. There are many things that cannot be simulated, and by necessity, we can’t learn the depths of what growing up and living in poverty is like from a three hour workshop in a large conference room. But those who have experienced first-hand have said that it offers an excellent window into some of those experiences, and a good starting point for reflection and discussion. We hope to see you at one of these workshops soon!
Upcoming Regional Poverty Simulation Workshops:
January 31, 2018 – Alameda County
February 1, 2018 – Fresno County
April 11, 2018 – Los Angeles County
May 2, 2018 – Orange County (at the CSDA Annual Conference)