108 Helping Individuals, Families, and Groups with Environmental Stressors Social welfare organizations can be an important source of support and needed resources for clients, but they also often create stress, thereby dis- couraging their use by clients in need. Pressure exerted by legislative and regulatory bodies, funding sources, and local communities often results in insufficient attention being devoted to clients’ needs and feedback. Therefore, students must understand that their practice is shaped by their organization’s mission and mandate. An agency’s culture and its patterns of communication to subordinates (top-down) and superiors (bottom-up) influence both clients and workers. Agency functioning can create barriers to access for clients when policies are confusing, there are long wait times and lists, and limited funding leads to a rationing of services. Because many clients’ problems in living are multidimen- sional, coordination among agencies is needed but often absent, resulting in yet another barrier to access of needed services. Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities1 • Select appropriate intervention strategies based on the assessment, research knowledge, and values and preferences of clients and constituencies. 2. The Physical Environment The physical environment within which clients live may significantly affect them, but it is often overlooked as a focus of social work intervention. Familiar places and spaces provide comfort and security and contribute to individual and collective identities, while losing them can create stress and feelings of uprootedness. Clients’ built world includes spaces that they inhabit. These spaces can be personal, which is defined by an invisible boundary semifixed, allowing for rearrangement and fixed space, which is immovable. These spaces can create stress due to overcrowding, lack of privacy, dangerous, bleak, and unhealthy conditions, and alienation. In many impoverished urban and rural commu- nities, a lack of physical dwellings creates stress. For example, food deserts exist in many urban neighborhoods, while in rural communities, grocery stores may be located far from where poor residents—with limited access to transportation—live. The physical space of social welfare organizations can be a potent source of stress for clients in need of their services. Harsh lighting, inadequate and uncomfortable seating, loud, drab waiting areas, and lack of play areas for
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