This is aimed at helping professionals that work with individuals that are homeless, low-income, in a domestic violence situation or any circumstance in which the client needs a phone number.
Client Need: A Point of Contact As previously mentioned, Google Voice is a FREE service that provides you with a FREE phone number so long as you have a FREEGoogle Account. Google Voice can be useful in many circumstances with our clients where he or she:
- cannot pay their phone bill
- cannot afford a mobile phone
- may need a phone number that is not cancelled. Especially for welfare benefits (i.e. Section 8)
- is in a domestic violence situation and needs to set up a separate phone number that is not in control of their partner
- is not easily reachable due to aforementioned situations, or many more not listed.
With Google Voice, one can call their Google Voice phone number, enter their PIN and check messages or dial out. When a person dials out in this manner, their own Google phone number will appear on the other party’s caller ID. One can call from a pay phone or a friend’s phone to check their messages or conduct business. The intervention I designed is intended to explain how to accomplish these tasks. My Concern: Meeting The Client Where They’re AtI can’t begin to state how HUGE of a learning curve there is for technology, especially in the field of social work. When putting this together, I was thinking:
- “Is this clear?” To me it is.
- “Is it simple?” I hope so.
- “Can this be handy?” If the client can figure it out (or if the client has a close and trusted person who can help them set it up).
For some clients, this may be over their head. Many people who have owned a cell phone have had the experience of calling their own phone number and following the directions to check their messages. This is a similar task, but as I mentioned previously, a client may or may not have had this experience before. One of my first social work professors taught me a valuable lesson: To never assume. This intervention assumes a lot of things:
- The client is literate and can read
- The client has the cognitive capacity to follow orderly direction.
- The client has some computer skills or can access a computer (e.g. the library).
- The client will be able to decipher written directions (e.g. understands what is a username, password or PIN).
- The client will know to write down their username and password and keep it in a safe location.
Assessment and Cautionary Advice I would use an abundance of caution before delivering this intervention. If I were to implement this intervention, I would ask myself if my client’s need matches their willingness to attempt to figure this out. If this is too hard for the client to set up, perhaps you can take a few moments to help them or the outsource the job to a family member (immediate or extended) that can complete the task. Perhaps the steps on the second page (how to dial out, how to check messages, etc.) is much more useful and achievable. If your client is unable to use this service, perhaps knowing it exists may give he or she motivation to eventually learn how. Collaborative Project I want to conclude by appealing to my fellow social workers, especially those that are in case management positions or at agencies that may find this intervention useful. I invite feedback, which you can send to me on my contact formor via comments below.
- What works?
- What doesn’t?
- Is this ethical?
- Can it be tweaked to meet the client where they are at?
- Is it too rigid or dry?
Again, I invite you to please leave feedback for me! Thank you again for reading and don’t forget to Facebook or Tweet me!
Great idea and well presented. I wait for the arrival of Google Voice on our shores 🙂 So while I can’t give you any practical feedback – not knowing the service itself, I think we can see the possibilities that are increasingly opening up to us as practitioners.
Excellent idea and great handout…I’m posting it on our school’s Twitter account (@UBSSW) to spread the word.
Your ideas and suggestion is wonderful and should be kept in mind whenever a clinician might need it. Often people have a plain cell phone that fills the requirements.
I would like to share the perspective of an old-time social worker. I love technology and I am constantly trying to keep up (albeit a bit slow, I suspect). And “starting where the client is” is applicable to technology but that should not be confused with a more basic meaning of the phrase. Starting where the client is is primarily an emotional empathic concept. It usually takes years of practice. When I graduated from social work school I asked experienced clinicians about attaining that level of clinical proficiency and I was told that it takes about six years of well supervised work. When you are really with a person, it becomes difficult to suggest technology beyond their reach or needs. Until that time, your suggestion are dead on.
Hi. A couple other points about Google Voice in this context:
1. When a client signs up, he/she has to have a phone near their computer. Google Voice will provide you with a passcode on the computer when you sign up, and then call the phone you’re tieing to the account and have you enter that passcode on. If you don’t have both a live phone and an Internet-connected computer there at the same time, you can’t sign up.
2. Also, you have to have a phone/phone number to sign up, and that number can only be used once. In other words, a case manager who wants to sign all of her clients up for Google Voice (for example) can’t simply use her office phone number to go through the sign-up process. Google’s system will recognize that that number has already been used, and won’t let you use it with another Google Voice account. The client has to have a phone already to use Google Voice.
That being said, if these conditions are met, it can be a useful service for people living in poverty.
(I work for Community Voice Mail – http://www.cvm.org – a national nonprofit that provides 45,000 low-income and homeless people in 44 U.S. cities with voice mail and information services. We are a good option for case managers who want to provide their clients with a reliable phone number that they can use as they apply for jobs, stay connected with social workers and doctors, etc. We also send messages about local resources to clients in every city where we operate – last year we sent more than 2,000 messages about jobs, housing, healthcare, local events and a lot of other things. Please check it out if you’re interested, and email me at salbertson(at)cvm.org if you have any questions. Thanks!