One of the greatest new resources that the Internet provides for us is the ability to quickly and easily
locate our elected and appointed officials, learn about them, and contact them directly.
Since advocacy is a key skill for all social workers, many instructors make it an assignment for students
to learn about public officials (whether local, county, state, or federal) and how to contact that person.
Here are some great resources to share with your students. You
could have your class begin at Thomas, US Congress on the Internet. The URL is: http://thomas.loc.gov/
From this page, click on “Congress and Legislative Agencies”, and you will be transported to
this page: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/legbranch/legbranch.html From here, you can click on “Individual Representatives” or “Individual
If you click on “Individual Senators” , you will
find them listed alphabetically, with their “Class” (which determines the remaining length of their Senate term),
a phone number, a link to their website and their email address. If the
searching through the alphabetical list is not appealing, there is an option to select your state to easily find your own
If you click on “Individual Representatives”, look at the top section of the web page on the
right, where you will find a link for “state”. Click on this link
to see the listing of Representatives alphabetized by state. Alternatively, you
can click “Write Your Representative” (on the left hand side of the page), and you will go to a page where you
enter your state and zip code; you will be taken to a page with a link to the web page for your specific representative.
Going back to the Thomas site, you can obtain information on House or Senate Committees. Click the link for “House Committees”, and you will go to this page: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/hcomso.html You will find a link to the web site of each House Committee, including the
all important Ways and Means Committee.
If, instead, you click on “Senate Committees”, you go to this site: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/sencom.html, where you will find similar links to the web sites of all of the Senate Committees.
Suppose you want to assign students to find information on officials at the state level. Start at a page entitled “First Gov”: http://www.firstgov.gov/ From this page, click on the link on the left for “State, Local, and Tribal”
to go to a related web page: http://www.firstgov.gov/Agencies/State_and_Tribal.shtml (NOTE: You can't go to the "State, Local, and Tribal" page directly from
BPD Update Online. You must go to the "First Gov" page and click on the link for "State, Local, and Tribal".) Once there,
you will see that this page has links at the top of the page for each state, which will take you to the web site for that
County and Local Level
For local government, again start at “First Gov”: http://www.firstgov.gov/
This time, however, select the link entitled “Get to County and
City Government Web Sites”
You will go to http://www.statelocalgov.net/index.cfm (N
OTE: You may have difficulty returning to BPD Update Online from this
page, so you may want to bookmark this page before you click on the link for "Get to Count and City Government Web Sites".)
Once there, select the link for your state and click on it.
You will then to
go a listing of State Departments and Commissions, Counties, and Municipalities.
Each listing is a link to the web page for a particular county, municipality, or state
For my home state of New Jersey, I found all twenty-one counties
listed with accompanying web sites.
However, there were links for only 104 of
New Jersey’s 567 municipalities
My own County’s web site included names, photos, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and links to the
web sites of each of the County Freeholders. There were also links for County
Departments and Committees.
The web site for the City of New Brunswick, where I live, was less extensive than the County site, but
included a link for municipal government, where I found information about the Mayor and members of City Council. There was also an email form that could be used to contact the city government.
The web site for Union Township, where my University is located, included information similar to that found
for New Brunswick. In both cases, information was available about the elected
officials and the municipal administrators.
Usefulness for Policy Advocacy
Given the concerns that many elected and appointed officials have about "snail mail" in the wake of the Anthrax attacks
on post offices and on elected and appointed officials, use of email and the web may become the preferred method of expressing
one's opinions to one's elected officials. Email is cheaper to use than "snail mail" or phone. As one example
of this, an organization called MoveOn.org (http://www.moveon.org
) developed an international campaign against war with Iraq. They circulated an electonic petition to the UN Security
Councilk and over 550,000 people from over 200 countries "signed" the petition within 48 hours after it was posted.
Click here to send an email message to Carol J. Williams: