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Policy of Ecology in Social Work Settings

Understanding Hillsborough Township Community

Hillsborough Township is a centrally placed administrative center found within the Raritan Valley region in New Jersey’s Somerset County located near the New York Metropolitan Area. The jurisdiction was initially established in 1771 through the Royal charter and incorporated in 1798 with the passage of the New Jersey Legislature Township Act (Somerset County Planning Board, 2014). Hillsborough Township is rated among the safest and best areas to live around New Jersey with an increasing number of individuals attracted to its rural-urban atmosphere and tolerance to diverse cultures. The population spectrum in Hillsborough Township has undergone significant expansion over the years through immigrations and resettling with the Somerset County community. Hillsborough Township has a strong economy, accommodative taxation scheme that lowers operating costs for businesses, and affordable housing units that make the jurisdiction attractive to retirees and large households. Saxer and Rosenbloom (2018) attribute Hillsborough Township’s population growth to the Mount Laurel Doctrine that prohibits exclusionary zoning practices to prevent economic discrimination and increase access to affordable housing.

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The census survey conducted in the United States in 2000 showed that Hillsborough Township had 36,634 residents from diverse ethnicities. The population in Hillsborough Township increased to 38,303 in 2010, and this represents represented a 4.56% (1,669) increase from the recorded numbers during the 2000 census (Census Bureau, 2020). Recent population based estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that 39,950 individuals reside in the jurisdiction representing 4.12% increase in population growth over the last decade. The figures indicate that the overall population in Hillsborough Township has grown by 9.05% (3,316) between 2000 and 2020, and this is largely attributed to immigration from neighboring townships and the larger New York. The 2000 census shows that Somerset County had 297,490 residents and the number increased to 323,444 in 2010 (Census Bureau, 2020). Recent estimates indicate that Somerset County had 328,934 residents in 2020, and this shows further population growth in the region.

The demographic characteristic of Hillsborough Township is diversified due to the convergence of different ethnic group and cultures in the area. Caucasian Americans (white alone) and Asians constitute the largest proportion of Hillsborough Township residents at 72.1% and 18.6% respectively(Census Bureau, 2020). Additionally, the African Americans and Hispanic Americans account for 4.0% and 7.6% of the local population, while the Alaska Native and American Indians represent only 0.5%. Changes in Hillsborough Township’s demographic distribution recorded between 2000 and 2010 was White (from 31,491 to 30,109), Asian (from 2,679 to 4,743), Hispanic (from 1,740 to 2,893), and African American (from 1,379 to 1,757). Literacy levels in the jurisdiction remain high with 59.3% of the residents attaining at least a Bachelor’s degree and recent figures indicating a median household income of $129,284 and poverty levels at 2.5% (Census Bureau, 2020). Unfortunately, the increasing number of undocumented immigrants in Hillsborough Township threatens social structure and local economy due to increased competition for employment and housing opportunities.

Community Assessment of Existing Challenges

Problem Currently Experienced by Hillsborough Township Community

The increasing pollution is among the leading concerns within the Hillsborough Township community as the local population continues to expand. Investigations by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Pollution (NJDEP) on environmentally sensitive areas identified more than 400 contaminated sites in Somerset County with water quality being a major concern (Somerset County Planning Board, 2014). Additionally, the ongoing projects to expand Hillsborough Township’s infrastructure network in response to the locality’s population growth have also contributed to rapidly declining air quality in the area. Projections indicate that the anticipated increase in traffic through the expanded Route 206 will increase air and noise pollution levels in Hillsborough Township and the adjacent neighborhoods.

Hillsborough Township’s officials also face new challenges in effecting smart growth planning, creating jobs, and providing basic services due to the growing population in the region. Smart growth planning focuses on development approaches that increase the available options for housing and infrastructural purposes through increased community engagement within existing neighborhoods. Smart growth planning’s fundamental objective is securing environmentally sensitive growth that protects rural and agricultural land from urbanization’s adverse impacts. Shifting demographics and sustained population growth are detrimental to effective smart growth because they introduce increasingly complex dynamics to the planning process. Additionally, the growing population in Hillsborough Township implies that the local officials must review the existing infrastructures to optimize service delivery to all residents. The jurisdiction’s education and labor sectors are also under threat from the recorded population growth with declining opportunities expected in the future.

Duration, Intensity, and Frequency of the Identified Problem

Furthermore, a Natural Resource Inventory report on the declining environmental quality in Hillsborough Township completed in 2010 emphasizes the adverse and long-term ecological and health impacts of increasing hazardous air pollutants in the jurisdiction (Somerset County Planning Board, 2014). Most importantly, the growing population and increasing exploitation of natural resources in Hillsborough continue exert pressure on the environment and could lead to irreparable ecological damages.

Etiology of the Problem and Community Vulnerabilities

The identified environmental, social, and economic concerns in primarily arise from the anti-discriminative policies implemented in Hillsborough Township, especially in the housing sector where individuals from other jurisdictions can easily purchase houses. Additionally, Hillsborough Township has a welcoming community that accepts visitors and new members from diverse backgrounds, and this makes it vulnerable to the emerging threats.

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Most Affected Demographic Groups and Community Resilience

Data from the 2000, 2010, and 2020 censuses suggest that the population of Caucasian Americans seem mostly affected by the increasing immigration into Hillsborough Township as their numbers have declined significantly. However, Hillsborough Township’s closely-knit community is resilient and has succeeded in reducing the impacts of environmental pollution through various community-based initiatives such as Clean Community.

Major Institutions Addressing the Identified Issue

Interest groups and lobbyists play crucial roles in advocating for and facilitating policy changes in response to specific community needs and influencing public opinion. Jansson (2018) asserts that policy advocates have an important mandate of reducing inequalities between the general population and vulnerable groups. Identifying community assets such as local institutions and citizen associations is an integral component of participatory asset mapping and formulation of strategic plans to enhance existing strengths and resilience (Burns et al., 2012). Several institutions, including BoroSAFE, American Red Cross, Cooperative Housing Corporation, Central Jersey Housing Resource Center, and Hillsborough Education Foundation, provide vital housing, education, and health services to residents. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is also an important lobbying organization involved in mitigating carbon emissions and environmental pollution in Hillsborough Township.

Community & Policy Action Plan

Proposed Change Plan for Community

The process of mapping and identifying the available resources in communities is crucial in facilitating efficient resource allocation in response to the local populations’ existing and emerging needs. Currently, increasing pollution levels and expanding population are among the most significant concerns to Hillsborough Township’s administrators due to their potential health and economic consequences. As such, my proposed change plan to mitigate the pollution impacts would focus on increasing the community’s awareness about the problem and increasing participation in reducing pollutant emissions.

Strategies and Tactics for Effecting Change

I will conduct seminars to educate Hillsborough Township community about pollution sources and effects, organize public cleaning exercises, and monitor pollution emission in the locality. I would encourage the residents to report all vehicles and machineries that are loud or emit a lot of smoke to allow the local officials to take the necessary actions against violators. My plan would also focus on facilitating consultations, communication, and coordination among various stakeholders to ensure that the community change is effective and lasting.

Necessary Policies for Sustainable Change

I would also recommend increased regulation of the construction industry and proper documentation of all individuals residing in the jurisdiction to address the issue of illegal immigrants. My change plan would also emphasize waste recycling, reduction, and proper disposal to reduce environmental pollution in the jurisdiction.

References

Burns, J. C., Paul, P. D., & Paz, S. R. (2012). Participatory asset mapping: A community research lab toolkit. Web.

Census Bureau. (2020). Quick facts: Somerset county, New Jersey.

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Jansson, B. S. (2018). Becoming an effective policy advocate: From policy practice to social justice. (8th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning Series.

Saxer, S. R., & Rosenbloom, J. (2018). Socio-ecological resilience and sustainability. Wolters Kluwer.

Somerset County Planning Board. (2014). Trends and indicators 2013. Web.

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