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Interview with Marilyn McClure



Marilyn E. McClure was born in Blooming, New Mexico. She attended an Albuquerque high school and Macalester College in St. Paul. She holds a master's degree, has worked for the St. Paul schools and at the time of the interview is a bilingual, bicultural social worker for Ramsey County Mental Health. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Educational and employment background - the Ramsey County Mental Health Spanish American Project - referrals - graduate students in social work - future of the program - and change in the Mexican-American community.





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This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Marilyn McClure, was born in Blooming, New Mexico. Macalaster College. She came to Minnesota to attend

She worked for the St. Paul schools, as a social worker; and at the

time of this interview is a bi-lingual, bi-cultural social worker for the Ramsey County Mental Health Department.
Ms McClure, discusses the Ramsey County Mental Health Spanish American Project.


makes reference to the history of the program and its future. This is a transcript of a tape recorded interview edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. The original tape recording is available in the Audio-

Visual Library ·of the Minnesota Historical Society.



This is Grant Moosbrugger, interviewing Ms Marilyn McClure, at the Ramsey County Mental Health Spanish American Project. Could you start off by telling us who you are; and how you came to be involved in this division of Ramsey County Mental Health?


I was born in Blooming, New Mexico.

I grew up there, and went to high

school in Albuquerque, at the Presbyterian Mission School, called Menal. I attended Macalester College, which is why I came to Minnesota.
my bachelor's degree at Macalester.

I abtained

I worked for the Ramsey County Welfare

Department for three years. a master's degree. Moosbrugger: McClure:

Then I went to the University of Chicago, for,

You finished at Macalester in what year? In 1964. I worked until 1967, at the Welfare Department. Then I went to

graduate school. and finished that in 1969, at the School of Social Services Administration. I worked for a Mental Healtl. Center in Chicago, which is It is a community of about 95% Then we moved back

called the Pilson Mental Health Center. Spanish speacking people. to Minnesota.

I worked there for a year.

I worked for five years as a school social worker, in the The person who was working in this program before me, I was interested in working here, so I I have been working'

St. Paul Schools.

let me know that she was leaving.

explored it and decided to come in January, 1976. here for seven months. Moosbrugger: McClure: Moosbrugger: Who was the previous person in this position? Sally McKay. You are professionally acquainted?


McClure: Moosbrugger:

Yes. Do you know, either from personal experience or from hearsay, was this program initiated through pressure? Or was it the realization of the

department or someone in the department? McClure: I believe that it started as a result of one of the social workers in the

Health Department who saw the need for such a program.


in terms of the linguistic needs of migrants re-settled into the city. That's how it started out, as an advocacy kind of program. It was a person

who could interpret for people; to see what they got; and what they needed to get out of established agencies. Moosbrugger: Perhaps you could tell us what your experiences have been: both your perWhat types

sonal experience and your knowledge of what has gone on before? of special needs have been met by the program?

Who have your clients been? who are

What are some of the types of sevices provided for your clients: Latinos; or who have special requirements: cultural values? McClure: The program has a two-prong kind of emphasis.

linguistically; or in terms of

The first, of course, is to

provide direct services to the individual, and families, for whatever mental health-related problems there might be. The other, is to use my-

self in such a way that I am an impetus for social change, and for the benefit of what they call the target population, which would be Latinos. As a result, I am involved in various committees and organizations, in what I call "community development". Moosbrugger: When you refer people to various professionals, what are some of the areas you refer people to? Is there any scarcity of the professional per-

sonnel who help bring specific needs to these people? McClure: Basically, I believe in working with individuals and families. referral is a cop-out. To make a

Whenever possible, I will service the case myself)

-3McClure: or through the program. agency, to another. People get lost when they are referred from one Obviously, there

Basically, that's how I feel now.

are some services that I can't provide; or I can't see that they get provided. For instance, this is not an agency that deals with foster home In those situations, where a foster home is necessary, then In most cases, it would be


I would refer them to the appropriate agency. the Welfare Department.

If you look at the Welfare Department right now,

I believe there are sixteen people who speak Spanish and work in the Welfare Department. sional. However, only two of those can be considere profes-

One works in the Outreach Program, on-the West Side, and the There That

other works in Services to the Mentally Ill, she works part time. are several people in the financial part of the Welfare Department. is good, because at least people can get money. kind of help, it doesn't seem to be available. and the situation seems to be very simi1iar.

In terms of counseling We checked other agencies,

I have gotten referrals for

marital counseling, which is really the realm of the family agencies; like Catholic Social Service; or Family Service, but because they have no personnel to service that need, they make the referral to me, which doesn't make sense. Moosbrugger: McClure: Just the reverse of what you are. I should be making the referral to them for marital cases. If you stick

to a narrow interpretation of what mental health services are, then I should be dealing with the neurotic kind of people; psychotics, children who are emotionally disturbed, that sort of thing. But for parent-child

relationship difficulties, or marital difficulties, those really should be handled by the family agencies; at least the way the service network is set up. Moosbrugger: When you say that they are referring such cases to you, instead of you to

-4Moosbrugger: them, would be an indication, that there is no efficient or qualified help, who are bi-1ingua1 and aware of the cultural nuances of the Latinos? McClure: Dh, that's definitely true. Some of the agencies have advocate, outreach-

type people, who can serve as liaisons, which is kind of what the beginning of this program was like. personnel. Moosbrugger: Now other agencies do have that kind of

But in terms of counsel itself, there just isn't anybody.

Do you have occasion to refer people to psychiatrists and psychologists? If you do, are there available personnel in these areas to serve the Spanish speaking?


No, there aren't any.

There is one psychologist in the Metropolitan area.

We have recently employed her on a consultant basis, so she works by appointment. There are no other Spanish speaking psychologists who have I believe that the school system has

clinical skills to do counseling. come up with the same problem.

They have hired, as consultants, students, So

in the various psychology programs, to do some of their evaluations.

right now, in the city, there is one psychologist, and she's leaving in September. In Ramsey County, I thought there was a psychiatrist, but I

just discovered that he has left town, so I am not sure that we have a Spanish speaking psychiatrist in St. Paul at all. that out. Moosbrugger: Is anything being done by_ anyone in the Metropolitan area to encourage people to qualify themselves in these areas that need people, who either have the special skills to learn something of the Spanish culture, or in the Spanish language? Does anyone encourage those who are knowledgable I'll need to check

in the Spanish language and culture to qualify themselves in these specific social need areas? McClure: I'd choose to take the easy way out,

is to train the people who alIt's harder to train the

ready know the language and the cultural.

-5McClure: professional in the language and the culture, than it is to train the person who is knowledgable in the language and the culture into professionals. Moosbrugger: Maybe it's a longer way of doing things.

of the

To become steeped in a language and culture is a thirty or forty year process, unless a person has been born into it.



Although I think a person, who has learn a language, can be ed-

ucated in terms of the culture, if he is immersed in it, kind of on-thejob training. I think that's possible. The advantage of being bi-lingual

bi-cultural, is that you consider yourself as speaking Spanish and English. The other person, who speaks only English, and who is not bi-cultural, can

only understand in terms of the mana lingual perosn. Moosbrugger: Are there significant numbers of Latinos enrolling in these programs, to fulfill these needs? McClure: No, I suppose the University of Minnesota is the largest trainer in the profession. I believer that in the medical school there is a good number I also believe most, if not all, of those students So most of them will probably be returning home The law school at the University has a number of Most, but not all, students

of Latino students.

are from out of state. when they are finished.

Chicanos, but the same thing applies there. are from out of state.

The school of social work has a bad reputation in They are initiOne

terms of training minorities, and specifically Latinos. ating a program to begin this fall.

They call them Learning Centers.

is for Native Americans they will be establishing a training center in Minneapolis. There will be a Learning Center for Latinos in St. Paul. In the fall, there should be at least four, That's like a 200% in-

Those should be bi-lingual.

perhaps six Latino Social students in that school. crease.

From our information, the School of Social Work has only graduated

five Latinos in the history of the school.

-6Moosbrugger: McClure: Would you like to tell us about graduate students in social work? A couple of years ago, I wanted to become involved, because it was good for me professionally. students. I wanted to do field supervision for social work

In a graduate program in social work, the students have to do They do two of them, one each year, When I was working for the I had two students that I did

field placements, or internships.

because the program is a two year program. school system, I started having students. field supervision for.

When I changed jobs in January, I told the school

social worker, "I am still interested in supervising students, but because of the new job I have, they must be bilingual." The person who is the

crew coordinator said, "Oh, you are going to solve my problem, because I have a student from Columbia, who's having trouble with English. place that person in a regular field setting. I said, "Sure, he speaks Spanish." I can't

Will you take this person?"

So that's how I ended up with Antonio.

That relationship with the school, is part of why the student isn't housed here in the fall. It's a two prong thing. It's good for me professionally

and also good for training some students. Mocsbrugger: Do you have any hopes or goals of increasing the ability of your department to meet the needs of Latin Americans in our Twin City Metropolitan area? Some things might be within your control, and other things may be outside of your control. McClure: Mostly they are outside of my control! My interest is in starting other

places to incorporate and actively recruit qualified professionals who are bi-lingual bi-cultural would be nice, but at least bi-lingual. that's going to happen. I think

I think agencies like Family Service and Wilder

Child Care, are two of the big agencies in the city that provide services, and are interested in doing something. Wh'at could help, is if some of the

governmental agencies, would classify that certain positions require a

-7McClure: bilingual person. Right now, it's a haphazard thing. It just happens

that the person who is employed is bilingual. maybe the next person won't be bilingual.

When that person leaves,

Services are kind of hampered.

People are running from place to place, until they find which agency has a person they can communicate with. Moosbrugger: McClure: As a policy? Yes. Most of that is out of my control. But I think that it has sparked I'd like to have that more established.

some interest and awareness. Moosbrugger: Have any of the people been long time community residents? Or do you find

they are mostly people who are moving here from the southwest or from Mexico? McClure: I'd say it's about half. migrants. We have divided half of our newly re-settled The

When I say "newly", I mean in the last two or three years.

other half have been long time residents. Moosbrugger: McClure: Do you have any idea of the numbers served? No, I don't. I can't tell you that, because I haven't counted them all.

But I can tell you that fifteen families is my capacity for providing services} at any one- time. If one terminates, I can take another family. I imagine that the social work students

It's hard to put a limit on that.

will be able to take some cases, and the numbers will expand. Moosbrugger: I see. So fifteen cases would be a case-load of fifteen files, and would Some would have a duration of weeks, where others would

be given time.

be for many months? McClure: Moosbrugger: Right. Do the referrals being made to you corne primarily from law enforcement agencies? McClure: No, the primary referral source is "Migrants In Action." Second to that

is the public schools and the next is probably the "Welfare Department."



The reason why that is so, is because the school system has referred to me. I used to work for them, and they know I left to go to this job.

Migrants In Action, has referred to me because they are always looking for places to refer their people. sought referrals. They serve only Latinos. I have not

I thought the best thing to do was to get myself ori-

ented with what was going on in different organizations and different issues; and getting some of these other things done.
Lik~ a needs assess-

ment, and finding out where bilingual necessities were.

If I had adver-

tized for referrals, I think I would have been immediately inundated with them. Moosbrugger: I saw that as a very narrow scape of work.

Do you think your staff would need additional members for the purpose of meeting the needs of the Latinos, if word were to get out?



My view is to stimulate the other agencies, to be able to have that

capacity, or that service, Family Service and Wilder Child Guidance, can provide. I don't think it should be concentrated in one place. But there

are people who differ with me on that. Moosbrugger: Do you anticipate that your program, in Ramsey County will be able or willing to fulfill those needs with additional staff gets out? McClure: Moosbrugger: McClure: I don't know. I can't answer that.

when word

That would be a decision of the Ramsey County Welfare Board, right? No. It would be the County Commissioners, who are also on the Welfare

Board. Moosbrugger: Do you anticipate a day on which the demands upon you will increase? Is

there anything in the foreseeable future, where the word will be disseminated more? McClure: I guess I'm still very cautious with that, because I don't think that I have the capacity to provide more services than I am doing right now.



There doesn't seem to be any point in advertising or seeking referrals, because then I'd be opening up an area I couldn't fulfill. Now I think

what will happen with the student unit is that they themselves, will serve as an advertisement. That's one of the things that we are very concerned

about, that we don't open up some services without being able to fulfill them. That's really a bad thing to do. It's like saying, "We have some

money", and then giving it out.

You no longer have any money, and ten-

thousand people come back saying, "Give me the money", or "How come there isn't any money?" We have to be careful with that. I think that the

primary reason for the social work unit, is for educating the social workers.

Now, in the process, they're going to provide some service, but They're going to leave, and then

that can't be the primary reason for it.

what happens? Moosbrugger: So, for the present, it looks like the only thing we can count on, is your position, and approximately the fifteen cases that you handle at a time. McClure: Right. That's all that should be counted on. I think that more can be

done with the student unit. do.

What should be counted on, is only what I can As the social workers get ed-'

That's all we are getting paid for.

ucated, I assume the agencies will hire them. Moosbrugger: I should mention, this interview is for the Minnesota Historical Society, Mexican American History Project. I have been interviewing Marilyn McClure, I had your permis-

at her office in St. Paul, and today is August 2, 1976.

sion to interview you, for the Minnesota Historical Society? McClure: Moosbrugger: McClure: Right, you did. Is there anything that you would like to add? Yes. I have been here sixteen years. When I first came, I wanted to do

something Mexican.

I felt very strange, being in a situation in which I

was in a minority, coming from a situation in which I had been a majority.

-10McClure: I went to the Neighborhood House. I worked with a group of girls there.

One of the things that struck me, was that their names were very dramatically changed. A person whose name was Vasquez; became Vasques. That

seemed to be very strange, I hear now, a different kind of circumstance. I hear people who are calling themselves Vasquez and Perez; rather than Perres and Vasques. I see some changes taking place. People are more

comfortable with who they are. Moosbrugger: Perhaps the decreasing tendency to Anglicize names, might be at the same time an indication of an increasing acceptance of their Latino heritage? McClure: Moosbrugger: I think I see that. Thank you very much for the interview.