Efforts to Recruit, Retain and Research Nation’s Social Workers Gain Bipartisan Support in Congress

Dr. Dorothy I. Height Joined U.S. Congressmen Ed Towns and Chris Shays Today to Seek Support for H.R. 5447, The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Dorothy I. Height, Dr. Elizabeth J Clark, PhD, ACSW - NASW Executive Director

WASHINGTON—Congress is being asked to help the nation’s 600,000 professional social workers better serve families and communities in need.  U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY) has introduced a bill that will establish a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to study policy issues associated with recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment in the profession of social work, and will support replicable programs of excellence throughout the country. 

Original cosponsors include Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH).

The United States is experiencing unprecedented levels of human, social service and health care needs.  These needs now transcend social and economic strata, affect the old and the young, and place tremendous burdens on those in the middle.  As a result, millions of Americans, from all walks of life, are served daily by social workers. 

However, competing policy priorities, fiscal constraints, significant educational debt, comparatively insufficient salaries, increased administrative burdens, and unsupportive work environments are just a few of the common obstacles encountered by professional social workers.  These barriers impede the delivery of essential services, affect recruitment and retention in the profession, and compromise access to necessary care—especially for the most vulnerable.

Social Work Reinvestment Commission

H.R. 5447 will create a commission to research social work’s impact in practice areas such as aging, child welfare, military and veterans’ affairs, mental and behavioral health and disability, criminal justice, and health.  It will also study issues facing the profession, including fair market compensation, high social work educational debt, and social work safety, as well as state level social work and reciprocity agreements. These recommendations will be presented to Congress and the Executive Branch.

Demonstration Grants

H.R. 5447 will support demonstration grants related to workplace improvements, social service research, social work education and training, and programs of excellence. These competitive demonstration grants will support efforts underway within both the private and public sectors, at colleges and universities, and within community-based organizations that already administer programs in high need, high demand areas.
 
The bill is named after two American social work pioneers and civil rights icons, Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. (see attached backgrounder for details)

At today’s briefing in the Cannon House Office Building, Mr. Towns said, “I am honored and privileged to recognize the historic efforts and legacies of two of my personal heroes in supporting a profession that each of us has been proud to call our own. Through the Social Work Reinvestment Act we have a unique opportunity to outline, develop, and implement strategies that truly help the people of America. Social workers have a direct and measurable impact upon millions of families; they deserve our gratitude and support.”

Dr. Height reminded the audience, Social workers seldom seek recognition for their work because they are focused on meeting the needs of their clients and communities.  Yet, we must stop asking them to do more with less.  They simply need adequate support for work that they do.  A national investment in the social work profession can improve the quality of the lives of millions of people.”

Mr. Shays said, “Social workers are dedicated to improving the quality of life for so many and it is important that we return the favor. I am grateful for the work they do and this legislation will provide independent advice on how to improve their profession.”

According to Dr. Elizabeth Clark, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, “State-based efforts to improve working conditions and educational supports for social workers will be greatly strengthened by the proposed national legislation. We’re thrilled that such distinguished Members of Congress want to ensure the future of our profession.”

For more information about H.R. 5447, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, please visit www.socialworkreinvestment.org.

Social Work Reinvestment Act Action Alert - Take action today.

About the National Association of Social Workers
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, D.C., is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 150,000 members.  It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers.  NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

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8/16/2017
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