Capitol Hill Briefing to Explore Growing Social Worker Shortage

Congressman Towns Hosts Panel to Discuss Recruitment and Retention Challenges

WASHINGTON, DC—A congressional briefing on the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr.  Social Work Reinvestment Act is scheduled for Wednesday, November 17, from 10:00 a.m. to noon in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Room, 2203 Rayburn House Office Building.   The briefing is convened by U.S. Representative Edolphus “Ed” Towns (NY-10), who introduced H.R. 795 into the 111th Congress and is currently the Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committe.

Professional social workers provide and advocate for essential human services for individuals across the lifespan.  They serve as the primary workforce for guiding people in crisis to critical resources—often counseling them on important life decisions and offering support to families.    

“Not everyone will need a social worker, but when life presents serious obstacles to one’s well-being, a social worker can be an invaluable ally,” says Congressman Towns.  “We want to make sure that when people do need a social worker, professional help will be available.” 

Congressman Towns, and other social work advocates like him, believe it will become harder for average Americans to get the help they need, when they need it, if additional federal and state investments are not made in the profession now. Services for older adults, veterans and abused children are already at risk.

For more than 100 years, social workers in the United States have entered the profession with a desire to serve people in need, especially the most vulnerable.  They have also led efforts to improve access to psychosocial services for people from all walks of life.  Every day, social workers touch millions of lives through their work in hospitals and clinics, schools and universities, community and government agencies, private practices and corporations, as well as prisons and the military.    

However, a job as one of the nation’s 640,000 professionally trained social workers can also mean serious injuries on the job, significant educational debt, and a non-competitive salary. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that an additional 100,000 social workers will be needed by 2018, our country’s 600 accredited schools and programs of social work often struggle to recruit and graduate enough students to keep pace with the volume and complexity of social needs in their communities.

The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795) is designed to explore and address challenges that limit the profession’s ability to help millions of people in the future.

SWRA briefing speakers will include:

  • U.S. Congressman Edolphus Towns
  • Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Executive Director, National Council of Negro Women
  • Dr. Elizabeth J. Clark, Executive Director, National Association of Social Workers
  • Ms. Mildred Joyner, President, Council on Social Work Education/Department Chair, West Chester University Undergraduate Social Work Program
  • Dr. Jeane Anastas, Professor, New York University/President-Elect, National Association of Social Workers
  • Dr. Richard Barth, Dean, University of Maryland School of Social Work
  • Dr. Joan Levy Zlotnik, Director, Social Work Policy Institute

For more information about the Social Work Reinvestment Act, please see the Library of Congress Thomas website or visit
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