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Reinvestment Push to Start at State Level

State programs will bolster creation of a federal Social Work Reinvestment Act.

NASW has begun moving forward on the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative, a project designed to unify and advance the social work profession.

The initiative's goal is to "pursue legislative, policy and regulatory mechanisms that recognize the role of professional social workers in the delivery of heath and human services and in improved outcomes for individuals, families and communities."

The Social Work Reinvestment Initiative was first announced in August during NASW's Annual Leadership Meeting. Since then, NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark and Associate Counsel for Legislative Affairs Ikeita Cantú Hinojosa and others have been promoting the initiative at meetings around the country.

Clark and Cantú Hinojosa offered a presentation during a meeting of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work on Oct. 6, and Cantú Hinojosa also spoke to the board of the Council on Social Work Education on Oct. 19.

NASW representatives also met with the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research (ANSWER) coalition in October to discuss the initiative. The ANSWER coalition is serving as an advisory committee for the project. The Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research (IASWR) is a consulting partner for the initiative. IASWR Executive Director Joan Zlotnik and others discussed the initiative with the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education during its conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in October.

And a "listening conference" with NASW Social Work Pioneers® was scheduled for Nov. 30 as the News went to press. The conference was designed to leverage the Pioneers' years of experience and perspective to help inform the shape and implementation of the initiative.

The main components of the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative are to:

  • Expand opportunities and mechanisms (such as stipends, loan forgiveness programs, fellowships and scholarships) to attract new social workers to the field.
  • Advocate for funding to support social work education and training for practitioners, educators and researchers.
  • Enhance support for social work research.
  • Communicate the value of social work education, training, credentials and licensure to employers and policymakers.
  • Collaborate with employers and payers to support professional development and career ladders.
  • Increase compensation for social workers.
  • Partner with government entities and other stakeholders to recruit, retain and support workforce development.
  • Host legislative briefings to highlight the effectiveness of social work interventions.

Cantú Hinojosa explained that NASW members and chapters will be an integral part of the project.

Some of the ways that social workers and organizations can support the initiative include:

  • Identifying stakeholders to involve in reinvestment.
  • Collecting and documenting the history of public support for social workers.
  • Assessing existing statewide reinvestment components.
  • Identifying needed legislative and regulatory changes.
  • Working with NASW chapters to draft state social work reinvestment plans.

The initiative is designed to begin at the state level, rather than nationally, Cantú Hinojosa said. NASW will work with chapters to develop a template for the statewide plan that can be implemented across the country. The creation of the template will be a focus of the next NASW Annual Leadership Meeting (ALM) in April.

The statewide programs will then be used to bolster the creation of a federal Social Work Reinvestment Act in 2008. Similar to the Nurse Reinvestment Act passed in 2002, the Social Work Reinvestment Act will address concerns such as the definition of social work practice, education and career supports, and loan programs.

The ALM will have a strong focus on legislation, including a National Social Work Lobby Day. Association leaders will have opportunities to meet with their federal elected officials to promote the initiative and the profession.

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