Retrospective Informs Reinvestment
Pioneers Speak About History of National Social Work Policies
Illuminating the historical framework of social work practice
today was the listening conference's aim.
By Lyn Stoesen, News Staff
|NASW's Elizabeth J. Clark describes conference
as a landmark.
The NASW Social Work Pioneers® hosted a listening conference
on Nov. 30 that brought together social workers to offer recommendations
from their years of experience with national policies affecting
social work practice. The event was held to help inform NASW's
Social Work Reinvestment Initiative.
The event featured six speakers: John E. "Jack" Hansan
spoke about public welfare; Kenneth Carpenter addressed corrections
and criminal justice; Delwin Anderson spoke about the Department
of Veterans Affairs; Elizabeth Watkins discussed maternal and
children's health as well as public health; Jesse Harris spoke
about military social work; and Betsy Vourlekis addressed mental
"The NASW Social Work Pioneers® are part of and helped shape
the history of the profession," NASW Executive Director Elizabeth
J. Clark said in a statement opening the conference. "These
are people who have lived this history, versus those who have
read about it."
Clark described the conference as a landmark event, laying the
foundation for the Reinvestment Initiative. Understanding the
historical framework of social work practice today is important,
she said, because "the Reinvestment Initiative has to be
an initiative of the profession, not just NASW."
The Social Work Reinvestment Initiative is designed to unify
and advance the social work profession through legislative, policy
and regulatory work that recognizes the role of professional social
workers in the delivery of health and human services and in improved
outcomes for individuals, families and communities. The initiative
will begin at the state level and then move toward the creation
of a federal Social Work Reinvestment Act in 2008.
John E. "Jack" Hansan speaks
on public welfare.
Jack Hansan started his career working in settlement houses.
He went on to become involved in civil rights work, then worked
as the director of the Ohio Department of Public Welfare and as
Ohio Gov. John Gilligan's chief of staff. He served as executive
director of the National Conference on Social Welfare, spent a
year as interim executive director of NASW and has worked on gerontology
and social policy issues. He also organized the first national
conference on the homeless, held in 1983.
In his comments at the listening conference, Hansan identified
the Depression years as a time when society began to recognize
poverty as something due to economic circumstances rather than
personal failure. "The Social Security Act of 1935 set in
motion enormous forces of change," he said. Hansan reviewed
the events of the 1960s that changed the way social services were
delivered in states, including a change in emphasis to "hard
services" such as day care and job training.
Hansan said he recommends revising the definition of social work
so that it is "clear what professional social workers can
do and how social work contributes to welfare." He said lobbying
efforts should promote increased funding for social work training
Kenneth Carpenter speaks on corrections.
Kenneth Carpenter's career included work with the federal Division
of Juvenile Delinquency, the Children's Bureau of the Department
of Health, Education and Welfare and the Law Enforcement Assistance
Administration. He went on to spend 20 years working for the National
Institute of Corrections.
In his comments, Carpenter explained the history of federal funding
for corrections programs, starting with the establishment of the
Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1930. He explained many of the federal
programs implemented to address juvenile delinquency and other
crime-related issues, as well as law enforcement assistance programs
for workforce development.
Carpenter noted that there are currently 14 federal programs
with some aspect related to criminal justice. He recommended "determining
who is doing what in criminal justice" in order to better
identify and promote the work social workers do in the field.
Delwin Anderson speaks on the Department
of Veterans Affairs.
Delwin Anderson began his social work career with the Veterans
Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) in 1947.
From 1964 to 1974, he served as director of the VA's Social Work
Service of the Department of Medicine and Surgery.
Anderson discussed the GI Bill of 1944, which offered a wide
range of benefits to returning soldiers, including medical care
and social work services. The Central Office, Social Work Service,
was formed by the VA to set policies and guidelines, including
professional standards. The VA also established a Social Work
Advisory Committee. By 1975, more than 65,000 veterans were in
community care, and hospital beds assigned for psychiatric in-patient
care had been reduced by half.
Anderson noted the important
role that social work services played in changes in VA medical
care, which moved from a hospital-based focus to one utilizing
outpatient and community care and that involved the veteran's
participation in treatment and rehabilitation.
Elizabeth Watkins speaks on maternal
and children's health.
Elizabeth Watkins has been a leader in public health social work,
was a full-time professor at the University of North Carolina,
and was instrumental in establishing a joint degree between the
schools of social work and public health at UNC. She has served
as president of the Association of Teachers of Maternal and Child
Health and worked as a social work specialist in professional
education with the Medical Social Work Section in the Division
of Health of the U.S. Children's Bureau in the Department of Health,
Education and Welfare.
Watkins discussed the history of support within federal programs
for children with physical and mental disabilities. She noted
that in 1961, a presidential panel on mental retardation improved
maternity care. She recommended training grants for social work
services and a community-based approach.
Watkins called the Reinvestment Initiative "an opportunity
for revival." She said the social work profession "need[s]
advocacy to develop leadership and get the same representation
as nursing and nutrition" in agencies providing child and
maternal health care.
Jesse Harris speaks on military social
Jesse Harris served for more than 20 years as a U.S. Army social
worker, culminating in his position as the top-ranked social worker
in the army with his appointment as chief of Social Work Services
at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and social work consultant
to the Army surgeon general. He also served as dean of the University
of Maryland at Baltimore School of Social Work.
Harris explained that social work services within the military
structure began during the Second World War when, in October 1943,
the War Department published a letter establishing the position
of psychiatric social work technician. The Air Force established
social work services within its structure in 1947, but the Navy
did not get its first social worker until 1980.
Harris noted that social work services became understood as important
for readiness. In order to retain soldiers, he explained, their
families had to be taken care of. Military family service centers
help achieve this goal.
Betsy Vourlekis speaks on mental health.
Betsy Vourlekis has worked as a social worker and as the social
work training officer at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington,
D.C., which treats mentally ill people. She has held a faculty
position at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, worked
as staff director for health and mental health at NASW and helped
establish the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research.
Vourlekis reviewed federal initiatives that impacted the social
work profession in mental health since the founding of the National
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 1946. She discussed the services
that NIMH provided, including project grants and community support
system grants. She also addressed education programs to train
the social work workforce, including the NIMH Social Work Training
Grants, which she said helped fund thousands of students and transformed
social work, as well as minority training programs.
She also noted advances in research programs for mental health,
such as the NIMH Social Work Research Task Force. Vourlekis said
that social work early on was considered a core mental health
provider by NIMH and noted the expansion of mental health practice
into community-based programs.
The listening conference concluded with comments from Paul Stuart,
a professor and chair of the Ph.D. program at the University of
Alabama School of Social Work, who has expertise in social welfare
history and who served as the historical documenter of the program.
A video recording of the listening conference was made; it will
be available through the NASW Foundation. A second listening conference
is scheduled to be held in February.
For more information: www.naswfoundation.org
From February 2007 NASW News. © 2007 National
Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved. NASW News
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