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Experts Review Past to Shape Future

Pioneers Event Helps Lay Foundation for Reinvestment Initiative

Speakers examine social work in aging, schools, child welfare and community development.

The NASW Social Work Pioneers® hosted a second listening conference in February, featuring presentations from experts on aging, employee assistance programs, school social work, community organizing, child welfare, and health.

The event followed a listening conference held in November [February 2007 News]. Both were convened to help inform NASW's Social Work Reinvestment Initiative by bringing together experts to offer recommendations from their years of experience with national policies affecting social work practice.

The February event included six speakers: Bernard Nash spoke about aging; Dale Masi addressed employee assistance programs; Wilma Peebles-Wilkins discussed social work services to school children; Sanford Kravitz spoke about community development and community organizing; Jacob Terpstra discussed child welfare; and Bernice Harper addressed health and Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Toby Weismiller, former director of the Center for Workforce Studies and NASW's Professional Development and Advocacy Division, facilitated the meeting.

"Our purpose is to capture and preserve a portion of the expertise and insights that our speakers have garnered through their years of experience," NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark said in her opening statement. "The listening conferences will lay the foundation for the Reinvestment Initiative — the history of federal investments in the social work profession."

The Social Work Reinvestment Initiative is designed with the goal of pursuing legislative, policy and regulatory mechanisms that recognize the role of professional social workers in the delivery of health and human services and in improved outcomes for individuals, families and communities. It will begin at the state level and move toward a federal Social Work Reinvestment Act in 2008.

Bernard Nash began his career in Minnesota, where he served on the Minnesota Governor's Council on Aging. He later worked as deputy commissioner of the U.S. Administration on Aging and served as executive director of AARP from 1969 to 1975.

In his comments, Nash reviewed the history of social work practice in aging, starting with the creation of the National Institutes of Health and the development of research and training in aging through universities, and reviewed the establishment of Area Agencies on Aging.

He also detailed the passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965 and reviewed the federal agencies that funded aging services relevant to their goals, including the Administration on Aging and programs related to housing, the labor force and other concerns.

"If past is prologue, then social work has demonstrated it can adapt and contribute resources that will be needed to address the challenges ahead," Nash said.

Dale Masi served as director of employee counseling services in the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she managed a model federal program, and has served as an international lecturer on workplace issues for the U.S. Department of State.

Masi explained the emergence of employee assistance programs [EAPs] from the fields of occupational social work and occupational alcoholism programs. These programs expanded to include a more comprehensive approach starting in the 1970s.

"The EAP service model is different from occupational social work and occupational alcoholism [programs]," Masi explained. "The EAP, besides providing counseling, trains supervisors to refer employees through an approach of meeting the employee and encouraging use of the EAP before an adverse action is to be imposed. In this way, EAPs are seen as a prevention approach."

Masi detailed the internships and stipends that have been made available for EAP placements, including international placements. She also provided background on the companies that developed to provide services. She noted the lack of funded research in this area and offered a review of research awards in the field.

Wilma Peebles-Wilkins served as dean of the Boston University School of Social Work and held several positions at the North Carolina State University Social Work Program. She also chaired the New England Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work and is a former editor-in-chief of the NASW Press journal Children and Schools.

In her comments, Peebles-Wilkins explored the different models for providing services to children in schools, including traditional casework models, partnerships with community agencies, full-service community schools and others. She explained that social work services for school children began in the early 20th century with the "visiting teacher" program.

Peebles-Wilkins also examined federal funding for school social work services through legislation as well as program development activities. She noted sources of federal educational and training opportunities for school social work, including those geared toward people of color.

"In order to promote and strengthen the best interest of school children, school social work services have been supported in a variety of ways since 1945," she concluded. "To fully understand the nature of the investment in school social work services, it would be helpful to focus on the delivery of social work services to children in schools and not just school-based social workers."

Sanford "Sandy" Kravitz directed the New York office of the American Friends Service Committee and was associate director of the Welfare Council of Delaware and director of the Welfare Council of Schenectady. He went on to serve as program director of the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency in the Department of Justice and was founding dean of the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University.

Kravitz reviewed the federal programs that have impacted community development and organizing since World War II, including the GI Bill in 1944 and the Housing Act of 1949, as well as urban-renewal and highway programs.

"In some cities, as the social problems began to appear, farsighted city leaders looked to the social work profession for help," Kravitz said. "However, when social workers proposed that social work services be built into the funding for public housing programs, federal officials vigorously resisted these ideas." Nonprofit organizations, including settlement houses, attempted to respond to the problems, he explained.

Jacob Terpstra worked in a variety of settings, including county-based child welfare agencies, juvenile court, state agencies and the federal government. He served as director of the Division of Child Welfare Licensing in the Michigan Department of Social Services and spent 20 years with the U.S. Children's Bureau as a specialist in family foster care, residential child care and licensing.

Terpstra detailed the federal government's involvement in child welfare issues, starting with the White House Conference on Children and Youth in 1909. In 1935, the Social Security Act marked the first time the government had taken an active, financial participation in child welfare services, under the leadership of social worker Frances Perkins, who was U.S. secretary of labor.

He described the early 1960s as the "golden age" of social work, which ended in 1967 with changes that affected eligibility and services of social work. "The academic feed-in stopped," he explained, and child welfare programs became deprofessionalized.

He offered several recommendations, including cutting staff burdens, promoting social work research in the popular media, passing and funding loan forgiveness programs and electing more social workers to public office.

Bernice Harper recently retired from her position as medical care adviser in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She also served as director of the Division of Long-Term Care in the U.S. Public Health Service.

Harper explained the legislative history behind the Medicare and Medicaid programs. She detailed the ways that the programs evolved to include more medical services and the ways they have served the elderly and others.

She went on to examine the ways that social work was integrated into Medicare legislation. "The provision of social work in health care was born out of the legislation mandated by the Congress, woven into the federal regulatory process and became part and parcel of the conditions of participation, development of guidelines and manuals, as well as surveying and certification," she noted.

Harper also provided detailed information on a number of social-work-related projects that were related to CMS and offered a list of social work contributions to the field.

Historian Paul Stuart concluded the listening conference with comments summarizing the content of the presentations. Stuart chairs the Ph.D. program at the University of Alabama School of Social Work and served as the historical documenter of both listening conferences.

A video recording of both listening conferences will be available through the NASW Foundation.

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