Social Workers in Congress

118th Congress

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the United States, with 55 Chapters in every state, and Washington DC, Guam, New York City, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our members are practitioners, educators, researchers, and policy makers who work with individuals, families and communities in numerous settings to address challenges such as child abuse and neglect, poverty, chronic illness, substance abuse, mental illness, and disaster recovery.

NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of social workers; to create and maintain standards for the social work profession; and to advance sound social policies that support the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

Social workers possess a continuum of knowledge about human needs and behavior, services delivery, systems that affect individuals and groups and the effects of public policy.* Social work has a rich history of policy and decision makers including Harry Hopkins, Frances Perkins, Whitney M. Young, Jr., and Dr. Dorothy I. Height. NASW is proud that the social work perspective continues to be represented in the halls of Congress.

*NASW Policy Statements 2021-2023, Social Work Speaks, 12th Edition, 2021

U.S. Senator
Debbie Stabenow (MI)

Senator Debbie Stabenow

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow made history in 2000 when she became the first woman from Michigan elected to the United States Senate. Today she is one of our nation’s most passionate and effective advocates for children and families. She is a proud member of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

Senator Stabenow continues to be the lead sponsor or the Improving Access to Mental Health Act, which would increase reimbursement rates for clinical social workers in Medicare, allow them to bill independently at skilled nursing facilities and bill for Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention services.

Senator Stabenow is a national leader in the effort to make sure all people have clean water and affordable, quality health care, including mental health and addiction services. She authored the mental health parity provisions in the Affordable Care Act, and in 2014, her Excellence in Mental Health Act was signed into law, marking one of the most significant steps forward in community mental health funding in decades.

Senator Stabenow is a longtime champion for School-Based Health Centers, and she is the author of the Hallways to Health Act to increase children’s access to physical and behavioral health care during the school day.

As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Senator Stabenow has been the leader in protecting and strengthening national food assistance programs and child nutrition initiatives so that children have access to healthy breakfasts and lunches and summer food programs. Senator Stabenow also moves the needle for key legislation as a member of the Budget; Environment and Public Works; Finance; and the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Senator Stabenow received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Michigan State University.

U.S. Senator
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)

Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Senator Kyrsten Sinema served three terms representing the 9th Congressional District of Arizona. She is the first woman Senator from the state of Arizona.

In Arizona where Congresswoman Sinema grew up, strong schools and tight-knit communities meant opportunity for future generations. The hard-working middle class could get ahead, and government was there to help ensure that opportunity for all who were willing to work hard and play by the rules.

Senator Sinema became a social worker to help struggling families. She soon realized that the challenges they faced – poverty, homelessness, job loss, abuse – were common to so many families, and that solving them meant thinking bigger than one family at a time. It required fighting for real change to ensure America works for all Americans.

She was elected to the state legislature and worked to secure funding for Veterans, to provide business incentives for job creation and to fight back against attempts to gut basic health care for kids, cuts to services for the elderly and dramatic drops to school funding.

In 2018, she was elected to the U.S. Senate. Senator Sinema has a record of working in a bi-partisan manner in the interest of Arizonans. Senator Sinema was the lead sponsor of the Protecting Social Workers and Health Professionals from Workplace Violence Act introduced in the 117th Congress. She was a cosponsor of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act in the 117th Congress. She was an original sponsor and led the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – historic legislation that provides significant mental and behavioral health care funding for communities across America. Senator Sinema serves on the Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs; Commerce, Science, & Transportation; Homeland Security & Government Affairs; and the Veterans’ Affairs Committees. She also is a member of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

U.S. Congresswoman
Barbara Lee (CA-13)

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was first elected to Congress in 1998. She notes that as a social worker by profession, being an advocate for people in dealing with the federal bureaucracy has been a priority. While she was in graduate school at UC Berkeley, Congresswoman Lee started a community mental health organization, called the Community Health Alliance for Neighborhood Growth and Change (Change, Inc.) because she saw a need in her community for mental health care, community education, and advocacy. It was her social work experiences that led her to be the social and racial justice advocate she is today.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Congresswoman Lee graduated from Mills College in Oakland in 1973 and received her Master’s in social work from the University of California in Berkeley in 1975. She began her political career as an intern in the office of her predecessor, the late-Congressman Ron Dellums, where she eventually became his Chief of Staff. Before being elected to Congress, she served in the California State Assembly from 1990-1996 and the California State Senate from 1996-1998.

Congresswoman Lee has consistently been a progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to creating a more equitable society by fostering social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights. She is committed to eradicating poverty, expanding opportunities, and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

Congresswoman Lee continues to be the lead sponsor of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act, which would increase reimbursement rates for clinical social workers in Medicare, allow them to bill independently at skilled nursing facilities, and bill for Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention services.

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the influential Appropriations Committee. She also serves on the Budget Committee, advocating for community investments. Furthermore, Congresswoman Lee is in Democratic Leadership as Co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee, Chair of the Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, past-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

After Congressman Ed Towns (D-NY) retired from Congress, Congresswoman Lee became the Chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus where she works to unite members of Congress interested in promoting social workers and the clients we serve.

U.S. Congresswoman
Sylvia Garcia (TX-29)

Sylvia Garcia

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia was elected to Congress in 2018 as one of two first Latinas to be elected to Congress from Texas. Prior to coming to Congress, Garcia served as a Director and Presiding Judge of the Houston Municipal System, City Controller of Houston, Harris County Commissioner's Court, and State Senator in Texas.

The eighth of ten children, Garcia saw her parents struggle to raise her and her siblings. Garcia's parents taught her that with hard work and a good education, she could accomplish anything. As a result of these lessons, Garcia dedicated herself to success at school. She earned a scholarship to Texas Woman's University in Denton, where she graduated with a degree in social work and political science. Garcia then received her Doctor of Jurisprudence from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston.

In her third term, Garcia is serving as the Vice Ranking Member on the Financial Services Committee and as a member of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. She is also a member of several caucuses and task forces including the Democratic Women’s Caucus, the House Democratic Caucus Poverty Task Force, and the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

U.S. Congresswoman
Hillary Scholten (MI-03)

Hillary Scholten

Elected to Congress in 2022, Congresswoman Hillary Scholten is the newest social work member of Congress. She is the daughter of an elementary school teacher and a reporter/assistant sports editor. Scholten says that her mother’s work in high poverty schools didn’t just keep her family in touch with the lives of struggling families and students but, also exposed her to the injustices that prevent Americans from getting ahead.

These early experiences with what she calls a “rigged” system for the wealthy and well-connected are what motivated her to attend and complete law school at the University of Maryland after earning her bachelor’s in social work. She clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the second district and worked for the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration.

Congresswoman Scholten serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure and Small Business Committees.

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