Social Workers in Congress

117th 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 2018-2020, Social Work Speaks, 11th Edition, 2018

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 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. Senator Stabenow also introduced the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2019 in the 116th Congress.

As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Senator Stabenow has been the leader for 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 Joint Taxation Committees.

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 helping struggling families. She soon realized that the problems they came to her with – poverty, homelessness, job loss, abuse – were common to so many families, and that solving these problems meant thinking bigger than one family at a time. It required fighting for real change to rebuild an America that 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.

Senator Sinema has been lauded as someone capable of working with members of both parties, while never letting go of her progressive values and principles. Senator Sinema was the lead sponsor of the Protecting Social Workers and Health Professionals from Workplace Violence Act of 2019 introduced in the 116th Congress. She was a cosponsor of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act in the 116th Congress. 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 through her social work experiences that lead 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 and received her Master’s in social work from the University of California in Berkeley. 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 social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights. She is committed to eradicating poverty, fostering opportunity and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations Committee where she is the Chair of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. She also serves on the influential Budget Committee where she advocates for community investments. Furthermore, Congresswoman Lee is the chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, Chair of the Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, past-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She is a co-chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, which determines committee assignments for Democrats. She is the only African American woman serving in the House Democratic Leadership through her role as a co-chair of the Steering and Policy Committee.

Congresswoman Lee continues to champion legislation for our workforce reintroducing the Improving Access to Mental Health Act and the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act in the 116th Congress as the lead sponsor.

U.S. Congresswoman
Karen Bass (CA-37)

Karen Bass

Congresswoman Karen Bass is in her sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives representing California’s 37th Congressional District. Prior to serving in Congress, Congresswoman Bass made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker, catapulting her to become the first African American woman in U.S. history to serve in this powerful state legislative role.

Congresswoman Bass is solidifying leadership positions on two issues very close to her heart: reforming America’s foster care system and strengthening the United States’ relationship with Africa.In her first term, Congresswoman Bass created the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth along with co-chair former U.S. Representative Tom Marino (R-Pa.), and intends to examine national standards of care in the child welfare system. Congresswoman Bass is joined by four co-chairs for the Caucus. Congresswoman Bass is a member of the Congressional Social Work Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Bass serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman Bass is also working to craft sound criminal justice reforms as well as protect intellectual property right infringements that threaten the economic health of the 37th District.

She grew up with three brothers in the Venice/Fairfax area of Los Angeles and is the only daughter of DeWitt and Wilhelmina Bass. She graduated from Hamilton High School, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. She earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California while serving in Congress.

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 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 second term, Garcia is serving on the Financial Services and Judiciary Committees. She is also a member of several caucuses and task forces including the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

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