— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff
Rep. Edolphus Towns reintroduced the act on Feb. 3
The Dorothy I. Height-Whitney Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act was reintroduced in the 111th Congress on Feb. 3 by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).
"This is a milestone in social work history," said NASW President Jim Kelly. "It shows what NASW has accomplished as an association. This is the first time in a long time that so many groups, including educators, researchers, and practitioners, including the National Association of Black Social Workers and the Clinical Social Work Association, have united on legislation affecting our profession. They rallied behind this act for the good of our profession and the betterment of our clients."
H.R. 795 has been updated to become a stronger piece of legislation. The major updates include:
- An enhanced Social Work Reinvestment Commission, which now includes one labor economist, one social work consumer, one clinical social worker and four additional members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, minority leader of the House of Representatives, majority leader of the Senate and minority leader of the Senate. Additionally, the commission will expand its study to included issues relevant to women and children. The purposes, duties and powers of the commission have also been expanded to ensure the best possible recommendations to Congress.
- Demonstration programs have been updated to be more inclusive of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Specifically, 10 of the 25 research grants will be awarded to individuals employed by these institutions and four of the 20 education and training grants will be awarded to HBCUs and MSIs.
- The legislation has broadened its diversity component to require the demonstration of cultural competency and promotion of participation from diverse groups in the Social Work Reinvestment Commission, National Coordinating Center and all demonstration programs.
The goal of the Social Work Reinvestment Act is to secure federal and state investments in professional social work to enhance societal well-being. With an ever-increasing demand for social work services, the future of the profession is uncertain if challenges, such as high educational debt, low salaries, and social work safety concerns, are not addressed.
H.R. 795 calls for a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to provide independent advice and counsel to Congress on issues associated with recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment in the profession of social work. It also includes demonstration programs to address relevant "on the ground" realities experienced by the nation's social workers. The competitive grants will prioritize activities in the areas of workplace improvements, research, education and training, and community-based programs of excellence.
"Social workers are society's safety net, and in our current economy, the need for a broader safety net has grown to include and protect a diverse group of people from all walks of life, said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark. "However, serious safety concerns, significant educational debt, and comparatively insufficient salaries are threatening the ability of our nation's social workers to provide essential social services. Social workers need better support to provide quality care to those most in need." Towns is confident that H.R. 795 will provide social workers with such support.
"A healthy society is one filled with people who can participate fully in family and community life," he said. "Social workers make it possible for millions of Americans struggling with mental illness, unemployment, disabilities, addictions, violence and abuse, and chronic health conditions to transcend these challenges. This act ensures that these dedicated professionals will have what they need to continue strengthening our communities."
The act was first introduced in the 110th Congress on Feb. 3, 2008, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate in April 2008.
When the 110th Congress ended last year, the Social Work Reinvestment Act had garnered 84 House co-sponsors and 14 Senate co-sponsors, including former Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
Get more information: Social Work Reinvestment