— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff
In its transition plan sent to President Barack Obama's administration, NASW outlines policy recommendations about how social workers can help achieve the goals of the new administration.
"NASW agrees with the Obama administration's agenda and our documents show how social workers can help move that agenda forward," said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark.
NASW explains how social workers can help the new administration in critical areas in a document titled "Turning Priorities Into Action: How the Social Work Profession Will Help." The document suggests reviving the economy by enacting pay equity for women, reducing child poverty, providing offender re-entry programs and reforming immigration policy. The document outlines recommendations for fixing the health care system, such as expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); providing affordable, accessible and high-quality health care to all; and addressing health inequities. Other recommendations are also included in the document, such as providing increased services to address student's biopsychosocial needs, preserving Social Security and expanding income resources for retirees, providing essential behavioral health services to active duty military and veterans, supporting international exchange, building communities and promoting equality for all.
"Professional social workers will play a significant role in addressing these social challenges," the document concludes. "With a unique blend of education, experience and expertise, professional social workers can help to mend our fractured society and rebuild healthy families and communities." The document does point out, however, that the profession "is currently facing significant challenges" and states the importance of enacting the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.
NASW is confident that the new administration will back the Social Work Reinvestment Act since Obama signed on as a cosponsor while he was a senator, Clark said. At press time, NASW was positive that the Social Work Reinvestment Act would be reintroduced in January.
In addition, NASW worked with Rep. Edolphus Towns and Sen. Barbara Mikulski on a letter to the Obama transition team and Congressional leaders urging them to include provisions of the Social Work Reinvestment Act in the upcoming stimulus legislation. The letter noted that "over 600,000 social workers practicing today are an asset to the economy as they assist individuals, organizations, and communities to move in a positive direction, thereby impacting the collective health of our nation." Rep. Towns and Sen. Mikulski continue to lead the charge to ensure an adequate and qualified professional social work workforce.
NASW also believes the administration will support its recommendations on health care reform and the economy. NASW structured the "Turning Priorities Into Action" document around Obama's priorities and intends to take advantage of the momentum generated either by his administration or within Congress.
Another document titled "Social Work Reinvestment: A National Agenda for the Profession of Social Work" was also sent to the new administration by the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research (ANSWER), a coalition that includes NASW. The document further explains the Social Work Reinvestment Act, describing it as "a groundbreaking effort to recruit and retain professional social workers to ensure that millions of citizens can continue to receive social work services for years to come." It states that the Social Work Reinvestment Act, when enacted, will set up a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to assess social work trends and come up with recommendations and strategies that will help social workers serve their clients. The recommendations outlined in the document are: to ensure an adequate supply of social workers, reduce educational debt for social workers, enhance social work salaries, assure safety for social workers, fund social work research, increase education and training of social workers in child welfare, and address inequities in the Medicare funding formula for behavioral health services.
The "Social Work Reinvestment" document also provides a description of the social work profession and areas where social workers help. "The incoming administration must not only recognize the current professional social work shortages and lack of incentives to attract and retain social workers, but actively support the Social Work Reinvestment Act to ensure a sufficient social work workforce so that millions of citizens across the nation can continue to receive necessary social services," the document concludes.
Both documents also provide examples of how social workers have played important roles in crisis situations, such as the Great Depression and various wars. "Social workers have always helped people during tough times, and they will continue to help in ways that will allow the new administration to achieve its goals," said Clark.