Testimony Reveals Profession’s Direction

ocial workers testifying before a U.S. House SubcommitteeAdvocates for NASW’s Social Work Reinvestment Initiative celebrated several achievements that took place during the summer.

From left, Gary Bailey, Robin Mama, Michael Bird, Rene Bergeron, and the Rev. Sarah Wells, were among the social workers who testified before a U.S. House Subcommittee in July.

On July 29, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities held the first-ever congressional hearing on the state of the profession entitled, “Caring for the Vulnerable: The State of Social Work in America.” U.S. Representative and social worker Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) is a member of the subcommittee.

Gary Bailey, former NASW president and chair of NASW’s Public Education Campaign, testified that the nation is facing complex challenges considering the continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; the rising costs of food and fuel; the threat of more housing foreclosures; and increasing job shortages. “These trends show an increased need for more social workers,” he said.

Bailey said a much-needed assessment of the public’s needs and a comprehensive plan to meet those challenges with adequate services is paramount. “Social work is the helping profession,” he said. “The need for social workers will increase over time.”

Member Robin Mama, dean of the School of Social Work at Monmouth University, discussed ways in which social workers are educated. “Recruitment is the biggest challenge we’re facing,” she testified.

Michael Bird, a social worker and public health consultant in Albuquerque, N.M., talked about the importance of building a diversified social work workforce. “We must re-evaluate our retention technique,” he added.

Rene Bergeron, associate professor of social work at the University of New Hampshire, testified about the importance of social work research and how social workers help people in many different situations, including disaster recovery. “We cannot afford in this country to not support social work,” she said.

Another important event took place in June with NASW succeeding in securing an important step within the broader Social Work Reinvestment Initiative: the inclusion of three pieces of social work-related language in House fiscal year 2009 appropriations legislation. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) were instrumental in securing the language. The next step in the process is ensuring that the language survives further consideration of the measure in the House and working to protect the language during negotiations between House and Senate appropriators.

The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr., Social Work Act (H.R. 5447/S.2858), which proposes to address issues of recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment in the social work profession, gained more cosponsors in the House and Senate. The House had 78 cosponsors at the end of July while the companion bill in the Senate garnered 12 cosponsors.

In other Social Work Reinvestment Initiative news:

  • NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark posted a new video on the video-sharing Web site YouTube. In the video, Clark thanks the social workers who wrote letters to their representatives urging support of the reinvestment act. She goes on to explain why passing the legislation is so important. The video had more than 9,500 views by early August. See the video at 110 Congress Archive Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.
  • As of early August, there were 12,146 letters sent to the Senate and 16,035 letters sent to the House in support of the reinvestment act.
  • Members and social work supporters are encouraged to visit Social Work Reinvestment Initiative to learn more about how they can get involved in supporting the Social Work Reinvestment Act as well as the full Social Work Reinvestment Initiative.