Word of Reinvestment Push Spreads

Anita Estell, Joan Levy Zlotnik, Elizabeth J. Clark, Elizabeth FranklinGrassroots efforts are under way to promote the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr., Social Work Reinvestment Act (SWRA), H.R. 5447, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February.

Giving SWRA presentation at NADD conference, from left: Anita Estell, Joan Levy Zlotnik, Elizabeth J. Clark, Elizabeth Franklin.

NASW national staff have been spreading the message about the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI) through recent social work education events and NASW chapter conferences.

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark was joined by other SWRI supporters in making presentations about the initiative and the bill at the annual conferences of the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD) and the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work (NADD). Both events were held in March.

SWRI goals include securing federal and state investments in professional social work to enhance societal well-being. NASW chapters are also doing their part to promote SWRI in their own jurisdictions.

SWRI Program Manager Elizabeth Franklin said the presentations were well received at the BPD and NADD conferences. Attendees were eager to fill out postcards that were eventually sent to their representatives in Congress, urging the lawmakers to support H.R. 5447 by being a cosigner on the bill. Both NADD and BPD are key members of the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research (ANSWER), whose steering committee serves as the advisory board for SWRI.

"We're working on the grassroots stage to get the word out and using different tools to get the message to members in Congress," Franklin said. Besides postcards, there are circulation petitions to support H.R. 5447, and information cards being distributed.

Clark, Franklin and Joan Levy Zlotnik, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research, and Susan Kosche Vallem, BPD Advocacy Committee chair, gave presentations at the BPD conference. There was also a SWRI information booth that attendees could visit to learn more about the effort. Franklin said about 500 people filled out postcards at these events. "Social work students also have already told us that they're interested in using SWRI as their policy projects," Franklin said.

Clark, Franklin, Zlotnik and government relations expert Anita Estell made presentations at the NADD event.

Initial reaction to the campaign appears very positive, Franklin noted. At the end of March, 16,755 messages in support of SWRA had already been sent to Congress.

The postcards state that the nation's social workers face daunting workforce challenges, such as low compensation, high caseloads, insurmountable education debt and safety concerns that compromise their ability to provide their clients with unparalleled service and care. The postcard goes on to state that H.R. 5447 will analyze these workforce-shortage challenges and will determine the best course of action to address them.

A follow-up letter written by Clark was also sent to members recently, encouraging them to share their voices in support of the act if they have not already done so.

"This legislation is a critical attempt to preserve the future of the profession," Clark said. "H.R. 5447 is a commitment to ensure that professional social workers can continue to serve millions of clients for years to come." The letter included a Web link to a prepared SWRA support letter members could send to their representatives in Washington.

Members can learn more about SWRI at its Website where there is a link to send a prepared SWRI support letter to representatives. In the meantime, educating members and social workers across America will continue, Franklin said.

At press time, Clark had made SWRI presentations at the NASW chapter conferences in Alabama, Louisiana, oklahoma and Tennessee. She also joined members of the Kentucky Chapter in their recent full day of SWRI activities.