Advancing social work and social welfare

By Angelo McClain, Ph.D., LICSWFor more than a century, social workers have led efforts to fortify the fabric of American society and strengthen our nation’s social safety net.

For 60 years, through the might of our members, NASW has fueled the profession’s efforts to build a better world. Today, our nation faces numerous social challenges that require the innovative problem-solving that social workers are in the business of providing.

However, many social workers are concerned that our ability to continue advancing our nation’s social welfare could be significantly compromised if Congress and the White House aren’t attuned to — and urged to address — issues that threaten our nation’s social welfare and the vitality of social work.

Backed by 130,000 social workers, NASW is uniquely positioned to be effective in advocating for our nation’s social welfare and protecting the profession.

NASW is committed at both the federal and state levels of government to stay on top of issues that affect social welfare and social work. We constantly monitor legislation and, when appropriate, engage in the debate, fighting for laws and regulations that matter to social workers and the clients and communities we serve.

NASW recognizes that our legislative and regulatory priorities represent one of our best opportunities to advance social welfare and social work. From our offices located a few blocks from the United States Capitol and from our chapters across the country, NASW advocates for federal and state policy initiatives that strengthen the ability of Americans to access high-quality health and human services.

For NASW, advancing social welfare and social work is about fighting for resources for our clients and communities, fighting for respect for social workers in recognition of the work we do, and fighting for the rates and salaries that we as highly trained professionals deserve.

A priority for our advocacy work focuses on fighting for the resources our clients need for safe and healthy growth and development, full participation in all aspects of human endeavor, and to heal and recover from life’s challenges and traumas. Advancing social welfare includes assuring that families are able to protect and nurture their children, seniors and loved ones with special needs.

Another important aspect of advancing social welfare is working to strengthen and better position communities to support individuals and families. Toward these ends, we advocate for anti-poverty legislation, racial equity, improved access to health and behavioral health care, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform and Medicaid expansion.

NASW’s work to advance social work is about fighting for the rates, salaries and respect that our profession deserves. NASW supports consideration of legislation and regulations that strengthen and expand the role of social work in all aspects of providing health and human services.

A priority focus is urging federal and state policymakers to consider a number of proposals aimed at creating payment equity and increasing access to clinical social work services. Our advocacy in this area seeks to reduce overly restrictive limits on the scope of practice, including gaining social work access to certain CPT billing codes. Collectively, success in these areas allows clients access to the critical social work services they need.

NASW’s advocacy activities include continuously tracking legislative and regulatory proposals; providing expert testimony to congressional and state legislative bodies; writing letters, stating NASW’s position on issues to federal and state lawmakers; and sending letters to federal and state agencies that regulate the provision of health and human services. In addition, NASW partners with sister social work organizations to urge congressional and White House funding for social work education and research, student loan relief, and expansion of scholarship programs.

In recent years, NASW has achieved a number of important gains on our public policy priorities. Several states have passed legislation or approved regulations that professionalize their child protective service workforce, requiring BSW/MSW for CPS positions. Several states have tackled social work practice and licensure issues, advancing opportunities for expanded social work practice and reimbursement. A number of states have recognized the important role that social workers play in health care delivery.

Despite these successes, more work is needed. We are pursuing a Medicare Equity Act, expansion of Medicaid payment, building champions within the 114th Congress, and other important policy initiatives.

NASW is excited about the progress we can make in 2015. Please join our Advocacy Network as we work to advance our nation’s social welfare and protect our profession — your voice is needed. Policy and opinion makers depend on advocates to help them understand and recognize issues that deserve their support.

Contact Angelo McClain at