Social Work in Action (July 2013)

NASW-Pennsylvania Executive Director Ron SimonThe NASW Pennsylvania Chapter held a rally on April 16 at its state capitol rotunda in honor of its annual Legislative Advocacy Day.

More than 800 social work students and professionals carried signs that read, “Social Workers Change Futures.”

NASW-Pennsylvania Executive Director Ron Simon addresses more than 800 social workers rallying for positive change in state policy during the chapter’s annual Legislative Advocacy Day in April.

Throughout the day, social workers met with their legislators to advocate for Senate Bill 807, which would establish licensure for bachelor-level social workers, and asked for support of practice protection for all licensed social work professionals across the commonwealth.

The chapter says mental health providers, such as social workers and professional counselors, are allowed to practice without a license. Yet social workers are the largest providers of mental health services in Pennsylvania and the nation. “The state Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors is the only one of 29 regulated boards in Pennsylvania that does not have a legal practice act in place,” the chapter’s executive director, Ron Simon, informed the crowd.

Several legislators spoke about the critical role social workers play in communities, and chapter President Gwen Phillips said social workers “are part of everyone’s human experience.”

The NASW Wisconsin Chapter held its biannual Advocacy Day event at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on April 17 and at the Madison Masonic Center.

More than 330 people attended the event, including representatives from eight colleges and universities, and a number of social work professionals. Nancy Amidei, a senior lecturer emeritus at the University of Washington School of Social Work, was the keynote speaker. Her speech centered on lobbying. Those in attendance were offered various breakout sessions that focused on issues important to the profession.

Participants then met with 31 of the 33 state senators and just more than two-thirds of the state representatives, according to the chapter.

NASW-Wisconsin gained legislative traction on two of the six issues discussed that day. One was the Castle Doctrine, which designates that a person may use deadly force to protect his or her home without being liable to prosecution. The chapter is urging legislators to expand the law to protect social workers and other human service workers working on behalf of the public welfare.

The second was the Child Victim’s Act, which seeks to lift the age limit from the state’s statute of limitations and provide a two-year window where victims of child sexual abuse over the age of 35 would have the opportunity to bring action.

Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute, attended the Delaware Protecting Children’s conference in May and spoke on behalf of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths. Zlotnik, along with Christen Krzywonski, staff attorney with the National District Attorneys Association National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, gave a presentation called “Child Maltreatment Fatalities: A National Course of Action.”

Zlotnik and Krzywonski provided information from a national perspective about the coalition, its work and the passage of legislation in early 2013 to create a national commission to study the problem of child abuse deaths. Attendees at the conference included about 500 professionals and volunteers from state child welfare agencies, health and judicial agencies, health care, the courts, and prosecutors from across Delaware.

Zlotnik also presented a keynote address — “Social Work & Child Welfare: Looking Back to Look Ahead” — at the National Title IV-E Roundtable in May in Galveston, Texas.

“In honor of the 100th birthday of the Children’s Bureau, I wanted to look at social work involvement and the importance of social workers as child welfare workers,” she said. “It is great to see the maturity of Title IV-E efforts to educate social workers for child welfare careers in so many universities across the country – and some states are still looking to expand their programs and partnerships between state child welfare agencies and universities to have a well-qualified workforce.”

Zlotnik also co-presented a workshop at the roundtable on the Title IV-E survey that the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute conducted. Zlotnik and Jessica Pryce, MSW, discussed strategies needed to attract and retain students who will continue to pursue careers in public child welfare agencies after their payback requirements are over.

About 100 people from all over the country involved with Title IV-E BSW and MSW partnerships attended the roundtable, which included workshops and sessions that focused on curriculum, field strategies, cultural competency and evaluation.

The Elder Justice Coordinating Council held its second meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 13, where council members heard nine recommendations for federal action to improve awareness of, intervention in, and response to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Federal Interagency Elder Justice Working Group, a group of core staff from member agencies, presented the proposals, which were based on the working group’s analysis of expert testimony presented during the fall 2012 council meeting. The EJWG presenters included social worker Stephanie Eliason, who works in the Office of Elder Rights at the Administration on Community Living/Administration on Aging.

The Coordinating Council and the EJWG seek public input on the nine proposals. Feedback will be considered as implementation strategies for the recommendations that are developed. Social workers and other members of the public may email by Aug. 31 to submit comments.

The Elder Justice Act, which was became law as an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, created the Elder Justice Coordinating Council with the mission of coordinating, across federal government agencies, activities related to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The council is also developing recommendations to enhance the interagency coordination. The council will report to both Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress.

“Social workers have long worked to prevent and respond to elder abuse and mistreatment within their communities,” said Chris Herman, NASW senior practice associate, who observed the May 13 meeting. “The Elder Justice Coordinating Council’s leadership can support and maximize social work intervention on behalf of older adults and their families.”