Search under way for new leader

Efforts are under way to find a new leader for the Congressional Social Work Caucus, as its founder and chairman, Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y., announced he will not seek re-election in November.

Towns created the caucus in 2011. It works to educate and inform fellow lawmakers of the vital role professional social workers play in helping improve the lives of the middle class and the most vulnerable among us. The caucus provides members of Congress and their staff the educational tools and resources directed toward improving the social work profession and the clients they serve.

Chief among the caucus’ efforts has been to rally support of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1106/S. 584. The bill would explore solutions to the workforce challenges facing the profession, such as low salaries, incomparable educational debt, high caseloads and safety concerns.

In addition to this bill, the caucus has held briefings on the impact of health care reform on the social work profession, the importance of prevention, treatment and services research funding in the National Institute of Mental Health budget, the future of children and youth, and strengthening social work’s response to poverty.

Staff from Towns’ office confirmed the congressman’s retirement at the April meeting of the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research, or ANSWER, Coalition steering committee.

Representatives from Towns’ office said he still plans to make a push for passage of the Social Work Reinvestment Act before he retires. Towns, who introduced the SWRA, will reach out to members of the caucus as well as moderate Republicans to garner bipartisan support for the bill.

Through its advocacy blog NASW says Towns has been an unwavering advocate for the profession of social work throughout his 15-term tenure in the House. It states that Towns has devoted his life to addressing issues of inequality and social justice.

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark said “Congressman Towns has been an incredible friend of and advocate for our profession. He has consistently used his social work skills and training to work in a bipartisan and effective way to achieve sustainable results. His community, the country and the profession of social work have been left better due to his efforts.”

The ANSWER Coalition steering committee consists of NASW, the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, the Council on Social Work Education, the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work, the National Association of Black Social Workers, the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work, the Social Work Policy Institute, and the Society for Social Work Research.

The coalition meets twice a year to increase legislative and executive branch advocacy on behalf of social work education, training and research. Additional topics of discussion at the April meeting included the importance of addressing the possible student loan rate hike and the challenge of social work licensure across the country.