ALM features speakers, Capitol Hill visits

Richard ReedRichard Reed, MSW, special assistant to the president of Homeland Security and senior director for continuity policy, presents the seminar “When Disasters Strike — Being Prepared and Responsive” during NASW’s Annual Leadership Meeting in April, held in Washington, D.C.

When disaster strikes, how should social workers respond?

Richard Reed, special assistant to the president of Homeland Security and senior director for continuity policy, answered this question in April when he spoke at NASW’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Reed, who has an MSW, presented “When Disasters Strike — Being Prepared and Responsive” to NASW’s 56 chapter executive directors, board leaders and members of the national board of directors.

He said chapter leaders can prepare themselves and practice response to a disastrous event before it happens. It is useful to focus efforts and energy on capabilities that would be needed to respond, he said, in addition to having a set plan.

“One-hundred and twenty people on the wing of a plane in the Hudson river … At that time, a plan for recovery did not exist,” Reed said. “The capabilities existed. Regardless of the event, think about what capabilities you need.”

When a disaster does strike, he said, mankind is moved toward being resilient, to evolve and to survive.

“A resilient community creates resilience where it doesn’t exist,” Reed said. “Social workers make positive impacts every day. Use the power that you have to maintain resilient communities.”

ALM attendees also heard a keynote discussion on the future of associations by Mary Byers, co-author of “Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Steps for Associations.”

Byers highlighted the need for associations to embrace technology and to personalize their outreach efforts.

“Think what you can do with technology,” she said. “Take a look at your software and hardware.”

Byers said marketing efforts need to help members be more productive. She suggested devising ways to assist members with strategies that promote less stress, while at the same time lead them to be more prolific and profitable.

Elizabeth J. Clark puts boutineer in Marshall Wong’s buttonholeNASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark, right, puts a boutineer in Marshall Wong’s buttonhole at a reception announcing the 2011 National Award winners, held during ALM. Wong received the Social Worker of the Year award.

A key feature of ALM is providing an opportunity for participants to visit their representatives in the nation’s capital. This year, attendees were treated to a Capitol Hill briefing on strengthening social work’s response to reducing poverty. The event was hosted by the Congressional Social Work Caucus and NASW.

Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y., who heads the caucus, urged attendees to ask their representatives to join the caucus and to support the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1006/S. 584. The proposal would create a commission to examine the profession’s workforce challenges and develop a plan of action.

“As social workers we need to toot our own horn,” Towns told the audience. “There are things we can say to people in positions (of power and encourage them) to make a difference in changing the lives of people.”

Social worker Jared Bernstein was among the speakers at the briefing. He is a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. He said highlighting trends in poverty is an important way to address the issue.

“Problems start when there is too much inequality, it eliminates growth,” he said.

The economy is making positive gains after the recession, but the optimistic effects are not reaching everyone, in particular people of color, Bernstein noted.

He said providing fiscal relief to states is one way to improve the economy.

“Social workers know you can’t fend for yourself all the time,” he said.

Larry Davis, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, told the audience that nations succeed or fail based on whether there are support systems for the entire population, rather than exclusions.

“Poverty in America is further segregated by race,” said Davis, who also is the director and founder of the Center on Race and Social Problems. Its mission is to conduct applied social science research on race, ethnicity and color. The poverty rate for blacks and Hispanics is twice as high as the rate for whites, he said.

“We lose generations of children to poverty,” Davis said. “This causes our nation to be more fragmented.”

“The poverty of some will restrict the freedom of us all,” he said later.

John Kuhn, national director of homeless evaluation for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said child care and family reconciliation services are the greatest unmet needs for veterans.

“We have to try and meet our clients where they are at,” Kuhn said. “We need to be good stewards and match resources whenever possible.”

Mary McKernan McKay, director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University Silver School of Social Work, told attendees that policymakers, advocates and consumers need to raise their voices together “to highlight the issues we struggle with today.”

Social workers need not only to concentrate on helping people overcome their personal challenges, but also to advocate for services that can assist them, she said, especially as many social services face cuts in funding.

“We can’t afford to relegate advocacy or policy decisions to someone else,” McKay said.

NASW President Jeane Anastas told the audience to “Please keep up your good work,” and she reminded them that NASW is a tool for policy changes and advocacy.

Another goal of the Annual Leadership Meeting is to give chapter leaders and national staff opportunities to exchange some of their recent successful social work efforts through various workshops.

Topics included: “Building NASW Communities at the Local Level”; “Successful Membership Recruitment and Retention Strategies”; “Social Work and Autism – Practice and Policy Opportunities”; “Social Work Reinvestment Initiative at the State Level”; and “Negotiating with Insurance Companies on Behalf of our Members.”

ALM also features the Council of Chapter Executive awards. This year’s honorees were John Costa, NASW Maryland Chapter director of membership and finance; and Deborah Riggs, executive director of the NASW Virginia Chapter.

Costa, who was presented with the Gilman-Wells Award, was recognized for his services in making IT, member services and volunteer opportunities a priority across the Maryland chapter.

Riggs was presented with the 2012 Outstanding Chapter Executive of the Year award in recognition of her leadership qualities, and for spearheading the successful passage of the Virginia House 2037 General Assembly bill, which promotes title protection for social workers in the state. It takes effect July 1, 2013.MS

The 2011 National Awards, which were announced earlier this year, were presented at a reception held during the annual meeting. National Award recipients are: Anne Coyne, Lifetime Achievement; Marshall Wong, Social Worker of the Year; Sherl Morden, Public Citizen of the Year; and Massachusetts state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Public Elected Official of the Year.