NASW leaders presented at the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors’ (BPD) 29th annual conference in March, and social work professor Susan Kosche Vallem gave a memorial lecture dedicated to Ron Federico, who is known for his efforts in shaping social work education.
The conference, “Sustaining Quality BSW Education in Difficult Times,” was held March 14-18 in Portland, Ore.
Kosche Vallem — professor of social work at the Wartburg College in Iowa, chairwoman of the BPD Advocacy and Outreach Committee, and convener for the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research Coalition — presented the Federico lecture “Clinical Without Political is Hypocritical.”
“I am pleased and honored to be part of the Ron Federico lecture series,” Vallem said. “He served in many social work education capacities, and his pioneering work in curriculum development and his many publications remain as the foundation for many baccalaureate social work programs in this country.”
NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark and Special Assistant to the Executive Director Elizabeth F. Hoffler presented “The Power of Linking Social Work Practice and Policy.” Hoffler and Clark spoke about the critical links between social work practice and social work policy, and why all social workers, regardless of practice focus, must adequately understand policies, laws, and regulations that may have an influence on their clients or communities.
This may involve advocating for legislation or resources that will positively impact clients, understanding how current laws affect a social worker’s ability to do their job, organizing communities for broader change, or understanding workplace policies that can have an adverse effect on the social worker and their clients.
The key message of the presentation was that these issues can serve as a platform to benefit and enhance populations and communities at large, once they have been properly addressed and dealt with on a broader policy level.
The presentation emphasized the importance of advocacy, and for social workers to “engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs to develop fully,” as laid out in the NASW Code of Ethics.
Audience members were given a history of prominent social work leaders who fought for important issues such as civil rights, unemployment insurance and humane treatment for people with mental illnesses. The presentation highlighted noteworthy contributions made by Whitney M. Young Jr., a social work and civil rights legend who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Dr. Dorothy I. Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women who worked extensively during the civil rights movement; Harry Hopkins, who was appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be federal relief administrator; and social worker Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet.
Also discussed was NASW’s involvement with the Congressional Social Work Caucus — created in the 111th Congress by social worker and U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y. — and NASW’s ongoing support of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1106/S. 584).