WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Angelo McClain will retire as chief executive officer of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), an organization he has steered for nearly 10 years as it modernized systems and services, supported social workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased its focus on ending systemic racism within the social work profession and the nation.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to hold one of the most important positions in the social work profession and to lead this organization and its deeply committed staff through exciting but often challenging times,” said McClain, PhD, LICSW. “I thank our staff at the chapter and national levels for their phenomenal service during my tenure. NASW is an even stronger organization now and I am confident its next leader will take the association to new heights.”
McClain was hired as CEO at NASW in March 2013 after serving six years as commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families under Governor Deval Patrick. He immediately launched a modernization and revitalization initiative to update NASW business practices, aligning its 55-chapter structure to strengthen the association’s long-term financial viability and better serve its members. The multi-year effort allowed NASW chapters to focus more resources on local programming, including advocacy, professional development, and member services.
Over the past decade, McClain also helped the association and the larger social work profession respond to pressing social issues, such as inhumane child migrant detention, gun and police violence, increasing mental health needs and growing inequity across all systems of care.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, McClain led NASW efforts to quickly provide social workers with information and services required to better serve clients caught in the triple tsunami of unequal health access, unmet mental health needs and economic crisis. This included advocating on the federal and state levels to allow social workers to provide more telehealth services.
McClain began steps to make NASW a more welcoming and inclusive workplace in 2019, when he hired the association’s first vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, prompted McClain to focus NASW on addressing systemic racism not only in society but also in the ranks of the profession. NASW held a series of chapter and national meetings and public townhalls in partnership with other social work organizations to determine how different areas of the profession could work together to end racism.
In June 2021, NASW issued a formal apology for supporting practices that harmed people of color. The report, Undoing Racism Through Social Work: NASW Report to the Profession on Racial Justice Priorities and Action, includes a framework for how NASW is working to achieve an anti-racist profession.
NASW’s national policy agenda has expanded significantly under McClain’s leadership. Results include new federal commitments to research and support the social work workforce, as well as increased visibility for social workers in the Biden-Harris Administration.
In fact, NASW released a 2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities that articulated meaningful actions the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress could take to address the COVID-19 crisis, promote mental and behavioral health, eliminate systemic racism and ensure civil and human rights for all. Nationwide, the association continues to participate in hundreds of prominent social justice and social care coalitions.
McClain will stay in the position until the end of the year and promises members and staff that he will work closely and assiduously with the NASW Board of Directors to ensure there will be a “good and smooth” transition process.
“The NASW Board of Directors and I thank Dr. Angelo McClain for his stewardship and stellar leadership as the CEO of NASW over the last nine years – he was the right leader for NASW at the right time and he led the association during some of the most momentous times in our nation’s history,” said NASW President Mildred “Mit” Joyner, DPS, MSW, LCSW.
“Angelo has positioned NASW and the professional membership to respond to inequality and injustice,
including protecting reproductive rights, voting rights, and liberating all people so that everyone can live their lives free from bias and discrimination. More social work professionals are now in position to change oppressive systems rather than maintain the status quo, due to his vision and leadership.”
McClain resides in Rhode Island with his wife Terri Hubbard, a retired psychiatric nurse executive. He has been a continuous member of NASW since 1978 and said even in retirement he intends to stay active with the association and keep his membership current.
“I will always have the highest regard for NASW – it’s in my DNA,” he said.