News Releases

Folks sitting and looking at newspapers, phones, and tablets

NASW-NY Releases Social Work Safety Statement

New York, NY – The National Association of Social Workers in New York State and New York City are deeply concerned about the rising incidents of social workers being attacked on the job. The most recent attack was on Maria Coto, 56, of Westchester County on May 14, 2024 and national media coverage occurred on June 8th, 2024. Social workers dedicate their lives to serving vulnerable populations, advocating for social justice, and supporting individuals and families. They often work in high-stress environments, facing significant risks to their safety and well-being. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social service workers are five times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall.

These attacks on social workers are unacceptable and a grave injustice to those striving to make a positive impact in our communities. New York's assault statute recognizes the severity of these offenses. Under Law § 120.05(3a), assaulting a social services employee directly involved in child, elderly, or disability abuse investigations, or providing public assistance, is classified as second-degree assault—a class D felony.

We call on policymakers, community leaders, and employers to prioritize the safety of social workers by:
1) Enhanced Workforce Safety Measures: Implementing robust safety protocols and emergency response systems to protect social workers in the field.
2) Safety Trainings: Providing regular mandated trainings to equip social workers with skills to de-escalate potentially violent situations and protect themselves.
3) Pairing: Creating policies that mandate social workers in the field be paired with other social workers, case aides, or peer counselors for safety.
4) Supporting Mental Health and Well-being: Ensuring that workers who experience harm have access to resources and support systems for the trauma and stress encountered on the job.
5). NASW supports federal legislation that would keep all social workers nationwide safe. The Protecting Social Workers and Health Professionals from Workplace Violence Act (2022), promotes safer working conditions. Now is the time for federal lawmakers to finally make this bill a reality.

Social workers play a crucial role in building stronger, healthier communities. It is our collective responsibility to ensure their safety and well-being as they care for our community members.

Shakira A. Kennedy, PhD, LMSW
Executive Director- NASW-NYS
Interim Executive Director-NASW-NYC