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Professional Advocacy On Behalf of the Profession at Both the Federal and State Levels of Government
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Message From The Executive Director

Professional Advocacy On Behalf of the Profession at Both the Federal and State Levels of Government

Social work is an extraordinarily important profession in New York and the United States, and it is NASW’s job to make certain that policy makers understand our contributions to society and the challenges that we face in order to assure that our services are available and being supported.

I would like to quickly share with you a few things that are currently taking place both in New York and in Washington, DC.

In New York, as many social workers are now aware, state law is requiring employers to obtain legal authorization through applying for waivers in order to continue to employ licensed social workers. Health and mental health facilities that, as organizations, are licensed by the state, do not need to do anything, but most other organizations need to file an application for a waiver by June 16, 2011.

In order to deal with this requirement, NASW-NYC went all out to assure that as many employers as possible would know about this deadline and to recognize the importance of complying with these legal requirements. In two informational meetings for employers—one on March 29 and the other on April 27—we brought together approximately 400 employers. We worked with coalitions of agencies in each service sector to get the word out, all within a very short time frame beginning in late February. See page seven for a summary which was distributed at our Annual Meeting.

While we have been successful in informing a wide swath of the non-profit human services community, we remain concerned that there will almost inevitably be employers who will not have heard about these requirements or will not take the needed action. The implications can be serious for those organizations in regard to their continued employment of licensed social workers and interns. The impact will be on their staff as well as their clients.

After a close examination of these requirements, the Chapter Board of Directors voted unanimously to seek changes in the interpretations of the law developed by the State Education Department. The Chapter is working with organizations such as the Human Services Council of New York and United Neighborhood Houses to seek an exemption for far more organizations from needing waivers, beyond health care and mental health agencies. (Click here for more information about waivers.)

Even with these advocacy efforts, employers still need to apply for waivers and not assume that advocacy will result in the elimination of these requirements.

On the federal front, Chapter President Dr. Susan Nayowith and I had the opportunity to join with chapter presidents and executive directors from around the country in Washington, DC during the last week in April. While there, Susan and I, along with the leaders of the New York State Chapter and National NASW President-Elect Jeane Anastas, who is also from New York, met with staff to some of New York’s Congressional Representatives in support of initiatives on behalf of the profession.

In a briefing before going over to Capitol Hill, we were pleased to learn that, through NASW’s initiatives, a social work caucus was created in March in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is being chaired by Congressman Ed Towns of Brooklyn. Congressman Towns has an MSW, but membership in the caucus is open to all members of the House.

The objectives of the Congressional Social Work Caucus are:

• Initiate and support legislation to address the unique challenges and opportunities for professional social workers.

• Monitor and evaluate programs and legislation designed to assist and support individuals, families, and communities at all income levels who are coping with economic, social and health problems, particularly those with limited resources.

• Provide Congressional staff members with educational tools and resources directed toward improving the social work profession and assisting the people social workers serve.

• Assist in education and awareness efforts on the breadth and scope of the social work profession.

Members of the Caucus are Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA53), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX25), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA9), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA5), Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA2), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ7), Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA13), Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA13), and Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA5). NASW will be asking other members of the House of Representatives to join; a Representative does not need to be a social worker in order to join.

Currently, NASW is pursuing passage of the Social Work Reinvestment Act (SWRA). In the House, the bill number is H.R. 1106, and in the Senate it is S.584. There are several components to the bill, including the creation of a Social Work Reinvestment Commission which would have the authority of the federal government to examine the capacity of the social work workforce to provide services in the United States. Social work salaries, safety issues and caseload size would be part of the focus of such an examination.

Other components of the legislation would include research in the effectiveness of social work practice and creating demonstration programs to show how improved working conditions can benefit clients.

These are very difficult times for addressing social issues and social work. I think NASW is doing what it needs to be doing. We did have a very positive outcome this year by getting social work loan forgiveness re-funded, but there will be a great deal to do as we look to next year’s legislative session in Albany.

Members are invited to contact me about this article and other issues of concern to you. I can be contacted at schachter@naswnyc.org.

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