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Efforts to Recruit, Retain and Research Nation's Social Workers Gain Bipartisan Support in Congress

Dr. Dorothy I. Height Joined U.S. Congressman Ed Towns Today to Seek Support for H.R. 5447, The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congress is being asked to help the nation's 600,000 professional social workers better serve families and communities in need. U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY) has introduced a bill that will establish a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to study policy issues associated with recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment in the profession of social work, and will support replicable programs of excellence throughout the country.

Original cosponsors include Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH).

The United States is experiencing unprecedented levels of human, social service and health care needs. These needs now transcend social and economic strata, affect the old and the young, and place tremendous burdens on those in the middle. As a result, millions of Americans, from all walks of life, are served daily by social workers.

However, competing policy priorities, fiscal constraints, significant educational debt, comparatively insufficient salaries, increased administrative burdens, and unsupportive work environments are just a few of the common obstacles encountered by professional social workers. These barriers impede the delivery of essential services, affect recruitment and retention in the profession, and compromise access to necessary care -- especially for the most vulnerable.

Social Work Reinvestment Commission

H.R. 5447 will create a commission to research social work's impact in practice areas such as aging, child welfare, military and veteran's affairs, mental and behavioral health and disability, criminal justice, and health. It will also study issues facing the profession, including fair market compensation, high social work educational debt, and social work safety, as well as state level social work and reciprocity agreements. These recommendations will be presented to Congress and the Executive Branch.

Demonstration Grants

H.R. 5447 will support demonstration grants related to workplace improvements, social service research, social work education and training, and programs of excellence. These competitive demonstration grants will support efforts underway within both the private and public sectors, at colleges and universities, and within community-based organizations that already administer programs in high need, high demand areas.

The bill is named after two American social work pioneers and civil rights icons, Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr.

At today's briefing in the Cannon House Office Building, Mr. Towns said, "I am honored and privileged to recognize the historic efforts and legacies of two of my personal heroes in supporting a profession that each of us has been proud to call our own. Through the Social Work Reinvestment Act we have a unique opportunity to outline, develop, and implement strategies that truly help the people of America. Social workers have a direct and measurable impact upon millions of families; they deserve our gratitude and support."

Dr. Height reminded the audience of Congressional staff, media, civil rights leaders and social work advocates that "Social workers seldom seek recognition for their work because they are focused on meeting the needs of their clients and communities. Yet, we must stop asking them to do more with less. They simply need adequate support for work that they do. A national investment in the social work profession can improve the quality of the lives of millions of people."

According to Dr. Elizabeth Clark, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, "State-based efforts to improve working conditions and educational supports for social workers will be greatly strengthened by the proposed national legislation. We're thrilled that such distinguished Members of Congress want to ensure the future of our profession."

For more information about H.R. 5447, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, please visit

Additional Background

H.R. 5447

Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act

Dr. Dorothy I. Height remains one of the most prominent female leaders in the United States. She has received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, and has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Dr. Height began her career as a caseworker in the New York City Welfare Department and has since led numerous national organizations committed to social justice, including the National Council of Negro Women, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Her life story is chronicled in a popular Broadway play.

Whitney M. Young, Jr. is widely recognized as the co-author of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. As executive director of the National Urban League for more than 10 years, he persuaded numerous employers to end racial discrimination in the workplace. A former dean of the Atlanta University School of Social Work, Mr. Young was the cover feature in the Aug. 11, 1967 issue of Time Magazine and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. At the time of his accidental death in 1971, he served as the elected president of the National Association of Social Workers.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, D.C., is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with nearly 150,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

SOURCE National Association of Social Workers
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