by Deona Hooper, MSW
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a reception that honored the formation of the Congressional Research Institute of Social Work and Policy (CRISP) by former United States Congressman Edolphus Towns. The purpose of the social work think tank is to help support the legislative agenda of the Congressional Social Work Caucus which is now being chaired by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. The reception was held at the Monocle Restaurant in Washington, D.C. located near Union Station. It was my intention to write about my week in Washington, D.C in real-time, but it dawned on me that some time was needed to fully digest this experience before I relay it to you.
My experiences as a social worker has been one of ambivalence and disappointment. What ties me to this profession is the hope that our challenges and barriers can be used to identify systems failures in order to create better outcomes for future generations. Austerity threatens the core of the services we provide to underrepresented and vulnerable populations. Institutions like CRISP and the Social Work Caucus is more important than ever. Reforms to the systems that we implement is going to happen, but they should not happen without social work and human services being represented at the table. Instead of Entitlement Reform, it should be systems reforms. The federal government does not need to cut needed programs, but they do need to enact smarter and more efficient ways to implement these programs starting with accreditation for Human Service Agencies. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) has been recommending accreditation since the 90’s as the one single act that can reduce governmental liability, increase fiscal responsibility, improve work environments, incorporate program evaluation, but most importantly, it will increase outcomes for children and families.
When I look at the current systems of how things operate, it appears that social work and human services are competing entities with competing agendas despite serving the same demographics in the same institutions while utilizing the same funding streams. From my conversations with CRISP and the Congressional Social Work Caucus, my impression is that they are open and willing to investigate these challenges in order to make evidence based policy recommendations. However, they can’t investigate and research issues if they are not made aware of the issues we face in providing quality services to our communities.
The reception garnered the support of some very important people within the social work profession and its supporters. Here is an excerpt from CRISP:
Among those on hand to celebrate our new institute were Rep. Charles B. Rangel from New York City; Dr. Wayne W. Lindstrom, president of Mental Health America (MHA); Dr. Cudore L. Snell, Dean of Howard University School of Social Work; Dr. Will C. Rainford, incoming Dean of Catholic University School of Social Science; Dr. Jerome H. Schiele, Dean of the College of Professional Studies at Bowie State University; Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, President, Council on Social Work Education; Libby Nealis, School Social Work Association of America; Sue Stapleton, Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis; Jimmy Boyd of the Men’s Health Network; and representatives from the Clinical Social Workers Association, Social Justice Solutions and Social Work Helper. Read More
I urge you to reach out to them, tell them your stories, subscribe to their website, and stay informed. Many of us want to focus on state issues when it comes to social work and human service work environments. We must recognize that the majority of the funding streams for the services we provide come from the federal government. If you truly want change, you must begin by trying to effect change at the federal level. The tools have been put in place, so I call on you to use them.
Photo Credit: CRISP