NASW Foundation Partners with University of Texas-Austin on COVID-19 Vaccination Grant

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation and the Health Behavior Research and Training Institute (HBRT) at The University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work have been awarded a $3.3 million, one-year grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to engage the nation’s more than 700,000 social workers in boosting COVID-19 vaccine confidence, uptake and access, particularly among populations with low vaccination rates and higher vulnerability to severe forms of infection.

“As an essential health care workforce, social workers are well positioned to help people in their decision making around their vaccination status and address any impediments to getting vaccinated, for themselves and for their family members,” said NASW President and NASW Foundation board member Mildred (Mit) Joyner, DPS, MSW, LCSW. “Whether they work in health care settings, schools, mental health clinics, child welfare agencies or out in the community, social workers are trusted professionals who are able to meet people where they are in their COVID-19 vaccination journey and help them navigate any personal, systemic or logical barriers to becoming fully vaccinated.”

As of this week, 63 percent of the total vaccine-eligible population are fully vaccinated, with much lower vaccination rates among certain populations. With the rampant spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are once again sharply rising, largely among unvaccinated people. With vaccines recently recommended for pregnant women and expected to be approved in the coming few months for children under age 12, and with booster shots expected to be available this fall, there is increasing vaccine availability, which will be instrumental in reversing the spikes in infection. Facilitating confidence in and uptake of the vaccines is still crucial, as is eliminating barriers to access.

Vaccine confidence is a complex construct that involves a variety of personal factors such as religious beliefs, political beliefs, perceptions of the government, perceptions of science, individual and/or community experiences with health providers and/or systems, language and/or literacy, and/or immigration/refugee status.  As is seen in health and public health initiatives generally, there are also systemic and logistical factors such as transportation, childcare, and mis/disinformation. With their distinctive “person in the environment” framework, social workers possess highly relevant expertise in helping facilitate health decision making in this context.

The one-year project will include a comprehensive education campaign for social workers on COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness, barriers to vaccination (e.g., mis/disinformation, logistical challenges, psychological, etc.), and the role of social workers in promoting vaccination. The initiative will also include trainings for social workers on facts and myths about the vaccines as well as training in Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and other evidence-based, culturally competent, public health- and social work-informed methods for helping clients to process health-related decisions and choices. Through reflective listening and other strategies, versus traditional advice-giving approaches, these methods support and honor the client’s capacity and right to make choices about their health, while centering science-based and accurate information.

HBRT will collaborate with Michigan State University to develop a smartphone mobile application for social workers. The mobile app, which will supplement training, will support social workers by providing them readily accessible vaccine information, motivational interviewing  strategies, screening questions and  brief interventions, and effective vaccine messaging for real-time support. HBRT will also collaborate with NORC at the University of Chicago to assist in developing messaging and in evaluation efforts.

NASW’s 55 state/territorial chapters and specialty social work associations will also be engaged in the initiative.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. 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.

Statement from the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers Regarding the Changes to the Social Work Code of Conduct

We the board of the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers received the stunning news about the change to the Texas Social Work Code of Conduct that “slipped in” at the last minute at a request of Governor Greg Abbott. This bypassed the usual 30-day requirement for public comment and bypassed usual approval procedures because it was voted on and approved at a joint meeting of the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) and the Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC, TSBSWE’s governing body).

The governor personally strong-armed the board into approving this change, without opportunity for public comment. His explanation was that elsewhere in the Texas Code and legislation, this language is not used and therefore should be removed from the Social Work Code to align it better with the “usual” language. In other words, our state does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes (as we do race, religion, etc.) and therefore Texas social workers should not either.  We are both horrified and speechless at the removal of the protections against discrimination for disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and gender expression from the Social Work Code of Conduct. This move appears to be an exertion of the governor’s power in both a professional and a deeply personal way.

Standing precedent is that political agents are not to dictate the Social Work Code of Conduct; this responsibility belongs to the TSBSWE.  The state Code is also presented as a minimum and is not expected to be inclusive for every profession, area of practice, and population – governing boards are appointed to make rules, as deemed necessary and appropriate for their respective professions. The law should never sanction unethical practices and in fact, should do just the opposite.

As we are called by our National Code of Ethics to both, not discriminate or oppress any group or person, for any reason, and to speak out against systems that seek to do just this, we refuse to accept such dehumanization. The rule to protect the access of service for persons of all sexual orientations and gender expressions was added into our Code in 2012, without objection from the governor’s office.  This language MUST be restored immediately. We must make sure that our VOTES are for representatives who will help us protect access to service for the most vulnerable. This is just the beginning.

NASW is mobilizing action steps to fight this. Members can call their state representatives and the governor’s office right now to oppose, but we will need something collective to beat back this oppressive action. Religious freedom must never come at the expense of serving the most vulnerable in our communities.  Social workers must stand against removing any anti-discrimination protections from the Texas Social Work Code of Conduct.

To see a full list of the NASW/TX board members please visit To receive the latest updates on the subject visit our website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter (NASW/TX and NASW/TX Advocacy.

NASW to Educate Social Workers, Others About Adolescent Brain Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has developed training resources that will give child welfare workers, social workers, foster parents, and others who work with older youth critical information about how the adolescent brain develops.

The knowledge professionals acquire through NASW’s Integrating Adolescent Brain Development into Child Welfare Practice with Older Youth curriculum will help older youth – especially those in foster care or involved in the child welfare system – obtain the skills they need to overcome past trauma and become successful adults.

“Many people do not realize that the brains of youth continue to develop until they are in their mid-twenties. Using this knowledge can create opportunities for positive youth development and acquisition of new skills, decreasing impulsive behavior or poor life decisions,” said Joan Levy Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW, Director Emerita NASW Social Work Policy Institute.

Each year more than 23,000 children age out of the foster care system in the United States. Many have missed the opportunity to have stable schooling, friendships, and/or lack family support. Odds are higher, they will become incarcerated, single parents, drop out of college or have trouble finding stable jobs and housing.

The curriculum was created in keeping with the Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative’s commitment to “Train and equip practitioners to understand the role of trauma and racism, and employ effective practices to help young people understand their experiences and develop effective strategies for healing and growth.”

However, the training will have a much wider impact. It can be a resource for professionals who provide mental health and health care services to adolescents; those who work in schools or juvenile justice facilities; and social work faculty who are training new generations of social workers to work with older youth.

“The period of brain development in adolescents provides a critical opportunity to help young people grow through learning experiences and heal from trauma they may have experienced,” Zlotnik said. “That is why this curriculum and the accompanying resources are so important and we hope is shared as widely as possible.”

To learn more about adolescent brain development, join the NASW Integrating Adolescent Brain Development webinar on August 25 at 2 p.m. ET or on demand or visit the curriculum website for more information.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. 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.

NASW Endorses Joe Biden for President

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) enthusiastically endorses Joe Biden for president in 2020. During his nearly 45-year career in public office, including as a U.S. Senator and Vice President, Mr. Biden has demonstrated a consistent commitment to advancing the mental health and social justice causes that are central to NASW’s mission.

Mr. Biden began his public service career as a county council member in New Castle, Del. He served in the United States Senate from 1973 to 2009 and as Vice President of the United States under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.

While in the Senate, Mr. Biden supported the expansion of the state Children’s Health Insurance Program and much-needed improvements in mental health services for Veterans. He also played a key role in the passage of gun violence prevention legislation including the Brady background check bill and the subsequent ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In addition, he wrote and spearheaded the original Violence Against Women Act.

As Vice President, Mr. Biden championed the Affordable Care Act and was a vocal supporter of marriage equality for LGBTQ individuals.

In his Build Back Better proposal, unveiled during his current campaign for president, Mr. Biden has articulated urgently needed plans to address simultaneous health, racial and economic crises that are besetting our nation.

“The 2020 election will be among the most consequential in American history,” said Angelo McClain, Chief Executive Officer of NASW. “Joe Biden brings the bold vision and extensive national and global leadership experience that will be imperative in propelling our country forward”.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. 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.

Social Work Ethics During the Time of Pandemic

By:  Andrea Murray, MSW, LICSW

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has transformed every aspect of our lives over just a few weeks. The ethical dilemmas that have emerged would have been considered fodder for a disaster movie plot not too long ago, yet today these dilemmas are reality.

“How do you avoid abandoning clients who are in crisis in the face of shelter-in-place orders?”

 “How to respond ethically while maintaining your practice when clients are no longer able to pay for needed services?”

 “Is it OK to bend the rules to meet the needs of the public during a pandemic emergency?”

These questions are no longer reserved for intellectual debate during a professional ethics workshop. Today, for many social workers, they are real questions that must be answered now.

NASW’s Office of Ethics and Professional Review responds to requests for ethics consultations from members facing tough ethical dilemmas related to the pandemic. This task is complicated by the fact that the rules are constantly changing.

States have instituted varying guidance around quarantine requirements and essential services, licensing boards have state-specific guidance regarding social work licensee requirements, and employers are asking more of employees – at times these demands going beyond the scope of their professional competence.

Then there are the personal demands of ensuring that you and your family are healthy and safe. All of this is compounded further by social distancing and the emotional, financial, and logistical requirements that this new normal has presented.

<Insert deep breath here>

There is, however, something that remains a constant during this pandemic. The NASW Code of Ethics stands unwavering. It remains a trusted guide for social workers’ ethical practice. When you open the Code in the face of a complex ethical dilemma, you can still find the ingredients necessary to come up with an ethical solution.

Nine times out of ten, if you’re able to justify your ultimate decision based on the NASW Code of Ethics, you are on the right track to a solution that is in line with your professional responsibilities—a solution that you can stand behind with confidence.

Someone recently inquired, “Has NASW made any exceptions related to practicing ethically in light of this global crisis?” The answer is a resounding no.  Social workers do not get a pass on practicing ethically during a crisis.

We must still strive to uphold our obligations to clients, the profession, colleagues, and to society at large. This is indeed a heavy mantle. But remember, for every ethical dilemma there are countless ethical responses.

Social workers are gifted with the ability to appreciate the “big picture” and to respond to crisis by coordinating a myriad of variables toward creative solutions. To this end, the NASW Code of Ethics is a tool that offers guidance to be balanced with other important factors.

In application, social workers should know what the Code says about the dilemma at hand and balance the Code’s ethical guidance with other considerations including legal requirements, agency policy and procedures, and clinical and best practice standards.

There are few constants right now. In spite of these dynamic times, the NASW Code of Ethics continues to help social workers navigate our ever-changing times. Rest assured, this too shall pass.

Don’t make permanent decisions in response to temporary situations. Taking a pass when it comes to ethical decision making today can have longstanding consequences in the years to come.

Learn more about NASW Ethics Consultations

$2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package Will Support Social Workers, Clients They Serve

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) commends Congress and the White House for passing into law the $2.2 trillion economic relief package that will provide aid to individuals, families and communities.

“Our nation is experiencing unprecedented levels of psychological and economic devastation as a result of this public health crisis” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “We applaud lawmakers and the Trump Administration for working quickly in a bipartisan way to bring relief to working class and middle-class Americans, many of whom are struggling to afford housing, food and health care during this pandemic.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third COVID-19 relief package that Congress has enacted in as many weeks, includes extended and increased unemployment insurance, coronavirus testing at no cost to patients (including people who are uninsured), and a $1,200 rebate for all U.S. residents with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 ($150,000 if married). It also contains a number of other provisions that will go a long way towards helping people as they cope with this crisis. This includes:

Economic Security

  • $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grant to help communities address the consequences of increased unemployment and economic disruption.

Mental Health

  • Extending the Medicaid Community Mental Health Services demonstration that provides coordinated care to patients with mental health and substance use disorders, through November 30, 2020.
  • Providing $425 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to increase access to mental health services in communities, provide suicide prevention services and care for people who are homeless. The bill also includes $45 million to respond to family and domestic violence, including providing services or shelter.

Food Security

  • Waiving nutrition requirements for Older Americans Act (OAA) meal programs to ensure older adults can get meals in case certain food options are not available.
  • Increasing the budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $15.5 billion, and $8.8 billion in additional funding for Child Nutrition Programs in order to ensure children receive meals while school is not in session.
  • Providing $200 million for food assistance to Puerto Rico and the territories to ensure these citizens receive more support during the pandemic.

Child Care and Development

  • $3.5 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant. This funding will allow childcare programs to maintain critical operations and ensure first responders and health care workers can access childcare during the pandemic.
  •  $750 million for Head Start to meet emergency staffing needs.


  • Providing $3 billion in rental assistance protections for low-income Americans.
  • Including $900 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to help lower income households heat and cool their homes.

Despite being the largest stimulus package in the nation’s history, more relief will be needed due to the scope and severity of the pandemic. The legislation comes amid record-breaking unemployment claims. While there are funds in the bill for unemployment insurance coverage, that benefit is time-limited and does not cover workers’ full salaries. Further, low-income and other marginalized communities will disproportionately experience the impact of this public health crisis.

In terms of food security, despite the increase in the SNAP budget, the package does not include a 15 percent increase in the SNAP maximum benefit.  Also, COVID-19 prevention and intervention services among vulnerable populations such as those in prisons, jail, juvenile detention and immigration detention and people who are homeless was also only partially funded.

We are also disappointed that only 20 percent ($400 million) of the $2 billion needed to ensure an inclusive and fair voting process for primary and general elections was provided and allows discretion by states. NASW along with 200 organizations called for full funding of this effort in order to remove all barriers to maximum participation in the 2020 election for communities of color and marginalized communities.

Despite these gaps, which NASW will be working to address in anticipated subsequent COVI-19 relief packages, the legislation does include provisions that are helpful to social workers. Employers may provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis. An employer may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee’s student loans, and such payment would be excluded from the employee’s taxable income. Also, the Secretary of Education is authorized to postpone student loan payments, principal and interest for six months, through Sept. 30, 2020, without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned loans.

The package will also facilitate even greater regulatory flexibility in telehealth than has already been implemented through prior COVID-19 policy actions. The bill gives the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) authority to waive requirements so that enrolled providers, including clinical social workers, can provide telehealth services using audio-only devices (such as telephone landlines). Under recent CMS guidance, clinical social workers and other eligible providers can, during this public health emergency, use smartphones with video chat apps such as Skype and Apple Facetime to provide services. They can also continue to use HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platforms, which was permissible prior to the pandemic. NASW will continue its advocacy to ensure that audio-only access is permitted by Medicare, which is already allowed in a number of states.

“This economic stimulus plan is an important step in helping our nation cope with this crisis,” McClain said. “We are also glad it will give social workers some of the supports that they need, such as greater flexibility to practice telehealth as they continue doing the hard work of ensuring clients access to services, including health care and mental health care they need as our nation contends with this pandemic.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. 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.

National Academies Study Recognizes Social Workers as Specialists in Social Care

Family care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds a study released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – Integrating Social Care into the Delivery of Health Care: Moving Upstream to Improve the Nation’s Health.

Professional social workers for more than a century have been indispensable in advancing the nation’s health, providing much-needed services both within and outside health care settings. Moreover, social workers have been leaders in addressing the social determinants of health: economic stability, education, social community context, health care access and environmental factors. NASW is pleased that the profession’s valuable contributions in providing social care, especially in promoting health equity and access, are recognized in this major national study.

“The social determinants of health account for more than 50 percent of health outcomes. It is therefore important to acknowledge the valuable role of social workers in improving the nation’s health. As the study notes, social workers are specialists in providing social care,” said NASW Chief Executive Officer Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW.

The study defines social care as “activities that address health-related social risk factors and social needs,” and outlines five goals to advance the effort to better integrate social care into health care delivery, including:

  1. Designing health care delivery to integrate social care into health care
  2. Building a workforce to integrate social care into health care delivery
  3. Developing a digital infrastructure that is interoperable between health care and social care organizations
  4. Financing the integration of health care and social care
  5. Funding, conducting and translating research and evaluation on the effectiveness and implementation of social care practices in health care settings.

The study further outlines numerous recommendations for how these goals can be achieved.

Study Committee member Robyn Golden, LCSW, associate vice president of Population Health and Aging at Rush University Medical Center, said “It was truly gratifying to participate in this consensus report and work with prominent, nationally-recognized professionals from across the health care spectrum. As the study articulates, social workers are essential in this arena, and in creating partnerships between the medical and social service worlds.”

One of the study’s key recommendations is that social workers be adequately paid for providing social care. NASW agrees with this recommendation.

We, therefore, urge Congress to pass the Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 782/H.R. 1533). This much-needed legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow, MSW (D-MI) and John Barrasso, MD (R-WY), and Rep. Barbara Lee, MSW (D-CA), will enable clinical social workers to receive Medicare Part B reimbursement for providing Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services, which are within the clinical social work scope of practice.

This much-needed legislation will also enable clinical social workers to receive Medicare Part B reimbursement for services provided to skilled nursing facility residents, many of whom experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

In addition, NASW implores the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) not to implement its proposed payment cuts to clinical social workers participating in Medicare Part B. Clinical social workers are currently reimbursed at only 75 percent of the physician fee schedule, the lowest payment rate of any mental health clinician in this major federal program, despite providing equivalent services.

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act, which Congress should enact as soon as possible, would increase this rate to 85 percent. To ensure a sufficient workforce to meet the social and clinical care needs of older Americans, CMS needs to increase, not decrease, these reimbursement rates.

Finally, NASW urges regulators and other policymakers to adopt the study’s recommendation to enlarge the scope of practice for the nation’s 700,000 social workers to include social care.

“This is a very significant study to which policymakers on the local, state and federal level should pay careful attention,” McClain said. “We look forward to continuing to partner with these and other key stakeholders to ensure that the study’s recommendations are realized, for the benefit of people from all walks of life.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. 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.

Social Workers Call on White House, Congress to Fully Reopen Federal Government

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) calls on Congress and the White House to act to fully reopen the federal government immediately. Allowing the shutdown to continue is unconscionable.

We are currently at the 33-day mark for the partial shutdown of the federal government. This is the longest such shutdown in our nation’s history and it is exacting a heavy toll on many NASW members and the often financially fragile clients they serve.

Nearly 800,000 federal employees, including social workers and allied professionals, are negatively affected by the shutdown. Almost half of these federal employees have been furloughed without pay.

Many of our nation’s most vulnerable, including children and older adults, could lose essential safety net services if the government is not restored to full operations. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rental Assistance program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), among others, are unable to fulfill their missions.

SNAP participants have received their benefits even during the shutdown, but these are in jeopardy in future months.

Contracts for HUD’s programs for the lowest-income seniors, people living with disabilities, and families with children have not been renewed. This places nearly 70,000 program participants at risk of major rent hikes and possible evictions. Low-income Rural Housing Assistance participants were informed on January 11 that due to the federal shutdown they would have to pay the full (not discounted) rent by January 20 or face eviction. Normally, their rent is limited to 30 percent of their income.

TANF authorization expired in December. The federal government could not distribute $4.2 billion to states for the period January to March due to the shutdown. States are permitted to cover TANF expenses, but it is unclear how many will do so and for how long.

For more information about the impacts of the shutdown on the most vulnerable, please visit the following websites: Coalition on Human Needs, Food Research and Action Center, and National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

NASW Highlights the Growing Need for School Social Workers to Prevent School Violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. – School social workers play a critical role in schools. They serve as the liaison between school, home, and the community. The underlying premise of school social work services is based in strengthening students’ academic progress by removing barriers to learning including meeting their basic physical and emotional needs.

Any form of school violence, including the mass shootings at schools around the country such as the recent incidents Florida and Maryland, prohibit students’ sense of safety and their learning. School social workers work to prevent mass killing in schools as well as guide schools in recovery after a crisis has occurred. Today more than ever, there is a growing need for school social workers to help prevent school violence and to support students in moments of crisis.

Unfortunately, school social work positions across the country have been eliminated or replaced by other professions. Due to extensive financial deficits and constraints, as well as competing priorities, local education agencies are often unable to hire enough school social workers to adequately meet the needs of the student population. In many instances, school social work services are eliminated altogether.

School social workers work in preventing school violence. They are trained to understand risk factors and warning signs of violent behaviors. They are knowledgeable in classroom management and behavior intervention and can assist teachers and school personnel in identifying concerning behaviors of students and developing supportive intervention plans. They are experts in research-based school discipline policy development that can increase school connectedness and decrease incidents of school violence.

School social workers work to provide support after a crisis. They are extensively trained to manage and deal with crisis and are equipped to assist school administrators and teachers.  School social workers are experienced in delivering difficult and sensitive information and can assist in developing messages that are age-appropriate and culturally sensitive.  In addition, they can lead the development of strategic plans that prepare other school personnel to respond adequately during the times of chaos and crisis.

School social workers can link students and their families to community resources. They are well-informed regarding relevant resources in the community and online and can aid in connecting students and families to the appropriate resources during times of crisis.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) advocates for ratios in its latest revision of the NASW Standards for School Social Work Services that reflect the need for an increase in social work positions across the nation in all schools:

School social work services should be provided at a ratio of one school social worker to each school building serving up to 250 general education students, or a ratio of 1:250 students. When a social worker is providing services to students with intensive needs, a lower ratio, such as 1:50, is suggested (NASW, 2012).   

Violence in schools has increased dramatically over the past decades and is seen by many as a public health issue. School social workers aid in the prevention of school violence and provide much needed services and support after a crisis has occurred. NASW strongly urges the funding for an increase of school social workers in schools across the country to adequately meet the needs of students and decrease school violence.

NASW is in partnerships with coalitions that are working to support school social work positions. We urge our members and the larger social work community to contact their elected officials to advocate for school social work positions in schools. For more information contact NASW Senior Practice Associate Sharon Dietsche, LCSW-C, LICSW, at

Language Is Power: Two Things You Need to Know for Practice with Disabled People

Did you know that over one fifth of the United States population has an impairment that leads to a disability? Given this, social workers are bound to engage in practice with disabled people across many service sectors – a reality which leads to the need for disability competence – and that includes competence around language choices.

Whether you are working in child welfare, employee assistance programs, criminal justice or end-of-life care, you will need some guidance on how to approach your work with disabled people in a respectful manner. Here are two helpful things you need to know to be a better social worker in partnership with disabled people.

First, it is always ideal to look to your professional association for guidance. In the case of practice with the disability community, the National Association of Social Workers not only has a disability policy statement, but they also have made a major change to their Code of Ethics (CoE).

The CoE is the guidepost in our profession, and in setting out standards for practice, it names a series of diversity factors, including, for example, race, ethnicity and national origin. Until the most recent revision of the CoE however, disability was the only diversity factor that was not framed in a positive light.

To rectify this, the current version of the CoE replaces the term “disability” with “ability” in order to present a more strength-based framework that can counteract dominant society norms that belie the capacities of disabled people. Specifically, the CoE states that social workers should “obtain education and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression” with respect to people with varying abilities.

While this may be a turn off to people that embrace identity-first language (i.e. disabled people vs. people with disabilities), as a disabled person, I believe that this simple change is helpful, and does not fall into the camp of widely-rejected, outdated and offensive terms such as “differently abled,” “handicapped,” or “special needs” that are often used by well-intentioned people. Check out, for example, Lydia X. Z. Brown’s glossary of ableist phrases.

Second, it is also always a best practice to learn more about the language preferences from our clients’ cultural communities. Lately, not a day goes by on my Twitter feed when I don’t see commentary from disabled people about their preferences for either person-first language or identity-first language.

Check out the #identityfirst hashtag, for example. For many years, social workers were encouraged to use person-first language as a way of showing respect, as opposed to labeling someone as “a schizophrenic,” or “autistic,” for example, both of which were felt to have negative connotations at the time.

Proponents of identity-first language have reclaimed such terms by embracing their disability identity first. For example, a well-known disability rights leader prefers to be called Autistic, and another advocate prefers to be referred to as mad (signifying mental illness).

For social workers new to practice with disabled people, an ideal approach could involve using approaches interchangeably until it is clear what type of language is preferred by the client in question. Remember, language is a key component to client engagement, and, therefore, language is power.

Regardless of whether you are identifying populations with varying abilities, or honoring your clients’ wishes for person-first or identity-first language, the most important thing is to see people for who they are, not for the stereotypes or assumptions that often precede them.

NASW Puerto Rico Chapter Sends Message Detailing Dire Situation on Island

Photo Credit: @Washington Post

This message from the National Social Work Association (NASW) Puerto Rico Chapter was sent to Mark Nichols, NASW manager of chapter services, in a series of cellphone text messages during the afternoon of Oct. 3. It has been slightly edited. We wish to share it with members and the wider social work community.

NASW will convey this message to members of Congress who are social workers and soon give information on how we can assist social workers in Puerto Rico:

Thank you for your support. Our main concern is there are no communications. There are no cellular phones that work well. All the island is without power —  there is no water and little produce.

President Trump came today and just said we are costing too much money for the United States government. The suicide rate is too high triggered by the suffering from lack of basic needs. During this period about 12 persons committed suicide (and there are likely more that are not confirmed).

We are citizens of the United States of America, we defend the principles of democracy, we fought in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Our people went to Vietnam without any preparation. Most of those who were drafted were only 17 years old and had no understanding of the English language. We fight very bravely with no support. Even the Congress recognized the 65th Infantry Regiment as an important part of (American) history. The man who planned to rescue the Americans who were hostages in Iran by the Carter administration, he was a Puerto Rican. 

Actually, we need support from the federal government, not just 4,000 soldiers around the island. We need to repair the electricity. We need water and food. There are people in the shelters without hope. Simply, there is no place to go. 

Mr. Nichols let the social workers know about our situation. Let the newspapers describe all the justice we need. I trust our nation and I strongly believe that a call to the Congress will help make the effort to help not a political issue, but a social justice issue. As I explained, the communications (are very bad). Thank you very much.

For information contact Greg Wright, NASW Public Relations Manager, at 202.336.8324 or by email at

NASW Delegate Assembly Approves Revisions to the NASW Code of Ethics

Photo Credit: @nasw

The Delegate Assembly of the National Association of  Social Workers (NASW) on August 4, 2017 approved the most substantive revision to the NASW Code of Ethics since 1996. After careful and charged deliberation, the Delegate Assembly voted to accept proposed revisions to the Code that focused largely on the use of technology and the implications for ethical practice.

The NASW Code of Ethics continues to be the most accepted standard for social work ethical practice worldwide. With emergent technological advances over the last two decades, the profession could not ignore the necessity for more clarity around the complex implications of new forms of communication and relationship building through technology. As such, in September 2015 an NASW Code of Ethics Review Task Force was appointed by the NASW president and approved by the NASW Board of Directors.

A special thank-you to Task Force chair: Allan Barsky, JD, MSW, PhD, National Ethics Committee (past chair)

Task Force members:

  • David Barry, PhD, National Ethics Committee (past chair)
  • Luis Machuca, MSW
  • Frederic Reamer, PhD
  • Kim Strom-Gottfried, PhD
  • Bo Walker, MSW, LCSW, National Ethics Committee
  • Dawn Hobdy, MSW, LICSW, director, Office of Ethics and Professional Review

And NASW staff contributors

  • Anne Camper, JD, NASW general counsel
  • Andrea Murray, MSW, LICSW, senior ethics associate
  • Carolyn Polowy, JD, former NASW general counsel

The Task Force was charged with examining the current Code of Ethics through the lens of specific ethical considerations when using various forms of technology. In September 2015, they embarked on a year-long process that involved studying emerging standards in other professions and examining relevant professional literature, such as the Association of Social Work Boards’ (2015) Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice.

In addition, Task Force members considered the technology practice standards that were concurrently being developed by a national task force commissioned by NASW, Council on Social Work EducationClinical Social Work Association, and Association of Social Work Boards. A year later the proposed amendments were presented to the NASW membership for review, and many member comments were incorporated prior to finalization.

2017 Approved Changes to the NASW Code of Ethics 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When does the new NASW Code of Ethics go into effect? 

A: The new NASW Code of Ethics goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

Q: Where can I get a copy of the revised NASW Code of Ethics?

A: Copies of the revised NASW Code of Ethics will be available by November 1, 2017. You can preorder a copy by calling NASW Press at 1-800-227-3590.

Q: Which sections of the NASW Code of Ethics were updated?

Commemorative 55th Anniversary Edition of the NASW Code of Ethics. The first edition of the Code of Ethics was released in 1960.

A: The sections of the NASW Code of Ethics that were revised include:

The Purpose of the Code 
1.03 Informed Consent 
1.04 Competence 
1.05 Cultural Competence and Social 
1.06 Conflicts of Interest 
1.07 Privacy and Confidentiality 
1.08 Access to Records 
1.09 Sexual Relationships 
1.11 Sexual Harassment 
1.15 Interruption of Services 
1.16 Referral for Services 
2.01 Respect 
2.06 Sexual Relationships 
2.07 Sexual Harassment 
2.10 Unethical Conduct of Colleagues 
3.01 Supervision and Consultation 
3.02 Education and Training 
3.04 Client Records 
5.02 Evaluation and Research 
6.04 Social and Political Action

Q: What educational resources are available to explain the latest revisions to the NASW Code 
of Ethics?

A: Several resources will be available, including an online training, an NASW chat, a blog,                        code revision consults, and a posting of the changes with the explanations on the NASW Web site.

Q: Which social workers are accountable to the NASW Code of Ethics?

A: Most social workers are held accountable to the NASW Code of Ethics, including NASW members, licensed social workers, employed social workers, and students.

Q: Do these changes affect social workers who aren’t members of NASW?

A: Yes. The NASW Code of Ethics sets forth the values, principles, and standards that guide the profession as a whole, not just NASW members.

Q: Who was responsible for revising the NASW Code of Ethics?

A: An NASW Code of Ethics Review Task Force was appointed by the NASW President and approved by the NASW Board of Directors.

Q: How am I held accountable if I do not implement these changes by the effective date?

A: If you are a member of NASW, you may be held accountable through the NASW Office of Ethics and Professional Review process, if someone files an ethics complaint against you. You may also be held accountable by a state licensing board if a licensing board complaint is filed against you. Furthermore, you may be held accountable by your employer or your university, which may take disciplinary actions for not implementing the changes. Finally, you may be held accountable through a court of law that looks to the NASW Code of Ethics to establish the standard for professional ethical social work practice.

Q: Have social work schools, employers, agencies, etc., been made aware of the changes?

A: NASW is working diligently to notify the social work profession and stakeholders using various communication channels, including print, social media, and Web-based notices.

Q: Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

A: If you have additional questions, please contact the Office of Ethics and Professional Review at 800-638-8799 ext. 231 or 

The approved Code of Ethics revisions reflect a collaborative and inclusive effort that drew from a diverse cross-section of the profession. The August 4 approval by the Delegate Assembly marks significant progress in the profession’s ability to respond to our ever-changing practice environment.

The new version of the NASW Code of Ethics comes into effect January 1, 2018. In the meantime, training and technical assistance opportunities will be made available through the Office of Ethics and Professional Review and the NASW website.

Our sincere appreciation again to the task force, NASW staff, and committed members across the globe who contributed to this momentous accomplishment.

President Trump Decision to Rescind DACA is Cruel, Unwise and Unjustified

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) strongly opposes President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and will work with allied organizations and Congress to continue protections for young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.

President Trump’s decision to revoke DACA dismays us. The order is cruel, unwise and unjustified and could lead to a mass deportation of some 800,000 young people.

There is little doubt that DACA has been a successful program during its five years of existence.

DACA recipients or “Dreamers” have significantly contributed to the growth of our local state and national economies. More than 91 percent of young adult Dreamers are employed. They have also demonstrated their patriotism by joining the American military – some have even sacrificed their lives for this nation.

Abolishing DACA would end Dreamers’ pathway to citizenship and disrupt thousands of families. Many Dreamers grew up in the United States, arriving here at age six or younger. So it would be cruel to send them to countries they barely remember or where they do not know the language.

That the administration is postponing implementation of its DACA executive action for six months to give Congress time to pass bipartisan DACA legislation provides little consolation. Given the many urgent international and national priorities facing Congress, there are no guarantees that Congress will have the time to write and pass a DACA bill in the next six months. As a result, mass deportations of Dreamers are likely.

However, given that President Trump has punted DACA to Congress, the House and the Senate now have a responsibility to make passage of the Dream Act an immediate priority.

Many Democrat and Republican lawmakers opposed President Trump’s DACA executive action. NASW expects this bipartisan group will take a lead in quickly introducing and moving a bill through both houses of Congress.

Therefore, NASW will hold Congress accountable for developing an effective policy for DACA recipients that will avoid chaotic disorder in the lives of DACA recipients and their families.

NASW is also working with partner organizations to oppose President Trump’s decision to revoke DACA and is urging its members and the wider social work community to get involved in local and national activities to protect DACA.

NASW also plans to update its members about DACA-related legislation as it moves through Congress and to alert members when we need for them to take action. For more information and data related to DACA, visit the NASW advocacy website.

New NASW President Kathryn Wehrmann to Support Push to Modernize, Improve Services

Incoming National Association of Social Workers (NASW) President Kathryn Wehrmann will continue to support the association’s ongoing initiative to modernize and improve services, intensify advocacy at the state and local level, and recruit more social workers and social work students.

Kathryn Wehrmann

Kathryn Wehrmann

“At this time in our nation’s history social work is more important than ever,” said Wehrmann, PhD, MSW, LSW, LCSW. “Social work has long played a role in making our society a better place and I want to ensure that NASW and social workers are at the table helping solve some of the major issues of the day.”

Wehrmann is an associate professor at the Illinois State University School of Social Work.

She has been a member of NASW for more than 20 years, held many offices and committee assignments with the NASW Illinois Chapter and served on the NASW Board of Directors.

Wehrmann succeeds former NASW President Darrell Wheeler, PhD, ACSW, MPH, interim provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at the University at Albany State University of New York School of Social Welfare. Her three-year term begins this month.

As president-elect Wehrmann has already served on the NASW Foundation Board of Directors. During her term as president Wehrmann’s responsibilities will include providing leadership to the NASW Board as that body makes policy decisions, allocates financial resources, guides program priorities and oversees committees.

Wehrmann said she will support NASW’s ongoing efforts to modernize operations, which will enable the association and its chapters to provide value-added products and services to members that will enhance their professional development. It is also important that NASW strengthen its efforts to advocate for the social work profession and issues important to social work on the state and national level, she said.

“I think (social workers) have a role in supporting social workers in having a civil discourse. We have a lot of skills and abilities to do that. People need to be heard and understood. It’s never been more important than now.”

And in these divisive political times Wehrmann said NASW and the social work profession can play a role in bringing together Americans, no matter their political affiliation.

“I think we have a role in supporting social workers in having a civil discourse,” she said. “We have a lot of skills and abilities to do that. People need to be heard and understood. It’s never been more important than now.”

Wehrmann lives in Champaign, IL with her husband of 32 years, Allen, and their dogs Finn and Bailie.

She was inspired to go into social work because she was raised in a family that believed in pitching in to help others. In fact, one of her aunts was a school social worker and an uncle was a social work professor at the University of Illinois.

Her first job in social work was in child welfare, an area of social work that Wehrmann said attracted her because “children have the least power and have a right to a safe childhood.” She has also worked in health care, especially with older adults who needed an advocate when they experienced complicated medical issues.

Wehrmann continues to have a special regard for foster parents who give of their family and resources to keep children safe while families work to bring their children home. She is also an advocate for services that are more preventive, helping families before protective services become involved.

Wehrmann decided to join NASW because of her role models and mentors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, who were NASW members.

“They helped me see how important it is to support your profession through being involved with the organization that is the voice of social work in our country,” she said.

Oncology Social Workers: Patient and Family Advocates

When the profession began in the 1960s, oncology social work focused on providing palliative care. Defined as “interdisciplinary, person- and family-centered health care for individuals and families affected by serious or life-limiting illness,” palliative care seeks to “relieve pain, other symptoms and stress of the illness, thereby optimizing quality of life,” according to an article from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Oncology social work later added a number of other services to people living with cancer and their families. Today, the growing specialty has become a vital part of cancer care.

Understanding Oncology Social Work

Service Areas

The Association of Oncology Social Work identifies four service areas for scope of practice in oncology social work.

  • Services to cancer survivors, families and caregivers through clinical practice. Comprehensive psychosocial services and programs: assist survivors in navigating through health care systems; foster coping and adaptation to cancer and its effects; mobilize resources for social and emotional support; and advocate with or on behalf of survivors, families and caregivers.
  • Services to institutions and agencies to increase their understanding of cancer and ability to provide quality psychosocial programs and care. This includes collaboration with other professionals for quality psychosocial care, education and research; education and consultation to professionals and staff about factors that impact cancer care; and development of programs and resources to address the needs of cancer survivors.
  • Services to the community that strengthen programs, resources and services available to meet the needs of cancer survivors. This includes education of communities to increase awareness of the psychosocial needs of survivors, families and caregivers; collaboration in development of special programs and resources to address community-based needs; and collaboration with community agencies to remove barriers to cancer prevention, screening and early detection, and access to care.
  • Services to the profession. This includes support of the appropriate orientation, supervision and evaluation of clinical social workers in oncology; participation in and promotion of student training and professional education in oncology social work; and advancement of knowledge through clinical and other research.

Role as Patient and Family Advocates

Oncology social workers provide a large number of services to those facing cancer, health care institutions, the community and the profession, but their role as patient and family advocate is central.

“If you talk to 10 different social workers, you’ll get 10 different answers of what they assist with,” Jennifer Bires, program coordinator for the cancer center at George Washington Medical Faculty Associates in Washington, D.C., told NASW. “They provide help to patients and their families, from the start of diagnosis to survivorship, and, if it unfortunately comes to it, the end of life.”

“Oncology social workers provide information on resources, medical and insurance coverage, and how to talk to your family and the children in your lives about cancer,” Penny Damaskos, director of the social work department at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “We are patient and family advocates. We provide assistance in coping with the diagnosis to patients and families all along the disease continuum, teach relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety, lead psycho-educational support groups, help individuals transition to survivorship, and conduct research about all of the above.”

Changes in the delivery and quality of health care have increased the focus on oncology social workers’ role as advocates. “We are in the middle of a huge transition in medical care coverage and delivery in this country,” Damaskos said. “This massive change impacts oncology patients tremendously, and now more than ever, we are advocates for individuals as they undergo treatment and move into the post-treatment phase of the cancer experience. Due to advances in treatment options and screening techniques, more people are living with cancer as a chronic illness.”

Oncology Social Worker Salary

Role-specific salary data for oncology social workers is unavailable. However, social workers who have a Master of Social Work degree and practice in hospitals and medical centers (which describes most oncology social workers) earn a median annual salary of $60,000, according to a salary analysis from NASW.

Bires and Grace Christ, professor emerita at the Columbia University School of Social Work, agree that there will be more employment opportunities for oncology social workers in the future. This is partly the result of an initiative in the late 1990s to early 2000s that examined the treatment of people with cancer. “During that time, it was realized that care for cancer patients was very treatment-focused, very physically focused, so there was an emphasis to integrate more psychosocial components,” Christ said. “Cancer is a disease that affects people in many different ways besides the physical.”

Bires adds that the need for psychosocial care in oncology will only increase. “Oncology social work is a hopeful field because as the community at large realizes cancer is not just a ‘medical’ illness — it affects the whole being of a patient, and their families — we will see more jobs open up,” she said.

How to Become an Oncology Social Worker

The first step to becoming an oncology social worker is earning a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. This is the most common requirement to start working in the social work profession in entry-level positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some employers may hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.

An oncology social worker is a type of clinical social worker, and to perform clinical work, a Master of Social Work (MSW) is needed. MSW programs develop clinical assessment and management skills. By earning an MSW degree, graduates enhance their careers and choose specialties such as oncology social work.

Aurora University’s online BSW and online MSW programs prepare graduates for careers in direct-service positions and clinical social work. In a flexible and convenient online learning environment, students learn the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their field. Aurora University’s programs are Chicagoland’s only CSWE accredited online programs.

Environmental Justice for Indigenous Populations

Climate change has an inordinate effect on vulnerable populations.  The EPA has published multiple fact sheets outlining the effects of climate change on various vulnerable populations, all of which are populations that social workers encounter.

As just one example the health of indigenous peoples are affected by climate conditions because their culture relies on their local environment and natural resources for food, cultural practices, and income. Many live in isolated or low income communities such as rural areas with limited access to public services and healthcare, or they live in places most affected by climate change like communities along the coasts. The people of several Alaskan tribal villages are facing relocation due to rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

The EPA cites examples of food, water, air, land and infrastructure, and health risks to tribal populations. In the Upper Great Lakes Region, Ojibwe communities may be affected by the impacts of rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns on rice-growing conditions in lakes and rivers.

Indigenous people along the West and Gulf Coasts rely on fish and shellfish for food, livelihoods, and certain ceremonial or cultural practices. Higher sea surface temperatures increase the risk that certain fish and shellfish will become contaminated with mercury, harmful algal toxins, or naturally-occurring bacteria.

For Alaska Native communities, rising temperatures and permafrost thaw threaten traditional methods of safe food storage in ice houses, and increase risk of food contamination. Climate change may also affect the abundance and nutritional quality of local Alaskan berries that are an important source of traditional diets.

A prime example of environmental injustice is that American Indian/Alaska Native infants are more likely to be hospitalized with diarrhea than other infants in the U.S.  Many remote tribal households, primarily in western Alaska Native Villages and the Navajo Nation, do not have adequate drinking water or wastewater treatment infrastructure, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases like diarrhea.

Current revival of the Dakota Pipeline construction may pollute the water supply of several indigenous tribal communities. In addition, projected increases in large wildfires, as a result of changing weather patterns, threaten air quality for tribes in Alaska and the western United States.

Although the health and welfare of children, elders, indigenous peoples, and persons living in poverty are disproportionately affected by environmental negligence, we all will be struggling for survival if we don’t prioritize climate change and environmental collapse as the ultimate social justice issue.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) recently published five social justice priorities outlined in a new initiative for 2017 which are:

  • Voting rights
  • Criminal justice
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Immigration reform
  • Economic justice/Equality

Although each of the priorities are important, they mean nothing if environmental justice is not achieved.  Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy, if basic needs, in this case, air, water and sustainable resources, are not protected, other priorities become less exigent.

There is a small faction of our profession dedicated to ecologically conscious social work, but the profession has been slow to jump on the environmentalist band wagon, as exemplified by NASW’s social justice priorities.  It’s urgently time to reconsider. If you are interested in the nexus of social work and environmentalism, check out the Facebook page Ecologically Conscious Social Workers. Learn more about the effect of climate damage on the populations you serve.

The health impact of environmental crises varies with age, life stage and location. And consider the environment as one of the filters you use to assess the person or situation you are facing.  Yes, we know all about person-in-environment…but let’s also focus on the environment-in-person!

National Association of Social Workers Offering Third Virtual Career Fair


WASHINGTON — The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is hosting a 2017 Virtual Career Fair on February 9 from noon to 4 p.m. (ET) that will give employers access to a pool of talented social work professionals around the nation who are ready to take positions in health care, mental health care, the military, schools and other sectors.

This will be the third time NASW has hosted a Virtual Career Fair. Demand for the event from both employers and potential employees has been high.

“Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States and the need for social workers is acute in some areas,” said NASW Director of Professional and Workforce Development Raffaele Vittelli. “This year’s Virtual Career Fair offers the use of technology to provide employers more ease and flexibility in connecting to the top talent within NASW and the social work profession.”

As an attendee, you have the ability to explore employer information and opportunities. Choose which employers you want to network and interview with and then engage in one-on-one text-based conversations or Skype video chats directly with a recruiter at those organizations. You can share your background, experience, resume and ask questions. Maximize your time in the event by getting in line to chat with representatives from more than one company at a time. Click Here for an Instructional PDF on how to use the Skype Integration with the Virtual Career Fair platform.

“Employers can use the Virtual Career Fair to discuss career growth at their organizations, quickly fill open positions, or enhance their brand by giving candidates access to their company,” Vittelli said.

Depending upon the booth level, employers can receive up to five recruiter positions. Recruiters can connect directly to job seekers through one-on-one instant messaging and video chats that employers can use to discuss career opportunities, determine if the candidate is a good match for the positions, and accept applications from job seekers.

Employers who register to take part in the Virtual Career Fair will receive a fully customized employer booth complete with their logo, images, open positions, videos and other information as well as job postings packages and discounts in the NASW JobLink. Job seekers can register for free and to have access to employers across the nation.

NASW Will Livestream Portions of its 2016 National Conference


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will livestream portions of its 2016 National Conference on June 22-25, allowing subscribers to remotely access some of the stellar conference keynote speakers and plenary and breakout sessions that focus on social work leadership, social justice and equity, excellence in ethics, clinical social work practice, and innovations in social work practice.

“NASW is excited to offer livestreaming so more social workers can experience the national conference,” NASW Director of Professional and Workforce Development Raffaele Vitelli said. “Registrants will not only get real-time access to conference events but will also get to visit a virtual conference exhibit hall and get on-demand access to sessions for up to 90 days after the event.”

Conference keynote speakers include Congresswoman and social worker Kyrsten Sinema; U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald; author and social entrepreneur Wes Moore; and Nancy Lublin, CEO and founder of Crisis Text Line and Dress for Success. Their appearances will be livestreamed.

All four plenary sessions will also be available through livestream. They are Transforming Lives Through Trauma Informed Care;Advocating for the Dignity and Worth of the Person; Decision 2016: An Election Forecast; and The Power of Youth Voice to Achieve Social Justice.

The 2016 conference offers more than 100 breakout sessions, 15 of which will be livestreamed. Five of the virtual livestreamed sessions will focus on ethics, five on clinical social work and the remaining five on other social work topics.

The full price for the 2016 National Conference livestreaming is $200 for NASW members and $300 for nonmembers and participants can earn up to 15.5 continuing education credits. À la carte pricing options are also available. For more information on the sessions that will be offered and to register for the livestream event go to .

Thousands Affected by Texas Floods: How Social Workers Can Help


Thousands of Texas residents, including nearly 2,000 residents of a correctional facility in located Brazoria County, are being forced to evacuate their homes as rising Texas floodwaters prompt local and state officials to continue issuing mandatory evacuations in several Texas counties.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has officially declared a State of Disaster for 31 Texas counties. In a press conference held after touring some of the state’s most flood-affected areas on Thursday, Gov. Abbott addressed state plans for aiding Texas flood victims and stressed the importance for citizens to listen to local evacuation mandates.

“Remember this, and that is your life is far more valuable than your property,” he said, directing his statements toward all Texans. “If you are told by a local official to evacuate, heed that warning.”

With the number of people displaced by the disaster, social workers can play a pivotal role in helping flood victims receive the services they need. In 2003, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) released a statement identifying social workers as “uniquely suited to interpret the disaster context, to advocate for effective services, and to provide leadership in essential collaborations among institutions and organizations.”

However, social workers should be mindful of state laws and statutes regarding the provision of social work services. In Texas, social workers are able to provide services to people in response to a disaster only within the limits provided by Texas statute.

Volunteers providing disaster relief services in Texas who do not hold a board approved Texas license, may not present themselves under the title Social Worker, use a title that implies current licensure in the state of Texas, or promote they are representing services as social workers.

Additionally, because of the successful work done by members in the Texas Chapter of NASW, a bill passed in the 84th Texas Legislative Session extending liability protections to licensed social workers and retired social workers, giving them immunity from liability in Texas when representing themselves as “volunteer health care providers”.

The American Red Cross has set up a number of shelters in affected areas in addition to providing flood victims with food, hygiene products, and other needed supplies. Social workers and other helping professionals are highly encouraged to volunteer. You can get more information by visiting or by calling 713-313-5491.

New York Community Trust Gives One Million Dollars to Help Train Social Workers

Students with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work attended the Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., in November. Social Work HEALS, a program implemented by NASW and the Council on Social Work Education,with funding from New York Community Trust, trains and educates students to strengthen the delivery of health care services in the U.S. Here, students pose at the NASW national office in Washington. /Photo by Paul R. Pace, NASW News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New York Community Trust (NYCT), one of the nation’s largest community foundations, has renewed a grant through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to educate and train more social workers to strengthen the delivery of health care services in the United States.

NYCT will award the two social work organizations $1 million over the next two years to continue the Social Work HEALS initiative. Part of the grant will be used to bring two fellows to Washington, D.C. to directly engage in health care policy work on Capitol Hill.

“This project will strengthen the delivery of health care services by enhancing the preparation of health care social workers” says Natasha Lifton, senior program officer at The New York Community Trust. “This work also will fill a critical gap as the population lives longer and needs more care.”

“Social workers make up an important part of our nation’s health care system, ensuring thousands of consumers each year get the best possible health care both in the hospital and when recovering at home,” said NASW CEO and NASW Foundation President Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “We are excited The New York Community Trust has renewed the grant and CSWE and NASW will continue working together to ensure social workers shape and improve our nation’s health care for generations to come.”

CSWE President and CEO Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW, added, “We are grateful for the NYCT’s continued support of Social Work HEALS and the opportunity to continuing partnering with NASW. Social Work HEALS is particularly impactful because it targets every level of the social work profession, from baccalaureate students to post-doctoral policy fellows. We expect that this will build a pipeline of social work leaders who can transform all aspects of health care—from direct practice to policy—to better meet the needs of underserved populations.”

The New York Community Trust supports an array of effective nonprofits that help make New York City a vital and secure place to live, learn, work, and play, while building permanent resources for the future. Two couples, Robert and Ellen Popper and Lois and Samuel Silberman, created permanent funds in The Trust to make the field of social work more effective by using scholarships and training. The New York Community Trust combines part of their gifts to fund this program.

The New York Community Trust grant allows NASW, CSWE and 10 partner schools to provide field instruction, course work and leadership opportunities so more social workers are ready to become a key part the U.S. health care delivery system and provide better services to clients. Social workers are trained to provide culturally competent, evidence-based practice in health care settings.

NASW and CSWE also use the grant to foster the next generation of social work academic and practice leaders by developing five-year partnerships with the 10 schools. Through funding at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, about 200 students will have the opportunity to take part in education and training, connect with peers, advocate for policy issues, and practice as a member of an interprofessional health care team.

For instance, more than 40 social work students who take part in the program came to Washington, D.C. in October 2015 to meet with social workers engaged in health care policy and learn about health care legislation important to social workers, including the Improving Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2015. These students also arranged visits with Congressional staffers to discuss social work and health care-related legislative issues.

NASW and CSWE will host the next summit of program participants in 2017.

“We are delighted The New York Community Trust is showing leadership and vision by investing in the social work profession,” McClain said. “This grant is already making an impact by giving social workers in the program a chance to truly have an opportunity to influence our nation’s health care policy and improve the health and well-being of millions of people.”

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