It’s Time We Get More Social Workers Elected

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During her remarks during our recent Social Work Day on the Hill reception, George Warren Brown School of Social Work Dean Mary McKay stated that the Congress would be more effective if 20 percent of its Members were social workers.

Her comments were greeted with a rousing ovation and later echoed by Congressional Social Work Caucus Chair Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) and the evening’s honoree, 15-term Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns. We have much work to do to begin to get close to that number. Currently, social workers represent just above one percent of Congressional representatives in the House and Senate. There are seven: Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, and in the House, with Rep. Lee, are Reps. Karen Bass (CA-37), Susan Davis (CA-53), Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9), and Niki Tsongas (MA-3).

Dean Mary McKay and Congressional Social Work Caucus Chair Rep. Barbara Lee.

So how will we get to 20 percent? We begin with the inaugural CRISP Political Boot Camp July 9-12 at Gallaudet University’s Kellogg Conference Center and Hotel. This is a three-day intensive training for social workers and others who want to jumpstart their political careers. There will be sessions for those planning to run for office, for those who would like to manage or work in political campaigns, and for those who want to be a spokesperson for a candidate or a cause. We know there are social workers looking for the opportunity to pursue political careers. Forty students attended a special session for social workers planning to run for political office held during our Student Advocacy Day activities. We must help to get them started.

Tanya Rhodes Smith, Director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work recently announced the institute will be bringing its Campaign School to Washington, DC in early October. The popular training spearheaded by campaign wiz Kate Coyne-McCoy has been hosted by numerous schools across the country—much to the delight of Dr. Nancy Humphreys I would imagine. Nancy has carried the torch for political social work almost singlehandedly for the last several decades. This last presidential election helped many to realize there is too much at stake for social workers not to be more politically active. I imagine Neil Gorsuch will evoke quite a few groans over the next several decades.

Kudos to Barry University School of Social Work Dean Phyllis Scott who will be sending MSW student Daryl Campbell to the CRISP Boot Camp. Daryl is a very impressive young man as are the other four Barry University students who attended our Hill Day events. CRISP is grateful for the many deans, directors, and heads of social work organizations supporting our work. Talking to Mr. Towns the other day, he said: “As I travel the country I am meeting many social workers who say they do not get training on how to run for office. I am excited about this opportunity CRISP is providing.”

Organizing the Boot Camp is quite a challenge. But every worthwhile achievement requires risks and effort to get rewards. We need more social workers in Congress. Social workers have distinguished themselves in Congress, beginning with Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress who was the only Member of Congress to vote against the two world wars. Without her stand against war, and that of Rep. Barbara Lee leading up to the war in Iraq, the debate would have ended abruptly and the rush into deadly conflict would have gone unimpeded. Someone needed to say, let’s think about what we’re getting into here. Recently retired Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in congressional history, put her stamp on the Democratic Party’s policies as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and gained a reputation for mentoring women in politics.

There have been other social workers who have distinguished themselves in the halls of Congress, like California statesman Ronald V. Dellums, Congresswoman Lee’s predecessor and mentor and Mr. Towns who chaired the powerful Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The idea of 20 percent of Congress being social workers is certainly one that would bring a sense of comfort to many because we are the profession committed to the wellbeing of all of our nation’s citizenry. We promote social justice and equal opportunity. Our knowledge and skills are quite useful on the Hill. During my time working on the Hill my social work training helped me navigate the dysfunction.

The post It’s Time We Get More Social Workers Elected appeared first on Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.

Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D

It’s Time We Get More Social Workers Elected was originally published @ Charles Lewis – Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and has been syndicated with permission.

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