The Social Work Reinvestment Act

Today, social and economic conditions are threatening the safety net that Americans have come to rely upon, and professional social workers are coming under increased pressure to bring their skills and expertise to the populations that they serve. But how can social workers serve their communities without the resources critical to providing the most effective solutions?

One way is the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, federal legislation designed to optimize the vital support services provided by social workers serving individuals, families, communities and our nation. Sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, the Social Work Reinvestment Act is the most comprehensive piece of national legislation ever aimed at addressing the significant workforce challenges facing the social work profession. Working with the NASW, congressman and fellow social worker Edolphus Towns (D-NY) originally introduced H.R. 5447 on February 14, 2008, and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the Senate companion bill, S. 2858, on World Social Work Day, April 15, 2008. Though the bill has yet to pass, it was reintroduced by Towns and Mikulski on World Social Work Day in 2011.

What will the Social Work Reinvestment Act do?

Establish a Social Work Reinvestment Commission

According to the NASW's summary of the Social Work Reinvestment Act, the commission will review current trends within the academic and professional social work communities and develop long-term recommendations for improving the ability of America’s social workers to serve individuals, families and communities. The comprehensive analysis will study:

  • Fair market compensation
  • High social work educational debt
  • Social work workforce trends
  • Translating social work research to practice
  • Social work safety
  • The lack of diversity in the social work profession
  • State-level social work licensure

Address the Current State of the Social Work Profession

Competitive grants will fund programs seeking to address the real-world experiences of professional social workers. Priority will be given to programs focusing on workplace improvements and research, education and training in both the private and public sectors, and the post-doctoral research community at universities and colleges and in communities where social workers practice. The aim is to invest in efforts to establish the most effective social work solutions.

Establish a National Coordinating Center and Grant Programs

Grant programs will be managed by a coordinating center working with universities, research entities and social work practice settings to identify key research areas to be pursued, select fellows and organize appropriate mentorship and professional development efforts.