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Social Work Matters
The Power of Linking Policy and Practice
Elizabeth F. Hoffler and Elizabeth J. Clark, Editors
ISBN: 978-0-87101-441-2. 2012. Item #4412. 360 pages.
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Social justice is the fuel that drives social workers and what sets social work apart from other professions. Social workers form the front line of defense for their clients and make up the threads of society's social safety net. The strength of that net, however, depends not just on the strengths of social workers, but also on the social policies that undergird their practice, defining the horizons of possibility – for themselves and their clients – in specific situations.

In Social Work Matters: The Power of Linking Policy and Practice, Elizabeth F. Hoffler and Elizabeth J. Clark bring home the truth embodied in that title for practitioners and researchers in a comprehensive range of settings. At heart, the book argues that social work matters because the profession is absolutely necessary to the healthy functioning of society.

The premise for this book emerged, in part, from the breadth and depth of social work services. The chapters that Hoffler and Clark have gathered portray what different kinds of social workers do on a daily basis, opening up the world of practice – in all its intensity and gravity – so that this often misunderstood and sometimes undervalued profession can be appreciated on an unprecedentedly intimate level.

In addition, chapter authors link the direct practice side of social work with critical policy and advocacy components of the profession, so the book as a whole explores the transition from micro-level service – working directly to improve the lives of individuals – to the macro-level work of altering our social systems and institutions through broad social action and advocacy.

Social work is more than just a "value added" – it is essential to ensuring that our country continues to provide opportunity, ensure equity, and help millions of individuals as they seek to fulfill their potential. Readers of this book will understand that truth as never before – just how much social work matters and will continue to do so.
About the Editors
About the Contributors

Elizabeth F. Hoffler and Elizabeth J. Clark


Chapter 1: The Business of Social Work
Elizabeth J. Clark

Chapter 2: Social Media for Social Workers: An Imperative for the Profession
Elizabeth F. Hoffler and Ebony Jackson

Chapter 3: Fundraising as Social Work Practice
Marilyn Flynn

Chapter 4: Workplace Bullying
Tracy Robinson Whitaker


Chapter 5: Linkages between Clinical and Policy Practice in Social Work
King Davis

Chapter 6: Reinvesting in the Profession to Secure the Future
Elizabeth F. Hoffler

Chapter 7: From the Tough Streets of East New York to Capitol Hill
Charles E. Lewis Jr.

Children and Families

Chapter 8: From a Staffing Crisis to the Building of a National Workforce Agenda for Social Work
Katharine Briar-Lawson

Chapter 9: An Advocacy Plan on Behalf of Foster Families
Susan Kosche Vallem

Chapter 10: Child Welfare: Does Social Work Matter?
Joan Levy Zlotnik

Chapter 11: Care Coordination for the Well-Being of Children
Kathy Lopes

Chapter 12: Adoption Practices and Policies Affecting Children and Families in Child Welfare: In Whose Best Interests?
Ruth G. McRoy


Chapter 13: How I Became a Community Organizer as a Casework Social Work Student: The Interrelationship between Case and Cause Advocacy
Terry Mizrahi

Chapter 14: Disaster Policy and the Human Response
Carmen D. Weisner

Chapter 15: Policy and Practice in Rural Social Work
Deirdra Robinson

Corrections and the Courts

Chapter 16: Women, Drugs, Crime, and Policy: The Unanticipated Consequences of Women’s Substance Use
Seana Golder

Chapter 17: Policy and Practices Affecting Those Involved in the Criminal Justice System
Sheryl Pimlott Kubiak and Gina Fedock

Chapter 18: Reforming Criminal Justice: From Practice to Policy
Frederic G. Reamer

Chapter 19: Social Workers as Expert Witnesses in Sexual Abuse Cases: Educating and Advocating from the Witness Stand
Anne Hoffman

Direct Practice

Chapter 20: Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: The 7 Percent Problem
Audrey L. Begun

Chapter 21: If I Go to Work, I Will Die: The Impact of Health Policy on Disability Rights
Romel Mackelprang

Chapter 22: Synergistic Opportunities: Faith-based Work, Community Collaborations, and Influencing Policy
Mayra Lopez-Humphreys

Chapter 23: Social Work with Veterans and Their Families
Anthony M. Hassan and Joseph E. Chicas

Chapter 24: Restoring Protection for Torture Survivors
S. Megan Berthold

Education and Loan Forgiveness

Chapter 25: Engaging Students in Macro Practice: A Social Project
Linda S. Moore

Chapter 26: Helping Social Workers Help Clients: Student Loan Forgiveness
Sunny Harris Rome

Chapter 27: We Can Help You (Buyer Beware): Can a Poor Student Get an Education?
James J. Kelly

Equality and Social Justice

Chapter 28: Love, Money, Death, and Taxes: Why Marriage Equality Matters
Jeane W. Anastas

Chapter 29: Inequality, Social Welfare Policy, and Social Work
Vicki Lens and Irwin Garfinkel

Chapter 30: Housing: A Basic Human Right
Adrienne Walnoha and Tracy Soska

Chapter 31: Immigration: Linking Policy to Practice
Mark Lusk

Chapter 32: Helping Low-Income Families Obtain Economic Security: The Value of Local Partnerships
Trina R. Williams Shanks


Chapter 33: Financial Social Work
Reeta Wolfsohn

Government Programs

Chapter 34: Adventures in Workfare Policy
Leon H. Ginsberg

Chapter 35: Social Workers Advocating for Social Security
Stephen H. Gorin


Chapter 36: Cancer Policy Can Mean Life or Death
Elizabeth J. Clark

Chapter 37: The Relationship of Practice, Policy, and Research in Breast Cancer Disparities
Sarah Gehlert

Chapter 38: Psychosocial Issues in Life-limiting Illness: Continuity of Care
Katherine Walsh

Chapter 39: Domestic Violence, Women’s Health, and the Power of Social Work
Tricia B. Bent-Goodley

Chapter 40: End-of-Life, Palliative, and Hospice Care
Karen Bullock and Jodi Hall

Chapter 41: Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias: Complex Family Care
Lisa P. Gwyther and Jessica L. Katz

Chapter 42: Health Care Reform and the Role of Social Work
Robyn Golden and Melissa Frey


Chapter 43: That’s What Friends Are For: 30 Years of HIV/AIDS Advocacy
Gary Bailey

Chapter 44: Managing the HIV Care System: Social Workers as Client Navigators and Policy Advocates
Evelyn P. Tomaszewski


Chapter 45: Parity for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
Peter J. Delany and Joseph J. Shields

Chapter 46: Policy, Practice, and Parity: Clinical Social Work Advocacy in Washington State
Laura W. Groshong


Chapter 47: Social Work Research Matters
Joan Levy Zlotnik

Reading Guide
The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

– Jane Addams

This book is titled Social Work Matters for a variety of reasons. Social work matters because the profession is absolutely necessary for a healthy society. The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people, with particular attention to those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. As we continue to deal with the consequences of a devastating economic recession, the looming fear of instability, and a government that is no longer able to meet the needs or fulfill the promises made to millions of people at risk of falling through the cracks, the social work profession continues to pick up the pieces of a broken system and determine how to make that system whole again.

To this end, social justice is the fuel that drives social workers and is what sets social work apart from other professions. Social justice is defined as "an ideal condition in which all members of a society have the same basic rights, protections, opportunities, obligations, and social benefits. . . . Social justice entails advocacy to confront discrimination, oppression, and institutional inequities" (Barker, 2003, pp. 404-405).

Social workers work with individuals, families, communities, and systems and can be found in almost every corner of our lives, including schools, prisons, hospitals, mental health clinics, addiction recovery centers, skilled nursing facilities, hospices, private practice, and state and federal government, to name but a few. They form the front line and make up the threads of society’s social safety net. Social workers are first responders to natural disasters, are officers in the military, and are members of the U.S. Congress. They own their own businesses and work in and run foundations, nonprofits, and corporate organizations and companies throughout the country.

The profession of social work has existed for over a century, since its founding in settlement houses like Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago. Social workers – like Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins, Dorothy I. Height, and Whitney M. Young Jr. – have been key architects on groundbreaking social initiatives like civil rights legislation, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid and Medicare and provide the majority of mental health services throughout the country. Social workers assist people when they face emotional, difficult, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. These social work matters are the issues that our nation struggles with and are challenges that we must overcome. They include poverty, inequality, insecurity, fear, violence, trauma, loss, and pain. Our world would be radically different without the contributions of social workers.

The idea for this book emerged, in part, from recognition of the breadth and depth of social work services just described. We created the book with two goals in mind. First, we wanted to portray what social workers accomplish in different fields on a daily basis. The work of social workers can seem overwhelming in the variety of positions they hold, the tasks that they accomplish, and the intensity and gravity of the work that they do. The profession is often misunderstood and undervalued. This does a disservice to the profession as well as to clients and society as a whole.

Second, this publication seeks to link the traditional, direct practice side of social work with the critical policy and advocacy components of the profession. The book explores the transition from micro-level service, working directly to improve the lives of individuals, to the macro-level work of altering our social systems and institutions through broad social action and advocacy.

Social workers have advocated for social justice and promoted equality since the founding of the profession. In the Encyclopedia of Social Work, Schneider, Lester, and Ochieng (2008) stated that "the term advocacy was first evidenced in the [1917] Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections" (p. 61). Furthermore, "social work advocates fought for basic human rights and social justice for oppressed, vulnerable, and displaced populations" (Schneider et al., 2008, p. 61). The Social Work Dictionary defines advocacy as "the act of directly representing or defending others. . . . championing the rights of individuals and communities through direct intervention and empowerment" (p. 11).

Advocacy is the cornerstone on which social work is built. It is so important that it is framed in three sections of the NASW (2008) Code of Ethics. Advocacy for individuals, communities, and systems is not just a suggested activity for social workers – it is a requisite. Social workers are ethically obligated to "engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources . . . they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully" (NASW, 2008, p. 27). The Code of Ethics further notes that "social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions" (NASW, 2008, p. 27). Without advocacy, there would be no social work profession (Clark, 2009). Social workers acquire resources for clients, organize communities for causes, and coordinate grassroots advocacy campaigns.

In this book, we explore the direct connection of practice to policy and the ethical obligation of social workers to understand and foster the relationship between the two. Each of the contributors provides a personal narrative that was, or could have been, influenced by the application of a particular policy or piece of legislation. They provide analyses of broad implications and describe the importance of advocacy at organizational, local, state, or federal levels to the achievement of maximum client opportunity and benefit. In short, they illustrate the intricacies of the linkage of practice and policy.

Although the majority of social workers practice directly with clients, determining how to achieve successful outcomes on an individual basis, their understanding of the challenges facing their clients puts them in an excellent position to advocate for broader social change. Social workers with practice experience make excellent advocates because they understand clearly the challenges facing their clients, including clients’ presenting problems, holistic environmental factors, and client strengths that can be drawn on so as to help them.

At this time of incredible demand for social work services, combined with ever-diminishing resources, the professional role of advocate is more critical than ever before. The chapters of this book illustrate what social workers do each day to improve the lives of others and the macro-level action that can be taken to help systems better serve those for whom they were created. We hope this book increases public understanding of the value of social work services, and we hope that it inspires all helping professionals to recognize the potential they have to create positive change.

Social worker Dorothy I. Height (1990) once said, "We hold in our hands the power to shape, not only our own, but the nation’s future" (p. 75). Height’s social work colleague and fellow civil rights advocate Whitney M. Young Jr. said during his tenure as NASW president,

There is a lot to tell the public. The important thing now is that we can begin saying something as persistently as we can. The media and the government, regardless of their reasons, cannot continue to disregard the findings of current research and the knowledge of thousands of social workers who know as much or more as the so called experts on the social problems draining the spirit and resources of this nation. (Young, 1971, p. 7)

We wholeheartedly believe that social work is not just "value added," but is necessary to ensure that our country continues to provide opportunity, ensure equity, and help millions of individuals as they seek to fulfill their potential, whether that means battling addiction, escaping poverty, caring for loved ones, accessing education, or overcoming a variety of life’s obstacles. As you read these narratives, you will understand that social workers are the professionals to help them do just that.
Elizabeth F. Hoffler, MSW, ACSW, works in the executive office of NASW in Washington, DC, where she advises the executive director on key planning, strategic, and policy issues and assists in managing, analyzing, and implementing special projects and important issues within the office of the executive director. She is the chief speech-writer for the executive director and represents the national office at external events and meetings. She is also the executive office congressional liaison, coordinating congressional meetings and events for the executive director.

In addition, Hoffler works in NASW’s Government Relations Department as lobbyist for the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative. This workforce initiative seeks to secure federal and state investments in professional social work to enhance societal well-being. Hoffler oversees the full initiative, which includes 56 NASW chapter reinvestment plans across the country as well as state and federal legislation that affects professional social workers, including the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.

Hoffler is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers; she has an MSW from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work and a BSW from the University of Kentucky. Her interest areas are macro social work, nonprofit administration, social work workforce issues, public policy, and political social work.

Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH, is executive director of NASW in Washington, DC. During her career, Dr. Clark has served in numerous administrative positions in social work, health care, and academia. Previously, she was executive director of the New York State chapter of NASW; chief operating officer for The March: Coming Together to Conquer Cancer, a national public awareness and grassroots organizing campaign; and director of diagnostic and therapeutic services at Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY, and associate professor of medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, Albany Medical College. Dr. Clark’s other professional experience includes terms as deputy departmental chair and associate professor of health professions, Montclair State University, Monclair, NJ, where she also served as assistant to the dean of the School of Professional Studies and vice president of the faculty senate. She also developed and administered the Cancer Care Program of St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, PA.

Dr. Clark is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and the National Academies of Practice. She holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work and an MPH from the University of Pittsburgh as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate in medical sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Clark is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Wartburg College in Waverly, IA.