Tuesday, July 15, 2014

NASW Disappointed by Buffer Zone Ruling

BOSTON, MA – The National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts Chapter (NASW-MA) and NASW’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. are disappointed by a United States Supreme Court ruling on Thursday that unanimously overturned the Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around health clinics offering abortion services.  The Court stated that establishing these zones infringed on the First Amendment rights of pro-life protestors.

NASW-MA is concerned because the high court’s ruling could negatively affect both women’s rights and patient safety. NASW-MA supports women’s choice and is committed to “unimpeded access to services to all,” including health care and family planning services.

The Chapter urges the Massachusetts legislature to work expeditiously to determine legal restrictions that will ensure the safety and privacy of patients visiting these clinics, while also protecting the right to free speech.  These measures should be approved by both the House and the Senate by the end of the legislative session in July. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Delicate Assembly

Did you all notice that I used a funny spelling for ‘Delegate’ as in Delegate Assembly?  Well, I was installing some playfulness in the nation-wide discussion among NASW members about whether to eliminate the almost 50 year old NASW Delegate Assembly structure.  This structure shares policy making with the elected National NASW Board of Directors.  It could be maintained, but with some needed updates.  The MA Chapter President, Dr. Chris Hudson has written about the choices in his President’s FOCUS column and even offered a survey for members to give their thoughts.  I am particularly interested in your read:
  •  Should we eliminate it and turn over most of the functions to the National Board, various National Committees and staff  and be able to revise old policy statements every year rather than waiting for three years when the Delegate Assembly convenes? OR 
  • Should we maintain this old structure?  Some individuals feel it is antiquated and inefficient, yet it is more democratic (200 elected delegates from all the states rather than under 30 National Board members elected from the regions across the country).  
Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Progress with Professionalizing the DCF Workforce

NASW, the profession of social work, and the Department of Children and Families had a major victory last week in the area of further professionalizing the child welfare workforce.  Amendment 904 to the state budget will require all social workers employed by the Department to obtain a license as a social worker within the first 6 months of employment (passed the Senate on May 23rd, 2014).  In addition, the commissioner shall require social workers employed by the department to participate in no less than 30 hours per year of paid professional development training, provided this training is consistent with applicable collective bargaining agreements.

The MA Chapter was responsible for submitting the language that changed the time requirement for licensing for new employees of the Department from 3 years to 6 months.  We feel this is an important step toward ensuring the state's commitment to providing quality professional services to the child welfare population.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Is The Chapter Doing About Raising Salaries & Reimbursement Rates

On the minds of many NASW members is the totally understandable (and perhaps not so polite) question: 

"What Is NASW Doing to Raise Reimbursement Rates from Insurers 
and Salaries from Employers?"  

I say thank you for asking!  The Chapter is committed to acting on several fronts to improve rates:

1.   On the federal level, the Massachusetts Chapter is leading the way with the executive directors of other NASW Chapters across the country to work with National NASW on lobbying CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to raise the reimbursement rates for clinical services to 100% of what psychologists and psychiatrists receive for providing the same clinical service.  Right now, LICSWs receive 75% of what psychologists receive.  It is not right and we will continually advocate until we get parity.

2.   On the state level, NASW is:
a.   Working with our partners in the Mental Health Coalition, particularly, the Association for Behavioral Health (ABH) to lobby for hiring rates for agencies providing clinical services;
b.   Consulting with MA Health, which contracts with agencies to provide clinical  services;
c.   Bringing to the heads of the MCOs, the insurance companies, the HMOs and the Group Insurance Commission the need to increase reimbursement rates to social workers who provide the bulk of mental health services;
d.   Lobbying for loan forgiveness for social workers, which will give relief to new professionals such that they are more likely to remain in the profession rather than leave for more lucrative positions; and
e.   Discussing with SEIU Local 509 the options available for some form of partnership around lobbying for increased reimbursement rates.

These are just a sampling of the advocacy steps the Chapter is taking to increase the salaries and reimbursement rates for social workers.  I welcome your ideas and your input for other opportunities.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The DCF Target: It Is Not Over

So much is being written about what is going on at the Department of Children and Families and there is so much finger pointing that the Daily News should really take on a new name - How about the Daily Target?  It is doubtless that a series of tragic events has occurred over the past months:
·         Three children died;
·         The agency charged with protecting these children and strengthening their families did not prevent the deaths;
·         The workers assigned the job of protecting and strengthening failed…the agency failed.

All this was reported from various sources and we all feel so helpless – we being the workers assigned to the cases, the managers assigned to support the workers, the professionals associated with  the child welfare agency (i.e. the police, school systems, community agencies contracted with DCF to provide services).  The list goes on.  And the NASW, the association representing the social work profession is also in the mix, for  the term ‘social worker’ applies to us.

Beyond all the ‘knee jerk’ responses about which I have previously written, I have offered the following to the press:

1.       That the media catch the child welfare community doing something right, rather than looking for what is wrong.  What is right is…
a.       The thousands of children and families that have benefitted from short and long-term supports offered by DCF and its contracted agencies;
b.      The thousands of kids that say that DCF saved them; AND
c.       The thousands of foster families who not only provided valuable assistance to the biological families in need of the positive modeling foster parents supply and the thousands of social workers, including myself as a former DCG worker, who believed in parents intentions to do the right thing, but who just did not know how to do it.
2.       That the DCF training unit be adequately funded to provide the essential professional training needed for individuals going into the field.  It is short-sighted and irresponsible to hire 200 new workers without giving them the tools, the knowledge and the supervised training required to understand and intervene appropriately in the complicated situations into which they thrust.

3.       That the law, regulations and practice require that only individuals with social work degrees from accredited BSW and MSW Schools of Social Work be hired to work with some of the most complex and compromised family and individual cases to which DCF is charged.  There is a place for other professionals to do important case management, coordination and related work but the demanding role of a social worker in DCF requires people who have had several years of supervised experience and course work before they take on the serious work within the child welfare field.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NASW-MA Chapter Oscars...The Envelope, Please.

And the winners are?...........................

The 120+ substantive workshop presenters at Symposium.
The powerful and engaging keynote speaker, Maurice 'Moe' Boisvert.
The 6 extraordinary Chapter Award recipients.
The social work departments from the 7 Greater Boston trauma centers that responded to the marathon bombing.

The Chapter's Social Work Symposium this year won all the awards for professional presentations, career services, networking opportunities, job offerings and practice innovation.

The program committee, headed by two brilliant co-chairs-Sherry Cohen and Mary Ward deserve the Oscar for producing such a memorable and stimulating professional gathering.  I am so grateful to the volunteers and staff who participated in creating this memorable event.

This is a 'hats off' to my social work colleagues, a shout out to the profession of social work and the  outstanding women and men who chose this field of practice.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Every year the Chapter’s annual Legislative Education and Advocacy Day gets better and better.  This  year’s event hit the top of the scales.  What a powerhouse of speakers, workshops and attendance.  Every MSW program in Massachusetts sent a contingent with Boston College Graduate School of Social Work offering a special gift to its group of 200 MSW students, paying everyone's registration fee.  Nine of the Massachusetts BSW programs were in attendance.  There was even a group of criminal justice students from Merrimack College who joined us so they could rub shoulders with and learn from social workers on how to lobby and make one’s voice heard.  In total, 750 students, professionals and other advocates joined legislators, professional lobbyists, faculty, and Health and Human Service administrators who were either in the audience or at the podium.

The event was highlighted by the appearance of several Constitutional officers.  State Treasurer Steven Grossman addressed the group, acknowledging several of his family members were professional social workers.  Attorney General Martha Coakley brought greetings from her office.  Both these high profile officers are closely aligned with the values and priorities of the social work profession.

The featured dignitary, Governor Deval Patrick graced the audience with his usual thoughtful and substantive remarks about the social work profession and the work we do.  And of course, the centerpiece of the morning was Governor Patrick’s declaration of March as Social Work Month and the handing over to me, his official proclamation.

The day was truly memorable, not only for the substance of the presentations, the energy of the participants but also the celebration of Social Work Month through the banner that flew on the front of the State House.  LEAD is a reminder of what it means to be a part of our proud profession.

Monday, March 24, 2014

NASW Steps Up House in the State House

This Tuesday, March 25th  marks one of the highlights of the MA Chapter’s commitment to legislative advocacy, LEAD (Legislative Education and Advocacy Day).  Over 700 social work professionals and students will convene at the Grand Staircase, Hall of Flags, and in Gardner Auditorium to prepare themselves for the lobbying event of the year.  Tomorrow  attendees will become intimately familiar with NASW-MA Chapter’s legislative agenda so they can then meet with their legislators.  Together they will promote the professional and social/economic justice priorities that serve social workers and the individuals and communities that social workers serve.

Governor Deval Patrick will address the group as he proclaims March as Social Work Month. State Treasurer, Stephen Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley will add their support to the Chapter’s legislative agenda.  To top it off, flying from the front façade of the State House will be the most enormous social work banner ever to appear in public.

This confluence of social work clinicians, organizers, faculty, researchers, administrators and planners is the compelling profile of this wonderful profession.

The Voice of Professional Social Work will be echoing throughout Beacon Hill.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Who Is Responsible?

Last week I attended a meeting with DCF Commissioner Olga Roche and a group of child welfare stakeholders who were briefed on the imminent release of the Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) Progress Update to Governor Patrick and Secretary Polanowicz.  This is the interim report of the ongoing independent investigation of the Department of Children and Families, the culminating report to be released in May.

Click HERE for the Report

CWLA is one of several groups investigating the recent disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year old boy, along with the longer standing issues impacting the delivery of services to children and families involved with DCF across the state.   In turn, the Office of the Child Advocate did an inquiry and the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight is in the midst of its investigation.  The Department has also performed its own study. 

Everybody wants someone, or someone else to DO SOMETHING about DCF.  It is true that some of us (i.e. child welfare agencies, SEIU, NASW, etc.) are some of the key groups that have visible and even legal accountabilities.  Responsibility for the current state of child welfare in the Commonwealth is not restricted to these easily identified groups.   It is ALL of our responsibility.  Our neighbors, family members, school personnel, the mailman who comes to the door daily, along with those individuals in the medical profession.  The task of looking after members of our communities who may be compromised by a complex combination of mental and physical health issues, poverty, generational domestic violence, homelessness, joblessness and addictions, belongs to all of us.

Recently, I developed an interest in ancient society’s view of family and child welfare.  I found that 4,500 years ago papyrus scrolls placed in pyramids spelled out acts of mercy that society members had to follow.  3,000 years ago the Mosaic code instructed the Jewish people to help the poor and disadvantaged people and in 530 BCE Siddhartha, the Buddha, taught that the path to enlightenment included love and charity to others.  There was no Department of Children and Families in ancient times, no Riversides, Waysides or MSPCCs…just everyday people looking out for each other.  True we have become more specialized 6,000 years later with the advent of groups performing the functions that all early peoples were expected to perform.  However the development of these fairly modern (at least post Romanic) institutions still does not exempt  the rest of us who are not officially  ‘in the business’ from watching out for our brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors and friends.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Breakfast at Emmet’s…A Far Cry From Tiffany’s But Just As Valuable

Emmet’s, you ask?  It’s that cozy little eatery down the street from the NASW office on Beacon Street, known mostly for its lunches and dinners.  Now that the legislative session is in full swing however, more and more legislators are scheduling their “meet and greets” and fundraising events for the breakfast hour.  This is where the Chapter’s new Director of Government Relations and Political Action, Devin Romanul and I rendezvoused last week to meet with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and other legislators about the Chapter’s legislative agenda.  The guests, primarily representatives from human service organizations, had a unique chance to brief the Speaker on the details of their program’ goals, missions and challenges.  High on the list for our Chapter were loan forgiveness for social workers, increased compensations for clinicians, as well as the professionalization of the social work field.  Since we had just a few moments to highlight some of the Chapter’s legislative priorities, we will be scheduling a more in-depth session with the Speaker and his staff later this month.

Breakfast at the Chapter office is more than just a coffee and a muffin.  It is one of the critical meeting times that brings us the opportunity to be the voice of social work to the people who make public policy.

Monday, March 3, 2014


For the past two months, the press, the legislature, the child welfare world and the public has focused on the startling news of the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year old boy whose family had a history of being involved with child protective service agencies. The shocking nature of this story can leave one wondering. How could this happen? Where were the school authorities? Where was the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the neighbors, the family members? We look for answers, as we should, and at the same time we look for quick fixes. From my perspective, there are no simple solutions, including the loud call to fire the Commissioner of DCF. It is true that the system, as devoted as it is to protecting children and strengthening families, can and does err in its efforts to live up to these critical goals.

 A huge error occurred in the case of young Jeremiah Oliver, a child who is now presumed dead. When an error such as this is uncovered, the system is then bound and committed to find out how it happened and who is responsible. Beyond holding individuals responsible for their actions, the system must ask what safeguards are now needed to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

This is the process happening right now. Not only is DCF performing an internal investigation but the Office of the Child Advocate as well as the Legislature and the Child Welfare League of America are performing separate investigations. My Letter to the Editor (below) recently sent to both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald conveys NASW's current perspective on the situation. We must avoid quick fixes and knee jerk reactions, trading them instead for thoughtful, diligent actions.

I am in regular communication with DCF, SEIU Local 509 (Social Work Union), and the Office of the Child Advocate to see how we can support the professionalization of the workforce in child welfare. Together we want to strengthen the safety net of care for those children and families involved with DCF and end the destructive negative messaging that is impacting everyone involved.

Often times it is easy to come up with what seems like a quick fix for highly complicated issues, with the impulse to “do something” crowding out more deliberate efforts to address the root of the problem. This pattern has persisted in the three recent cases involving the Department of Children and Families. The inclination to “fire the Commissioner” may make some feel better, but that knee-jerk reaction diverts attention from the more pressing conversation about DCF’s service delivery to families who have experienced generations of abuse, violence, or neglect. The Governor, legislators and the social workers most familiar with these families’ cases need to evaluate what went wrong and how to put mechanisms in place to assure that it will not happen again. The Child Welfare League of America, the Office of the Child Advocate, and the experienced professional social workers at DCF are working in concert to uncover and address the deficiencies in a complex system that allowed for these heartrending situations. Let the child welfare advocates do their work so the children, youth, and families of Massachusetts can experience a stronger safety net of care.