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.