Congressional Research Institute
for Social Work and Policy

Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy

Unleashing the Power of Social Work on the Hill

Macro Social Workers Gather at the Brown School

Scores of macro practice social workers and students will gather at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis beginning Thursday for the first in-person conference since the Covid-19 pandemic. The four-day Macro United Conference, organized by Influencing Social Policy, will bring together social work educators, policymakers, practitioners, and students to address the many complex issues facing our polarized society. The conference theme is: Rising Together to Protect Our Rights. We have witnessed assaults on the rights of Americans through voter suppression, denial of services and equal treatment for LGBTQ+ people, the right to sensible gun control, and with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the right for women to have autonomous control over their bodies, to name a few.

“Our goals for this year’s conference are to explore innovative macro-focused teaching and research, provide networking opportunities, and strengthen the field of macro social work,” stated Dr. Pilar Homer, board president for Influencing Social Policy. The conference opens at 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning with breakfast for the Teaching Institute’s day-long schedule of panels and presentations focusing on developing knowledge, skills, and frameworks useful for effective classroom learning. It culminates with a 4:00 p.m. reception, immediately preceding the full conference opening plenary at 5:00 p.m. The keynote speaker for the conference is Rebeccah L. Bennett, founder of several enterprises, including Emerging Wisdom, a St. Louis-based community and organization development consulting firm that helps individuals, groups, and organizations, find their paths to empowerment.

Whither Political Social Work?

Commentary by Charles E. Lewis, Jr. published in the Journal of Policy Practice and Research December 1, 2022

When I left the faculty at Howard University School of Social Work to become the deputy chief of staff and communications director for former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns, a social worker representing constituents in Brooklyn, New York, I understood that I was leaving the social work profession and entering politics. I discovered the policy aspects of social work during my studies in clinical counseling while pursuing my Master of Social Work degree at Clark Atlanta School of Social Work. With a background in communications, I found working on social problems and social policies much more suitable for my skills. I had to enhance my policy knowledge and acumen to perform at a high level of policy, so I applied and was accepted into the Ph.D. program at Columbia University School of Social Work which had a rigorous policy track. After completing courses in micro and macroeconomics, econometrics, and benefit-cost analysis, I felt well-prepared to function in policy.

Towns Celebrates 90 Years of Life

The Struggle for Democracy

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Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass Receives CRISP Award

Los Angeles — Mayor Karen Bass holds CRISP Award for Outstanding Congressional Social Worker in 2022, her final year as a U.S. House of Representatives member. CRISP Legislative Director Dr. Angelique Day presented the award at a May 6 event in Los Angeles held to support the National Foster Youth Institute founded by Ms. Bass during her tenure in Congress to complement the work of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, which she created on her arrival in Congress in 2011.

CRISP continues to work with the office of her successor Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager, who represents California’s 37th District, the seat formerly held by Mayor Bass, to advance several bills introduced by the Foster Youth Caucus to improve the lives of young people in and aging out of foster care, including bills to provide access to alternative mental health treatments and easier access to driving.

Dr. Viola Vaughan-Eden (center), the Outstanding Individual in Academia Award winner, is flanked by CRISP Board President Justin Hodge (left) and CRISP Director Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr.

Lawmakers Put Aside Differences to Aid Foster Youth

The tenor and tone on Capitol Hill usually range from tart to downright antagonistic. So, it is refreshing to witness members from both parties collaborate on legislation to improve the experience of children in foster care and smooth their transition into self-sufficiency. Last week, key Congressional caucuses on child welfare issues gathered in Room 268 in the Congressional Visitor Center to review legislative priorities for the 118th Congress. The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and its affiliate, the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI), joined with the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and its institute (CCAI) for this bipartisan forum.

The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth was founded and chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass during her first term in Congress beginning in 2011. NFYI was created as an affiliate of the Caucus on Foster Youth in 2012 to ensure young people with foster care experience would be included in discussions on child welfare policy on the Hill.

On Tuesday, September 20, 2022, social workers, advocates, and Hill staffers gathered on the Hill to discuss how Congress might respond if the United States Supreme Court rules the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is unconstitutional. Co-hosted by CRISP and the National Foster Youth Initiative, the briefing was held in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), chair of the Social Work Caucus, provided a video greeting to set the tone for the briefing. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37), founder and co-chair of the Caucus on Foster Youth was represented by senior advisor Camille Loya and Cortez Carey, legislative aide to Rep. Bass and director of the Caucus on Foster Youth.

The panel, moderated by CRISP Legislative Director Angelique Day, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work and a descendant of the Ho Chunk nation, consisted of Kathryn Isom-Clause, Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development; Kristen Torres, MSW, child welfare legislative aide for Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-27); and Sonia Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation and grandparent caregiver who provided compelling testimony about her experiences with ICWA during the time she sought parental custody of her grandchildren who attended the briefing.

On November 9, 2022, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Brackeen v. Haaland and three other cases challenging the constitutionality of the ICWA. Several bills have been introduced in the House aiming to protect the wellbeing of Native American children and families including the Tribal Family Fairness Act introduced by Rep. Bass.

Bass Hosts Legislative Dinner for Kinship Bill

Congresswoman Karen Bass hosted a dinner in the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, April 5, 2022, to draw attention to a bill she introduced that would remove barriers and encourage kinship guardianship, foster, or adoptive placements for children who cannot be safely cared for in their own homes. CRISP Legislative Director Dr. Angelique Day was on hand to present research she provided to Rep. Bass’ office during the crafting of the legislation. The event was organized by the National Foster Youth Instititue, the nonprofit launched by Rep. Bass to complement the mission of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth which she co-founded on her arrival in Congress in 2011.

Congressional Social Work Caucus

Rep. Barbara LeeThe Congressional Social Work Caucus was founded in 2010 during the 111th Congress by former Brooklyn Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns as a means to provide a platform for social workers to have their voices heard in Congress. The CSWC is currently chaired by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Democrat and social worker who represents the 12th Congressional District in California which includes much of the City of Oakland. She holds several leadership roles in the House of Representatives and is the only African American woman to hold a leadership position in the Democratic Caucus where she is Co-Chair of the Policy and Steering Committee.

Federal Government Political System

There’s so much going on in the world around us each day. Decisions are being made in the political arena that will impact us for a lifetime. Do you usually take a backseat on politics but would like to stay informed? Social workers must be aware of what is going on in the political arena on all levels of government. A principle of the NASW Code of Ethics states: Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems. Another states: Social workers challenge injustice. Many of the policies chosen and laws enacted are decided in the political arena. Thus, social workers must be engaged with the political system at all levels of government.

While CRISP focuses on Congress and the federal government, social issues such as child welfare, healthcare, housing, and voting rights are being decided at the state and local levels as well as Congress. Our very democracy could be in jeopardy if citizens are not actively engaged in its preservation. CRISP will provide you with information that will equip you to be an informed and responsible citizenry. We send representatives to government to look out for the welfare of citizens. It is up to us to hold them accountable.