Next weeks blog will be on schedule (Sunday night), as promised, but I couldn’t resist sharing the following letter with you all.
Dr. Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) wrote an article for the July 2013 NASW News titled “Helping Social Workers Help People.” I recommend it.
One particular passage jumped out at me. “We know there’s a pressing need to raise social work salaries to levels that allow retention of experienced social workers and incentives for students to enter the field.”
I have replied to Dr. McClain, and share it now with you.
Dear Dr. McClain,
I appreciate the opportunity to reply to a point made in your article “Helping Social Workers Help People,” in the July 2013 NASW News.
Firstly, I want you to know that I very much appreciate your “…plan to help social workers help people.” I, too, share your commitment by way of a new blog I am writing, which I would like to share with you and my fellow social workers. It is called “The Social Work Practitioner: A Nuts & Bolts Blog On Social Work Practice, Supervision, and Project Management” (www.thesocialworkpractitioner.com). This blog is my way of contributing to the collective knowledge of our profession, thus supporting your vision of helping social workers help people. I would be honored if you would be willing to look at my first post, “Trust,” a topic that I chose because of its centrality to caring, compassionate, and effective social work practice.
I am a New York State licensed MSW who graduated from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Services in August 2007. There is a line I wrote in a draft of a commencement address I was not selected to deliver which, though exaggerating a point, speaks to an issue you raise. The line is “My fellow Social Workers, we just borrowed about $40,000 for our graduate degrees. We’d all better get right to work, because with a starting salary of about $40,000, it will take us about 40,000 years to pay it back!” Funny, I think, in the “dark humor” way of expressing ourselves that we sometime have. But it speaks to your point that “…there’s a pressing need to raise social work salaries to levels that allow retention of experienced social workers and incentives for students to enter the field.” With regards to the latter there seems to me to be a significant dilemma to address.
As you know, organizations compete to win contracts from various government entities in response to RFP’s. To win these contracts, they of course try to offer the lowest bid possible. As private funding sources began drying up in the economic crisis begun in 2008, the competition for government contracts became even more fierce than it had been, historically. One of the results of this competition has been that organizations are increasingly willing to overlook Social Workers as job candidates in favor of individuals with some human services experience and a Bachelors or Associates Degree (in almost anything), or “equivalent experience.” Why are they doing this? A trusted friend and colleague of mine who is responsible for recruiting and hiring new Case Managers in her program told me that it saved her $3,000 per worker, per year, to hire someone other than a Social Worker. Three thousand dollars! She was allotted $35,000 to hire Case Managers and wanted to hire BSW’s or MSW candidates, but in so many words was told it would be “really great” if she could find “other” new hires for, say, $32,000. This was extremely distressing to my friend and she tried to hire the BSW and MSW candidates anyway. She wanted Social Workers for her clients. The social workers wouldn’t go for it—and who could blame them? That’s the reality. That’s how tight the money is. And I have it from other sources that this is a generalizable dynamic in cash-strapped not-for-profits.
So will raising social work salaries result in hiring more Social Workers? Right now, I’m hard pressed to see how. But if at any point you decide to assemble a team to figure this out, count me in. I have ideas, and like so many of our colleagues I’m a social worker in search of more money!
Thank you for the work you do on behalf of Social Workers everywhere, and I wish you every success.
Craig Moncho, LMSW