Texas joins national spotlight on social workers

Published 9:42 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

By Eric Galatas

Texas News Service


AUSTIN, Texas – March is National Social Work Month, and a rally is set for Thursday on the steps of the Texas State Capitol to highlight the ways social workers help Texans of all ages overcome obstacles and reach their full potential. 

Miriam Nisenbaum, executive director of the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, says many people associate social work with child protective services. But she points to two U.S. senators – Debbie Stabenow (D) of Michigan and Kyrsten Sinema (D) of Arizona – along with a number of House members, who are former social workers.
“Actually, social work is in every fabric of life,” says Nisenbaum. “We are in health care, in hospitals, hospice, home health. We provide services in the schools. We provide services on a policy level; we are legislative and policy directors for elected officials.”

It takes years of education to become a professional social worker, and organizers of the rally are also drawing attention to salaries that are far below similar professions, including registered nurses, psychologists, and teachers. State officials frequently cite budget limitations for underfunded agencies that hire social workers, including Health and Human Services. 
Nisenbaum says most people drawn to the work have made helping others a priority – but they still have bills to pay, and deserve a wage commensurate with their education levels. She also argues that up-front investments in Health and Human Services would end up saving taxpayers money.

“If you can do more health care and preventive services and other programs, you pay a lot less on the front end than to address a massive opioid crisis on the back end, as one example,” says Nisenbaum.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 100,000 additional social workers will be needed in the U.S. in less than a decade to address a host of challenges, including caring for the nation’s aging population. For more information about how social workers touch the lives of millions of people, look online at ‘socialworkers.org.’