From the Pen of the Executive Director: May 2023
Updated: May 1
Joel L. Rubin, MSW, LSW, ACSW, CAE
NASW-Illinois Chapter Executive Director
Earlier this month I met for coffee with Mark Hicks, LCSW, a 45-year member of NASW who is in his 80s and still practicing. Quite an inspiration. After recently reading Dr. Becca Levy’s acclaimed book, Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long & Well You Live, the importance of the adverse effects on ageism in our society and in our profession cannot be underestimated. Related to this, as I have mentioned over the past months, the chapter’s Older Adults Shared Interest Group chaired by Dr. Darby Morhardt and Andy Teitelman have held a series of meetings with stakeholders across the state, including faculty in schools of social work that offer gerontology concentrations, Area Agencies on Aging, and others to discuss the shortfall in the workforce serving older adults, specifically noting a declining interest among graduate social work students in working with older adult clients. In fact, some schools of social work in Illinois have reduced aging programs in response to students' declining interest as well. All of this is occurring while the need for a qualified workforce serving older adults is soaring. These discussions identified effective ways—such as incentive programs—to stimulate and support the education of social workers to enter the workforce serving older adults and to work with key partners throughout the state. These discussions will be continuing in mid-June with a gathering of community foundations across the state and other stakeholders.
In other related workforce issues:
A full report of our continued workforce initiative funded by the Telligen Community Initiative, Strategies to Strengthen the Social Work Workforce Diversity Pipeline in Illinois, will be posted in mid-late June. The report examined barriers to entry to the social work profession by conducting focus groups with under-represented communities as well as reaching out through in-person virtual forums to existing diverse allied paraprofessionals such as community health workers currently employed in the healthcare/mental health care field (hospitals and human service organizations) to gauge their interest in social work careers.
The status of HB2365 HA1 is currently being considered in the Illinois General Assembly. This proposed legislation will create an alternative to the ASWB exam to allow those who do not wish to take an exam, who are unable to retake a costly and biased exam, or for whom the testing body has failed to provide adequate accommodations an alternate path to clinical licensure. Wherever this process leads this current legislative session, Illinois’ efforts, as well as other states, are looking at all issues that have created barriers to entry to the profession and making our social work workforce more inclusive.
The NASW-Illinois Chapter was recently appointed to the Advisory Council of Governor Pritzker’s recently created Behavioral Health Workforce Center which aims to connect education, healthcare, and social service agencies statewide in an effort to grow workforce development programs for all behavioral health professions in Illinois.
The Chapter has also been asked to participate in the Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA) Workforce Stabilization workgroup, which is consistent with the work of the Older Adults Shared Interest Group’s efforts to seek ways to support and encourage emerging social workers to enter the workforce service older adults across the state.
Together with Debra Riggs, NASW Virginia and DC Metro Executive Director, I am co-chairing a national Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Workforce Shared Leadership Teams. The CQI Shared Leadership Teams provide an ongoing forum for shared leadership in developing recommendations for solutions and decisions that address and respond to our challenges and opportunities for advancing the profession and elevating the association. The Workforce CQI Leadership Teams is devoted to the study and integration of cutting-edge workforce advancements into policy and practice, using research findings and data about the social work workforce to determine trends in employment, and practice to inform policy and advocacy efforts. The teams charter, “will examine factors, trends, and potential threats that influence and drive the practice of social work focused on licensure, salaries, credentials, workplace safety, student debt, and other relevant workforce development issues and needs. The team will study these issues and provide information, ideas, advice, and make recommendations for advancing the profession, and protecting and promoting social workers.”
A couple of last notes….
The chapter extends its condolences to the family of Gerda Schell, an NASW member for over 60 years and the 2017 NASW-Illinois Chapter Lifetime Achievement Awardee. Gerda passed away earlier this month.
Congratulations to the class of 2023 (BSW, MSW, PhDs, and DSWs) who will be receiving their degrees and “walking” in graduation ceremonies across the state over the next couple of weeks. We welcome you to the social work community and look forward to your contributions to our social work workforce in Illinois.