Social workers use skills on the Hill

Jun 4, 2012

By Rena Malai, News Staff

The political bug can bite anyone — even a social worker. That’s what happened to NASW member Kristen Pendergrass.

“I graduated with my MSW in 2008, about the time of the Obama campaign,” said Pendergrass, who is the legislative aide to Massachusetts state Rep. Thomas P. Conroy. “The political bug bit me.”

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, stands with his chief of staff, Michael Collins, on Capitol Hill.

Christie Getto Young, policy and budget director for the office of Massachusetts state Sen. Sal DiDomenico, earned her MSW and wanted to focus on policy.

“I came into this work for the policy,” said Young, also an NASW member. But she, too, was drawn to the world of politics.

The terms “social worker” and “politics” may not always be associated, said Julianne Hines, but a social work education and skills can provide a good foundation for a political career. Hines is district director of the 44th Assembly District in California under Assemblyman  Anthony Portantino.

“Social workers have many skills that can be brought to the table,” said Hines, an NASW member. “The ability to advocate, teach and communicate needs are all effective social work tools that can be a great backdrop in the political arena.”

Social work can have a stigma attached to it in the political world, said social worker Michael Collins, chief of staff for the office of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. But he says that many social work dynamics exist in the policies that he works on every day.

“Social workers are perfectly positioned and really should go to the next level; the best lawmakers are people who interact with policy, work the front lines and who are involved with direct service,” Collins said. “Being a social worker in this role places me in a unique opportunity and position to directly enact legislation.”

From the June 2012 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.

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