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College of Social Work

Advancing Social Policy

Mar. 12, 2019
Chris Woodley • 

Students in the Advanced Analysis of Social Policy, Programs, and Services class at the College of Social Work’s Charleston site discussed important social issues with elected officials on Saturday, Mar. 9.

Adjunct Instructor Dalina Rainey hosted a panel of state representatives for her class at the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Students engaged in conversations on bills specifically related to affordable housing, education, and health and mental health. The panel consisted of Democrat state representatives JA Moore, Marvin Pendarvis and Krystle Simmons, who serve constituents in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

According to Rainey, students in her class are required to engage in policy practice by demonstrating advocacy skills with service providers and policy makers related to health and mental health. But that is often difficult since most of her students work full time, complete field education requirements and attend classes on Saturdays.

“Inviting our legislators to the classroom provides the students with a valuable learning experience that brings clarity to the textbook and context to the benefits of social workers engaging in policy,” said Rainey. “It demonstrates and models for them that sometimes we simply need to extend the invitation to have conversations that bring awareness to our lawmakers.”

During the panel discussion, the legislators validated the value and need for social work throughout the state and invited students to participate in subcommittee discussions.

“The representatives reiterated the need for social workers to advocate for policies that benefit the populations we serve,” said Rainey. “They invited us to the state house during a session and suggested that we host this panel every year. It is important to educate our legislators about what is happening on the front lines of our work. In fact, one representative stated that bills only move when ‘we the people’ move them. I encourage all social workers to be involved in policy in some way. Get involved… advocate… it’s our duty.”

There are currently two bills on the federal level directly related to social workers: H.R. 1289, Social Work Reinvestment Commission and H.R. 1309, Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.

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