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Social Work Program Shuttered - Professional Organization Protests

April 27, 2009

Newport News - Christopher Newport University says it will stop enrolling students into its social worker degree program, because of budget concerns. However, according to Debra Riggs, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers Virginia Chapter, the loss of the program at the school in Newport News will undermine the professionalism of Virginia's social workers.

She says Virginia already has no requirement for social workers to be accredited, and that's as if someone had no training and yet called herself a nurse because she cared for a sick person.

"There are folks that are not accountable - they may be accountable to their organizations, their agencies, their schools - but they are not accountable to the consumer."

Riggs says losing an accredited program on social work will will lower the quality of care in the state.

"That's because we're not just talking about child welfare workers; we're talking about all of those other diverse areas that our practitioners practice in."

While most people think of social workers only in the context of children, Riggs says, they work in every realm of public life, from adoption to hospice, and they're the nation's largest group of mental health care providers. She says that nearly half of all social workers nationwide help people coordinate care for their aging parents.

Her organization has started a letter-writing campaign asking the school to reconsider its decision.

There's more information at helpstartshere.org

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA