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MI Social Workers Call for Change Ahead of Midterm Elections

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Friday, November 2, 2018   

LANSING, Mich. – Hot-button issues like immigration and the opioid epidemic headlined a huge conference of social workers in Lansing on Thursday.

The Michigan chapter of the National Association of Social Workers hosted 800 people at its Legislative Education Day. And just before the midterm election, a big topic was the Trump administration's policy of requiring social workers to report the immigration status of families who volunteer to take in an unaccompanied child requesting asylum at the border.

Allan Wachendorfer, director of public policy for NASW Michigan, says that policy leaves social workers between a rock and hard place.

"Those children came here seeking safety from harm in their home countries,” says Wachendorfer. “And this is a violation of a social worker's code to do things that harm people, to share information that could be harmful, and so, it puts them in a real conflict situation."

NASW tells social workers to make sure families know, before they volunteer to take in a child, that their information will be reported to ICE. Wachendorfer says the policy is reducing the number of foster families and causing children to be incarcerated alone for much longer.

The group encouraged members to support candidates at the ballot box who pledge to look out for vulnerable Michiganders.

Wachendorfer says his group would also like the state to appropriate more money for social services. He notes that half of all social workers make $42,000 a year or less.

"It's such tough work to begin with, and then, there isn't a lot of pay,” says Wachendorfer. “So, not only are you stressed out and facing burnout because of the tough job you do, you're also going home and stressing out when you're trying to pay your bills. That's not a good combination to keep people in a profession that's so critical."

The state faces a shortage of addiction counselors, a problem Wachendorfer says will be exacerbated by proposed new state restrictions on the types of licenses people need to enter that field. NASW is also pushing for a change to the Michigan law that automatically prosecutes 17-year-old defendants as adults.


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