The following is a guest post from Nancy Hooyman, Co-Principal Investigator for the Council on Social Work Education’s Center for Gerontological Social Work Education and Dean Emeritus and Hooyman Endowed Professor in Gerontology, University of Washington School of Social Work.
The vitally necessary Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act is deserving of the support from a wide range of stakeholders – social workers, other eldercare providers, those committed to social justice as well as those focused on the economics of long-term care. Direct care staff are second only to families as the primary providers of long-term care — the “hands, voice, face” and core of the long-term care system. The care they provide is “high-touch” intimate, personal, and physically/emotionally challenging (Harahan and Stone, 2009; Institute of Medicine, 2008). These hands-on providers are expected to be compassionate yet usually do not feel prepared, respected, or appreciated, in part because our society does not value the socially and economically important work of caregiving.
Supporting this Act is also a matter of social justice and congruent with social work’s commitment to improve the lives of historically disadvantaged groups. The intersections of gender, race, and immigration status are reflected in the low status and negative work conditions of direct care workers. Advocates for women’s equity should also support this Act; nine out of ten of direct care staff are women, oftentimes single mothers, with minimal education, frequently holding more than one job but still living in poverty or near-poverty, and increasingly dependent on food stamps and other public benefits to get by. The Act is also an issue of racial justice Continue reading »