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“[Social workers] have to do it all. We have to understand what the human experiences are, and we have to bring those human experiences, either through ourselves but preferably through the people, to the halls of policy making. We bring that perspective that very few, if any other, professions bring.”

Dr. Linda Plitt Donaldson, Dr. Kristie Holmes, &
Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr.

For a variety of reasons, social workers in the United States, unfortunately, often avoid becoming actively engaged in the political process. In this podcast, Drs. Linda Plitt Donaldson, Kristie Holmes, and Charles E. Lewis, Jr. discuss the importance of social workers pushing past their reticence and becoming more involved in the political process. The panel shares their thoughts and suggests a range of approaches from advocacy to running for political office.

Linda Plitt Donaldson, MSW, PhD, has been on the faculty of the National Catholic School of Social Service since 2004, bringing extensive experience in nonprofit social service management and public policy advocacy. Prior to teaching at NCSSS, Dr. Donaldson worked for ten years in a community-based homeless services agency in Washington, D.C., providing direct service; directing programs in advocacy, social justice, and family services; and developing affordable housing. Prior to her nonprofit experience, Dr. Donaldson was a legislative fellow for the late Senator Paul Wellstone, working on the mental health components of Senator Wellstone’s single payer health plan and his and Mrs. Wellstone’s domestic violence initiative, called the Wellstone Initiative for Safe Homes. Dr. Donaldson continues to maintain a small consulting practice to train and develop the advocacy, organizing, and social change capacity of human service agencies and grassroots communities.

Kristie Holmes, PhD, LCSW, specializes in topics related to global health, gender, and media and the impact of technology on social relationships. She has spent a significant amount of time in the past five years working on projects related to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which included work with the agency Zero Mothers Die and the Millennia 2025 Foundation. She has acted as moderator for an NGO at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and participated as a panelist at the Women Leaders Forum as part of the United Nations General Assembly. Currently, she serves on the board of the United Nations Women U.S. National Committee and works with Give an Hour, which donates clinical time to veterans in need of services who are often on a waiting list. Holmes ran for Congress in 2014 in California’s District 33.

Charles E. Lewis, Jr., MSW, PhD, is the founder and president of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP). CRISP is a nonprofit organization created to enhance the presence of social work in the United States Congress through its work in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus. Previously, Dr. Lewis was the deputy chief of staff and communications director for Rep. Edolphus Towns and served as the coordinator of the Social Work Caucus until Mr. Towns retired in 2013. Dr. Lewis is also a principal associate with the Development Services Group and serves as the training director for the Minority Fellowship Program, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support doctoral students in the field of behavioral health. Dr. Lewis was a member of the faculty of Howard University School of Social Work from 2002 until 2010, where he taught courses in social welfare policy, research, and data analysis. He earned his PhD in policy, planning, and policy analysis from Columbia University in 2002. He also has an MSW degree in clinical counseling from Clark Atlanta University. He has written numerous articles and book chapters on adolescents’ involvement with the criminal justice system.

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