August 25, 2008

Social workers still very much underpaid

Daphne McClellan and Elizabeth Clark's column "It's time for the givers to receive" (Commentary, Aug. 19) did an excellent job pointing out the need for Congress to support the Social Work Reinvestment Act.

As a human resource professional in the field of mental health and social services, I can attest to the large discrepancy between the compensation for professional social workers (and other human services professionals) and the pay for other professional workers.

Professional social workers typically possess a master's degree that requires two years of graduate study and an internship and must also be licensed by the state. They are entrusted with tremendously complicated work assignments with variable hours that can often include evenings, weekends and on-call work.

But as a result of funding limitations often set by government and limited philanthropic dollars, many organizations like mine must pay professional social workers at rates far below fair and just compensation for their level of education, skills and responsibility.

To cite but one example, it is not unusual for a new schoolteacher working a nine- to 10-month contract to receive annual compensation that is more than that of a licensed social worker employed on a year-round basis.

As a society, we seem to have neglected social service workers far more than educators, nurses, police officers and others.

Now, more than ever, individuals throughout our community need the services provided by social service professionals, and it is past time that the community offers these professionals a fair and just level of compensation.

James Gipson, Laurel

The writer is director of human resources for the Guide Program Inc.

Defenders of animals deserve public support

The Baltimore Sun's article "Man at home in the 'vortex' of animal protection" (Aug. 17) concisely reveals the passion and dedication to his profession of Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, and his dedication to those without a voice - the animals that are the beneficiaries of this dedication.

While many people express derision or disdain for groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, I hope they will take the more polished yet equally diligent approach of Mr. Pacelle and the long-established Humane Society more seriously.

But I must point out that both groups are a means to an end - protecting animals - whose accomplishment is long overdue on a planet governed by "intelligent" beings.

Timothy D. Mann, Cresaptown

The writer is a volunteer for the Humane Society of the United States.

Sending young people a very mixed message

I, too, am against drunken driving ("Drinking age call draws outrage," Aug. 20). My beloved nephew died in May after he was hit by a drunken driver while riding his bike. But I agree with the college presidents and others who have called for re-examining the legal drinking age of 21.

We are sending mixed messages to our kids by setting the drinking age at 21 but other age limits at 18. On the one hand, my 19-year-old daughter is working full-time and living in her own apartment, paying her own bills. On the other hand, she can't buy a glass of wine when she goes out to eat.

Is she a grown-up or isn't she? Can she make her own decisions or can't she?

We disparage the many young adults who move back in with their parents these days. But given the confusion and delayed responsibility built into our society's laws, we shouldn't complain.

Clean out the spare room, honey, the kids are coming back.

Susan Shock, Baltimore

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