NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Angelo McClain

Pioneering Contributions

Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW, has been an innovative social work administrator, combining administrative expertise in many areas with skilled social work attention to process and priorities. As Executive Director of NASW’s national office for 10 years, McClain initiated and oversaw a long needed complex reorganization/ integration of the NASW chapters and national office to achieve greater unity of effort and efficiency of overall operations. The implementation process involved collegial exchange, multiple stake-holder input, and cooperative efforts to resolve differences among NASW entities. 
Prior to his efforts at NASW, McClain was Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (appointed by the Governor, Deval Patrick) from 2007-13, leading the department’s transformation to a more family-friendly, results-driven organization. Key implementations included instituting nationally recognized best practices such as: integrated case practice model; signs of safety, safety mapping and solution focused clinical practices; teaming, family group conferencing and peer support Family Resource Centers; and standardized safety and risk assessment tools. While overhauling management and information technology processes, McClain critically focused on improvements in social work service delivery. 
His achievements as Commissioner included a 20% reduction in the number of children placed in out-of-home placement, resulting in 2,000 fewer foster children; 52% reduction in reliance on residential and group home placements, resulting in 690 fewer youth in these settings. These results were achieved while maintaining a 1.4% six-month case reopening rate and a 3.88% six-month foster care reentry rate. In addition, the absence of repeat maltreatment rate was increased from 87% to 92%. Also achieved were several important workforce benchmarks as reflected in an 18% reduction in average caseloads from 18.5:1 to 15.2:1, which has contributed to increased staff morale as reflected in our low overall agency turnover rate of 6%.

Career Highlights

McClain began his career with the Texas Department of Human Resources, eventually serving as supervisor of the Child Sexual Abuse Unit. He moved to Massachusetts in 1987, working in the central office of the Massachusetts Department of Mental health as the Child/Adolescent division’s program manager and then director of program management. From 1994, until his appointment as Massachusetts Commissioner, he held leadership positions in two Massachusetts managed behavioral health care organizations, First Mental Health, and ValueOptions. He continues to teach with the Simmons College Social Work Urban Leadership Program as an adjunct associate professor. 

Biographic Data

McClain is a native of Texas and an alumnus of Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, a Texas not-for-profit organization providing professional programs and services to strengthen families and support the overall development of children. He earned a BS in Social Work in 1979 from West Texas A&M University, where he captained the Varsity football team. He received his MSSW in 1981 from the University of Texas at Arlington, and his PhD in Social Work in 2001 from Boston College.

Selected Significant Recognition and Awards

1991 - Commonwealth Citation for Outstanding Performance 
1993 - Justice Resource Institute’s Social Justice Award 
1994 - Recognized for dedicated service to Massachusetts’s children by Governor, William F. Weld, Massachusetts State Senate, Massachusetts House of Representatives, and Eileen Elias, DMH Commissioner.
2002 – Recognized for dedicated service to Massachusetts’s children by Massachusetts State Senate, Massachusetts House of Representatives, Marylou Sudders, DMH Commissioner, and Wendy Warring, DMA Commissioner 
2007 – University of Texas at Arlington as a Distinguished Alumni 
2008 – Boston College GSSW as a Distinguished Alumni 
2010 – Awarded, Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor
2010 – Department of Corrections’ Innovations in Public Safety Award 
2011 - YMCA Domestic Violence Prevention “Great Guys” Award
2012 - National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators Betsy R. Rosenbaum Award for Excellence in Public Child Welfare Administration 
2019 – West Texas A&M University 2019 Distinguished Alumni Recipient

Significant Publications
McClain, A., (2000). Accessing mental health and substance abuse services. In Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (ed.), Representing clients with mental illness. Boston: Boston Bar Association.
McClain, A., (2009). Abolishing Homelessness: You Aren’t Doing Enough. In American Public Human Services Association, Policy & Practice. Washington, D.C. 
McClain, A., (2010). Promoting Social Worker Safety and Wellness. In American Public Human Services Association, Policy & Practice. Washington, D.C. 
McClain, A., (2010). Helping Our Foster Youth in Transition. In American Public Human Services Association, Policy & Practice. Washington, D.C.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.