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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Richard P. Barth

Pioneering Contributions 
Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, is a professor (2006-present) and former emeritus dean of the School of Social Work, University of Maryland (2006-2020). He is the founding president of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), 2009-2016, and the chair of the Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative (2012-present). He has previously served as the Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor at the School of Social Work at the University of North 
Carolina at Chapel Hill (1998-2006) and the Hutto Patterson Professor, School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkeley (1992-1998). Barth has made substantial contributions to social work research, practice, and policy in the area of public child welfare, child safety and protection and has also elevated and advanced the social work profession through extensive national leadership.  

Among colleagues, Barth is known as one of the first researchers to approach child welfare with sophisticated analytic methods, showing how modern scholarship in social work should join scientific discovery with the realities of work with vulnerable populations.  

During Barth’s 14 years as UMD dean, grants and contracts grew from $6 million to $40 million per year, philanthropic giving rose from $46,000 to $4 million per year, and aid for students increased to $3 million. He brought the Institute for Innovation and Implementation to the School, providing training to more than 40,000 participants in child welfare from around the country. While successful as a teacher and dean, his pioneering contributions outside of the school have been focused on improving conditions for children and youth.

Career Highlights 

Barth has directed more than 50 studies and, perhaps most significantly, served as principal investigator of Berkeley’s Child Welfare Research Center from 1990 to 1996 and as co-principal investigator of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, the first national study of child welfare services in the US.  He has served as a lecturer and consultant to universities and governments in many states and countries.  He has been honored to testify before congressional and state government sub-committees. 

Biographic Data 
Born in 1952, in New York, Barth is married to Nancy Dickinson, PhD, LMSW, professor at University of Maryland, School of Social Work. He has two adopted children, Katrina and James Barth, and a granddaughter, Inaya Jane. His AB, MSW, and PhD are from Brown University and UC Berkeley, respectively. He has been an NASW member for more than 40 years. 
Significant Recognition and Awards 

He was the 1986 winner of the Frank Breul Prize for Excellence in Child Welfare Scholarship from the University of Chicago; a Fulbright Scholar in 1990 (Sweden) and 2006 (Australia); the 1998 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Research from NASW; the 2005 winner of the Flynn Prize for Research; the 2007 winner of the Peter Forsythe Award for Child Welfare Leadership from the American Public Human Services Association; and winner of the Distinguished Achievement Award by the Society for Social Work and Research. He is a fellow and founding president of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. He currently sits on numerous national research advisory boards including the Durham Family Initiative, the California Evidence-Based Practice Clearinghouse, and the Prevention and Family Recovery Initiative. 

Significant Publications   

In 1988, Barth published the first in a seminal series of publications that brought new research evidence and policy perspectives to the question of adoption in child welfare. This book was entitled, Adoption and Disruption:  rates, Risks and Resources (Aldine Press, New York).  This was later followed by “Adoption and Prenatal Drug Exposure: The Research, Policy and Practice Challenges (Child Welfare League of America) and Evidence for Child Welfare Policy Reform” (2005).  His journal publications on this topic are too numerous to list here, but their impact is undeniable as providing the foundation for congressional approval of adoption subsidies.   

In addition to authoring and co-authoring 14 books, Barth has written more than 200 book chapters and articles which are frequently cited. Barth’s books (all co-authored or edited except the first) include: Preventing Adolescent Abuse (1992), From Child Abuse to Permanency Planning: Pathways Through Child Welfare Services (1992), Families Living with Drugs and HIV (1993), The Tender Years: Toward DevelopmentallySensitive Child Welfare Services (1998), The Child Welfare Challenge (1992, 2000, 2008), Beyond Common Sense: Child Welfare, Child-Well-Being, and the Evidence for Policy Reform (2006), How Foster Care Works: International Perspectives (2010) and Grand Challenges for Social Work and Society (2018) first edition and (2022) second edition. 

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.