NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Corinne H. Wolfe (1912- 1997)
Corinne H. Wolfe has made significant contributions to the field of social work in five significant areas: (1) administrative simplification of policy for more effective performance at the local level; (2) national policy for in-service training programs, which began with training the trainer who, in turn, was responsible for teaching the caseworker; (3) policy for promoting opportunities in professional education; (4) establishment of standards for undergraduate social work; and (5) a role model for social work retirees in influencing state and local social legislation.
Wolfe received her master of social work degree in 1944 from Tulane University. During World War II, before completing her professional training, she was already working in public welfare in staff development and the administration of special programs. In 1945, she joined the Federal Security Agency, (which later became the Department of Health, Education and Welfare) Regional Office staff in San Francisco as public assistance analyst. She assessed policy effectiveness and how well it was being carried out at the state and local levels. With this background, she was moved to the Washington Central Office into the Division of Program Operation. She and a colleague with a similar background reviewed various programs and set policy to facilitate communication between the central office, the regional office, and the state, which would include providing feedback from all levels.
In 1950, she became chief of the Training Division, Bureau of Family Services (FSA). She was responsible for the policy and in-service training of public assistance workers throughout the United States and its territories. During this period, which extended into the late 1960's, a grant from private funds helped set up a unique and successful training program for staff at the state level who were designated to be trainers of caseworkers. This program for public welfare agencies with the first to provide federal funds for training purposes.
In 1972, Wolfe left the federal government and joined the faculty of Highlands University in New Mexico. In 1975, she left the faculty but remained a part-time consultant until her retirement in 1983. The "retirement" was an almost full-time job of volunteer service as co-chair of the New Mexico Human Services Coalition, a lobbying group to social legislation in the state.
Upon retirement she moved to Santa Fe, where she was instrumental in starting social work schools at NMSU and Highlands U. She became a full-time advocate on issues of poverty, health care, the aged, child protection, mental health, and the disabled. She helped start the Children’s Trust Fund for new child protection programs. She helped expand Medicaid coverage.
In the 1980's there were few legislative lobbyists for social programs. Corinne Wolfe was a driving force in starting what is now the Human Needs Coordinating Council, the preeminent advocacy group for social programs. It trained a generation of lobbyists and by unifying them, assured that legislators could not play them off against each other.
In the 1980's Corinne Wolfe was the primary plaintiff in a federal lawsuit charging that the state was failing to provide permanent families for abused and neglected children and that foster care had become a way of life for them. The lawsuit was successful and brought changes in the state child welfare system.
Corinne Wolfe was well-known for her tireless lobbying. She could outsit any legislative committee into the early morning hours. She had total credibility. When she cited facts and figures legislators knew they were correct. One legislator said she would have made a great legislator, but was probably more effective as a lobbyist.When she died in 1997, the legislature named the third floor east lobby of the Roundhouse the Corinne Wolfe lobby. It is the only place in the state capitol dedicated to an individual.