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From the Director

A Time to Invest in Our Future

Social Work Month seems like the opportune time to talk about our profession. In 1984, with the help of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), March was federally declared Social Work Month. This year, on March 27, World Social Work Day, with the theme "Social Work: Making a World of Difference," will be celebrated for the first time.

What exactly is it about our profession that we should be celebrating this year?

If you have been following the NASW News, you are already aware of the initiative tentatively titled the "Social Work Reinvestment Initiative." The goal is to get government, employers and others to fully recognize the importance of social work and to persuade them to assist us in recruiting, retaining and retraining professional social workers.

As the initiative began, one of the questions we kept hearing was, "Why is it being called a reinvestment initiative?" That is usually followed by, "When was there an initial investment in social work?"

To more fully answer these questions, we turned to the NASW Social Work Pioneersw. It took only a short conversation with the Pioneer Steering Committee to realize that they could readily supply the answers and describe the role they played in bringing social work to the forefront.

This resulted in two Pioneer Listening Conferences. We asked the Steering Committee to identify 12 major areas of social work practice and individuals who could speak to how social work was developed from post-World War II to the present.

The first of the listening conferences was devoted to mental health, military social work, corrections/criminal justice, maternal child health/public health, the Department of Veterans Affairs and public welfare [February News].

The second [to be reported in the April News] covered child welfare, aging, community development/community organizing, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), health/Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and school social work.

The presenting pioneers came well prepared with dates and documents, and they related their personal experiences about how they worked to ensure that social work developed and thrived in the 1950s, '60s and '70s and beyond.

It was an amazing documentary and tribute to the profession. I am pleased to report that the days were videotaped, and that Dr. Paul Stuart is completing a historical documentation of the topics. Both will be wonderful teaching tools.

As I sat through the two days, an underlying theme came to my mind again and again. That theme was that pioneer social workers from divergent practice areas, employment settings and theoretical perspectives unified with the single goal of securing an investment in the profession.

These pioneers were terrific community organizers and strategists. They used their talent and the social work skill set to advance their cause. They recognized how important it was to have social workers strategically placed in agencies at both the state and national levels and in government. They knew that one social work group alone couldn't be successful, and social work educators, researchers and policy makers worked hand-in-hand with clinicians and practitioners. They were a unified force to be reckoned with.

Since the listening conferences, I have had lingering questions. Most importantly, can we do today what the pioneers did back then? Can the various social work groups again come together with a unified agenda; can they put aside their differences and competition and speak as one profession? Are we as smart as the pioneers were? Do we have their foresight, commitment and organizing skills? Does the profession mean as much to us as it did to them? Are we willing to work together to be certain that the profession survives? In 20 or 30 or 50 years, will young social workers ask us how, in the beginning of the 21st century, we managed to make others realize that social work was an essential and crucial profession, a profession worthy of investment? Will we be able to describe how, in 2007, we began an initiative that guaranteed the future of the profession for the next 50 years? I certainly hope so.

As we begin Social Work Month, we invite each of you to join with NASW and other social work groups at the local, state and national levels in strategically planning and implementing a reinvestment in social work. By doing so, we can guarantee that future generations will still be celebrating Social Work Month in our country and around the world.

Happy Social Work Month 2007.

To comment to Elizabeth J. Clark:

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