Looking Back on NASW’s Successes

James J. Kelly, Ph.D., ACSW, LCSWFrom the President

As my second year as NASW president comes to an end, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to help lead this organization.

I have been fortunate to meet many extraordinary social workers, connect with colleagues from my past and work to expand my knowledge base of the social work profession through the wonderful work that you, our members, are doing.

My presidency has thus far been exciting, rewarding and active, to say the least. At the beginning of my term in 2008, one of my duties was to launch the first-ever virtual Delegate Assembly. We achieved a milestone in utilizing technology to connect social workers from across the country in order to adopt policies that benefit all NASW members and our profession. Please visit Delegate Assembly for information.

We also held the 2010 Social Work Congress and the virtual Student Congress. As I noted in a previous column, these events were a great success. We brought together diverse groups of social work leaders and students to determine the future path of the profession. We created 10 social work action imperatives for the coming decade, and I look forward to working with you to implement them. I hope you will visit 2010 Social Work World Congress for more information.

During my time with NASW, we have also witnessed the election of the first African-American president of the United States, whom NASW endorsed. We continue our support of and work with the Obama administration. In fact, NASW established a Department of External Relations to manage our connections with the executive branch and outside organizations.

All social workers can be proud of achieving health care reform. NASW has been a strong advocate for universal care for all for many years, and we have worked hard to ensure that the reform legislation passed this year was as comprehensive and equitable as possible.

Although NASW has enjoyed more political access, the economic environment has made it increasingly difficult for social workers to serve their clients with competence and care. In response to ever-increasing demands for social work services, NASW continues to lobby for the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, or SWRA. We were devastated to learn of Dr. Height’s death this past April, but are committed to passing this legislation in her honor. Please visit Social Work Reinvestment Initiative for more information.

I’ve enjoyed working with members of Congress on this bill and other issues important to our profession. I was delighted that Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., not only introduced the SWRA, but also introduced a resolution into the Congressional Record this year highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Academy of Certified Social Workers credential. As a proud ACSW holder myself, I was pleased that this important credential was recognized by the congressman, who is also a social worker.

When assuming my presidency, I felt that it was important to address the unique challenges facing our members of the military, veterans and their loved ones. NASW has endorsed the Give An Hour program working to recruit social workers to volunteer their clinical services, free of charge, to servicemen and servicewomen and their loved ones. We have also advocated for various pieces of legislation and continue to work with members of Congress to address the needs of this population. NASW staff have published articles and presented at conferences bringing attention to these issues. Social work has a responsibility to work with our servicemen and servicewomen, and I’m proud that we’ve taken a leadership role in this area.

This journey has also allowed me to have extraordinary experiences with social workers around the globe. I first visited Brazil in 2008, where I joined an international community of social workers at the International Federation of Social Workers conference. In addition, I was invited to the Korean Association of Social Workers annual meeting and gave many presentations on NASW activities. We currently are hosting a staff member from that association in our national office. I’ve been to Tanzania, where we have been working to establish a social work association in the country. I’ve also traveled to Hong Kong to attend the 2010 Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development.

These experiences expanded my international perspective on our profession and remind me of how important the role of social work is in making life better for those most in need.

I owe my positive experiences at NASW to you, our members, and appreciate the ongoing feedback and guidance you have offered me. I look forward to a productive final year, and I anticipate that we will continue to accomplish great things together.