Celebrating 50 Years of ACSW

James J. Kelly, Ph.D., ACSW, LCSWThis year, the National Association of Social Workers is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), which is our signature credential. NASW has long supported national recognition for sound professional standards and this credential has been the cornerstone of NASW's efforts to ensure high-quality social services for the public. There are currently more than 35,000 social workers certified as members of the Academy nationwide.

Established in 1960, on the verge of historical social reforms, the ACSW was the first credential created to formally recognize leaders in the social work profession. Before state licensing requirements were enacted, the Academy also served as the source to qualify social workers for independent practice.

Today's ACSW holders have met the highest practice standards, completed advanced knowledge requirements, and attained extensive professional experience in social work practice. The ACSW is internationally recognized and remains a highly respected social work credential. It is a symbol that social workers have met national standards for higher levels of experience and knowledge. Members of the Academy span every area of social work practice, including direct service, clinical practice, policy, research and education.

Some of our greatest social work leaders have held the ACSW, including civil rights leaders Whitney M. Young Jr. and Dr. Dorothy I. Height, for whom we named the Social Work Reinvestment Act. Additional ACSW holders include the late Ruth Knee, one of the first Public Health Service psychiatric social workers; Ada Deer, the first woman to be appointed assistant secretary of Indian Affairs; Josephine Weil Gandelman, who is known to many as "the Pioneer" in child welfare services; and Dr. Janice Wood Wetzel, who is recognized as one of the first advocates for women and human rights.

This credential has a rich history and many of these leaders' legacies still guide our work today in tackling some of society's most troubling challenges.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the ACSW, this January we were honored that social work members of Congress submitted a statement for the Congressional Record honoring the milestone. They recognized past and present ACSW holders who have made important strides in the profession of social work while contributing to healthy individuals, families and communities across our country. Social workers have a unique problem-solving ability, commitment to social change and desire for equality that make them innate leaders. The ACSW signifies not only competence, but pride in the profession of social work.

In celebration of the ACSW anniversary, we have launched an online campaign profiling credential holders who have had significant professional achievements. We've highlighted not only historic and experienced ACSW holders, but our young, emerging social work leaders who have already obtained the credential. These leaders will be critical to the future path of our profession and we are excited to see what accomplishments they have in store.

I am a proud member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and I would like to thank all of our past and current ACSW holders for their role in 50 years of success. We hope these stories of social work leadership inspire you.