National Professional Social Work Month in 2010 will highlight the many ways social workers answer the call to improve their communities.
Celebrated each March, the theme for next year is: "Social Workers Inspire Community Action."
NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark said advocacy is the cornerstone of the profession and a re-quisite part of the Code of Ethics. "Without advocacy, there would be no social work profession," she said.
Social workers choose to work in health and mental health care settings despite what others may see as only setbacks. "Social workers have the capacity to prevent hopelessness, to restore hope and to change society for the better," Clark said. "We have the potential — the social work potential — to make a great difference."
There is a long history that exemplifies how social workers have used their skills to advocate for others and improve their communities, Clark pointed out. They include:
- Jane Addams, who founded the settlement house movement in the United States. She worked with the poor and oppressed immigrant communities in Chicago and later became a passionate advocate for the peace movement during World War I.
- Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. She led the effort to establish a federal relief program that distributed federal funds to states as well as federal labor standards.
- Whitney M. Young Jr. As head of the National Urban League, he helped shape President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty legislation.
- Alfred J. Kahn. He was an expert on social policy, particularly as it relates to child welfare. He served as chairman of the Committee on Child Development Research and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences in the early 1980s.
- Dr. Dorothy I. Height, president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women. She helped open the YWCA to girls of all backgrounds, and continues to work on behalf of families and children in need.
Social workers carry on this legacy today by founding and leading community-focused organizations throughout the country, including such places as the Center for Community Building and Civic Engagement in Michigan; the Turn 2 Foundation, an organization that motivates young people to turn away from drugs and turn to a healthy lifestyle; the Transition Institute of Marin, which helps give power to women facing difficult situations; and True Colors Inc., which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
"This is just a snapshot of the many social workers nationwide who are improving communities through their work every day," said Amber Johnson, public relations associate at NASW.
Clark said only social workers can make sure the great traditions of the profession — social justice, advocacy and hope — will be just as vibrant and valued decades from now.
A major part of Professional Social Work Month is educating the public about the many ways social workers help their communities and advocate for others, Johnson said. As in the past, the association will assist chapters and schools of social work in spreading the word about the profession on a local level by providing them with a media and community outreach toolkit.