— Lyn Stoesen, News Staff
National Professional Social Work Month, which takes place every March, focused on a central tenet of social work — building on strengths. Across the country, NASW chapters, schools of social work and individuals marked the occasion and celebrated the profession with special events, press coverage and recognition of social workers.
"Social Work Month is always a good opportunity to bring attention to the incredible work that social workers do all year long," said NASW Public Relations Manager Allison Nadelhaft. "Many organizations also take this time to celebrate the accomplishments of the entire profession.
"This year's theme, 'Building on Strengths: Help Starts Here,' really captures the core principles of the profession," Nadelhaft said. "Social workers are educated with a strengths perspective, which emphasizes working with client and community resources, capabilities, support systems and motivations."
This year's Social Work Month accomplishments included many advertising placements, such as a billboard in the Richmond Braves baseball stadium in Virginia, bumper stickers and newspaper ads in Maine and many other billboard placements. Many NASW chapters held special events and celebrations to honor the profession and present chapter awards. In a number of states, including Virginia, Michigan and Louisiana, governors issued Social Work Month proclamations.
The goals of Social Work Month 2008 were to expand the public perception of the breadth and depth of social work; to reach out to local and national media to promote the importance of social work services and social work professionals; to promote a theme that resonates with and builds pride in social workers; and to increase understanding of social workers' roles in working with families and communities.
NASW developed an online toolkit to help chapters and others promote the observance and gain media coverage. The toolkit included information about social work and NASW's initiatives, press releases and sample op-eds and letters to the editor, media outreach tips and other materials. Additionally, NASW's Web site is offering a social work photo puzzle to celebrate the "Building on Strengths" theme.
"Media outreach is always an important part of Social Work Month activities," explained NASW Communications Associate Amber Moore. "This year we know that many newspapers and other publications ran articles, letters and columns by social workers and about social work."
For example, the Daily Herald in Illinois ran a letter from Greg Weider, the executive director of the Fox Valley Volunteer Hospice in Geneva.
"Everyone can use help overcoming challenges, and that's why many turn to a social worker," Weider wrote. "At Fox Valley Volunteer Hospice, our social workers assist families in dealing with life-threatening illnesses and death, coping with grief and providing connections between the areas from which people draw their strength — home, health, family, friends and community.
"This year's Social Work Month theme — 'Building on Strengths: Help Starts Here' — highlights the unique education and training of our valued staff," Weider wrote.
"Social Work Month is always one of our best opportunities for social workers to take a step back from their challenging work to celebrate their accomplishments and to help others see the many areas in which social workers impact their lives," Nadelhaft said. "This year was no exception."