Advocacy, activities honor profession in March

John Yanson poster

John Yanson, an artist in Washington, D.C., created the poster (right) for Social Work Month 2015 and NASW’s 60th anniversary. The theme is Social Work Paves the Way for Change.

NASW celebrated Social Work Month 2015 in March with the theme “Social Work Paves the Way for Change.” Along with promoting what social workers have done to make positive changes in society, this year’s campaign also served as the kickoff to NASW’s 60th anniversary celebration.

The social work profession and NASW have helped bring about major positive changes in American society over the past six decades, said NASW CEO Angelo McClain.

“Simply put, social workers have helped transform our society, playing major roles in many societal advances that we now take for granted,” he said.

Social work was recognized nationally and abroad this year, with activities taking place during Social Work Month at the NASW national office and NASW chapters, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

An interactive 60th anniversary timeline, member testimonial videos, the start of NASW’s grassroots video campaign and an updated history poster series chronicling key milestones since 1955 are all tools used to educate the public about NASW’s anniversary, said NASW Public Relations Manager Greg Wright.

The NASW timeline gives members a way to get a better idea of the major accomplishments the association has made over the last 60 years, Wright said, including providing Medicare access to older Americans; ensuring equal rights for women, African-Americans, and the LGBT community; and developing the NASW Code of Ethics.

“The timeline can also be used as a promotional vehicle, to tell lawmakers and officials at government and private agencies what NASW has accomplished and to give them a sense of social work’s beneficial impact,” he said. “It’s a quick and easy way to learn about NASW’s history and to have a multimedia experience.”

Wright added that throughout 2015, NASW will accept video submissions from members through the NASW video campaign about why they are a social worker and a member of NASW. Each video can be as short as a few seconds, or up to a minute in length, and members can get creative as to how they want to deliver their own personal and unique social work message.

“We started the video campaign during Social Work Month with a series of five testimonial videos from members at all stages of membership,” Wright said. “We encourage members to send in their own videos for us to post during 2015.”

The timeline, videos, posters and more can be found at NASW Social Work Month.

On Capitol Hill and Beyond

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., reintroduced the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act during Social Work on the Hill Day. The act seeks to secure federal and state investments in professional social work to enhance societal well-being.

Lee, who is chairwoman of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, together with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also introduced a congressional resolution during Social Work Month to highlight the positive impact of social workers on their communities.

According to a statement released by Lee’s office, the resolution, if enacted, would not only observe National Social Work Month and World Social Work Day, but also formally acknowledge the diligent efforts of social workers and promote the profession.

“This resolution brings long-overdue recognition to this important profession that is having a positive impact, both at home and abroad,” Lee said in the statement.

Stabenow says in the statement that social workers play critical roles in communities, whether in schools, hospitals, mental health agencies or community service organizations.

“These trained professionals provide critical support to families and improve the quality of life for all of us,” said Stabenow, who, along with Mikulski and Lee, is a social worker.

In Philadelphia, Social Work Month was extended into April after Mayor Michael Nutter attended an NASW-Pennsylvania Philadelphia/Southeast Division celebration of Social Work Month at City Hall on March 31. Nutter gave a 30-minute speech praising the profession. Since the celebration could not be scheduled until the last day of the official Social Work Month, Nutter issued a proclamation making April Social Work Month in Philadelphia as well.

On an international note, the 32nd annual Social Work Day at the United Nations in New York was recognized during Social Work Month with the theme “Advocating for the Dignity and Worth of All People.” McClain, NASW Foundation Director Bob Arnold and Assistant Director of the NASW Foundation and International Programs Susan Rubin attended Social Work Day to represent NASW.

UN conference attendeesIn photo (right), attendees from left, Norma Gray "Cindy" Jones, NASW Social Work Pioneer©; Robert Carter Arnold, Director of the NASW Foundation and International Council on Social Welfare-U.S. board member; Joyce Higashi; NASW Social Work Pioneer© and International Council on Social Welfare-U.S. board member; Stephanie Asari Nti; NASW International Committee member; and Susan Rubin, assistant director of the NASW Foundation and International Programs attend World Social Work Day at the United Nations in March.

Rubin said students, social work practitioners and educators have met at the United Nations for the last 32 years to learn more about the U.N., issues and projects related to international social work, and the essential role of social work.

“The stories shared (at Social Work Day) described the everyday work of social workers as they advocate for people and ensure that all people really do matter,” Rubin said. “The impact of this work is truly inspiring.”

NASW chapters

NASW’s chapters also celebrated during Social Work Month, and most participated in their own annual activities to promote social work and social workers throughout their respective states.

NASW-Arizona said they were excited to host and celebrate events in honor of Social Work Month. These included recognizing the chapter’s Social Worker of the Year; Lifetime Achievement; Citizen of the Year; Public Official; and Emerging Leader award recipients in each of the chapter’s regions.

NASW members in Yuma, Ariz., and in the Maricopa Integrated Health Services and the Veterans Administration also hosted Independent Social Work Month activities. Learn more about award winners at the NASW-Arizona Chapter website.

Jeremy Arp, the chapter’s executive director, said this year’s Social Work Month built upon the momentum that chapter members and leaders made during prior month activities, including three Social Work Days at legislature events in February, monthly networking meetings in all parts of Arizona, and continuing education workshops.

“Celebrating social work month allowed Arizona’s social workers the opportunity to engage in fellowship with other professional social workers and reflect on the accomplishments of the profession and to recognize these accomplishments with allied community members,” Arp said. “Organizing and executing these events allowed our volunteer leadership to shine this year.”

California is a large state, and it’s always exciting to see how the different regions celebrate National Social Work Month, said Jolene Hui, the California Chapter’s membership coordinator.

That being said, a common thread for a lot of regions and units is presenting Social Worker of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and Public Citizen of the Year awards.

The north Los Angeles area had a dinner, CE event, awards ceremony, and comedy show. The west Los Angeles/South Bay region joined with the central/eastern Los Angeles region to have a luncheon and networking event at a park and community center in Beverly Hills. The event was followed by the inaugural meeting of the NASW-California Disabilities Council, Hui said.

In the northern part of the state, a speed-networking event was hosted in the NASW California Chapter’s San Francisco region, as well as a San Francisco State University social work student event that included a panel of professional social workers.

“Social work can often be a difficult field, full of many, many challenges, so it is incredibly uplifting to see everyone congratulating and offering support to one another,” Hui said. “For me, as a social worker, it makes me feel not only proud to be a social worker, but proud of our California Chapter members.”

NASW-Connecticut held two significant events during Social Work Month, said NASW-Connecticut Executive Director Steve Karp. The chapter’s Latino/a Social Workers Network held an annual event and dinner that recognized Latino and Latina social workers in the fields of policy, community organization and politics.

“Social Work Month is the time that we celebrate our profession,” Karp said. “The Latino/a recognition dinner is always held during Social Work Month as it is a celebratory event that highlights the professional work of our state’s Latino and Latina social workers and brings the Latino/a social work community together as a part of Social Work Month.”

The chapter also held a co-sponsored event with the University of Connecticut School of Social Work that celebrated the trends and opportunities in the field. Heidi McIntosh, deputy director of programs at NASW, served as the keynote speaker.

NASW-Florida hosted 18 events, and gave out more than 65 Social Work Month awards to members, educators and community volunteers across the sunshine state, according to NASW-Florida Executive Director Jim Akin.

“Social Work Month in Florida is a time of celebration, recognition and promotion of our profession,” Akin said. “It is a time when social workers come together in many venues across the state and proudly proclaim ‘We are proud of who we are and what we do.’”

The chapter hosted its annual Legislative Education Advocacy Day during Social Work Month, he said. About 900 students, faculty and professionals visited their legislators in Tallahassee, and the advocacy focus was on child welfare, behavioral health and services for veterans and their families.

Advocacy was also a part of the New Jersey Chapter’s Social Work Month activities, along with film and free CEUs. NASW-New Jersey co-hosted a screening of the film “Broken on All Sides” — a documentary about the history and causes of mass incarceration in the U.S. — with the Rutgers School of Social Work.

The chapter also welcomed leaders from other social work groups to the New Jersey Social Work Summit, hosted the annual NASW-New Jersey Legislative Education and Advocacy Day in Trenton, N.J., and invited its members to choose one free CEU program.

In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory declared March as Social Work Month, which was the springboard for the North Carolina chapter’s activities.

“Social workers provide the backbone of all human service delivery in the state of North Carolina,” said Chapter Executive Director Kathy Boyd. “It has been gratifying to see our governor and our state recognize the contributions that social workers make.”

The chapter’s Social Work Advocacy Day on March 25 fell during Social Work Month, and more than 500 social workers and social work students from 23 social work programs across the state participated to increase their knowledge about policy issues in substantive areas of social work practice and legislative advocacy.

The chapter’s staff also traveled across the state to a total of 15 local program units and 10 universities to join fellow social workers in celebrating the theme “Social Work Paves the Way for Change.”

Social Work Month was a busy time for NASW-Tennessee as well. Karen Franklin, the chapter’s executive director, said the chapter’s southeast branch coordinated Social Work Day at Chattanooga’s city hall.

The chapter’s award recipients from each region were recognized at an annual Social Work Month banquet. A reception included reflections by NASW board member Paula Foster on the Social Work Month theme.

Franklin said the chapter’s Social Work Day on the Hill took place March 25, where more than 520 students, faculty and professionals participated. She said attendees met with their legislators and presented on key public policy issues of concern to the social work profession and the clients social workers assist.

“Our work with others resulted in our governor including in his budget amendment the restoration of $30 million for Level 2 Case Management for persons with mental illness,” Franklin said. “Social Work Month in Tennessee provided an opportunity for social work professionals, faculty and students to reflect on their efforts to pave the way for change and to take action to implement change.”

  • Visit NASW chapter websites for Social Work Month activities in specific states.
  • For more information on NASW’s Social Work Month activities including the interactive timeline, testimonial videos, and video campaign, visit NASW Social Work Month.
  • For more information on Social Work Reinvestment Act, visit: Advocacy.

Ron Dellums

Social workers lobby for legislation during Social Work Hill Day

Ron Dellums (photo right), a former Democratic congressman from California and social worker, speaks during a reception for Social Work Day on the Hill, held March 17 in Washington, D.C. Dellums said social workers, more than any other profession, are best trained to work with lawmakers to tackle pressing societal ills such as poverty and ensuring equal rights for all. NASW and the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy sponsored the event, where Dellums was the guest of honor.

By Greg Wright, News contributor

More than two dozen social work organizations and schools gathered March 17 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to lobby for legislation important to social workers and their clients, including the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.

The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and NASW sponsored Social Work Day on the Hill, which featured speakers including former congressmen and social workers Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y, and Ron Dellums, D-Calif.

“This will be a day held each year when social workers from all walks of life can gather on the Hill to celebrate the many accomplishments we have made in Congress and salute the many social workers working with the federal government to create a more just and equitable society for all people,” said Towns, who founded the Congressional Social Work Caucus in 2010. “March is Social Work Month, so this is the perfect time to do this.”

More than 100 social workers attended a reception in the Rayburn House Office Building that was highlighted by a speech from Dellums, who served in Congress for 27 years and was mayor of Oakland, Calif., from 2007 to 2011.

Dellums said social workers, more than any other profession, are best trained to work with lawmakers to tackle pressing societal ills such as poverty and ensuring equal rights for all.

“There is a sense of urgency today that did not exist 50 years ago when I first arrived on the Hill.When Congressman Towns and I first came to Congress it seemed like we had plenty of time to address the challenges we faced,” Dellums said. “The world is moving at a faster clip today and too many people are being left behind.Social work must find the big idea that will define the profession over the next decade, which is why it is so important that we all come together.”

During March, Sen. Barbara Mikulksi, D-Md., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Social Work Caucus — both of whom are social workers — reintroduced the Social Work Reinvestment Act.

The bill would create a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to provide independent counsel to Congress and the secretary of Health and Human Services on policy issues related to recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment in the social work profession.