Still transforming lives, communities

Angelo McClain, Ph.D., LICSWThroughout my childhood, my mother continuously told me, “Do something with your life to help other people.” So it was only natural that I pursued a career in social work. It’s a profession that has allowed me to keep my promise to help others, and has also provided endless opportunities to have a positive impact on communities, social systems and social policy.

As a new professional, I didn’t fully comprehend that our disciplined, compassionate profession offered so many opportunities to make a difference. Today in my role as NASW’s chief executive officer, I have a much deeper appreciation of the depth and breadth of social work’s “long reach” and our collective professional power to transform lives and communities.

As we celebrate Professional Social Work Month and NASW’s 60th anniversary, I’m excited about the wonderful possibilities that lie ahead for social work. This year’s theme “Social Work Paves the Way for Change” reflects where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed as a profession.

Throughout the 20th century, we were at the forefront of significant advances in American society, including civil rights, social security, hospice care, the war on poverty, reducing infant mortality, and protection of children and families. Today, we are at the vanguard of innovations such as palliative care, employee assistance programs, health care reform, economic and social justice, improved elder care, strengthened veterans’ services, and improved mental health. As the 21st century proceeds, social work will be there to offer solutions to America’s grand social challenges, to help fortify the social fabric of American society and to strengthen our nation’s social safety net.

As NASW begins its next 60 years, relentless pursuit of its mission to protect and promote social workers and advance the profession is at the forefront of our strategic planning and program plans; these mission-driven priorities galvanize and focus all of our activities across the association. NASW’s leaders from every corner of the association understand that in order to fulfill our commitment to the profession, the association must continuously seek to improve and maximize our effectiveness.

Over the last year, NASW leaders across the association have been engaged in a robust discussion centered on strengthening the association, optimizing NASW’s collective impact, and creating more effective ways to serve social workers and our entire profession.

The anticipated results of these discussions is a strategic direction that ensures the association’s long-term viability, strengthens our administrative operations, and creates even more value for our members —a strategic course that “doubles down” on our Members First commitment.

As a result of our strategic planning, program plans and Members First commitment, we have a number of new things going on at NASW. For instance, we have new initiatives to support the career trajectory of social workers — from students and policy and research fellows to practitioners, supervisors and leaders. We have renewed and strengthened our public policy agenda across the association, focusing on reimbursement and respect for social workers coupled with a social justice agenda focused on issues such as achieving racial equity.

At the federal level, major initiatives for the 114th Congress focus on expanding Medicare coverage for clinical social workers, involvement in child welfare and aging workforce advocacy, ensuring robust social work involvement in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the reintroduction of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Social Work Reinvestment Act.

Other new projects already online (or coming soon) include enhanced professional development and JobLink offerings; upgrades to our technology, including a “My NASW” website portal; and expanding our mobile communications capacity. Stay tuned for the launch of NASW TV.

Consistent with our Members First commitment, leaders across the association are more fully embracing our members’ desire for NASW to be a true asset for the entire social work community. As a result, we are deepening our collaborative efforts with other social work associations in order to serve a more pivotal role that brings all facets of social work together regardless of concentration, field or method of practice, creating greater collective impact for the entire profession.

Sixty years and counting, NASW is extremely grateful to the tens of thousands of members who have worked to better our profession by giving of themselves and their time, energy, expertise and resources. Your commitment to advancing social work for the benefit of all social workers, our clients and communities is greatly appreciated.

As we celebrate Professional Social Work Month and NASW’s 60th Anniversary, acknowledging how social work paves the way for change, I can’t help but smile — right along with you — when I think of the enduring power of social work to transform lives and communities.

Happy Social Work Month.

To learn more about NASW’s discussions to strengthen the association: Members First

Contact Angelo McClain at