Social workers shine light on profession

women in hall chatting(Photo right) Social work students from the University of Greensboro/North Carolina State A&T University Joint MSW program wait to talk with state Rep. Alma Adams, D-58th District. The students participated in the NASW North Carolina Chapter’s biennial Social Work Lobby Day at the North Carolina General Assembly in March, as part of Social Work Month. From left, Liz Leon, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Lesley Niemczyk, UNC Greensboro/North Carolina A&T State University; Summar Corley, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Jessica Wyngaarden, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Carson McRae, UNC Greensboro/North Carolina A&T State University.

Kathy Shelton-Riek, associate professor of social work at Livingstone College in North Carolina, takes great pride in being a social worker. For her, National Professional Social Work Month, celebrated every March, means something special.

“I think it is critical that we keep the dream of Jane Addams alive,” Shelton-Riek said of the social work pioneer. “The sacrifices (of our) professional foremothers and forefathers need to be remembered, honored and celebrated.”

During March, Shelton-Riek arranged for 80 Livingstone College students — social work and non-social work students — to attend the NASW North Carolina Chapter Lobby Day. It was an impressive feat considering Livingstone prides itself on being a small, rural college.

“Livingstone had more attendees at our Lobby Day than any of the other 34 social work programs in North Carolina,” noted Valerie Arendt, director of Membership, Marketing and Communication at the NASW North Carolina Chapter. “Kathy also was able to have the mayor of Salisbury, N.C., Paul B. Woodson Jr., proclaim March 2013 to be Social Work Month in North Carolina,” Arendt added.

Social Work Month means taking action, Shelton-Riek said.

“We have been a profession for more than 100 years,” she said. “It is critical to share our story with others and to keep the dream alive — to inspire, create new dreams and hopes in the new generation of advocates; to weave stronger fibers into the tapestry of social work — to keep it growing into an even stronger profession.”

“The celebration of Social Work Month gives professional social workers and students an opportunity to showcase the profession and to educate others about what we do,” Shelton-Riek said. “Many view the role of social workers as limited to only one practice,” but Social Work Month offers the chance to highlight the many diverse practices in which social workers are qualified to work.

Social workers across the U.S. echoed the efforts and sentiments of Shelton-Riek.

For examples of how social workers chose to celebrate and advocate for the profession during Social Work Month, visit

Now that March has come and gone, NASW Communications Director Gail Woods Waller said members are encouraged to continue to inform NASW about the ways they help educate the public about the value of the profession.

“We want to keep the conversation going throughout the year from the local and national perspective,” Waller said. “The 100 promotional ideas work just as well in June and October as they do in March.”

NASW developed Social Work Month materials and resources at Traffic to the site garnered more than 200,000 visits this year, a noticeable increase from 140,000 visits recorded in 2012, Waller said.

NASW developed a “100 Ideas ” list this year to help social workers educate their neighbors and community about the profession.

The following highlights show how social workers and others used the suggestions, which are grouped into 10 categories.


U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., reintroduced the Social Work Reinvestment Act in the 113th Congress. She is the new chairwoman of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

Social worker Jared Bernstein, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, spoke about supporting low-income families and the value of social workers with HBO’s Bill Maher and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Many NASW chapters hosted their annual conferences during March and hundreds of government proclamations exalting social workers were signed.


Four social workers with popular reality TV shows on Animal Planet, TVOne, VH1 and the Sundance Channel sent special Social Work Month 2013 messages.

The HBO documentary “American Winter” focused national attention on poor and struggling families served by 211 assistance centers. NASW is a national outreach partner.

More than 1,700 people voted in the 2nd annual NASW Media Awards.


'Social Work at the United Nations' posterNASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark presented a special poster (photo right) produced by NASW to U.N. officials to mark Social Work Day at the U.N. in New York City on March 25.

On March 25, hundreds of social workers attended the 30th anniversary celebration of Social Work Day at the United Nations in New York City. NASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark presented a special poster produced by NASW to U.N. officials to mark the occasion.

Clark and NASW President Jeane Anastas expressed the importance of social work at various speaking engagements during March. Clark joined the Social Work Month celebration at New York University’s Langone Medical Center on March 5. She and NASW national board of directors member Eleni Carr spoke at Simmons College in Boston on March 23.

Anastas hosted a March 20 NASW presidential forum on the femization of poverty (see related story on page 1) and spoke at the Fordham-Tremont Community Mental Health Center in New York City on March 12.


More than 1,500 Social Work Month stories were published, posted or broadcast in the U.S. and around the globe.

National Public Radio ran NASW sponsorship ads during the month, reaching 20 million listeners during the popular shows “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” and “The Diane Rehm Show.”

Social work experts were quoted on CBS and and in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Examiner, U.S. News & World Report and more.


The Indian Health Service chief medical officer sent a message to all employees thanking IHS social workers for their dedication and contributions.

National kidney, pediatric oncology and hospice groups issued Social Work Month recognition statements to the public.

Thousands of schools, colleges, hospitals, insurance groups, state human services departments and nonprofit agenices held appreciation events for social workers.


In March, social worker Virginia Vaitones was named president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers, a network of multi-disciplinary professionals in 900 hospitals and 1,200 private practices.

The NASW Florida Chapter produced a new recruitment video using its board and other Florida Chapter members to promote the value of NASW membership.

Wayne State University School of Social Work hosted its second annual Cyber Summit. Attendees donated used cell phones for local crisis centers and learned about the WSUSSW Cyber Mentoring program.


The New Social Worker published a special online series for Social Work Month. Social workers explained what first drew them to the profession and what keeps them motivated.

Oprah Winfrey interviewed social work researcher Dr. Brene Brown in a two-part series in March about her newest book, “Daring Greatly.”

The March/April 2013 issue of the Social Work Today featured a cover story about the profession’s commitment and contributions to serving veterans and military families.


University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Professor Shaun Eack secured a $3.1 million National Institute of Mental Health grant to study cognitive enhancement therapy. Eack is the grant’s principal investigator.

U.S. News and World Report interviewed University of Toronto’s social work chairwoman, Esme Fuller-Thomson, about her research on higher rates of smoking among children of divorce.

New York University Silver School of Social Work professors Vincent Guilamo-Ramos and Katherine McCarthy published a March 27 op-ed in Newsday about HIV/AIDS care for Latinos.


Blogger Deona Hooper, MSW, urged her 19,000 followers on to choose one of NASW’s 100 ideas to increase public awareness of the profession.

NASW’s Facebook page increased by more than 2,200 since Feb. 1 to end Social Work Month with 48,000 fans. The site has followers from around the world.

The Network of Professional Social Workers asked its 3,700 members how they “weave the threads of resilience and advocacy” in their social work roles.


University of Pennsylvania MSW student Kayla Cheatham won the National Public Policy Challenge sponsored by Deloitte and the Knight Foundation. Her team created a text message-based appointment reminder service for psychiatric patients.

Cleveland State Community College in Tennessee hosted a Social Work Month reception with local universities to help CSCC students transfer to full-time BSW and MSW degree programs.

In March, retired Gen. David Petraeus honored student veterans at University of Southern California’s School of Social Work Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families.

See a video of Social Work Month activities.

NASW Chapters Celebrate, Advocate

The North Carolina Chapter kicked off 2013 Social Work Month with the Annual Ethics Conference and Awards Luncheon on March 1.

Deborah Grey, LCSW, was named the 2013 NASW-N.C. Social Worker of the Year. Monica Haynes, Fayetteville State University MSW student, won the NASW-N.C.

Presidents’ Award, and Jenny Gadd received the Myrna Miller Wellons Advocacy Award.

The chapter held its biennial Social Work Lobby Day at the North Carolina General Assembly on March 20. More than 400 North Carolina social work professionals, social work faculty members and students came to Raleigh to advocate for the profession.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory officially recognized March 2013 as Social Work Month in the state by signing a Social Work Month Proclamation. The NASW-N.C. Legislative Committee secured signed proclamations from the mayors of Salisbury and Winston Salem.

Eleven NASW-N.C. local program units celebrated Social Work Month by holding continuing education and networking opportunities across the state. The events drew hundreds of social workers.

The chapter hosted an online Social Work Month toolkit that encouraged social workers to spread the message in their communities that “Social work is the profession of hope — fueled by resilience and advocacy.”

Throughout the month, the chapter used social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to encourage the social work community of North Carolina to get involved within their own areas of advocacy and practice.

California celebrated Social Work Month with more than 16 events.

Most celebrations consisted of a dinner and awards ceremony, while others demonstrated the passion that is social work by serving in the local community and by offering professional development opportunities to members.

The chapter’s Central Valley Unit, in Stanislaus, kicked off the month by hosting an event featuring LGBT youth expert, Dr. Caitlin Ryan. Attendees received continuing education credits for a daylong workshop detailing the critical role of families in preventing suicide and other risk factors for LGBT youth.

The Chico Unit set up a table at a weekend farmers market to educate locals about NASW and the many roles professional social workers fill. In addition to regional awards, many members also received recognition from their district assembly and senate representatives.

The Washington State Chapter developed radio spots to run on the three NPR radio networks in Washington state. The ads were different from the ads NASW national ran on NPR stations across the country.

The Washington state ads emphasized the various occupations social workers are engaged in in their community. One of the ads noted that social workers provide crisis intervention, housing for the homeless, hospice care and family counseling.

The chapter also developed a scholarship video contest for BSW and MSW students enrolled in a Washington state School of Social Work.

The I am a Social Worker scholarship video encourages students to explain why they chose social work as a profession.