While growing up in a single-parent household, Marty Oliphant found additional guidance from a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
It’s only fitting, then, that he would become a man who wanted to give back. He has done so in many ways, the latest while serving as the executive director of NASW’s Hawaii Chapter since 2011.
Oliphant grew up in Hawaii as the only male in his household. He said his mother enrolled all of her children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It was there Oliphant met Lambert Davids, who would help shape his life in a positive way.
“He was there for me and was a male influence in my life,” Oliphant said. “He was instrumental in my development.”
Oliphant said he stayed in Big Brothers Big Sisters until he was 18, and then maintained contact with Davids in his adult life.
“He was the first person I went to for life events when they happened,” Oliphant said, such as when he joined the military and when he got married. “He was my first example of helping people in different communities.”
After serving in the Army, Oliphant said he was trying to figure out his next career move.
“Social work was definitely on my radar, because I wanted to help like I was helped as a child,” he said.
In 1995, Oliphant earned a BSW from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and went to work as a case manager and trainer that same year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Maui. In 1999, he worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu for two years. Other positions include director of programs at the Waikiki Community Center, project director for a mentoring program at the YMCA of Honolulu, and program coordinator at Goodwill Industries of Hawaii.
Oliphant earned his MSW in 2005 and began work in child welfare as an investigator of sex abuse cases.
“I went from doing prevention work into intervention,” he said.
His last position before becoming executive director of the NASW Hawaii Chapter was as program manager for Foster Family Programs of Hawaii.
When the job opened at NASW-Hawaii, Oliphant said he was interested because he had done a lot of macro social work and community efforts and felt that he wanted to make a difference at a new level.
“This position was everything I wanted in a job,” he said. “It dealt with all of the (social work) issues.”
The chapter has 940 members, Oliphant said, and he is the only full-time employee. Continuing education is one of the chapter’s main efforts right now, he said, as Hawaii does not have CE requirements for social work and there is no social work licensing board.
“We made a resolution to come up with recommendations for a bill that would allow for continuing education,” Oliphant said. “Right now we are working on the language.”
Oliphant said he also enjoys working with a variety of social work organizations and agencies in the state to get the word out about NASW’s offerings and how social workers can be “part of the solution.”
“… We are making connections,” he said, “and people want to partner with our local chapters” on things like training and serving on various committees.
“I’m just in love with our profession,” Oliphant said. “I think that social workers can work in any area. We’re just everywhere.”