A look back: Social Work Month has long history

Social Work Month logo: 'resilience, weaving, advocacy''James Roosevelt, then a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, called for a city inventory of social problems, serving as one example of how NASW chapters quickly got the word out as they worked with local representatives in their respective states.

NASW Social Work Pioneer® Robert Cohen, who previously served as NASW general counsel as well as interim executive director in 1995, sees National Professional Social Work Month as celebrating the depth, breadth and value of the profession.

“Social workers are involved in and have an impact on all facets of society,” Cohen said. “The initial idea of Social Work Month was to try to combat the widespread notion that social work was something anyone can do; or that it just involved people who were good Samaritans trying to help others. The profession has taken a long time to demonstrate and explain the professional nature of social work.”

The first Social Work Month theme — “Support Social Work Education in Your State” — was introduced in 1966. Back then, NASW acknowledged that the purpose of Social Work Month was to spread public awareness and knowledge of the profession. And nearly half a century later, the intent is very much the same.

“Social Work Month is a way for everyone to recognize the profession — who social workers are and what they do,” said Rita Webb, NASW policy adviser for women and LGBT issues. “It’s a great opportunity to educate.”

According to NASW gold member Betsy Vourlekis, co-chair of the NASW Social Work Pioneers®, the Social Work Month themes throughout the years have helped break down the different aspects of social work and shed some light on what the profession is about.

“NASW’s public information campaigns in connection with Social Work Month, with a theme, put the profession in charge of the message,” Vourlekis said. “One big advantage of the yearly campaigns is that each one takes a part of the reality of what we do. It doesn’t attempt to give an all-inclusive, hard-to-grasp definition or picture. Each campaign is a snapshot.”

Through the decades, Social Work Month themes have evolved along with the profession. From “Doing Good Isn’t Bad-It Isn’t Easy Either” (March 1973) to the latest theme of 2013, “Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy,” this important month continues to celebrate the profession, and be a voice for all social workers.

Other past themes include:

“Giving the Profession a Facelift” (1983); “National Health Care: Vital Signs of a Healthy Nation” (March 1993); and “Preserving Rights, Strengthening Voices” (March 2003).

“It’s not NASW month, it’s Social Work Month,” Cohen said. “It’s broad, it’s inclusive, it’s not defined in terms of the MSWs, BSWs and PhDs, but it’s social work in the broader sense.”

NASW Media Awards

In continued support of those who help promote the social work profession, the second annual NASW Media Awards program is now open for nominations. The awards began in 2012 and recognize positive representations of social work in print, broadcast and digital media.

“We want to honor filmmakers, reporters, bloggers and other media professionals who in the past year have helped raise awareness about social work and social work issues,” said Greg Wright, NASW senior public relations and communications specialist.

Past honorees include Talk Therapy TV, a mental health education public access TV show run by social worker Jacob Berelowitz; and the made-for-TV movie “Change of Plans,” which featured actress Phylicia Rashad as an adoption social worker, Wright said.

Members are encouraged to submit nominations that fit any of the 11 categories through NASW’s Facebook page, or on

Nominated pieces must highlight a social worker or an issue relating to social work. Members may submit multiple nominations for any number of categories, and one winner in each category will be chosen and announced in March.

Nominations are being accepted in the following categories:

  1. Best Documentary
  2. Best Feature Film
  3. Best TV News Program
  4. Best Reality TV Program
  5. Best TV Entertainment Program
  6. Best Magazine Article
  7. Best Newspaper Article
  8. Best Column
  9. Best Radio Segment
  10. Best Single Topic Blog
  11. Best Website