Social workers across nation celebrated in March

Ed Towns, Elizabeth J. ClarkOn World Social Work Day, March 20, U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y., left, presents a Congressional Record to NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark, recognizing her service to the social work profession.

National Professional Social Work Month was celebrated in March and the theme “Social Work Matters” was heralded from coast to coast.

“Social workers believe that a nation’s strength depends on the ability of the majority of its citizens to lead productive and healthy lives,” said NASW President Jeane Anastas. “Every day, social workers help people navigate life’s toughest challenges to find hope and new options for maximum social functioning.”

Something new for this year’s campaign took place over the airwaves in March. Through contributions, NASW sponsored short messages promoting the value of social work during National Public Radio’s popular shows “Morning Edition,” “The Diane Rehm Show” and “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”

The radio spots caught the ears of 20 million daily listeners, and NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark noted that people at her March speaking engagements raved about the publicity.

“I heard from social workers across the country about how much they appreciated this outreach,” she said.

Millions of social workers who enrich people’s lives on a daily basis were celebrated on World Social Work Day, March 20.

On that day, members of Congress introduced a Social Work Month resolution in their respective chambers. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Md., was joined by eight co-sponsors in introducing S. 400. In the House, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., was joined by 23 co-sponsors, including social workers and U.S. Reps. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y.; Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.; and Susan Davis, D-Calif., in introducing H.R. 589.

“Social workers, in all disciplines, use their collective power, every day, to strengthen our nation’s families and communities, to help individuals overcome adversity and to advance sound social policies,” Lee said.

Also on World Social Work Day, members of the Congressional Social Work Caucus held a reception on Capitol Hill to recognize and honor the nation’s social workers. The event was hosted by caucus chairman Towns. He emphasized the group’s efforts to educate fellow legislators and their staffs about the issues that challenge the social work profession and the importance of supporting the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1106/S. 584.

Towns highlighted the fact that social work skills and leadership are necessary in all corners of the country, including Congress, to solve society’s biggest challenges.

Other attendees included Anastas; caucus member Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Gary Bailey, president of the International Federation of Social Work and former NASW president; and Mit Joyner, president of the Council on Social Work Education. Bailey and Joyner presented the Global Agenda on Social Work and Social Development to Towns.

In New York City, Social Work Day at the United Nations was celebrated on March 26. Students, practitioners and educators honored the important roles of social workers around the world. Clark and Bailey presented the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development to the U.N. secretary general.

During Social Work Month, Clark spoke about the essential links between social work practice and policy at the Association of Baccalaureate Program Directors of Schools of Social Work Conference in Portland, Ore. She discussed social work leadership in health and community care at the Institute for Community Living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and she spoke about the importance of effective communication with clients in a professional keynote address at the 22nd Annual National Interdisciplinary Breast Center Conference in Las Vegas.

Anastas spoke about where the profession is heading at the NASW New Hampshire annual dinner on March 30.

Across the U.S., NASW chapters highlighted the profession through state conferences, celebrations, letters to the editor, and by encouraging passage of state and local government resolutions that honor social workers. There were more than 20,000 mentions of these activities posted online, according to Gail Woods Waller, director of communications at NASW.

NASW’s Social Work Month toolkit helped social workers support their claims that social work matters with specific talking points, policy reports and stories published in the NASW News. The toolkit proved to be a popular resource.

“We increased the number of people who visited and downloaded materials through the online toolkit by 40 percent over last year to over 140,000,” Waller said. “We think making important documents such as NASW’s public policies available for a limited time increased overall awareness about the profession.”

Social media once again played an important part in spreading the word about Social Work Month. Hundreds of people submitted photos for NASW’s Facebook photo campaign. They are seen holding personal signs that completed the sentence, “Social Workers Inspire Hope by …”. NASW will be collecting more of these photos and projecting them on screens at the NASW’s national conference, “Restoring Hope: The Power of Social Work,” to be held July 22-25 in Washington, D.C. (See related story on page 1 of this issue).

NASW also posted a World Social Work Day video to its YouTube channel.

On the Social Workers Speak blog, an entry featured actor and director Blair Underwood. He stated he wanted to “congratulate social workers for the valuable services you provide to our society.” He added, “You are often unsung heroes, helping some of the most vulnerable members of our society — abused and neglected children, the sick, senior citizens and veterans.”

Social work media awards

NASW hosted its first Media Awards Program this year in honor of National Professional Social Work Month. Participants were asked to vote for the best articles, films and blogs that raised awareness of the positive contributions of social work. The contest was conducted through NASW’s social work media blog, Social Workers Speak. The winners are:

  • Documentary: “From Place to Place” by Matt Anderson.
  • Feature film: “Change of Plans” by John Kent Harrison.
  • TV news program: “Talk Therapy TV” by Jacob Berelowitz.
  • TV program/entertainment: “Grey’s Anatomy” by Shonda Rhimes and Debora Cahn.
  • Magazine: “Fostering Families Today” and “Adoption Today.”
  • Newspaper articles: “A Day of Pride for Once Homeless FIU Grad” by Adam Beasley in the Miami Herald.
  • Column: Huffington Post columnist Ilaina Edison.
  • Radio: NPR radio host Steve Inskeep.
  • Single topic blog: The Nation’s “This Week in Poverty” blog by Greg Kaufmann.
  • Website: The Social Work Podcast podcast, hosted by Jonathan Singer, assistant professor at Temple University.