Passing the Presidential Baton

James J. Kelly, Ph.D., ACSW, LCSWFrom the President

As my term ends, I want to thank everyone who has supported my efforts on behalf of our profession. I want to thank Betsy Clark, our national executive director, the national and chapter staffs, and the wonderful volunteer board members of three different boards that I have chaired during my presidency. Their wise counsel, thoughtful deliberations, and fiduciary responsibility have helped NASW continue its essential work as an advocate for the underserved and as a support system for social work professionals. I also want to thank the NASW Pioneersw for their leadership and wisdom. Finally, I wish the new NASW President, Dr. Jeane Anastas, the best of luck as she begins her tenure.

I am proud to have served during a time of great change for our country. I began my tenure at NASW by attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Since then, social workers have been a part of many historical moments, including the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and the creation of the first Congressional Social Work Caucus. More than 100,000 social workers and stakeholders from across the country wrote to their members of Congress in support of the first comprehensive federal legislation aimed at addressing the challenges facing the social work profession, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (HR 1106/S 584). We’ve increased subscriptions to our advocacy Listserv to more than 50,000; we hope you will also join.

In addition to our advocacy efforts to reinvest in the social work profession, we held a successful 2010 Social Work Congress, bringing 400 social work leaders together in Washington — as well as 400 social work students together virtually — to discuss issues such as leadership development, common objectives, education, recruitment, retention, technology, influence and the business of social work. Ten imperatives were developed to guide our profession for the next decade.

Building on the outstanding fundraising efforts of the NASW Foundation in response to Hurricane Katrina, the social work disaster assistance fund was relaunched for those affected by the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. The NASW Foundation also launched the Social Work Policy Institute, which held three symposia on comparative effectiveness research, hospice social work and child welfare supervision last year. I encourage you to find out more about the exciting work of SWPI.

The NASW Center for Workforce Studies also continued its important work with new studies on social work compensation and future workforce trends.

When I became NASW president, I wanted to focus on military and veterans issues and I am pleased with the work that NASW has done in this area. Social workers can play a unique role in the lives of the more than 1 million servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, providing case management, mental health interventions and advocacy, among other services. Our members proudly make up one-fourth of the volunteers in the Give an Hour program, providing free mental health services to veterans and their loved ones.

NASW has taken on a more active role internationally with the development of the Social Workers Across Nations Project and is working with Tanzanian social workers to assist that country’s professionals in building their social services network. Through SWAN, NASW also helped coordinate a conference to strengthen the social welfare workforce in South Africa and sent two delegations of social workers to Cuba. Additionally, we put in place our first international professional exchange program, having recently worked with a representative from the Korean association in our national office.

From an operational standpoint, NASW has accomplished many things during a challenging time for professional associations, many of whom have seen large membership declines. We have utilized the opportunity to engage virtually with members and stakeholders in a variety of ways.

We have gone green, providing new environmentally friendly ways to access our membership publications. We held our first virtual Delegate Assembly in 2008 and will do so again this year. We have used new methods of communication through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and our blogs, which have allowed us to communicate issues of importance immediately to millions of individuals.

We also revamped our career center and offered a variety of new continuing education opportunities through our lunchtime teleconference series.

Most importantly, to the NASW membership, thank you for giving me the honor of serving our profession. I have made important new connections with many of you and have grown as a professional social worker. This time has been invaluable to me personally and professionally and I am proud to have served on your behalf for the past three years.