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Jay Berlin, San Francisco-area advocate for abused and neglected children, is NASW National Public Citizen of the Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is pleased to announce that Jay Berlin is its  National Public Citizen of the Year for his decades-long work in advocating for abused and neglected children in the San Francisco Bay Area and delivering improved services and supports for foster children. 

“Jay Berlin started Alternative Family Services 45 years ago as a project to better serve foster children and, under his leadership, it has grown from a small foster family agency to a regional organization that provides foster care, adoptions, mental health and transitional age youth services to thousands of people,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. 

“Despite its growth, Alternative Family Services has never lost sight of its original purpose – to do what is in the best interests of children and families,” McClain said. 

The NASW Public Citizen of the Year Award honors an outstanding member of the community whose accomplishments exemplify the values and mission of professional social work. The award recipient is not a social worker. 

Berlin, PhD, is a fitting recipient of the award. He created the first foster family agency in California dedicated to providing runaway teenagers in San Francisco with family-based care instead of large group homes and shelters. He developed programming for unaccompanied refugee children, first from Cambodia and Vietnam and later from Ethiopia and Eretria.  

Berlin’s agency was the first in the Bay Area to create special programming for Spanish-speaking children and their families and for children living with developmental disabilities. 

He has also contributed to many statewide initiatives, including California’s Continuum of Care Reform and implementation of the Katie A. settlement to improve the delivery of mental health services to children. 

Berlin also respects and supports his social work staff, not requiring them to work very long hours, offering education leave and trying to offer them the highest possible salaries.  

“NASW is proud to bestow this award on Jay Berlin,” McClain said. “Although not a social worker his advocacy work and commitment to helping children exemplify the highest values and ethics of the social work profession.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.