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NASW Foundation Honors the Clarence and Diana Ming Chan Family with the International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award

Ming Chan family

Washington, D.C. — The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is pleased to announce that The Clarence and Diana Ming Chan Family have been awarded the International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award for their significant impact on school social work through their monetary and visionary support to increase the number of school social workers in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

“Mrs. Chan and her family have been instrumental in increasing the number of school social workers in the SFUSD,” said NASWF Director Robert Arnold. “Although Mrs. Chan died unexpectedly (2008), her work has lived on, She has had a significant and lasting impact on the role and function of school social workers by making certain funding remains in place to provide social workers in schools.”

The Rhoda G. Sarnat Award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has significantly advanced the public image of professional social work. This monetary award is made possible from an endowment fund established by a generous contribution in 1996 from the late Rhoda Sarnat, LCSW and her late spouse, Bernard Sarnat, MD. Rhoda Sarnat, a retired clinical social worker, former faculty member at the University of Southern California Graduate School of Social Work, and a member of NASW worked tirelessly to increase the public’s knowledge, understanding, and respect for professional social work locally, nationally, and internationally.

Diana Ming Chan and her family are deserving of this award.

School social work was severely underfunded in California, often resulting in little available school social work services for entire districts. And during periods of budget reductions, school social work services were usually the first to be cut.

Before she retired in 1999 after working as a professional social worker for nearly a half century, Ms. Chan decided to make a long-lasting impact by helping to increase the number of school social workers.

With a generous family donation of $1 million, Ms. Chan worked collaboratively with the SFSUD and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation to create an endowment to fund school social work in San Francisco. Beginning in the 2001-2002 school year, The Learning Springboard project was born, and has supplemented school social worker salaries every year since that time.   

As a lifelong youth and family social worker –including  as a school social worker in San Francisco, Ms. Chan became resolute in her conviction that prevention and early intervention – services offered by school social workers –  were critical services to helping all students and families become or remain healthy. She saw that this was especially true for immigrant families.  To that end, Mrs. Chan worked tirelessly to advocate for a permanent funding source for a greatly expanded school social work program. She lobbied the community, city, and SFUSD policy makers to place a ballot measure before voters which passed and secured funding.

By 2004, due in large part due to Mrs. Chan’s strong advocacy, the voter-approved ballot initiative increased the funding for school social workers or Learning Support Professionals (LSPs) so that every school would have an LSP. Ms. Chan joined the SFUSD Community Advisory Board and was instrumental in dedicating some of the funding to support the social and emotional needs of children.

Diana Ming Cha was always a true NASW Social Work Pioneer®. In 1964, she was employed by Cameron House as a family therapist. Since there were no other social work agencies existing in Chinatown at that time, Mrs. Chan and one other social worker provided services to a broad multigenerational clientele with a wide range of problems and needs. Of the two social workers, Diana had Chinese ancestry and used her bilingual skills in applying social work principles in a culturally relevant way to clients who were Asian American.

The late Mrs. Chan’s efforts were and are strongly supported by her family, including her husband, Clarence, and their children Harrison, Nancy, and David. Through the family’s efforts, school social work is now practiced in many of elementary, middle and high schools.

To this day, the Chan Family continues to contribute additional funds to continue and sustain the program’s expansion and maintain a social work student scholarship program for bilingual Asian Pacific Islander students.

She also helped define a social and emotional support role that was vital in helping students with their self-confidence. Ms. Chan and her family’s legacy continue to make every school a safe and supportive learning environment.

Visit the International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award for more information.

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.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.