Social Work Faces Defining Moment to Help Transform America

From the President

By Mildred “Mit” C. Joyner, DPS, MSW, LCSW

Mit Joyner

Summer has finally arrived after a long and arduous year filled with loss created by the global health pandemic. Thankfully, many people are now vaccinated and that should thwart the spread of the coronavirus—and hopefully help the country reach herd immunity.

Summer also is the beginning of a new career for thousands of social workers. Congratulations to the social work graduates of the class of 2021. As graduates, you are faced with the decision to seek employment or further your educational pursuits. Social workers are desperately needed as the nation grapples with implementing a full recovery plan. In fact, the social work profession faces a defining moment to help transform and heal our country.

Graduates who elect to enter the workforce as our nation struggles with the ramifications of being confined at home for more than a year will serve as change agents. The universal public health crisis has created much fear, confusion, hate and mistrust. Other contributing factors that have exacerbated our nation’s challenges are racial unrest, loss of employment, economic hardships, health issues and climate change. Many Americans are now faced with mental health challenges as they attempt to navigate a new normal.

Due to the pandemic, major revisions will occur in the delivery of social services over the next decade. This social change will create an opportunity for the social work profession to shape new policies. The class of 2021 social work graduates must serve as the pivotal change agents and create and design systems that no longer oppress others.

Social workers are societal consultants who are equipped to forecast the welfare of America. As social work leaders, we must assertively address the social ills of our society with key stakeholders. We know that are our nation is facing unbelievable obstacles. Social workers must lead, inform and navigate systems so that oppressive practices are removed and inclusive behavior becomes the norm. Therefore, the profession must focus on the inequalities that permeate every system and take the necessary actions to build an equitable, just nation.

Civil rights icon, social work leader and entrepreneur Dr. John E. Jacob recently stated in a webinar that today “social workers must wake up every day prepared to fight for justice.” It is time to address systemic practices that impede liberation and replace oppression with values that promote equity for all individuals.

Social workers who practice must abide by the entire social work Code of Ethics. Social work professionals must reimagine public safety; serve as advocates and brokers for children, youth, and families; help immigrants succeed; protect the lives of the most vulnerable; provide mental health support services so individuals can heal from trauma; uplift programs that address economic, education, and environmental justice; ensure that all eligible citizens have the right to vote; and expose and ameliorate all racism and racist practices wherever they exist.

As social workers, we cannot give away our shot to transform America. This is a defining moment for the social work profession. We must advocate and create the societal changes our nation needs. Social work will not wait for others to lead us. We will take the necessary risks and lead the charge of equity and liberation for all.

Contact Mit Joyner at

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COVID-19 Vaccine Resources

For a multitude of reasons, some individuals are hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As social workers, we have a duty to inform, and it is critical we obtain the relevant information about the vaccine in order to responsibly inform the community. It is essential for those who have vaccine hesitancy to talk with a trusted social worker or health care provider.

NASW developed a COVID-19 resource page in 2020. The site includes links to information about advocacy, self-care, safety and more for social workers in all areas of practice.

NASW also developed Practice Alerts for social work practitioners to learn more about the vaccines:

NASW encourages individuals to receive the vaccine when they meet their state’s eligibility criteria, and advocates for vaccine access for social workers and populations that are at high risk for COVID-19.