Needed: Change Agents

From the President

By Yvonne Chase, PhD, MSW, LCSW, ACSW

Yvonne Chase

Qualifications: Ability to take on difficult issues; commitment to protecting vulnerable populations; ready for ongoing training to enhance your practice; willingness to incorporate NASW’s ethics and values into your professional practice; a vision for the future of social work; and specialty areas of interest.

Candidates: BSWs and MSWs are encouraged to apply.

Are you ready to be a change agent?

While anyone can be a change agent, I am focusing on students—those in BSW and MSW programs graduating this year. You have wonderful opportunities calling to you, and you also are facing a time when social workers and other professionals are being constrained by legislation and policies that restrict women’s health care options, make the lives of immigrants difficult in what should be a country with welcoming arms, and continue to require families to become entrenched in broken and outdated systems.

When I was a young social worker trying to convince legislators in my state to include a definition of emotional abuse in child abuse legislation, a wise administrator told me you have to have outside advocates and change agents inside the system for positive change to happen. As an advocate, you cannot make great strides toward change unless you have partners inside to implement the changes. It proved to be some of the best advice I have ever received. It taught me the importance of partnerships, collaboration between what may sometimes seem like unlikely alliances, and accepting small victories while keeping the larger goal in mind.

In terms of micro practice, there always will be a case you cannot forget—one that you wonder if the result would have been different had you done things differently. My memory case is of a 6-year-old girl (I will call her Anna) who was in the child protection system because of sexual abuse by a parent. Parental rights were terminated, and she was available for adoption. I placed her in a home where the family had one biological child, a girl about 8 years old. You might expect some issues between the two girls and the closeness of their ages, but that wasn’t the case.  Instead, Anna began to feel safe and comfortable in this placement and started to talk about her abuse. The parents became alarmed and asked for her removal. This was devastating to Anna. At the time, I was a young worker without a BSW or MSW. I had failed to prepare the parents for behaviors to anticipate as Anna settled into this family. I enrolled shortly thereafter in an MSW program, but the path for Anna was not smooth. It took time for her to recover from this abrupt change and learn to trust again.

If you are ready to be a change agent, here is some advice:

  • Be prepared to practice at both micro and macro levels.
  • Keep your Code of Ethics handy—our ethical values must remain the centerpiece of our profession.
  • Learn from the pioneers. Gain from our experience—and our mistakes.

You have earned the skills and knowledge, now it is time to add experience to your practice. The needs are great—the list is endless. My passion has always been child protection. I believe that we social workers have participated in the legacy of a broken system, and the results are adults (once children in that system) who are now without a place identity, in prisons, unhoused, and in need of mental health services.

The late African American novelist James Baldwin developed his stories around the pain and suffering in African American communities. He was quoted as saying, “These are all our children; we will either pay for or profit by whatever they become.”

Social work is a profession devoted to social progress and committed to enhancing our clients’ well-being. We must be willing to challenge injustice on every level. As I stand on the shoulders of the great pioneers who have achieved so much, so must you. I hope you accept the position of change agent. The profession needs you as do the clients you will serve.

Contact Yvonne Chase at

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NASW 2024 Annual Meeting of Members

The NASW Annual Meeting of Members will convene at 1 p.m. EDT on June 19 to ratify results of the 2024 NASW National Election. Members in good standing (current membership, no pending sanctions) are eligible to attend.

This hybrid meeting will be held in conjunction with the NASW National Conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 20008. The meeting will be in the hotel’s Hampton Ballroom.

The member meeting also is an opportunity to hear the NASW president and CEO report on the state of the association and meet members of the NASW board of directors.

Please RSVP by June 10, providing your full name and membership ID number via email to Details for virtual participation will be provided prior to the meeting date.