Social Work Breaks Barriers is 2023 Social Work Month Theme

social work breaks barriers

By Paul R. Pace

Social work can trace its history to Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star, who in 1889 opened Hull House in Chicago to provide social services to the area, which had a large immigrant population. Other social work pioneers included anti-lynching advocate and women’s rights activist Ida B. Wells and George Edmund Haynes, a social worker who was co-founder of the National Urban League.

Frances Perkins, the first female Labor Secretary during the Great Depression, and others helped secure benefits we continue to see used today, such as the 40-hour workweek, minimum wage, and Social Security benefits.

Other social workers, like past NASW President Whitney M. Young Jr., worked in collaboration with President Lyndon B. Johnson and other leaders during the turbulent Civil Rights era to break down the barrier of employment discrimination so Black people could access better-paying jobs.

Each day social workers, like those from the past and those of today, help break down barriers that prevent people from living more fulfilling, enriched lives. They work on individual levels, sometimes helping people overcome personal crises such as food insecurity, affordable housing, and access to good health care. They also advocate on a macro level to ensure laws and policies are adopted so everyone can access such services.

For these reasons, NASW chose the theme “Social Work Breaks Barriers” for Social Work Month 2023. Celebrated each March, NASW urges social workers and their supporters to spread the message of the profession’s many positive contributions.

There were 715,000 social workers in the nation in 2020 and that number is expected to grow to more than 800,000 by the end of this decade.

NASW Communications Director Greg Wright said last year’s Social Work Month campaign produced positive results, with more people than ever before visiting NASW websites that were part of the campaign. There were more than 117,000 unique visitors to Social Work Month webpages in 2022, compared with 112,000 the previous year. NASW’s Social Work Month posts on Facebook reached more than 285,000 people alone.

During March 2022, NASW’s social media reach increased dramatically as it shared thousands of pieces of content related to Social Work Month and generated by NASW, its chapters, followers, allies and partners. Total followers to NASW national social media sites increased by more than 4,000 people last March.

During Social Work Month 2023, NASW will spearhead efforts to raise public awareness about how social workers continue to break barriers and the contributions of the helping profession. For this year’s campaign, NASW will be supporting: 

  • A survey: NASW will reach out to thousands of people across the country through advertisements to gauge their attitudes toward social workers and awareness of the services social workers provide. Questions will include asking whether people have interacted with a social worker in the past year; if the interaction was positive or negative; and if the social worker helped the person overcome a barrier.
  • Stories: NASW will publish brief videos and social media posts about social workers who have overcome hurdles to improve the lives of others. These social workers will include NASW Social Work Pioneers®. 
  • A Promotional Online Toolkit: The resource includes logos, suggested social media messaging; an official proclamation; and drafts of a press release, news editorial, and letter to the editor.

Learn more about Social Work Month.

cover of February / March 2023 issue

Social Work Advocates Flipbook

NASW members, sign in to read the February / March 2023 issue as a flipbook