By Mildred "Mit" C. Joyner, DPS, MSW, LCSW
As the end of my term as NASW’s president nears, I am looking back on the past three years and all that the association has accomplished during that time. Highlights for me have been the opportunity to get to know the membership through our 55 chapters, and working with the board of directors and the national staff to achieve “one association.”
Learning from our members about what NASW must do to prepare social workers for the future was a high priority throughout my tenure. It was critical as president to always keep in mind the social work profession’s primary mission, as stated in our Code of Ethics, “to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and/or living in poverty.”
A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s dual focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that “create, contribute to, and address problems in living.”
My departing advice to all members is to please commit to reading the Code of Ethics yearly. Some social workers seem to forget the purpose of social work, often placing personal values over professional values.
When I took the helm as president of NASW three years ago, the country was battling a shutdown due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic while major racial unrest simultaneously occurred in our nation and around the world.
The racial upheaval was reignited due to the horrific murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd — all by individuals and justice organizations who swore to protect all citizens. Individuals throughout the world watched the murder of Mr. Floyd on television and on their social media devices. NASW members and nonmembers demanded that the association respond to social injustice — a demand that included equity for Black lives and a call for anti-racist practices and policies that are transparent and inclusive, with representation from diverse members who generally were not at the decision-making table. Many organizations, including NASW, are reviewing policies, procedures and levels of access to create a more just, diverse and inclusive environment.
NASW also moved to strengthen the role of social workers over the last several years to promote the value of social work to the broader public — highlighting the role social workers play in promoting social justice, addressing trauma, and improving mental health and well-being.
As president, I created “Essential Chats with Mit” — online forums that examined social justice through a social work lens but also included experts from various allied fields of practice that share our primary mission. As of May 2023, the NASW national staff and I produced more than 23 Essential Chats. These are recorded for anyone to watch on NASW’s YouTube channel. I encourage you to listen to the experts in various fields where social workers are making a difference.
Fulfilling my governance role as president, I deliberately engaged and responded to concerns and questions from chapter leadership, members and others. The NASW board and staff worked to increase association membership; reached out to various coalitions and stakeholders to build new, innovative partnerships; and worked dutifully to maintain a fiscally sound budget over the last three years. We also hired a new CEO this year, Dr. Anthony Estreet, who was charged with reinvigorating and restructuring the association as a forward-facing association.
A key contribution of my leadership has always been the promotion of social justice and human rights.I firmly believe NASW has a responsibility to prepare and assist all social workers in their duty to eliminate systemic racism and achieve liberation for all racial and ethnic groups; serve as a major disruptor and take deliberate actions against the uprising hate of the LGBTQIA+ community; protect, uplift, advance and advocate for reproductive rights; promote a fair, livable wage; and ensure pay equity for all social workers across our nation.
Over the next year, the president-elect, Dr. Yvonne Chase, and Dr. Estreet will center the action of the association around these areas.
In addition, the NASW board unanimously approved the consideration of four new committees, structures, or task forces for possible implementation in July.
Based on recommendations from members, the groups are as follows: 1) Disabilities; 2) Armed Services and Veterans Affairs; 3) Social Workers in Sports; and 4) Technology and Social Media.
On July 1, Dr. Chase, from the state of Alaska, will begin serving as the next president of NASW and as the vice president of the International Federation of Social Workers-North America. Dr. Chase and I worked together over the last year on several projects, and she is more than ready, capable and excited to serve NASW.
It has been an honor and a humbling experience to represent this association, and I look forward to joining the “NASW Retired President’s Club.”
Thank you for this opportunity.
You can reach Yvonne Chase (starting July 1) at firstname.lastname@example.org.