Letters to the Editor (March 2011)

Varying Career Paths

Like everyone else, I was horrified by the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and several others. A lot of media attention has been focused on the little girl who was killed, so I was glad to see the article (February News) acknowledging the life and death of Gabe Zimmerman, a social worker who was Giffords’ director of community outreach.

One particular sentence in that article struck me as a nugget of buried treasure -- the quote from W. Mark Clark: “Gabe chose work in politics as his social work career path.” This, to me, is a hugely important statement and I want to call attention to it.

Far too often, when a social worker goes into politics (or any field that does not involve providing or supervising direct social services to clients) that person is perceived as having “left” social work. This is a strange phenomenon. If a lawyer goes into politics, he or she is not seen as having “left” law. We seem to understand that the knowledge and skillset gained in law school can inform other endeavors besides just the practice of law itself.

From my perspective, the valuable skills possessed by social workers are applicable to many varied career paths. We need social workers in direct practice to carry on the irreplaceable work that they do. But as a society, we also need social workers bringing their talents to diverse career paths that may not typically be considered “social work.”

Deborah F. Lee, LCSW, ACSW
Highwood, Ill.


Child Welfare Services

The increased attention given to child welfare services in recent issues of NASW News is appreciated. This includes the “From the President” column by James J. Kelly in the February issue, where he emphasized the need to improve the quality of services, with greater support from the professional social work base.

If NASW is able to find funds to learn what the current picture is, a relatively simple study is suggested. That is to examine the curriculums of a random sample of schools of social work 1.) to learn how many courses on child welfare are included, 2.) to learn how many of those courses are taught by faculty who have had direct experience in child welfare services, and 3.) to learn how many of those schools also provide adult education courses for child welfare agency personnel.

As he pointed out, less than 40 percent of child welfare agency staff are social workers, but well directed preparation and support from the profession could encourage administrators to hire more social workers, and increase tenure of those they hire.

Jake Terpstra, ACSW
Grand Rapids, Mich.