From the Director
Social Work Month matters
By Elizabeth J. Clark, Ph.D., ACSW, MPH
NASW carefully considers slogans and campaigns to use while
celebrating Social Work Month each March. Sometimes we highlight a particular
practice area, such as children and families, aging or community organizing.
Other times we have focused on a concept, such as ethics or social justice.
This year’s theme, Social Work Matters, celebrates the profession of social
work as a whole — and acknowledges the importance of our chosen work.
Many social workers have gained great historical prominence.
Counted among these would be Jane Addams, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, civil
rights activists Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. (also a past
president of NASW), and Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve as a Cabinet member,
as secretary of labor in 1933. We are grateful for the paths taken by social
work pioneers like Del Anderson, who transformed services for veterans; Bernice
Harper, who led the field in hospital and hospice social work; Joan O. Weiss,
who helped establish the field of genetic counseling; and Dale Masi, who is
credited with developing the employee-assistance field.
We watch television commentator, economist and social worker
Jared Bernstein explain economic policy, and we watch TV celebrity Suze Orman
help people understand personal finance by using her social work skill set.
We take pride in the successes of the seven social workers in
Congress as they lead the Congressional Social Work Caucus and champion
equality and improved quality of life for our citizens.
We have social workers who serve as college presidents and as
university deans and faculty; others who head foundations, corporations and
independent businesses; still others who run government and community agencies,
and who hold elective office. Social workers can be found in military theater
and responding to every disaster.
Social workers provide the vast majority of mental health
services in this country and are sometimes the only providers in rural areas.
Our breadth is far-reaching. We work in schools, prisons, courts, community
health centers, mental health clinics, addiction recovery programs, skilled
nursing facilities, hospitals, hospices, and private practice.
We form the front line and weave together the threads of
society’s social safety net. Social workers help people when they face
emotional, difficult and seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges.
These include poverty, inequality, insecurity, fear, violence, trauma, loss and
pain. These are the “matters” of social work, what we do and how we do it does
matter. We are the helping profession and the profession of hope. The world
would be radically different without the contributions of the current work
force of 640,000 professional social workers.
Sometimes during our very busy lives, we forget the impact
that our own efforts have and can have on the millions of lives we collectively
touch every day. We tend to overlook many of the significant achievements and
outcomes brought about by our interventions at the individual, organizational
and community levels. We might even question why we chose this professional
path. The challenges seem so great; the resources seem so few.
When this happens, take a moment and step back. Listen to the
speech given by Leymah Gbowee, a young social worker and peace activist from
Liberia who recently received the Nobel Peace Prize for her organization of a
women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in
She is an inspiration to us all.
Then think about your own work — your commitment, your
dedication and the fact that you, too, are an inspiration to many of the
clients and families you assist. And when doubts creep in, remind yourself that
the profession of social work has great historical significance. Social work
does matter. So do you. Happy Social Work Month.
From March 2012 NASW News. © 2012 National
Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved. NASW News
articles may be copied for personal use, but proper notice of
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