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Celebrating Social Work Month

Are you asking yourself…why and what is Social Work month? If so, I’m glad you asked.  I’m happy to take this opportunity to tell you.

But first, what image or idea comes to mind when you hear or think social work or social worker?  Well there you go.  That’s why 😉 .  Social Work Month began in the 1960’s in an effort to educate communities about the profession of Social Work.  50 years later there is still work to do.

Most people equate social service positions (child protection, non-profit work, etc.) with Social Work.  And let’s face it, when you hear about someone, typically through the media, in social services it’s usually not a good thing.  A caseworker who didn’t follow up and a child was murdered by their abusive parent.  An aid who accidently provided a patient on a psych ward with the tool they needed to commit suicide.

The truth is, many, if not the majority of people who work in social services are not Social Workers.  A Social Worker is someone who has, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from a Counsel on Social Work Education accredited school.  In some states you must have a license to be considered a Social Worker.  Social Work is not a role or position, it is a profession.

When I worked as a caseworker for foster children, there were 2 of us who were Social Workers.  Out of about 12.  The remaining people had various degrees.  Many in Psychology or Sociology, but one person had a degree in Zoology.  Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that, but it is certainly inaccurate to call someone who would be more likely to work in a zoo than with children a social worker.

The reason I chose Social Work is because it combined the best of the two worlds I was interested in…Sociology and Psychology.  I wanted to understand human behavior (Psychology), but realized that you can’t fully understand human behavior without understanding the influence of the culture/system we live in (Sociology).  Social Work is, in large part, about understanding the person and their struggles in the context of their environment (PIE).  Not only does this give us a framework for understanding the issue, but may also lead to other aspects of the role of a Social Worker such as an advocate for resources or creating policy change.

The employment opportunities available to Social Workers are as diverse as the people who make up the profession.  “Social workers work in mental health and health care, in child welfare and aging, in management and in clinical settings.  They work in hospitals, schools, businesses, public agencies, police departments, private practices, and many other interesting workplaces They are managers, therapists, community organizers, educators, and researchers.  They are on the front lines and behind the scenes.  They are in large cities and in small communities. Wherever people are, social workers are”.  (NASWIL)

The theme for Social Work month this year is weaving resilience and advocacy.  “Social Work is the profession of hope—fueled by resilience and advocacy.  Social Workers matter because they help millions of struggling people every day dream differently”. (NASW)

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