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    ***Updated ***Where is the Social Workers Teachers’ Union? Twitter Debate Topic 9/10/2012

    Looking to identify ways to bring together different fractions of the SW community and/or lobby NASW to expand beyond Clinical Social Work.

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    ******Update*******

    View archive of  this Twitter Chat at 

    Looking to identify ways to bring together different fractions of the SW community and/or lobby NASW to expand beyond Clinical Social Work.

    Over the course of the past year, I have been hearing from many fellow Social Workers about their frustration with the profession. The following was a reply I made to a group member on the swhelper.org LinkedIn discussion Group. She commented on the discussion “Why Aren’t All Social Workers Supported And Created Equal?,” stating that she was frustrated and felt stuck because even with a graduate degree and seven years post grad experience she was still working in an entry level case management position. Unfortunately her experience is not unique:

    What I am picking up on is that MSWs are being relegated to doing line work with little encouragement or opportunity to grow professionally. If you want anything more than that your only hope is becoming licensed to do clinical work and starting your own practice. But if you have any desire to do macro or non-traditional social work you are facing numerous obstacles. I think there are a number of reasons for why this is happening.

    For one thing the profession has an image problem. A social work degree is seen as being essay to obtain and there are many in other helping professions who believe that anyone can be a Social Worker. Then there is the notion that an MSW only prepares us to be mental health counselors. This makes it much harder for us to compete for non-counseling jobs. There are still too many people, people who run human service agencies, hospitals, and nonprofits; that do not fully understand the social work profession. They see us as psychologist-lite, not as trained professionals with our own perspectives and code of ethics.

    The other thing, and I have been thinking about this a lot lately, is that there are not enough social workers doing research or publishing. I may be off on this point, but so much of the literature out there on mental health and public policy is coming from other professionals (psychologist, political scientist, etc.) and not from Social Workers. Or maybe other professions are just better at getting their research and books noticed. I don’t know, but this takes me to my next point about needing to get ourselves out there on the national stage.

    We need more Social Workers participating on multidisciplinary panels on TV and at conferences. @swhelpercom is currently lobbying MSNBC on Twitter to add a social work professor to their panels. We also need more Social Workers running for public office at all levels of government. At one point in time Social Workers like Jane Addams (a Nobel Prize winner) and Mary Richardson were national figures. Francis Perkins, a trained Social Worker, helped craft the New Deal and was the first women appointed to the U.S. cabinet. Can you name for me a modern day equivalent?

    And finally there is the issue of who is lobbying on behalf of the profession and how much power do they really have. I know there have been many discussions on LinkedIn about whether or not Social Workers need a union instead of an association, which led to many heated debates about how such a union could be organized.

    We do have a problem, a very big problem. We need to start coming together, even if it is outside of the NASW, and start dealing with this problem.

    Join us on Twitter to discuss this topic on September 10, 2012 at 8PM EST. Also view www.socialworkchats.com for more information on our Twitter Debates.  View Archive of Chat Below:

    Looking to identify ways to bring together different fractions of the SW community and/or lobby NASW to expand beyond Clinical Social Work.

    Rachel L. West is the Founder of the Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to macro social work and politics. She holds a BA in History from SUNY Stony Brook and an MSW from Adelphi University. She is a community outreach and engagement specialist. Rachel resides in New York State, and she is available as a consultant and coach. You can find out more about Rachel at The Political Social Worker at (politicalsocialworker.org).

    3 Comments

    3 Comments

    1. Gregorio

      September 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      First and foremost my sincere apologies in the tardiness of my reply, I have found myself not only inundated with the responsibilities of my job, homelife,etc but also with a plethora of emails & websites, making my correspondence extremely late. Anyway that is my disclaimer, but I would be honored to be part of a piece or discussion about the intersection of school social work & educational systems such as the DOE and others. As social workers it is incumbent upon us to advocate for our clients as well as our selves, and we need to do this on the macro level, which implies more activity in the political process since it greatly impacts our quality of care, including our own self care.
      For example, in many school districts & schools, the principal or some administrator, is the one who evaluates us. So a non-clinician without proper training or know-how will evaluate the effectiveness of a social worker or psychologist. Some will utilize a meteric or rubric, while others will use their own rating system which can be as simple as you did not disagree with them when they placed kids in least restrictive environments for budgetary reasons not clincial reasons, These are some of the obstacles that school clinicians face on a daily basis, woe to social workers who are untenured or in a charter school where to advocate for a student or cause too ardently might cause you a negative evaluation or your job.
      Anyway I digress, but as you see there is much to the subject so please count me in future discussions.

    2. Socialworkhelper

      September 9, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      Gregorio, I am sorry that you lost, but I am glad that you are not giving up. I would be honored if you would like to guest post on the intersection of DOE and Social Work as well as your work with the Latino Democrats. More and more social workers believe that it is inappropriate for social workers to discuss politics. They do not feel that it affects practice. My goal is to use this platform to bring awareness on issues that affect social workers that are necessarily addressed in more mainstream forums.

    3. Gregorio Quinn

      September 9, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiments of this article. Social workers need not only advocate for our clients but for ourselves and our profession. That will ensure that not only will our expertise and voices be heard but we can influence laws & policies to better able to serve & assist our communities. I, (not-withstanding my shameless self promotion), was recently the NYCDOE Bronx Leader for all social workers & psychologists. I will run for this position again this Fal. I left it to run for the city-wide position- I lost 🙁 I’m also the co-chair of the newly formed Latino Democrats of Dutchess County (NY). In that capacity I also use my adovcacy skills to not only help the community but to promote and restore pride in our profession of social work. I suggest that all social workers become active in the civic process, this is a critical element to better the conditions of our clients and the communities, and for our profession as well.
      Thanks for the discussion topic and please keep up the goood work!

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