Where are the Social Workers, and Why Are They Missing from the Global Conversation?


Human rights, economic inequality, access to clean water, and improving educational outcomes are consistent narratives mentioned in the media on a daily basis. Where are the social workers, and why are we missing from the national conversation?

Media outlets are constantly reporting on the challenges and barriers facing teachers, nurses, and law enforcement. However, the social work community appears to be invisible. There is no doubt in my mind that Social Workers are the restorative power and profession of hope, but this power must be manifested into united action. The current structure of our profession promotes fragmentation and isolation of social workers with different focuses into smaller groups.

Social Workers are the single factor that permeates through every spectrum affecting the human condition. Social workers are in hospitals, schools, social service agencies, care facilities, prisons, and police departments. Although we may not use the title, social workers can be found holding positions in the government, private sector, nonprofits, and even in Congress.

I believe that removing barriers preventing intra-communication, collaboration, and sharing of ideas and resources within our profession is the single most important factor in solving issues facing our communities as well as uniting our profession. With the austerity cuts to public agencies, we must be even more innovative in pooling our resources and responding by not being invisible anymore.

Uniting Social Workers with different areas of focus would be the most powerful force needed to address the important issues facing society today. Our different focuses are not our weaknesses, but our strongest attributes collectively. But, we must first elevate our profession’s presence on the global stage.

We must double our public relation efforts in showing our contributions around the world and in our local communities. As social work month starts on March 1st, it’s the best opportunity for us to elevate our profession in the global conversations on poverty, inequality, and human rights.

World Social Work Day 2016

On March 15, 2016, please help @SWHelpercom make the #socialwork trend world-wide on March 15, 2016, on our most important global day of the year. I am asking everyone to tweet out your thoughts, social work resources, research, articles, or just say Hello World using the hashtag #SocialWork all day long. You can utilize Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule tweets throughout the day if you are extremely busy.

Social Work allies and organizations who have social workers working within them, join us on this day by tweeting out articles, resources, information, and research to share with our profession.

Children’s rights/advocacy groups and family advocacy groups, we want to hear from you too. Share your thoughts, articles, information, and/or resources social workers should be familiar with.

Let’s see if we make Twitter History on this upcoming World Social Work Day!

Interview with Daniel Jacob: Guest Expert for Live Twitter Chat 5/6/13 at 8PM EST

by Deona Hooper, MSW


View Archive Chat:

Join us on May 6, 2013 at 8PM EST on the Social Work Helper Live Twitter Chat with Guest Expert Daniel Jacob on Burnout and Self-Care using the hashtag #SWUnited. Daniel is the founder of Can You Hear Me?, and he is a regular contributor to SWH. Recently, Daniel did an extensive interview on why he created his organization, it mission, and who it was designed to help.

Here is an excerpt from his in-depth interview in Social Justice Solutions:

Discuss your blog, Can you Hear Me? Why did you create it, what is the goal of the blog? Who do you hope to reach through the blog?

The Can You Hear Me? blog; words with a voice, a story and an opportunity to inspire others to change for the better! This platform has given me such a great opportunity to express myself in ways that I truly hope are reaching and impacting those in need. The creation of this blog was at a time in my life when I was transitioning from a history and exposure that taught me so much and yet greatly impacted me from a mental health and physical standpoint. By having a forum to share the affects and effects of my own personal and professional challenges and struggles, I was helping myself as much as I hoped I was able to help others. As a social worker who strives to be a work in progress, embracing any and all opportunities to better my quality of  life, while continually adding to my personal and professional self, my hope is to share this with those in the field who are experiencing their own challenges and struggles.

My blog is a continual effort to empower, support, and instruct. When I write, it comes from within. The motivation and inspiration that I use to engage this process is based on my own personal and professional history; one that has and will continue to be my greatest resource.

My hope is to reach anyone in the helping profession in need of support, whether one is a recent MSW graduate unsure of their own skill set or a seasoned veteran who somehow became apathetic, complacent, and doesn’t even know where to start. My hope for those that are available to read this interview is that they will have a better understanding of this model of support, one that is influenced (and understood) by an experiential and empirical journey that is ongoing, Can You Hear Me?  Read Full Interview

Ecological Systems Theory and Practice: Expanding the Social Work Mandate

If you have read my prior writings on social work, you have become aware of my insistence that social work is the only profession that has both a mandate and an evidence-based approach to individual change and social change. Others have advanced a view that psychology has these elements because of their awareness or consideration of the environment as an important influence on behavior (Bandura, 2001; Elder, 1995). These points of view made me further examine the ecological systems theory and practice perspective. My resulting revelation rebutts assertions of a similar mandate in other behavioral sciences through an articulation of the expansion of the social work mandate.

EST_MandateIn presenting the expansion, I trace the historical origins of the social work mandate demonstrating the robustness of its theoretical frame.

The addition of a mandate for environmental practice clarifies why other behavioral sciences believe they include social change in their considerations. The difference with social work is that the environmental practice provides context, but the social change mandate require actual action to change the status quo.

Allow me first to introduce the original social work mandate. Next, I will introduce the expansion of the mandate to include environmental practice, and at the conclusion of this section, you will be able to:

  1. Articulate the expanded, three-phase social work mandate.
  2. Outline and define the elements of the three-phase social work mandate.
  3. Visualize the assessment and intervention domains indicated by the expanded, three-phase social work mandate.

The Big Picture

Consider that any assessment of the individual will necessarily include a review of the individual specifically and internally, awareness of the groups the individual interacts with, and review of the environment that constrains them both. Individual assessment in social work involves a biopsychosocial-spiritual approach to identity and behavior. This means that individual assessment asks questions about the biology and physiological characteristics, psychological and cognitive characteristics, social and relational influences, and the spiritual and faith impacts on the person.

“Groups” refers to the fact that groups, organizations and communities are made up of individuals. In order to communicate purpose and maintain order (as well as conceptualize a creed that is bigger than any one individual) groups, organizations and communities order themselves by a set of commonly agreed upon rules. That is, they create institutions of governance. Consider that the most universal of institutions include marriage, family, education, business, faith organization, and health system. Social workers are mandated through the social work code of ethics to ACTIVELY ensure that the institutions of society provide for the self-determination, justice, and well-being of individuals as well as the protection of vulnerable populations.

Groups have a number of variable characteristics due to their origin as collaboration between two or more people. The variability of each individual is multiplied by interactions with others, interactions with the environment, and interactive effects—responses based on the knowledge that an interaction caused a change in behavior. These variable characteristics result in increased complexity when attempting to predict the behavior of individuals within groups. But, the prediction is not impossible. Complex adaptive systems, Sociocybernetics, and Operational modeling are just a few of the approaches to exploring the complexity of individuals within groups.

“Environmental practice” refers to the social, political, technological, and economic impacts on behavior. This component is important to any assessment because it outlines an evaluation of social role, culture, access, and capacity that any behavioral scientist would agree has a bearing on behavior choice. This is the component that other behavioral sciences include.

“Social” is the historical context of environmental practice. It may be defined as the social role accepted by the individual based on his/her socialization over time. It is influenced by trauma, experience, risk, resilience, attributions, and expectations. Trauma can refer to physical harm or emotional longing. Experience refers to the expectation of a negative outcome based on prior outcomes. Risk describes the ability of the individual to take chances. Resilience describes the ability of the individual to make choices beyond (not supported by) his/her current state or prior experience. Attribution refers to conclusions and sense-making of the individual. Expectation describes the expectation of positive outcomes that break a pattern of negative outcomes.

“Political” is the value context of environmental practice. It can be defined as the culture informing the norms, beliefs and affiliation of the individual. It is influenced by authority figures, in-group initiation and at least three dichotomies. The first is creativity versus conformity. The second dichotomy is autonomy versus dependence. The third dichotomy is pragmatism versus idealism.

“Technological” is the learning context of environmental practice. It can be defined as the level of access experienced by the individual. It is influenced by the level of access to education, markets, infrastructure, and relationships. Think of education as the ability to gain needed knowledge. “Markets” refers to the ability to engage with others and sell products resulting in new resources to the system. “Infrastructure” refers to the ability to utilize knowledge to build products. “Relationships” describes the ability to connect with others for barter of knowledge, education, and infrastructure transactions.

“Economic” is the capability context of environmental practice. It is the capacity of the individual to engage in group discourse and benefit financially. It is influenced by intelligence, goals, legacy, and support. Intelligence is measured in the ability to delay gratification and save resources for later use. “Goals” refers to the capacity to plan for a future state of being. “Legacy” is the awareness of the progressive nature of economic development—the fact that choices now impact future states and choices. “Support” describes a system which provides financial and emotional resources in a way that encourages sustainable choices.

[EST&P stands for Ecological Systems Theory and Practice. ]

***Update View Archived Chat***#SWUnited Live Twitter Chat-Voter ID Laws and Implications 11/5/12 8PM EST


View archived discussion on Voter ID laws and implications at SWHelpercom-chat-on-2012-11-12.

Join us for a Live Twitter Chat on Voter ID laws and Implications with guest Johanna Fields, MSW Candidate and NASW-NC Intern, on Presidential Election Eve. Johanna wrote an article in the NASW-NC Blog  identifying the issues on both sides of the Voter ID Laws Debate. @SWHelpercom will be the moderator using the hashtag #SWUnited. NASW-NC stands for the National Association of Social Workers-North Carolina State Chapter.

Johanna  is in her last year of the MSW program at VCU in Richmond, VA. She has direct practice experience by working with children through group home and intensive in-home settings and with adults with Developmental Disabilities through in home services. She has focused her education on Macro Social Work and has experience working with the general assembly in VA, volunteering on a Presidential political campaign, and through her current internship where she is gaining a wide variety of macro experience. Her career goals are in the macro arena, but specifically in policy analysis. You can visit her Twitter at @wilwarin712 and/or Linkedin johannafield) for more details.

Here is an excerpt of her article:

The requirement of showing photo identification when voting has become a major point of contention, not only in our state, but across the nation. Last legislative session, North Carolina passed a bill requiring all voters to show photo identification in order to vote. Governor Bev Purdue, however, vetoed it before it became law and legislators were not able to reverse this veto. This is still an important issue as it may return in the 2013 legislative session. It is an issue that divides us along party lines with amazingly few exceptions. The passion from both sides is palpable (and understandable), but perhaps we can set aside the mud-slinging for now and look at this issue through a bi-partisan lens.

While voter integrity and involvement are important and valid issues, there is little concrete evidence of fraud in the current system. This issue is likened to speeding, however, in that a tiny fraction of those who engage in this illegal activity are actually caught. Requiring photo ID is just a piece of the puzzle, as it only stops one form of potential fraud and there are contradictory arguments as to how easy impersonating someone at the polls really is. On the other hand, this law would keep over 460,000 North Carolinians from being able to vote (and those are just the ones who are already registered and have been active in exercising this right in the past) (source: Democracy NC ). This data shows that the law would disproportionately affect minorities and those aged 65 and older.

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The Chicago Teacher’s Union is Lobbying for Social Worker Jobs….Should Social Workers Support the Strike

Join us on Twitter to discuss this topic on September 17th, 2012 at 8PM EST. Also view www.socialworkchats.com for more information on our Twitter Debates.

Press Release by the Chicago Teacher’s Union: CPS Fails To Negotiate Fair Contract To Prevent First Strike In 25 Years
09/09/2012. More than 29,000 teachers and education professionals will not report to work today 9/10.

CHICAGO— After hours of intense negotiations, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent the first teachers strike in 25 years. Pickets are expected to begin Monday at 675 schools and the Board of Education as early as 6:30 a.m. Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians have been without a labor agreement since June of this year.

Union leaders expressed disappointment in the District’s refusal to concede on issues involving compensation, job security and resources for their students. CTU President Karen Lewis said, “Negotiations have been intense but productive, however we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike. This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could avoid. Throughout these negotiations have I remained hopeful but determined. We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.

“Talks have been productive in many areas. We have successfully won concessions for nursing mothers and have put more than 500 of our members back to work. We have restored some of the art, music, world language, technology and physical education classes to many of our students. The Board also agreed that we will now have textbooks on the first day of school rather than have our students and teachers wait up to six weeks before receiving instructional materials.

“Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation. However, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits. Another concern is evaluation procedures. After the initial phase-in of the new evaluation system it could result in 6,000 teachers (or nearly 30 percent of our members) being discharged within one or two years. This is unacceptable. We are also concerned that too much of the new evaluations will be based on students’ standardized test scores. This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.”

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I look forward to discussing the implications and impact of the teacher’s strike on social workers. The Chicago Teacher’s Union is using the hashtag #CTUStrike.

View the Archive of the Chat Below:

Do Social Workers support or Disagree….and if so, how do we support?

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