A Call to Action for Social Workers! The Time is Now to ELEVATE

As we recognize March as Social Work Month, let’s awaken that original passion in each other and build on our strengths and core social work values to make change and lead the way for others to do so as well.

My fellow social workers, the time is now to lead the way for our nation regarding human rights and human well-being. The shocking cruelty and violation of human rights that occur each day in our nation under the current administration not only violates our Code of Ethics, but is cruel, unjust, and the epitome of what we as social workers dedicate our lives to fight against—socialinjustice.

We cannot risk becoming desensitized to any injustice, despite hearing about a new, abhorrent policy, practice or incident, every day. Let’s channel our frustration into collective action because this is our domain. We are the experts of social welfare, and we are uniquely trained to recognize social injustice and empower individuals, families, organizations, and communities toward positive social change.

It’s what we do every day as social workers. Since we know how to do this, we should be leading the way. This social work month lets ELELVATE our dedication and translate it into collective action for social justice. I believe that in doing so, we honor of the many pioneer social workers who have blazed the trail for us and worked to give us many of the rights we now enjoy.

Every day I am in awe of our society and our government’s attitudes and policies toward the most vulnerable people in our society. Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia seem to be increasing at alarming rates (or perhaps are just more acceptably overt now) and this is resulting in more violence, conflict, and division among families and communities.

To me, that constitutes an emergency. Children are being legally separated from their parents, put in cages, often abused or neglected and “lost” by our government. If that isn’t an emergency, I’m not sure what is. Banning PEOPLE from serving in the military, sending refugees back to their country of origin to face certain death, and women’s reproductive rights at risk are all emergencies to me.

What do you think? What constitutes a national emergency to you? Whatever you answer, the good news is that we know how to deal with crisis as social workers and are bound together by social workvalues. So, let’s do it. Someone has to, and why not us—this is our domain. Plus, we have a lot of professional strengths to build on.

For example:

• We know how to build on strengths.
• We know how to organize.
• We know how to educate.
• We know how to build bridges, not walls.
• We know how to empower individuals, families, organization, and communities.
• We understand human rights and human dignity.
• We know how to advocate on micro through macro levels.
• We know how to push through when we are tired because people’s lives depend on us.
• We understand human behavior more than most.
• We know how to critique social policy.
• We know how to conduct research and translate it into practice.
• We know how to problem solve and are used to complex problems.
• We value diversity and we know how to celebrate it.

As a social work educator, I have the privilege of working with budding social workers every day. Their passion for social justice is raw and strong. However, as some seasoned social workers know, that passion may not go away, but it may grow tired, and frustrated by red tape, high case-loads and lack of support.

My fellow social workers, I ask you to ask yourself: How do you want to use your unique innate gifts and your professional skills as a social worker to help our nation awaken to the humanity of others? We cannot let human suffering being the norm or be a line item on news that people shake their head to and go on about their day. Jane Addams would not approve.

Caring for the Caregiver

During cancer treatment, the main focus is on the patient. However, a cancer diagnosis affects the entire family, including caregivers. A caregiver is any person who supports a patient during treatment; this can be a spouse, partner, sibling, son, daughter, or friend. Taking on the role of a caregiver can change the dynamic in a relationship.

Partners who were once equals can now have an imbalance and a child can often need to take on a parental role. Often the caregiver’s needs can be overlooked. It is important for the caregiver to keep their body and mind healthy in order to provide the best care to the patient. While this seems easier to say than do, working in some self-care does not have to take a lot of time or money.

Ways to put yourself first:

Let go of guilt. It is natural to feel guilty for taking time for yourself when your loved one needs so much. Try to remember why all airlines instruct passengers to put their own oxygen mask on first before helping others. The reason behind this is simple: You cannot care for someone else when you are depleted. It is important to acknowledge guilty feelings and find a safe place to share them, but do not allow them to stop you from caring for yourself.

Build in fun. Create a list of activities that make you happy. Playing your favorite song, taking a bubble bath, or going for a walk are just some of the possibilities.

Relax. Simple breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, and proper sleep habits. There’s even an app for that! You can download apps like Headspace and Calm to help guide you in relaxation practice.

Self-compassion. Cut yourself some slack! When you care for yourself and a loved one, it is normal to experience stress. Recognizing this stress in a non-judgmental way and taking small steps to combat it is the first step in self-care.

Your oncology social worker is there to help patients and caregivers, and we can help you make a personalized plan to cope with the challenges of being a caregiver.

Congresswoman Lee & Senator Stabenow Celebrate World Social Work Day

Barbara_Lee_Congressional_Caucuses_Discuss_KxW5UjOWmJOl1

Washington DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced a bicameral congressional resolution marking March 15th as World Social Work Day and celebrating March as Social Work Month.

“As a psychiatric social worker, I know firsthand the critical contributions that social workers make to our communities,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Social workers are tireless advocates for the vulnerable and voiceless.

Through their work, they promote empathy and compassion across our country while helping families overcome economic, social and structural barriers to success. My resolution celebrates this important profession that strengthens families and supports those who are struggling.”

“Social workers play critical roles in our communities,” said Senator Stabenow. “Whether in schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, or community service organizations, these trained professionals provide critical support to families and improve the quality of life for all of us.”

The theme for this year’s World Social Work Day is “Promoting the Dignity and Worth of Peoples.” This theme celebrates the persistent work of social workers helping individuals, communities and the larger society tackle and solve issues that confront our most vulnerable.

Congresswoman Lee authored H.R. 1378, the Social Work Reinvestment Act, which establishes a commission to study the social work profession and promote recruitment, retention and reinvestment in social workers. She has also introduced H.R. 2375, the Student Support Act, which provides school funding for hiring school-based mental health counselors, social workers,  and student support counselors.

Lastly, Congresswoman Lee is the sponsor of H.R. 3712, Improving Access to Mental Health Act, which updates reimbursements for clinical social workers to help seniors who are enrolled in Medicare access comprehensive behavioral health services.

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Democrat Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity as well as the Chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

The Irish Association of Social Workers: Tackling the Declining Numbers of Social Workers

Donal OMalley

Social work is a very challenging profession, but one that is highly rewarding. However, recently there are number of social workers in the profession are declining. With vacancies unable to be filled, vulnerable children are therefore left at risk. Negative media attention and’social work bashing’ by politicians could be a reason for this.

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) is a voluntary professional body which aims to improve social work practice standards, enhances the perception of social work and uses expertise to influence the development of policy, both locally and globally.

Dónal O’Malley is a Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the IASW. Recently, Mr O’Malley  called on a minimum 30% increase in the number of social workers to help protect children in Ireland. This not only applies to Ireland, but can be applied globally!

Mr O’Malley kindly agreed to Q&A to explain what can be done about the need for more social workers and why it is so important for service users.

SWH: What is the current situation in Ireland with Social Workers?iasw

DO’M: There are just over 3,900 registered social workers in the Republic of Ireland. Although social work has been self regulating for a couple of decades its only recently become regulated by the State since May 2013 under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act.

There are about 1,600 (or 1,400 WTE) social workers working for Tusla, the Child & Family agency in statutory child protection and about 1,900 (or 1,600 WTE) working for the HSE in other areas such as medical social work, mental health, disabilities and Primary Care.  Our website and the Tusla website  will give you a lot of detail about Social Work in Ireland and more specifically about social work in the area of Child Protection.   The information that we put out to members during the recent General Election (#GE16) points to many of the issues that are important to social workers currently.

Why do you feel there is a need for more social workers?

DO’M: Specifically in the area of Child Protection, Tusla, the national agency with responsibility for child protection and welfare, is struggling to met its statutory responsibilities. The reports on the Tusla website (mainly “Measuring the Pressure”) will show how the Agency is falling short of its own targets (such as ensuring that every CIC (child-in-care) has an allocated social worker). More social workers are needed just to cope with the current crisis and more still to ensure that children and their families are afforded a comprehensive service.

In other areas of health and social care, there is a shortage of social workers. In Primary Care for example, there are only 80 nationally, for a population of 4.6m!

Do you think the Government is taking the right measures to deal with this and what resources would be needed for this? 

DO’M: No!

I don’t believe child protection services are a priority and certainly social work services in other areas are even less so.

We need substantially more social workers in Tusla, but also more administrative staff, more social care workers, more access workers, more psychologists, etc if we are to be able to offer vulnerable children the right protections and a comprehensive assessment, treatment and support service for the 6,500 children who are in the care of the State.

There are many other areas that require reform also, such as the Family Courts and the recommendations of Carol Coulter’s final report of The Child Care Law Reporting Project are equally important in reforming a system and ensuring that services are more responsive to the needs of children. Again, press releases on the IASW website will outline the concerns we have in this area and what we believe needs to change.

What measures are the Irish Association of Social Workers taking to entice people to consider social work as a profession?

DO’M: We try to promote a greater understanding of the role of social workers to the general public through such initiatives as the National Social Work Awards and also through our participation at career fairs, giving secondary school students information on the profession.

Would UK fast-track schemes like Frontline, work in Ireland?

DO’M: Their are 9 courses that are currently recognized by CORU (the registration body for social work in Ireland). Some of these courses are 2 year post graduate courses, not unlike Frontline, with an emphasis on developing practical skills but we believe that social workers should have a good knowledge of sociology and social policy as well. We would like to see an expansion of the number of places available on these courses as a means of increasing the number of social work graduates.

Do you feel Ireland is losing its social work students to the UK?

DO’M: A few years ago, I would have said unequivocally, “yes”, however in the last couple of years the employment situation has changed in Ireland and there are far more opportunities here now. People will still travel to expand their horizons and get the experience of working in other jurisdictions but I think that new graduates have more choices now than the did just a few short years ago, albeit at a significantly reduced salary scale compared to their colleagues.

What measures do you think can be taken to tackle this shortage? 

DO’M: Increased funding for agencies to allow them to employ more social workers.

More places on social work training courses.

More support staff so social workers can focus on the core aspects of their job and more efficiently use their time.

What impact does this have on children?

DO’M: I believe that children are being short changed because of the lack of social workers. They don’t get to build the rapport with the person who is charged with assessing their needs and implementing a safeguarding plan. We know from talking to advocacy groups for children in care that one of the most important things that children want is for their social worker to “really know” them.  Also, I know many social workers who work in the child protection services who feel that they could and should do more for the children that they work with if only they had the time and the additional resources.

I think the outcomes for the 6,500 children would be significantly improved if the system was more responsive to their needs. Also, for the children (and their families) who are awaiting a service, it is a sad indictment that their situation often has to become quite dire before they get the help that they need.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Debbie Stabenow Introduce Resolution to Support Social Work

Howard University School of Social Work Students at Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill  (from Left to Right) Latoya Parker, Ne’Presha Watkins, Jeanni Simpson, Sydney Wilson, Nadolphia Andou, Tiara Shelton, Crystal Evans, Kyla Payne, Tania Flores, and Kevin Thomas

Washington, DC – March 18, 2015, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI) introduced a Congressional Resolution to highlight the positive impact of social workers on their communities to mark National Social Work Month and World Social Work Day.

On March 17th, 2015, World Social Work Day, the first student-led Social Work Advocacy Day was held on Capitol Hill co-sponsored by Congresswoman Lee in conjunction with Former Congressman Edolphus Towns, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work Policy, Social Work Helper, Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Workers, and Catholic University of America.

“This resolution brings long overdue recognition to this important profession that is having a positive impact, both at home and abroad. As a psychiatric social worker, I am proud of the contributions that our nation’s social workers make every day in our communities by supporting the most vulnerable,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

Congresswoman Lee is the chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, in which Senator Stabenow is also a serving member. The Congressional Social Work Caucus was founded by Former Congressman Eldophus Towns and ratified by the 113th Congress in 2011.

“Social workers play critical roles in our communities,” said Senator Stabenow.  “Whether in schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, or community service organizations, these trained professionals provide critical support to families and improve the quality of life for all of us.”

If enacted, the resolution will not only observe National Social Work Month and World Social Work Day but also formally acknowledge the diligent efforts of social workers and promote the social work profession.

Paving the Way for Change is #YSocialWork

B_R4dyFW8AAE9PsAs a social worker to my core, I love this year’s theme for Social Work Month, “Social Work Paves the Way for Change” which is why most of us became social workers in the first place. We believe whole-heartedly in the ability of people to change.

As much as I entered this field to try and save the world, over the course of many years it has been incredibly humbling to learn that it is the broken and lost who have provided the inspiration and motivation to continue to serve. In fact, my most precious education and understanding of humanity have been supplied by the countless children, families, elderly, and foster and adoptive parents I have been blessed to know.

In my role, I have the privilege of meeting so many amazing social workers. Each and every one of them continues to take on extremely stressful situations, and dedicate more hours in a day than most people know to protect children and adults and strengthen families. Their work is driven by a mission and commitment that is very much appreciated by those they serve.

Whether it is offering a comforting hug to a hurting child, or simply holding the hand of a 90-year old great-grandmother to let her know that she’s not been forgotten, social workers keep the fabric of our society held together. As a result of their willingness to do this, they serve as the foundation for change.

As a tribute to these remarkable individuals, I wanted to share words from a few of those caseworkers and social workers about why they chose social work, and what keeps them motivated to inspire change, no matter how small, every day.

#YSocialWork - Laura Hughes

#YSocialWork - Kristen Hamilton

If you want to be even more inspired, check out a great Social Work Month social media campaign from Social Work Helper, #YSocialWork, encouraging social workers to use social media to explain why social work matters. Visit the Social Work Helper website to download and print out a campaign sign to write your message. Then post your #YSocialWork message to Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram with the #YSocialWork hashtag.

Or, simply take the time to let the social workers in your community know how much they are appreciated.

Happy Social Work Month!

When Someone Asks #YSocialWork Does It Feel Like An Insult

Social Work is a tough profession even under the best of circumstances, but the impact social workers have on the lives we touch can influence the trajectory of a life over its lifespan. Many of us choose this profession for a variety of reasons. However, if you surveyed a huge sample of social workers, many would say the profession chose them.

From birth to hospice, Social Workers enter the lives of people when they are in crisis throughout the spectrum of life. Social Workers are the first responders for social issues and family intervention because we are called in when problems begin to show up on the radar. From domestic violence and suicide prevention to cancer awareness, social workers provide intervention and advocacy on many issues because we directly impact our clients and their ability to heal.

March is National Social Work month and every third Tuesday in March is World Social Work Day. Social work month is the one time of year social workers celebrate our profession and each other. It’s the one time of year, social workers feel allowed to pat themselves on the back and say good job or well done even if no one else does.

Unfortunately, the magnitude of our impact is often compromised by having access to limited resources and funding, worker burnout, depression, outdated systems and processes to increase efficiency, and a host of other issues that are too long to list in this article. As a result, social workers become the faces of the failed systems in which we work. So, when someone outside the profession, family, or friends asks why social work, does it not sometimes feel like they are insulting your choice of profession?

#YSocialWork

According to Twitter, the very first #YSocialWork tweet came from a Master of Public Administration student who simply tweeted #YSocialWork

When Shauntia White, the event organizer for Social Work Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, began planning a #YSocialWork campaign for the event on March 17th, I felt Social Work Month would be the perfect opportunity for social workers to explain #YSocialWork is important to us and potential future social workers. Sometimes, it can be a bit frustrating always having to defend your chosen profession or having to explain why social work matters, but we are our best brand advocates. Our profession often falls victim to a majority of negative articles or comments when something bad happens. However, this is an opportunity for us to flood social media with positive messages about why social work matters.

To help celebrate social work month, I invite you to participate in the #YSocialWork social media campaign. Social Work Helper is launching the #YSocialWork campaign in conjunction with Congresswoman Barbara Lee chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work Policy (CRISP), Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work, and Catholic University of America (CUA).

How to Participate in #YSocialWork

Print out the attached campaign sign below, write your message of empowerment, and create a picture or video holding the #YSocialWork campaign sign below. You can post your #YSocialWork message to Twitter, Tumblr, Linkedin, Facebook, and/or Instagram. Also, you must include the #YSocialWork hashtag in your post to share your message with other social workers. Will you participate and also share this experience with others to help celebrate Social Work Month with us?

Twitter Example:

Facebook Example:

 

Also, if you tag Social Work Helper in your tweet using @swhelpercom, on instagram @socialworkhelper, on Tumblr, or Facebook at facebook.com/swhelper, I will be resharing tags to Social Work Helper on all SWH social media outlets including Pinterest and Google Plus. Social Work Helper has a combined social media reach of 110,000 people.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share with the social work community at large your message of empowerment, an issue you care about locally, or why you chose social work as your profession. I look forward to sharing your messages.

Happy Social Work Month!

Social Work Members of Congress Launch Social Work Day on the Hill

WASHINGTON, DC—Spearheaded by former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns and joined by former Congressman Ronald V. Dellums and current Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13), Tuesday March 17, 2015 has been declared Social Work Day on the Hill.  A reception will be held in Room B-340 of the Rayburn House Office Building from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. to highlight the day dedicated to celebrating contributions social workers make to Congress and the federal government.  The event’s theme is Engaging Congress in the Pursuit of Social Justice.

More than two dozen social work organizations and schools are collaborating to create the event in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus, founded by Mr. Towns in 2010 during the 111th Congress. Congresswoman Lee chairs the Social Work Caucus.  A focal point of the day will be stepping up efforts to pass the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13) succeeded Congressman Edolphus Towns as Chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13) succeeded Congressman Edolphus Towns as Chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus

“Having a day for social workers on the Hill has been a dream of mine for a long time,” the former lawmaker acknowledged.  “This will be a day held each year when social workers from all walks of life can gather on the Hill to celebrate the many accomplishments we have made in Congress and salute the many social workers working with the federal government to create a more just and equitable society for all people.  March is Social Work Month so this is the perfect time to do this.”

Towns, who served 30 years in the House representing central Brooklyn, NY before retiring in 2013, earned his M.S.W. degree at Adelphi University’s School of Social Work.  He first introduced the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act in 2008 during the 110th Congress and it has been re-introduced in succeeding Congresses, most recently in the 113th Congress by Rep. Lee as H.R. 1466.  A companion bill, S. 997, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.  Both Lee and Mikulski are social workers.  Congresswoman Lee earned her M.S.W. degree at the University of California, Berkeley School of Social Work.  Sen. Mikulski is a graduate of University of Maryland School of Social Work.

“As a former psychiatric social worker, I know first-hand the impact that social workers have on our communities. Professional social workers continue to work on the frontlines, helping individuals overcome adversity, connecting families to critical care services, and making communities thrive,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “As the proud Chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, I am looking forward to attending yet another successful social work day on the Hill during Social Work Month in March.”

Former Congressman Ronald Dellums, who served in the House from 1971 to 1988 representing the 9th District in Northern California, will be the keynote speaker for the reception.  He later became mayor of Oakland, CA and is currently the Visiting Fellow at Howard University’s Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center.  He was the first African American to serve as chair of the Armed Services Committee.

“I am pleased to help bring social workers to the Hill,” Mr. Dellums said.  “There is a sense of urgency today that did not exist fifty years ago when I first arrived on the Hill.  When Congressman Towns and I first came to Congress it seemed like we had plenty of time to address the challenges we faced.  The world is moving at a faster clip today and too many people are being left behind.  Social work must find the big idea that will define the profession over the next decade which is why it is so important that we all come together.”

There are currently seven professional social workers in Congress—five in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.  In addition to Congresswoman Lee, other social workers in the House are Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA53), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL4), Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ9) and Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA3).  Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are professional social workers.  Congresswoman Lee is the chair of the Democratic Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity and founder and co-chair of the Out-of Poverty.  In 2013, she was selected by President Barack Obama as the congressional representative to the United Nations.

For additional information, contact Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr., president of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP) at celewisjr@gmail.com. CRISP is a 501(c4) nonprofit organization Towns helped to found to complement the work of the Social Work Caucus.

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