Celebrate Social Work Month

March is Social Work Month and a time to join social work professionals and students in celebrating how the country’s 650,000 social workers are fortifying families, communities and our nation. Social workers know how to make a difference firsthand, as they help their clients reach for a better future, strengthen the fabric of society, provide safety nets and cultivate positive futures for those they serve. Social Work Month is when we tell their stories.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW)sponsors Social Work Month, which began in the 1960s. Robert Cohen, a pioneer of the movement, sees Social Work Month as celebrating the value of the profession. He defined the purpose of the month as “[combatting] the widespread notion that social work was something anyone can do; or that it just involved people who were good Samaritans trying to help others.”

The first Social Work Month theme — “Support Social Work Education in Your State” — was introduced in 1966. Nearly half a century later, the intent of Social Work month is unchanged although the themes have evolved along with the profession. Some past themes include: “Doing Good Isn’t Bad — It Isn’t Easy Either” (1973), “Give the Profession a Facelift” (1983), “National Health Care: Vital Signs of a Healthy Nation” (1993) and “Preserving Rights, Strengthening Voices
” (2003).

This year’s theme is “Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy,” and NASW highlights these three underlying concepts:

  1. A Nation’s Fabric and Diversity: Our national fabric is vibrant and strong because it has been woven from the stories of people from every continent into a compelling narrative of struggle, renewal and success.
  2. Stronger Safety Nets: Resilience and determination alone cannot overcome all crises, but weaving those strengths with targeted advocacy often can. The social work profession has a distinguished history of not only providing social safety nets to the most vulnerable, but also challenging systems that impede social mobility.
  3. Positive Futures: Stories of hope in the face of tragedy share a common theme: better times are ahead. Illness, loss, abuse and poverty shape our lives in profound ways, but how we learn to deal with each circumstance can determine how much those experiences define our limitations — or our opportunities.

How Can You Get Involved?

The power of Social Worker Month rests with each individual who makes the effort to participate. Social workers are significant influencers in their communities and act as role models and advocates. The work they do embodies this year’s theme.

If you are a social worker, you are essential in furthering the public’s understanding about social work. For example, social work professionals can host a leadership roundtable with educators, advocates and employers; sponsor a student; and identify themselves first as a professional social worker. Social work researchers can study a problem, develop multidisciplinary collaborations or watch a TED talk. Students might develop a career day presentation or send profiles of outstanding social work college students to the media.

There are several ways to get involved that include suggestions for reaching out to partners, media and social networks, and how to plan events and entertainment. Here are just some of the recommendations for advocacy (but check out the website for all 100 ideas):

  1. Attend a NASW Chapter Lobby Day event.
  2. Present social work issues to the state legislature.
  3. Invite elected officials to speak to a social work group.
  4. Send a letter to national lawmakers through SocialWorkers.org.
  5. Advocate for the passage of the Social Work Reinvestment Act.

Professional social workers help their clients find strength despite personal and systemic barriers to success. Throughout Social Work Month, social workers collaborating together can deliver effective personal and public advocacy to move our society forward.