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Wednesday, February 1

From the Pen of the President: February 2017

Don Phelps, PhD, LCSW
NASW Illinois Chapter President

The march was just the beginning

Last weekend I watched over two million women, children, and men in Washington, DC, and throughout the world take to the streets the day after the inauguration of President Trump in support of women's rights and gender equity. An estimated quarter of a million demonstrators, including many NASW-Illinois Chapter members, marched in Chicago. It was an historic event and a physical expression of solidarity. This week I’ve heard many colleagues and students ask, “What’s next? I want to get more involved.” Several of my friends are afraid that the march was “easy activism” and will not become the kind of sustained effort needed to effect real change. This is why we must channel the energy and passion from the march into a genuine movement, not just a memory.

The 2018 midterm elections are right around the corner and will be held on November 6, 2018. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested. Thirty-nine state governorships and numerous other state and local elections will also be contested. Many experts think that control of the US House in 2018 will be determined by a handful of swing districts. All of us must get engaged if we hope to win back the US House. It's time to dig in, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

Each of us can work to educate our friends, neighbors, and co-workers about important issues. We need to awaken citizens from their political apathy and encourage people to register to vote and get involved in political campaigns. We can recruit, fund, and support more women, minorities, and social workers to run for local political positions. Those with technical skills can help us build networks through social media to improve communication about the movement and make collaboration easier. We must keep the pressure on current legislators and work together with other advocacy groups whenever possible. Program your senator’s and representative’s phone numbers into your cell phone. Call to voice your support or displeasure for each cause that speaks to you. Unite and collaborate with others so we can seize this opportunity to strengthen the movement and build stronger coalitions.

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, please join an anticipated 1,000 social workers and social work students from across Illinois for Advocacy Day. In the morning there will be educational sessions on key policy concerns, proposed legislation, and advocacy skills in the Prairie Convention Center in Springfield. We will spend the afternoon in the state capital talking to legislators and advocating for the needs of our clients, agencies, and the social work profession. Participants will receive an Advocacy Day packet complete with legislative materials and tip sheets on lobbying. You can register by going here.

Are you looking to get more involved in social action, leadership, and advocacy? Please consider joining the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors. Due to term limits, we have several positions open this spring. This is a great way to implement change, share your knowledge, and voice your opinions! Consider getting involved in your professional association or nominating a colleague for a leadership position. The 2017 Leadership Recruitment Packet is available to download. The packet further outlines in great detail the importance of leadership and the requirements of elected leadership. The deadline is March 1, 2017. Nomination forms can be submitted here.

National NASW will launch the “Social Workers Stand Up!” campaign during Social Work Month in March to educate the public about contributions of social workers and why the professional title of social worker is so important. Social workers stand up for millions of people every day. These include people who are experiencing devastating illnesses and mental health crises, our veterans, children, families and communities. The aim of this campaign is to improve the image and respect of the social work profession by educating the public, media and elected officials about social work. More information about the “Social Workers Stand Up!” campaign can be found here.


Don Phelps (PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago; LCSW) currently works as a tenured, full professor at Aurora University's School of Social Work. For the last thirty years he has worked in various roles in social services including adolescent and family therapist, clinical director, chief operating officer, chief executive officer, and professor. In 2007, Don and a few of his graduate students developed, funded, and implemented ongoing therapeutic groups for children at Hesed House, the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois. During a university sabbatical in 2011, he provided pro bono clinical services and clinical/administrative training at the Casa Hogar Los Angelitos orphanage in Manzanillo, Mexico. He currently serves as president of the board of directors for the Center for Faith and Human Rights, an international nonprofit based in Washington, DC.

Posted on 02/01/17 at 08:00 AM

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