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Tuesday, March 1

Social Work- The Next Decade

As we begin the 50 year anniversary of the National Association of Social Workers and the many celebrations that will be taking place throughout the 50 states and internationally, I asked several of our Illinois members to respond to the following question:

 What in the next decade do you think will unify and advance the social work profession while developing a common agenda for the profession and launching an action campaign to transform the social service landscape?

 This question, asked of these individuals, links closely to the goals of the upcoming NASW Social Work Congress taking place in Washington, DC on March 17th and 18th. The Congress will also launch and highlight the Public Education Campaign that we have featured in past issues of the Social Work Networker and will continue to promote throughout all of 2005.

 And now, in response to the question above your colleagues said:

 “I am in no way hanging out my shingle as being prophetic, but I do see some trends occurring across social work practice areas. The more things change the more they stay the same

 First, the focus on the individual/ family/community configuration experiencing difficulties has resulted in a practice shift, from a deficit lens to a strengths perspective. The evidence of this paradigm change is visible in all social work practice arenas as well as in other human service areas. Although we have not necessarily used the words strengths perspective, the functionality of this theory is not new to social work. We are presented with a golden opportunity as professional practitioners and academicians to reaffirm the values of our profession and to make sure that we are= integrating those values in everything we do.

 Illinois can boast of many social work leaders who understood/understand that enhancing abilities starts from the vantage point of a strengths perspective. We can look at the work of Jane Addams with the settlement house movement and community work; Froma Walsh and her work with families; the 1970s work of Laura Epstein and William Reid on the Task-Centered Project; and John L.Walter and Jane E.Peller’s ongoing work with solution-focused brief therapy; to name a few. They promoted the understanding that problem resolution and/or remediation involve the resources of the total environment – individual strengths, family (formal and informal) resources along with the assets of the community. We need to re-affirm and spotlight our grounding in our values as a unifying and advancing strategy for our profession regardless of what practice area we choose to focus our efforts.”— Veronica Coleman, LCSW Senior Manager, Basic Competencies & Professional Development Unit, Office of Training, Illinois Department of Children & Family Services Past President/NASW Illinois Chapter

 “In my view, our common commitment to advancing human dignity, human rights and social and economic justice will advance the profession by enabling us to set priorities, advance agendas and take leadership. This will be particularly critical in an era in which conservatives seek to dismantle the social safety net. Our capacity to practice at the individual, organizational, community and policy level will be our distinctive strength.”— Jeanne C. Marsh, PhD, MSW

George Herbert Jones Professor & Acting Dean of the School of Social Service Administration University of Chicago Editor-in-Chief NASW Social Work Journal

 “This first decade of the 21st century is in many ways reminiscence of the social and political welfare conditions that motivated and advanced the mission and development of the profession at the end of the 19th through the 20th centuries. In each decade across the 20th century, the social welfare conditions of many citizens were dire with shifting definitions of blame for their condition and assumptions about how to fix them or why they should be ignored. Social welfare responses to the plight of the poor, oppressed, mentally ill, disabled and so on vacillated between action, non action, and reaction at national and local levels conditioned by the relative power and populist support of progressive versus conservative agendas. The social work profession emerged and matured at various paces responding to social welfare issues and the political economy of the nation during each decade of the 20th century. The most influential decades of the profession’s contributions to the social welfare of the nation and in the profession’s development as a legitimate servant of human kind were marked by a collective unity of purpose, demonstrative social and political leadership, and an intellectual commitment to building and adapting theory to applied practice interventions.

 The social, political, and economic context of this first decade of the 21st century is in many ways different from those of the 20th century, but in the most fundamental ways they are the same. There are still huge deficiencies in the extension of social justice and retrenchment in the values of and commitment to social welfare for all citizens. There is a depreciation of social workers who champion social justice values and provide professional practice and service to the disenfranchised and suffering. This is the decade in which unity of the profession must be rekindled, when the profession’s leadership must rise again to the challenge of motivating and agenda setting, and in which our intellectual talents must again be directed at creating and demonstrating the efficacy of the profession’s practice.” — Thomas A. Regulus, MSW, Ph.D. Chair, Department of Social Work Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

 “According to the S Department of Labor, social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the nation, expected to grow as much as 30 percent by 2010. NASW can unify this fast growing profession by becoming more visible and self promoting. What I mean is NASW can make itself indispensable for all levels of social work through educational as well as research efforts. This can be done by offering leadership training on both grassroots and national levels. NASW can fund research to ensure effectiveness and accountability of our programs. In the decades to come, this will bring greater respect to our social work profession from allied professionals as well as the public.”— Elizabeth Fung, PhD, ACSW, LCSW Senior Social Worker Children’s Memorial Hospital

 “It is easy for us to identify problems. As social workers, we are quite good at assessment and critical thinking. The economic problems that threaten not only Social Security but our whole social service delivery system are very real, and we know that vulnerable populations are put at risk. We know that being value-based is broader than one or two controversial issues. But our strengths perspective is more often utilized with our clients than with our approach to social policy. We need to use our communication skills to find common ground with those we too easily criticize. We need to use language that connects with people across the span of political and religious orientation. Jim Wallis, in his recent book, “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It,” quotes the challenge of an activist who said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” Social Work can only be unified and transform the social service landscape by moving beyond critique and proposing value-based solutions that offer a better alternative. One example of a valuable contribution from NASW was the well-conceived universal health care plan in the 90’s that was based on clear principles that could be used to guide discussions from various perspectives. While the NASW plan became overshadowed by the political opposition to the Clinton plan, it still serves as a worthy model of going beyond the critique and proposing a better way. Our profession is critically challenged in the next decade to apply our social work skills in the larger environment. We need to be the ones we have been waiting for.”— Judith M Unger, ACSW, LCSW Associate Professor/ Director of Field Education Department of Social Work, Western Illinois University Illinois Chapter District Chair– Peoria

 “I look forward to the next decade as a social worker with great hope and optimism. Our National Association has committed to three major initiatives; The Center for Workforce Studies, the Public Image Campaign and the Social Work Congress. These three initiatives provide an opportunity for each of us to come together and encourage other professional organizations, with common interests, to join us in unifying our profession for the good of our clients and the communities we serve. For the first time in our history we will begin to tell the story of social work through the words of those we serve. The Public Image Campaign will be advertising in the near future about our consumer web site designed to gather those stories. We will ask permission to use these stories to inform the public about the critical services that social workers provide. The Center for Workforce Studies will begin building a national data base about who we are, our training and the services we provide. This information will be used for further research, public education and to raise the stature of our profession. The Social Work Congress will bring together five hundred of the most prominent leaders in the field of social work to develop an agenda for the future of our profession. The results of this important meeting will be used to shape our future in research, teaching and practice. I encourage each member to make a personal commitment to get involved in our professional association. It is an exciting time and we have opportunities for each of you to get involved at the district, state and national level. Join us and become part of these exciting initiatives that will affect the future of social work for years to come.” Diana Stroud, LCSW, ACSW Assistant Dean & Director of Development University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign National NASW Region IX Board Representative

 “The Social Work Profession will need to come together in regards to cultural competency and a commitment to the salaries/benefits/ and safety issues of social workers. Social work administrators and social workers on the front lines need to integrate the NASW Cultural Competency Standards into their institutions and/or community based agencies on all levels. Schools of social work need to be more responsive by increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups (Latino, Asian, African, and Native Americans) in their programs (faculty, adjunct faculty, graduate assistance opportunities, and administrative positions). In the year 2005, racism, discrimination,

and white privilege still exists in many institutions. Social workers need an opportunity to talk about these issues on university campuses and in the public and nonprofit community-based agencies.

 Salaries, Benefits, and Worker Safety issues need to be addressed by all social workers. Social workers should be compensated for their skills and knowledge. Social workers will need to consider collaborating with AFL-CIO Labor unions to organize their workplaces. Currently, there is a high turnover in many sectors of the human services which are due to the issues above. We have also seen an increase of temporary social work agencies which make a profit on the talent, skills, and knowledge of social workers. Social workers will need to be more informed about labor market issues in their profession, and advocate for their salaries, benefits, and worker safety issues.” — Adrian Delgado, LCSW, CEAP, CADC Adjunct FacultyLoyola University, School of Social Work Chair, Latino Social Work Organization

 As we continue to celebrate this “golden” milestone throughout 2005, I welcome feedback from the readership to the question posed above and look forward to printing member’s thoughts in upcoming editions of the newsletter. Please fax or e-mail your responses to Dee Goodale-Mikosz, Managing Editor, at 312.236.8410 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Posted on 03/01/05 at 01:51 PM


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