Message from the President:
The State of Social Work and NASW’s Focus
Six months into my presidency at NASW-NYC I am struck by the challenges we face as social workers and by the commitment of the volunteer Board and Chapter staff to make change.
Like other organizations, we are facing cutbacks and thinking about how to do our work with fewer resources. At one of our first Executive Committee meetings it became clear that we needed to find new ways to do business. Our Chapter relies upon membership dues to support the work we do. This year, as with other chapters across the nation, we have seen a reduction in student members becoming full members and in people opting out of membership altogether because of unemployment or underemployment. Additionally, the numbers are increasing for long term members moving into Gold Card status, which translates into a lower membership rate than for regular members. All three factors have contributed to a decrease in the resources available for Chapter services.
At precisely the time when NASW could be assisting social workers as they transition through different stages of employment and through difficult periods of unemployment, we are losing members and losing funding. What can we do? The Board of Directors created a Marketing and Membership strategy to focus on increasing awareness about what NASW-NYC does and to increase membership. We hope our Chapter activities will contribute to the positive image of social work and will encourage new and lost members to join the Chapter.
The other day I attended the annual lecture for field instructors. Having been a fieldwork supervisor for the last 24 years one might wonder what would compel me to attend and what would I learn? Sitting in the audience, I was reminded of the importance of fieldwork supervisors in the education and training of social work professionals. More often than not, field instructors are the first to socialize students to the professional work experience. Not only do field instructors teach students about providing services to clients, making assessments and interventions, and collecting and analyzing data for policy and advocacy work, they teach students about getting to work on time, how to interact with other disciplines, how funding sources and agency missions dictate the work, and more. They teach students about social work values and ethics from the field. I found myself asking, why do we do it? We do not get paid extra, we still have the pressures and tasks of our work, there is a lot of extra work in the beginning, and just as the students get it, they move on!
As I was listening to Professor Alex Gitterman, the speaker, my mind wandered to social work school where he was my professor, and I realized that I am a social work field instructor because I am proud to be a social worker and of the work I do as a social worker. I want to contribute to the professional training and experience of new social workers and to help others during this very challenging period. Alex reminded me of the HOPE I had when I was a student in his class, of what I thought would be the better days ahead, of the possibility of making a difference and of getting there by taking one step at a time. He reminded me of the importance of demonstrating support and HOPE in the training our students because “there are clients out there and they need help”.
This month, Currents illustrates and highlights clinical social work practice in a variety of settings. In each setting social workers embody the ethics and advocacy imperatives of the profession by using their skills to work with clients to address unmet social needs. Social workers advocate for clients and/or advocate for policies that will result in better services. One thing I suggest that social workers ask themselves every time they meet with a client is: To what public issue does this person’s private trouble link? And similarly, every time a community organizer or administrator considers a policy issue, s/he needs to ask: How will this issue affect individuals in need?
There are a lot of challenges ahead. Social Workers have the tools and dedication to address them. I am proud to be a social worker. Won’t you join us?