Ushering in the New
New Professionals - A Beacon for Future Social Work Leadership
Aminda Sook-Hee Jacobs, LCSW
Editor’s Note: Aminda Sook-Hee Jacobs, is a member of the New Professionals Task Force and also serves on the NASW-NYC Board of Directors, its Executive Committee and as Chair of the Membership Committee. She is also an active member of NASW’s Asian Task Force. Ms. Jacobs is a graduate of the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service.
NASW-NYC has benefited from the enormous talent, vitality and optimism of a very sharp-witted and passionate group of young professionals that have embraced the challenge of providing leadership for what has now become the Chapter’s beloved New Professionals Task Force. The Task Force, created to focus attention on the needs of social workers new to the profession, is in its first year of development and going strong. Since its formation, the Task Force has continued to serve as a major vehicle for supporting the unique needs of recent graduates and students, and for cultivating the next generation of leaders poised to usher in the NASW of tomorrow. In essence, they are the wind beneath our wings.
On December 4, over 60 social workers gathered at NASW-NYC’s Chapter office for the New Professionals Task Force’s open house to address, “Improving Working Conditions for Social Work Practice.” As the first major event since the Task Force’s inception in the summer of 2006, the evening provided a much-needed safe space and networking opportunity for social workers of all levels. Utilizing floor space and even sitting two to a chair, clinicians, community organizers, advocates, and supervisors represented fields from child welfare to political campaigns. While the program emphasized support and self-care, both the forum discussion and surveys described deeper and more poignant concerns: lack of supervision, racism among co-workers, overwhelming caseloads, and low salaries. The overall fear for the quality of care workers are able to deliver to clients was meaningfully discussed, and the end of the meeting was clearly punctuated by the question, “Ok, what next?”
The leadership of the Task Force, which is actively involved and represented throughout NASW including members from the board of directors, LGBT Committee, Asian Task Force, PACE and others, answered this question by inviting participants to their January 8 meeting. A subsequent day-long planning retreat on February 3 further defined the role and next steps of the Task Force. As one social worker asserted, “there seems to be a complacency surrounding the notion that working conditions have always been bad. We need to fight against the normalization of a bad standard and support each other.”
Kevin Lotz, LCSW, and one of the founding members, believes that, “[the Task Force] can certainly serve as a needed ‘emotional home’, [for new professionals]” but encourages all Chapter members to attend the Task Force’s monthly meetings to voice their ideas and concerns about working conditions. Adds NASW-NYC Executive Director, Robert Schachter, DSW, “When one realizes the challenges that the profession is facing as we move into the future, five to ten years down the road, it is critical that we prepare the next generation of social workers for dealing with those challenges, now, collectively.”
Despite regularly scheduled meetings filled with energy and camaraderie, the New Professionals Task Force still has a long road ahead. There’s truth in the adage, “strength in numbers,” especially when disseminating the message that social workers are united in creating a brighter and stronger position within the NYC community. “It is heartening that so many new professionals have responded to NASW’s call for them to come together,” says Schachter. “Meeting [them] gives one a sense of how great the profession actually is. They are so smart, insightful, open to learn, critical thinkers…Knowing them inspires hope for the future.”
Creating hope cannot be done alone, however. The missing element is your voice. The New Professionals invite you to their next meeting on May 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chapter office. Also, look for a special information table at the Annual Meeting on May 10. In the meantime, log onto www.naswnyc.org and take the working conditions survey.