Rekindling the Spirit of Social Work
Reinforcing the Profession and Building Bridges to the Future
NASW-NYC held an inspiring Annual Meeting, “Rekindling the Spirit of Social Work”, on May 10, addressing the dual themes of “Reinforcing the Profession and Building Bridges to the Future.” The gathering, ushered in by a special drum and dance performance, set the tone for the evening and provided a platform for celebrating the collective unity and strength of the association’s network.
Rose Starr, DSW, President of NASW-NYC, presided over the meeting. Among those recognized were Administration for Children’s Services’ Commissioner, John Mattingly, Cao O, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, past presidents and current board members of NASW-NYC, Social Work Pioneers, New Professionals, candidates running for NASW-NYC offices, and the able NASW-NYC staff, including new Associate Executive Director, Athena Moore.
Executive Director’s Address
NASW-NYC Executive Director, Robert Schachter, addressed the membership around critical issues of concern. He emphasized the need for government to re-invest in the social work profession if the service needs of New Yorkers are to be met. Dr. Schachter said, in a recent meeting with two of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s cabinet members, “If you homogenize everybody and look at human services globally, you will miss the profession of social work.” In describing the unique contributions of social work professionals, he was heartened that the Governor’s staff recognize the need to continue implementation of such initiatives as loan forgiveness for social workers and recruitment of Latino and gerontological social workers.
Gary Bailey, MSW, Keynote Speaker
Thomas Sedgwick, Board Member and Annual Meeting Planning Committee Chair, introduced Keynote Speaker Gary Bailey, ACSW and MSW; Associate Professor, Simmons College Graduate School of Social Work; Chairperson, NASW National Social Work Public Education Campaign; and past President of NASW.
Mr. Bailey spoke of the need for a master plan to advocate for federal and state investments in professional social work to enhance societal well-being. “What helps or hurts one person, helps or hurts us all,” he said. He quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Look fear in the face . . . do what you think you can’t do.” The plan needs to include a systematic approach of seeing the problem, analyzing social and other issues, and taking action.
Were it not for social workers who took action after seeing discrimination, said Mr. Bailey, many of the programs that we now take for granted would not exist. Such programs as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and Workers Compensation are due, in part, to advocacy by social workers. In the areas of civil rights, humane treatment for the mentally ill, and prevention of child abuse, social workers have “represented the voice of people for whom the world has chosen to ignore their existence.”
In describing the legacy of social work, Mr. Bailey named such pioneers as Jane Addams, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931; Jeannette Rankin, a social worker and the first woman elected to Congress; Whitney M. Young, Jr., President of NASW from 1969-71 and Executive Director of the Urban League, who fought tirelessly in combating racism and poverty. Also mentioned were social workers, Frances Perkins and Alexis Herman, who served as U.S. Secretaries of Labor, and Barbara Mikulski, first woman U.S. Senator elected in her own right.
Mr. Bailey described major findings impacting human services documented by NASW’s Center for Work Force Studies. Among the challenges for social work are difficulties in the recruitment and retention of social workers, difficulties in meeting the needs of organizations serving children and families, and the lack of social workers in rural areas.
Mr. Bailey went on to describe NASW’s Social Work Reinvestment Initative, which includes:
• Expanding support and mechanisms to attract new social workers through loan forgiveness, stipends, and scholarships;
• Advocating for funding to support social work education and training;• Enhancing support for social work research;
• Communicating the value of social work education and licensing to employers and policy makers;
• Collaborating with employers and policy makers to support professional development;
• Increasing compensation for social workers.
Mr. Bailey offered several ways in which NASW chapters and social workers can participate in the reinvestment effort. Among these are the need to identify the stakeholders to be involved in reinvestment, documentation of the history of public support for social workers, conducting a state-wide assessment of existing reinvestment components, identifying needed legislative changes, and drafting a state reinvestment plan.
Chapter Service Award Recipient
Peter Beitchman, DSW, was presented the NASW-NYC Chapter Service Award. Dr. Beitchman is the Executive Director of the Bridge, Inc., a multi-service agency for individuals with serious mental illness. Dr. Beitchman has been a leader in New York’s mental health system for 40 years. In addition, he completed a term as Board Member and Treasurer of the National Association for the Mentally Ill. He has been active with NASW-NYC and chairs its Fundraising Committee.
2007 Social Work Image Award Recipients
Frances Clark Lucas was one of the two Social Work Pioneers presented with the Social Work Image Award. Ms. Lucas was a supervisor at the NYC Board of Education until 1986, continues to serve as a social activist. With the late Coretta Scott King, a friend and colleague, she pursued the causes of social justice and civil rights. She is the author of various publications related to child development, civil rights, and black history and culture.
The second award recipient, John Bliss, LCSW, CASAC, is a founding partner of The Second Wind, Inc., an outpatient addiction treatment center. Mr. Bliss is highly regarded for his vision to open the center and to transcend the challenges faced in the 1980’s while meeting the needs of some of the city’s most difficult to serve populations, ranging from parolees to ACS referrals. As a director and supervisor, Mr. Bliss is also recognized for his leadership and inspiration among staff and clients.
2007 Student Award Recipients
Six students, Noah Clyman (NYU), Monique Sierra (Columbia), Meng-Wei Liao (Yeshiva), Lauren Morse (Hunter), and Shenelle Eaton Foster (Fordham) were recognized for their professional accomplishments and leadership in social work. Mary Ellen Santiago (Columbia) received this year’s Georgia McMurray Award. Several students were presented with the NASW student award at the graduation ceremonies of their respective schools of social work.