March is National Social Work Month, a time to honor those in the profession who promote social change and development each and every day. This year’s theme is “The Time is Right,” which embodies how social workers rose to meet one of the most pressing challenges of our lifetimes, the COVID-19 pandemic, even as our nation continues to grapple with systemic racism, economic inequality, global warming and other crises.
To learn more about the profession, which was established in 1898, The Daily tapped into the expertise of Marjorie Nigar Edguer, assistant professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
In 1915, the Mandel School at Case Western Reserve University was established as one of the first schools of social work in the United States to be affiliated with a university. Now, the ninth-ranked social work school in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, has a long and well-respected history of scholarship and continues to be an innovator in social work education, with vibrant community partnerships and nine research centers.
Read on to learn Nigar Edguer’s top five aspects of social work that offer a glimpse into all the field has to offer.
1. Social workers usually join the field because they have a strong desire to make people’s lives better.
Social work focuses on environmental, economic and social justice, as well as liberation. Social workers direct their efforts to make people’s lives better at multiple levels: individual, family, group, organization, community and policy.
2. Social workers push for changes that make our society a better place to live.
This includes a livable wage, improved workplace safety, and social safety net programs that help ameliorate poverty, hunger and homelessness. They advocate for equal rights for all, including Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, those who are LGBTQ+, immigrants, religious groups and others. They have collaborated to push for voting rights, equal rights, social security and unemployment insurance. Social work was one of the first mental health professions to seek to protect LBGTQ+ youth from conversion therapy (known to be a psychologically damaging intervention).
3. Social work job possibilities are extremely diverse.
Social workers do everything from individual therapy, to community organizing, to school-based support groups for children, to helping design policy at the local, state and national levels. You will find social workers almost everywhere, working in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, mental health and addiction care facilities, veterans centers, nonprofit community organizations, child welfare agencies and in local, state and federal government, including as elected officials. It is very likely that you know someone who has been helped by a social worker.
4. Social workers are the largest group of mental health providers in the nation.
Social workers help people with a wide range of individual and family problems, from overcoming stress and anxiety, improving relationships and family communication, to supporting people who are dealing with schizophrenia or addiction.
5. Social workers seek to solve problems by building on existing strengths—and developing new strengths.
And, they look at both individuals and environments to find solutions. Social work is a partnership between the social worker and the people they work with, whether these are individuals, families or communities.
This story appeared in The Daily on March 24, 2022.