Dear Social Work Community,
March is National Social Work Month. The annual Social Work Month campaign in March is a time to inform public, policymakers, and legislators about how social workers have always broken barriers when it comes to the services they provide in an array of sectors, including hospitals and mental health centers, federal, state, and local government, schools, community centers, and social service agencies.
People become social workers because they have a strong desire to help, heal, challenge, and change. Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). More than 700,000 professional social workers are hard at work nationwide, but that number is expected to rise to almost 800,000 by 2030, according to BLS.
The U.S. social work began more than a century ago. The profession can trace a large part of its origins to Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star, who in 1889 opened Hull House in Chicago to provide social services to the area, which had a large immigrant population. Other social work pioneers include anti-lynching advocate and women’s rights activist Ida B. Wells and George Edmund Haynes, a social worker who was co-founder of the National Urban League. In the 1960s, past NASW President Whitney M. Young Jr., worked in collaboration with President Johnson and other leaders during the Civil Rights era to break down the barrier of employment discrimination so Black people could get access to pay equity. Social workers have helped drive significant, positive changes in our nation. Frances Perkins, the first female Labor Secretary during the Great Depression, and others helped secure benefits we continue to see used today, such as the 40-hour work week, minimum wage, and Social Security benefits.
The social work profession also has a history of failing to break barriers by unquestioningly following unjust policies (such as the removal of Native American children or the war-time incarceration of Japanese Americans, etc.). We as social workers must learn from both our history of advocacy and our failure to do so.
Today, we at the Seattle University Social Work Dept recommit to our mission -social justice-focused and community-based social work— and to breaking barriers to strive for social change.
Thank you for being part of this mission.