Every year in the month of March, social workers (and those who appreciate them) across the country celebrate National Social Work Month! This month is a time to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions that social workers (and the social work profession as a whole) make to positively transforming our society. It is a time for social workers to reflect on and celebrate their accomplishments and set new goals. And it is also a time to advocate for increased recognition (including recognition through compensation) for the work that social workers do – an issue that is specifically reflected in this year’s National Social Work theme, Elevate Social Work.
In honor of National Social Work Month 2019, it is important to take some time to reflect on the history, purpose, and goals of National Social Work Month, so that we can fully engage in all that this month offers social workers and promote the Elevate Social Work theme.
History of National Social Work Month
Since 1963, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has designated the month of March as a time to promote the profession of social work, encouraging public support in the profession and bolstering interest in social work as a career. Throughout the 1960s, the NASW spearheaded public awareness campaigns each March to garner statements of support for the profession and recognize the work of notable social workers on various media outlets.
In 1984, March was officially recognized as National Social Work Month by the White House, under the Reagan Administration. Many social workers advocated for the introduction of a joint resolution in Congress, which was co-sponsored by Senator Daniel Inouye (D – Hawaii), Representative Edolphus Towns (D – New York), and later Senator Strom Thurmond (R – South Carolina). The resolution passed and was signed into law, marking a huge win for the profession of social work.
Social Work Month Campaign Themes
The NASW has continued to launch campaigns for National Social Work Month each March. From the time the resolution passed in 1984 until 1998, the NASW selected a different social issue as the campaign focus each year. Campaigns promoted public awareness of pressing social work topics such as aging parents, children in poverty, AIDS, hate crimes, and racial and ethnic harmony. From 1998 until 2004, NASW decided to return to its earlier focus of campaigns, raising awareness of and support for the social work profession in general, fostering understanding of who social workers are and what they do to positively improve society for all.
Beginning in 2005, NASW began selecting a specific theme as the focus of National Social Work Month campaigns as part of the multi-year National Social Work Public Education Campaign – “an ongoing outreach effort led by the National Association of Social Workers, in conjunction with the NASW Foundation, to educate key stakeholders nationally about the importance of the profession.” Now, each year’s theme not only seeks to recognize the extraordinary contributions of the social work profession, but also highlight specific areas of advocacy that impact the social work profession. Each year, a rationale for the theme is published, along with media tool kits and other resources for social workers to become involved in the campaign. Recent themes have included Forging Solutions out of Challenges (2016), Social Workers Stand Up (2017), and Leaders, Advocates, Champions (2018).
2019 Campaign Theme: Elevate Social Work
The 2019 theme – Elevate Social Work – is an important campaign that seeks to elevate the public image of the profession, and also advocate for increased salaries for social workers, who remain one of the most underpaid professions despite their vital contributions to societal improvement and health. As this year’s theme rationale states: “The 2019 campaign will honor contributions of social workers and put the spotlight on social work salaries.” As the rationale also describes, a major goal of the campaign is to “begin a conversation to help social workers get better compensation for the work they do.” This theme recognizes that social workers must complete years of education and training to provide needed services to individuals, groups, and communities, and their level of pay should reflect that.
Getting Involved this Social Work Month
This year’s campaign is an especially important for one for social workers to become actively involved in, and there are many opportunities to do so. The NASW has provided many tools to promote the 2019 campaign during National Social Work Month. You can sign the campaign proclamation, to attest your support. There are a number of ways you can get involved on social media, following the guide provided or simply sharing the Public Service Announcement and Infographics that explain the campaign. You can also take the opportunity to write a letter to the editor of a local or national news outlet, using the provided template, or encourage your workplace or school to issue a press release about National Social Work Month modeled off of this one. You can also get in the spirit of National Social Work Month by purchasing (and wearing) themed merchandise available from an online retailer.
However you choose to engage with the 2019 National Social Work Month, Elevate Social Work campaign, your efforts will be part of a broader movement to promote and improve the social work profession in the United States. Happy National Social Work Month to all, and we hope you decide to participate!
If you are considering a career in Social Work check out MSWCareers.com!