An Open Letter to Social Workers during Social Work Month

By Hannah Gill, CILA's Social Work Intern

“The time is always right to do the right thing.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear Fellow Social Workers,

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) theme, “The Time is Right for Social Work” feels extremely relevant considering the state of the world for the past two years.

When first brainstorming how to approach this blog post, I began to reflect on what I have previously learned from those who pioneered the path before us. Social workers like Jane Addams “the mother of social work” who became known for her peace activism, which won her a Nobel Peace prize and Ida B. Wells known for her journalism and civil rights activism, and many others like them that stood and spoke against injustices and inequalities. These social workers have inspired and activated new generations of great social workers. Currently, social workers can be found in almost every area of community life. One of those areas is in children’s immigration law, with children who traveled unaccompanied. Today, you can find many social workers alongside attorneys, legal staff, and others fighting for the protection and rights of these children.

You do not have to be a miracle worker to be a great advocate or activist. You do not need to have all of the answers or be an expert to make an impact like Ida B. Wells or Jane Addams. It is important to note that Addams was not always the perfect ally. While her intentions were honorable, the impact was not always in line with what she intended. As social workers we are often acquainted with swooping in to help solve all of the problems. It is crucial that we remind ourselves that we are still human and mistakes are inevitable. This is especially important when advocating alongside people/group(s) who may have vastly different life experiences.

I encourage you to show up, be quick to listen and slow to speak. Remember the importance of self-awareness and reflection. When you make a mistake, do not dwell on it. Instead, recognize it, acknowledge it, and do what you can to mend any damage done. And then, fellow social worker, get back out there and do what you do best.

If you have not heard it lately, thank you for all that you do. Take good care of yourself!

Inspirational books and great podcast recommendations:

Books:

Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change| Stacey Abrams

The New Jim Crow | Michelle Alexander

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma | Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

Bird Uncaged | Marlon Peterson

What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City | Mona Hannah-Attisha, M.D.

Becoming Abolitionists | Derecka Purnell

Podcasts:

Doing the Work | Shimon Cohen

You’re Wrong About | Sarah Marshall

Learn on the Go: Community Care Podcast | Claudia Megele

NASW Social Work Talks Podcast | Guest Host(s)

The NASW has created a Social Work Month 2022, toolkit! Check out the contents, here.