March Marks Social Work Month

Cecilia Ponce

CECILIA PONCE, LSCSW BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CLINICIAN
Health Partnership Clinic

Post written by Cecilia Ponce, LSCW
Behavioral Health Clinician
Health Partnership Clinic

Social workers provide invaluable contributions to the most vulnerable in our society

According to the National Association of Social Workers (2019), there are approximately 680,000 social workers in the United States who are actively employed. Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in this nation, and this is due in large part to the versatility of the general practitioner.

Social workers can be found working in non-profits, for profit companies, self-employed, federal, state and local government and even charitable organizations (NASW, 2019). The social work profession has been in existence for more than 100 years. Social workers are encouraged to advocate for the most vulnerable and oppressed members of society and must adhere to the most stringent professional code of ethics.

Social Work Month

Social Work Month was officially recognized in 1984 under President Ronald Regan and his administration. The purpose was to highlight the contributions made by social workers to society every day. March is National Professional  Social Work Month, and this year’s theme is Elevate Social Work.

Unbeknownst to most, social workers account for the largest group of mental health providers in the United States. The largest employer of masters-level social workers is the Veteran Administration (NASW, 2019).

Mental Health Professionals in Public Schools

Social Work ElevateIn recent years, legislators have taken notice of a lack of qualified mental health professionals in several areas here in Kansas. One area has been in public schools.

According to a published study (Headquarters Inc., 2018), about 17.9 percent of children/minors contemplated suicide and about five percent attempted suicide. Historically, Kansas has one of the lowest student-counselor ratios in the country. According to an article published by Tim Carter in the Pratt Tribune, Kansas Legislators have initiated a pilot program (2018) to hire over 40 social workers to address the mental health needs of children across the state bringing the state total to more than 580.

Innovation and Intervention Before Graduation

One way that social workers contribute to the field is by providing innovation and interventions before graduation. According to the Council on Social Work Education (2019), the expectation is over 900 hours of field practicum hours prior to graduation at the MSW level. Locally, we have several accredited schools that provide education and practicum placement including the University of Kansas, Newman University, Washburn University and Wichita State University.

The Path to my Social Work Career

The path to a social work career is not always direct, and I’m an example of that.  I wore several hats before completing my social work degree. I was exposed to social work and social welfare very early on in my life, but it was not until after college that I considered it as a profession. Both my aunt and mother chose careers in social welfare.

I had an interest in social welfare from an early age and was the Social Justice Coordinator at my high school. Before applying to graduate school, I volunteered with Dominican Volunteers International in Santiago, Chile and was inspired by a Dominican Sister and social worker named Neli Armas. As a volunteer, I was able to help and shadow Neli as she engaged clients through interventions in medical social work and school and community-based services as well. It was not until living abroad that I realized the seemingly limitless career possibilities associated with a social work degree.

While studying at Washington University in St. Louis, I was exposed to medical social work, case management, policy making, supervision, mental health assessment and clinical interventions. I am forever grateful for the support of my professors, practicum supervisors and colleagues.

As we celebrate Social Work Month in March, please join Health Partnership Clinic in honoring and thanking the professionals who work to promote service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, human relationships, integrity and competence (NASW, 2018).

References:

National Association of Social Workers. (2018). Code of ethics. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from http://www.socialworkers.org

National Association of Social Workers. (2019). Social Work History. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Facts/Social-Work-History

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