People who go into social work are by nature caring and compassionate. They have a sense of commitment to the groups and individuals in our society who don't have much of a voice, among them the poor, and especially children. Their caseloads are bloated, their hours are long and the rewards are few. But they do their jobs faithfully, knowing that they can't fix everything and accepting that there will be a degree of frustration that accompanies their profession.
It would be difficult to measure the benefits that social workers have contributed to our society. The majority of a social worker's time is spent in the clinical side, interacting with individuals. Changing one life at a time is a noble endeavor. But the ability to advocate for their clients on a larger scale would help improve the entire system. Over the years, more social work professionals have realized that they could have an impact on the laws, regulations and policies that shape the outcomes for their clients.
Raising awareness of the needs of the people they serve
In the past twenty years, these professionals have been encouraged to get involved in the greater scope of the community in non-profit partnerships, volunteer opportunities and also in the governmental processes that determine the policies that affect social work. This concept really got its start during the presidential administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Frances Perkins was the first woman appointed to the Cabinet. As Secretary of Labor, Perkins was one of the architects of Social Security. With a background in education and social work, she was pivotal in banning child labor. Even though she came from the upper classes, Perkins was keenly aware of the plight of those less fortunate. Her cabinet post paved the way for other females to enter the political arena and for social workers to influence legislators. Who better knows what reforms are necessary to change lives for the better?
Having a say in the future
Now students studying social work are encouraged to participate in the ways public policies are established and implemented. A sterling example of this is the Nancy A Humphries Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut. Humphries was the former Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. She passed away recently, but left a legacy to UConn social work students to engage in the processes that affect the populations they serve. To quote Frances Perkins, "A government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life."
There are many ways to serve in a caring profession from social work, teaching, nursing and other forms of care-giving. For information on this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health section of our blog.
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