National Association of Social Workers (NASW) President Darrell Wheeler
by Darrell P. Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSW
As president of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), I have had the honor of meeting social workers from around the nation and the globe and engaging with them on many different platforms.
Consistently, I am in awe of the strength, enthusiasm, and determination I see expressed by members of our profession – often helping clients overcome life’s challenges and bringing about positive societal changes despite enormous odds. It is an honor during National Social Work Month to thank members of the profession for the work they do, often behind the scenes, to pave the way for positive change.
On March 17, 2015, I attended Social Work Day on the Hill in Washington, D.C., an event coordinated by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP), in conjunction with NASW and the Congressional Social Work Caucus. The event brought dozens of social workers to the Hill to lobby for issues important to the profession. I was also delighted to meet social work leaders and former Congressmen Ron Dellums and Ed Townes, who spoke at the event.
Mr. Dellums said social work is the profession best trained to tackle societal problems such as poverty, economic inequality, racism, and the need for good health care for all Americans. He is absolutely right, as social workers have been behind major positive societal changes over the past century, including the national salary and wage debates; Social Security; Medicare; voting rights; civil rights; and the equal rights of people who are lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual.
The profession cannot rest on past laurels – there is so much yet to do, and we cannot afford to lose precious gains already made. This nation is facing enormous and complex challenges, and social workers have long known about and articulated the impact on clients and their communities.
Examples of these exist in many arenas. Too many children in this rich nation go to bed hungry each night and lack health care. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening. And recent tragedies such as in Ferguson in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City, and the incident surrounding Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma prove that racial strife is far from over.
NASW is the largest professional social work organization in the world with 130,000 members. Let me tell you some of the things we are doing to support social workers so they are better able to address some of these pressing social problems.
NASW is working with Polsinelli, a government relations firm, to help NASW gain more access to leaders on Capitol Hill to help educate lawmakers regarding legislation that supports the social work profession and the vulnerable populations and communities we serve.
NASW has recently been awarded grants that will help us train social workers to improve the delivery of health care services in the United States and improve the mental well-being of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
We have expanded our ethics consultation days and hours, so our members can get live advice on how to navigate complex ethical issues they face each day on the job. NASW plans to increase continuing education offerings, so social workers have the most up-to-date skills they need to do their jobs.
We continue to follow the tradition of social work leaders such as Jane Addams, Frances Perkins, Dorothy Height, and Whitney Young, Jr., to bring about positive social changes in our nation. For instance, NASW recently became part of the national Change Direction campaign to increase public awareness of mental illness.
I would like to thank social workers who are already part of our organization, and I would like to urge those who are not a part of NASW to join us. I am enthusiastic and optimistic that with your support, our association will become an even stronger advocate for the profession in years to come.
Together we are stronger, and together social workers can keep making this nation a better place and truly live up to this year’s Social Work Month theme, “Social Work Paves the Way for Change.”
Darrell P. Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSW, is president of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Additionally, he is Dean and Professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work. Previous academic positions held were at Hunter College, Columbia University, and the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. Dr. Wheeler earned his MSW from Howard University and his Ph.D. and MPH from the University of Pittsburgh.