Did you know there’s an entire month every year dedicated to celebrating all the hard work social workers do within their communities? That’s right. The month of March was officially recognized as National Professional Social Work Month by the White House in 1984. We’re still taking that opportunity to show our appreciation all these years later.
Between 1984 and 1998, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) chose social issues to raise awareness about topics like hate crimes, homelessness, and the HIV/AIDS crisis. From 1998 to 2004, the month’s focus shifted to general education campaigns about who social workers are and what they do.
Since 2005, the NASW has focused on improving public perceptions of the field. In 2021, for example, the month’s theme was “Social Workers are Essential” to recognize the positive contributions social workers have made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When is National Social Work Month and Day?
Your schedule is probably pretty busy, especially if you’re a social worker or in an adjacent career. A month is a long time to schedule activities during, which is why there’s also a National Social Work day every year.
In 2021, that day was March 16. Mark your calendar to avoid missing the following National Social Work Day dates:
- 2022: March 15
- 2023: March 21
- 2024: March 19
- 2025: March 18
The next time National Social Work Day rolls around, take the opportunity to thank the social workers in your life. If you are a social worker, take a moment to recognize everything you have accomplished.
It’s unfortunately easy to feel overwhelmed and burnt out when you regularly see the tragedies and traumas that vulnerable populations are subjected to. Don’t lose sight of the positive changes you’re enacting, no matter how small they might feel at times.
Activity Ideas for National Social Work Month
National Social Work Month is an opportunity to celebrate social workers and raise awareness about the all-too-common issues they encounter.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted systemic issues and strained resources in everything from healthcare access to education. In many instances, social workers have faced these struggles head-on without the support system they need to operate effectively.
Now, more than ever before, it’s time to recognize and celebrate social workers. We have put together the following activity ideas for organizations that want to do more than send a generic email:
- Honor a deserving colleague.
- Create an educational display.
- Lunch and learn activities.
- Bring in a speaker.
- Organize a trip.
- Help out on National Social Work Day.
- Show your appreciation with a gift.
You can adapt most of the above activities for a range of organizations. If you’re an elementary school teacher, you might put together a display about social work as a career. If you work in a public library, you might partner with a social work organization to address homelessness or the opioid crisis in your community.
Perhaps you know a social worker on a more personal level. If your spouse is a social worker, they might appreciate a weekend getaway or dinner at their favorite restaurant. If you have friends in social work, consider getting them a gift.
It’s also possible that you don’t know a social worker. If that’s the case, you can still celebrate and honor their work by volunteering your time with a food pantry, homeless shelter or after-school youth mentoring program.
What is a social worker? None of the information we have provided so far will do you much good if you don’t have a clear idea of who social workers are and what they do. Generally, social workers are people employed by governments and healthcare organizations to monitor and improve the welfare of vulnerable populations like children, older adults and people who struggle with addiction.
Social workers may work in other fields and with other groups, but they’re unified by their desire to see their clients thrive and make the world a better place. Social workers also have similar educational backgrounds: all positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, while more clinical roles require a master’s. Licensing requirements vary by state.
What are the three different kinds of social workers? The majority of social workers can be placed in one of three categories, which are:
- Child, family and school social workers.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers.
- Medical and public health social workers.
The three categories have relatively descriptive names. Child, family and school social workers work to support children both within a family unit and in a school setting. Mental health and substance abuse social workers might offer therapy or other support methods for clients struggling with addiction or other mental health issues. Medical and public health social workers provide aid for people dealing with a terminal illness and help prevent the spread of diseases.
Next March, have a plan in place for how you’re going to show your appreciation for everything social workers do for your community and organization. For more information, check out the rest of our blog or contact us today.