Authored by: Carolyn Hansen, Salt Lake County Youth Services Director
Many social workers celebrated World Social Work Day this week and have been officially celebrating their careers since 1983, though they have been helping others since the 1800’s. Since the first social work class was offered in the summer of 1898 at Columbia University, social workers have led the way developing private and charitable organizations to serve people in need. They continue to address the needs of society and bring our nation’s social problems to the public’s attention.
Today, Americans enjoy many privileges because early social workers saw miseries and injustices and took action, inspiring others along the way. Many of the benefits we take for granted came about because social workers—working with families and institutions—that spoke out against abuse and neglect.
Social work is an academic and practice-based professional discipline that seeks to facilitate the welfare of communities, individuals, families, and groups. Underpinned by theories of social science and guided by principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility, and respect for diversity, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being. It tries to promote social change and grassroots empowerment of people and aids in socioeconomic development, social cohesion, and liberation from abuse and oppression.
This profession strives to improve health and well-being of individuals and communities where they live and work. Stands up for vulnerable groups and populations. Protect the youngest most vulnerable members of the community.
For 20 years, I have had the same saying on my office wall: “One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much was in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But the world may be a little better because I was important to the life of a child.” (Forest E. Witcraft. Teacher, Scholar) I look at it often and it reminds me of why I began my social work profession. It’s not a glamourous job, and as my colleagues over the years have joked about. We are not in it for the money or fame, but rather the impact we may have on the populations we serve within our communities.