coworkers at desk

Accepting the risk of joining the ranks of stereotypical males sharing sports analogies, I find this an appropriate venue.  Imagine, if you will, that your favorite NFL team has reached the Super Bowl and the coin toss is about to happen in order to determine which team kicks off.  Right before the referee flips the coin, he pauses and looks at your team captain and says, “Oh, shoot man, we forgot to tell you – there is no passing tonight. We sent a memo to the other guys a couple weeks ago.”  In that moment, he tilted the playing field and gave an unfair advantage to your adversary.  He constructed a barrier that will eventually lead to the defeat of your team.

March is social work month and the theme for 2023 is “Social Work Breaks Barriers.” I am preaching to the choir by mentioning to anyone at CK about the value of social work but at the risk of being redundant, I want to place a spotlight on what social workers do: “They are people dedicated to seeking complete equality and social justice for all communities and helping people achieve their own potential.” (NASW) These irreplaceable people can be found in schools, hospitals, veterans centers, mental health agencies, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, child welfare agencies, government positions, the criminal justice system and more.

To put it simply, social workers are individuals with hearts for all people who see the worth of every person and believe with proper empowerment and support each soul can discover personal resiliency and live the life they desire. Social workers want everyone to discover the “Wonderful World” that Louis Armstrong sung about and so many get to experience.  These are people who are willing to enter the reality of others in order to relieve trauma and so remove the shackles of inequity.

What is a barrier anyway?  Mr. Webster says it is, “Something material that blocks or is intended to block passage, or something immaterial that impedes or separates.”  Please emphasize the last words – something that impedes or separates.  Social workers seek to move the impediment and close the separation so that everyone is on equal footing – a level playing field.

What barriers do these heroes take head-on?

Mental health barriers. Many “at-risk” children in public schools suffer from undiagnosed mental struggles.  Social workers enter that arena.

Health-care barriers.  Far too many people cannot obtain good health care due to finances, education, transportation, etc.  Many people die of diseases and maladies that should not have taken their lives.

Financial barriers.  It is social workers who help families and children with affordable housing, utility assistance, clothing, food and more.

There is not enough space to discuss each category of the valiant work of social workers so here is a non-exhaustive list of the situations in which they intervene: veterans affairs, racial equality, voting rights, senior rights and aging, death and grief, ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE, physical needs, group homes, cultural hurdles, faith hurdles, student needs both physical and emotional, housing, educational inequities, employment barriers, government lobbying, domestic and social violence, KINSHIP, counseling, military, drugs, natural disasters, workplace safety and more.

Would you be surprised to know that we are indebted to social workers for Social Security, limited work hours, minimum wage, child labor laws, unemployment benefits, and equal pay for all groups?  Did you know that social workers led the women’s suffrage movement and that African American social workers fought for the suffrage movement to impact all women?  Did you know that a social worker was integral in forming the NAACP?

Social workers want all people to have their basic human needs met.  They are deeply aware of social injustices and imbalances and seek to protect the dignity of everyone. Our world would be a lesser place if there were no social workers.  There is another barrier I would like to remove – the one that stops us from recognizing and valuing these wonderful people.   Please take a bit and read about some of the pioneers of social work.

Take a moment and thank every social worker you know – and certainly those here in our family!


Pioneers of Social Work