Students, professors 'shout out' to defend social work
April 1, 2011, 3:24 am · Updated April 1, 2011, 12:00 am·
Students and faculty from the School of Social Policy and Practice and social work schools in the area crowded 30th Street Station Thursday morning as part of the first ever “Shout Out for Social Work.”
Dressed in matching blue T-shirts bearing the words “Social Workers Strengthen the Fabric of Society,” Shout Out participants stood out among the rush-hour travelers as they handed out literature on the profession and brandished signs reading “Proud Social Worker.”
“A lot of what social workers do is invisible,” first-year SP2 student Jeidy Fernández said. “We’re here to increase awareness.”
The Shout Out — culminating the National Association of Social Workers’ annual Social Work Month — simultaneously occurred in cities such as Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Trenton, Del., Baltimore and Washington D.C.
At 30th Street Station, SP2 students and faculty were joined by participants from Temple, La Salle and West Chester universities and Bryn Mawr College.
“People look down on it,” Temple senior Jashina Miller said about the profession. “A lot of people think we’re here to take your kids away, but we’re not.”
SP2 Dean Richard Gelles agreed, noting that social workers assist the elderly, children, victims of domestic violence and veterans. Social workers also operate in a variety of arenas, from philanthropy to mental illness to social policy, he said.
The Shout Out aims to erase stereotypes, educate the public and say “we’re here, we’re loud, and we’re proud,” said Christina Mortensen, a licensed social worker and the director of Research and Communications for NASW’s Pennsylvania Chapter.
Gelles explained that the Shout Out differs from past Social Work Month events because in addition to “the age-old problem of public image,” it strives to improve the visibility of social work.
“We’ve been telling people for 100 years that they are misunderstood. Now we are trying to make them visible,” Gelles added.
Mortensen agreed, noting “it’s a very simple goal, but its implications for the profession are vast,” explaining that the majority of people do not realize “social workers exist everywhere in Pennsylvania and provide services in every field imaginable.”
“Our students are doing professional work 250,000 hours a year,” Gelles said. “What would happen if you subtracted our hours? All of the hours from the other social schools?”
“Even Penn doesn’t recognize the contribution,” continued Gelles, explaining that the Penn 2010 Economic Impact Report, an analysis of Penn’s economic influence in Pennsylvania, excludes the monetary value of SP2 students’ free social work.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, social workers held about 642,000 jobs in 2008. In Pennsylvania, NASW-PA estimates there are around 40,000 professional social workers.