We will face no shortage of social needs in 2013. From any standpoint of practice, knowledge, or belief, the challenges will be more and greater than they have been in any previous time. So the need for competent, compassionate social workers will go on. As I consider what will be in store for the profession and the practitioners of social work in 2013, I see four main areas of focus:
Effectiveness- I was taught the cardinal rule of social work is, “Above all else, do no harm.” I believe it still is. However, the cardinal rule is only a starting point, and in 2013, effectiveness will be the name of the game. Evidence Based Practice is stated in this video as the “hallmark of the last decade,” (pay particular attention to segments at 04:30, 06:33, 08:00, and 12:34). According to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, sharing knowledge and efficacious interventions is an ethical imperative of the social work profession. If we ever needed to be effective in practice, the time is now. Client partnership, engagement, and collaboration are paramount to effectiveness as budgets and services decline. Dr. Neil Thompson’s Twitter speech from December 10th is one of the most outstanding statements of the need for partnership with our clients I have seen in a long time. Your use-of-self within the therapeutic relationship is one of the greatest tools you possess in positively affecting the lives of others.
Innovation- In 2009, I was involved with starting a safe haven for men who experience chronic homelessness in Jackson, TN. I met with an advisor at the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce who had experience in organizing nonprofit organizations. We discussed how our nonprofit would be unique from others that were serving people experiencing homelessness, and the advisor commented that Jackson (a city of around 65,000 residents) has more nonprofits per capita than many larger cities. Adding new services and programs will not necessarily increase positive impact on any social problem; effective and collaborative efforts will. The landscape for too many organizations is one of uncertainty, which turns specific service areas into turf that needs protecting. Individuals, families, and communities lose out in such battles. Are our organizations prepared to communicate and cooperate for the good of our communities? I think it is a necessity as we enter 2013.
Communication- The Exchange Club-Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse is one of the largest child abuse prevention centers of its kind in the US. The Center has been able to establish local centers in 15 West Tennessee counties by working with local philanthropists and charitable organizations within each county. I was the Haywood County Director for the Center in 2008 and worked with a dedicated local board. I was asked by the board president to write an open letter about the Center’s programs for the local newspaper. The board president visited me after the letter was published. He learned new information as a result of the letter that further cemented his dedication to the Center’s work. We take for granted that people in the community know the scope and the importance of our daily work. It simply is not the case. We have to be prepared to tell people what we do and what we need in order to continue helping our clients. If we communicate clearly and directly with the community, we will find there are many who are ready to respond with effort, hours, and funds.
Education/Awareness- Our communities and society-at-large seem to be insulated against individual needs. While many people need the help of professional social workers, our communities would be stronger if people helped one another. Communities at their safest and healthiest would not need social workers. The Stewards of Children child abuse prevention training and ASIST suicide prevention training are two initiatives I have been involved with that are efforts to train the public on how to respond to immediate needs in their communities. These programs are specifically designed to raise public awareness and increase public action in their respective areas of focus. We must be involved with helping the community help themselves in 2013.
In reflection, consider the following questions: Can we help discover their strengths, break hurtful cycles, and improve their own lives? Can we really increase our share of the pie by doing what works and showing the world what works? Can our communities be informed of the issues and trained to respond to human needs? Can boards and funding sources understand in a greater measure what is needed to tackle the social challenges ahead?
I am thankful for a community like Social Work/Social Care Media where we can share ideas and expand our awareness together. I am thankful for the opportunity to write this post. Most of all, I am excited to see what is in store and be a part of meeting the challenges ahead!
Glen Gaugh is a licensed master social worker. He is the Rural West Tennessee Program Supervisor for Youth Villages Specialized Crisis Services, which serves youths age 18 and younger who are in acute psychiatric crisis. Connect @glengaugh or at his blog.
We look forward to your views, experiences, and insights as we explore ‘What is in store for Social Work, Social Care and Health?’ in @SWSCmedia Twitter debate on 8 January at 8:00 PM GMT / 3:00 PM EST.