Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 12, 2013

Social workers also ‘teach a man to fish’

March is National Social Work month and a time to recognize the many roles and responsibilities social workers dedicate themselves to.

A Frostburg State University social work student interning at Western Correctional Institution told me about a comment that was made to her that went like, “I thought social workers only worked with people who are under age 18.”

Hearing this compelled me to take a moment to provide some information about the many “hats” social workers can wear and to share some of the core values held in the profession.

To quote the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers, “The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.”

I would like to highlight the word empowerment as some of the generalizations about social workers are words like “bleeding hearts” or “tree huggers” or “people giving handouts to those who do not deserve it”; all statements that are misinterpretations and not at all reflective of empowerment.

You may have heard the statement, “If you give a man a fish he eats for a day, if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

Social Workers assist people to become healthy, productive and self-sufficient to be able to address their own needs appropriately, which in turn is helpful for the greater good of society. This is done by using the skills of listening, guiding, educating and encouraging those who are disadvantaged to meet their full potentials.

Social workers strive to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, social groups, organizations and communities. There is no magic wand a social worker holds to fix the complex problems of any situation which is why social workers advocate for the broader society to address social problems.

You will see social workers in child welfare agencies, hospitals, nursing homes, oncology centers, domestic violence shelters, court and legal systems, mental health and addiction facilities, universities and prisons.

A social worker could be providing individual or group therapy, making home visits to address child protection issues, promoting an elderly adult’s right to self-determination, supporting political action, assisting families with end of life decisions, connecting those with mental health issues to resources, locating resources for a victim of domestic abuse, giving an inmate tools to reduce risky thinking and reenter society, organizing a community meeting, educating college students, developing policy or research, or being the last support left to an addict trying to recover.

It would be a fair statement to make that many social workers work beyond traditional day shift hours, and continually need to find ways to cope and relieve themselves of the challenges of working with those who struggle.

So if you see a social worker, show them some support and appreciation for their sometimes difficult and much needed work!

In recognition of Social Work Month, the Allegany County Commissioners will be presenting the Allegany/Garrett Social Work Caucus with a proclamation on Thursday, March 21, at 5 p.m. at the Allegany County Office Building, 701 Kelly Road, Cumberland.

The proclamation will be presented at the beginning of the commissioners’ weekly public meeting. Social workers are invited to attend.

Diana Amann, LCSW-C

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