Celebrating Social Work Month…in a pandemic

By S. Jolene Hui, MSW, LCSW
NASW-CA Membership Director

NASW-CA Membership Director S. Jolene Hui (middle) celebrates with the Inland Empire Unit Social Work Month Event Committee –  From Left to Right: Edward Davila, Tarry Bartley, Linda SewerBridges-Williams, Tristin Alfred

Social work month is one of the happiest times of the year. Celebrating our profession is an annual highlight for me and other social workers. This year we engaged in about a week of celebrations before the COVID-19 pandemic began to takeover our lives – thus postponing the majority of our celebrations and leaving a lot of us working on the front lines.  

First, our Inland Empire Unit hosted an awards dinner at Kaiser in Fontana with a keynote celebration by Kane Smego on March 2nd. In the middle of the week on March 4th, NASW-CA staff and leaders gathered at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting as Supervisor Hilda Solis proclaimed March as social work month and presented us with a scroll. That weekend, on March 7, I traveled to San Jose to attend a social worker celebration at the Sharks game starting with a pregame ceremony in the Rinkside Room. Thank you to Inland Empire Unit Chair Linda SewerBridges-Williams and her committee for a wonderful event and Region B Director Carlos Bejarano and his leadership team for our very first hockey event celebration.

The excitement was short lived. After that, events unfolded quite rapidly with the cancellation of mass events, closure of school districts, closure of non-essential business, and various ways of saying “Safer at Home.” And in addition to the remainder of our social work month celebrations being cancelled or postponed, our largest event, Legislative Lobby Days, was cancelled. Typically around 1400 social work students and professionals attend this two-day program of learning about the legislative process and the bills and meeting with legislators. While I am extremely sad about all of these cancellations, I know that public health is the most important thing – social distancing is of utmost importance as we need to “flatten the curve” to get through this crisis.

Although we haven’t been able to physically celebrate with you all this month, behind the scenes we have been working for you. Our staff has responded to this crisis in a variety of ways including advocating for telehealth reimbursement for LCSWs, advocating for a variety of licensure waivers to ensure we can continue to provide care to our clients, working with the California Hospital Association (CHA) to assist them in hiring social workers to meet the needs of hospitals, working to recruit for the Health Corps, building telehealth courses for our online catalog, creating a webpage for resources, taking calls and supporting our members as best as we can during this time. Our Virtual Support Group will continue on the second Monday of every month.

Our volunteer leaders have stepped up to help support by offering virtual events to members including Virtual Happy Hours, CEU Events, and support groups. We continue to advocate for you and we will continue to offer events and support to our members and the social work community to help everyone through this time.

We know that social workers are on the front lines of this crisis and we thank all of you for all of your continued hard work as we navigate through this. There is a lot of uncertainty at this time and which is extremely uncomfortable– especially when it threatens your health and livelihood. We have never been in this kind of situation before and we are being challenged to adapt in ways we never imagined.

Please feel free to write to us at membership@naswca.org and let us know what you need during this time. We are here to support you. Reach out to us to let us know want what kinds of virtual events you want, what areas need our advocacy, or just to tell us how you are doing in this time. We are social workers; we will get through this.

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S. Jolene Hui, LCSW is NASW-CA’s Director of Membership and can be reached at jhui.naswca@socialworkers.org. She is also part-time adjunct faculty in the MSW program at California State University, Dominguez Hills where she is a foundation year field liaison.

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