By Janlee Wong
Late summer is the time of new class orientations at many schools of social work. The following address was given at the Fresno State University MSW I orientation August 21, 2018.
You’ve already decided to make an investment of time and money by going to school. You decided that you want to be in the helping profession and school will help you prepare for that.
You’ve picked the right school. Fresno is one of the five original state universities where the first schools of social work were established.
It has long and deep experience with the issues of the region including immigrant and migrant rights, anti-poverty efforts and the fight against racism and discrimination.
Just look outside at the Peace Garden. Not only do you have the greats including King, Chavez and Ghandi, but also Jane Addams, the only statute of its kind in California and perhaps in the nation. Be sure to take a selfie of you and Jane and email it to your friends and family at other schools of social work. They’ll be jealous indeed.
You’ve picked the right school because once you start classes and field you’ll see what a right choice you have made. Classes aren’t just for book learning although you’ll learn a lot from books.
Classes for healthy discussion with varying viewpoints and perspectives. All opinions are welcome, and the debate can become heated and emotional. In class, you’ll learn how to handle the discussion without becoming so emotional that you’ll shut down or you’ll try to shut others down.
You’ll learn that the professional social work way is to problem solve and to incorporate the input of others. By the way, that’s exactly what you’ll learn to do with clients.
You’ll learn that the NASW Code of Ethics is the most important practice guide that you could have. All social work practice be it children, aging, mental health, or community organization, policy and advocacy is guided by our Code of Ethics. NASW, your professional association maintains, revises and disseminates the NASW Code of Ethics. Recently, it was revised for social media and technology and new practice standards were developed. For example, how many of you have personal social media accounts? Should you? What are the ethical concerns? NASW members get direct access to our free ethics consultation line.
You’ll find that social work is unique among all the professions. More than helping individuals’ families and groups, social work means policy work. Social work policy means advocacy and social justice. In school, you’ll have a chance to experience all of this.
All of you will have direct practice theory in class and direct practice experience in field. There you find fulfillment in helping people in a professional way. But you’ll also find barriers be they bureaucratic or policy. That’s where policy comes in. You’ll not only learn why policies help or hinder, but also have policies can be changed.
Policy classes will teach you that. And one of the best experiences in the real world aside from a policy field placement is NASW’s annual Legislative Lobby Days in Sacramento. Next year on April 7 to 9, 2019 come to Sacramento and learn with over 1,400 other students, faculty and professional social workers from the entire state of California.
It’s a two-day plus experience that teaches you how to lobby policy and legislation and includes an actual visit to the office of a member of the legislature to apply what you’ve learned. Your reward? Tracking the legislation, you’ve lobbied and seeing it enacted. This year’s Lobby Days bills included bail reform, and as we speak a bail reform bill is headed to the Governor. Stay tuned to see if he signs it.
You’ll have a chance to sign up for Lobby Days soon. Be sure to sign up by December 14 of this year for the early bird discount. And, if you’re a member of NASW, your total savings will be 30 percent! In the meantime, start fundraising for your registration fee, travel and lodging.
You’ll also have an advocacy experience at the Social Action Social Justice rally listening to members of the Legislature speak to you and they are listening you about what’s important to social work.
What happens after you graduate, and you will graduate?
You’ll leave school but NASW doesn’t leave you.
In school, you have the full social work experience. But post grad and on the job, you’ll be focused on your caseload with little time for the all-important advocacy and social justice actions.
Who is going to fight against the zero tolerance (separation of children and parents at the border) policies of the Trump administration?
Who is going to push for more social workers, not more guns in schools to prevent school violence?
Who is going to fight racist and homophobic transphobic policies of the Administration?
Who is going to lead the fight to elect social work friendly candidates in the fall elections and in 2020?
What about corrections and bail reform?
What about fighting discrimination against individuals with criminal records?
What about calling up volunteers or providing training to mental health professionals during natural and manmade disasters?
If you haven’t figured it out, we’re talking about NASW on your side.
What about helping you get licensed, and keeping the licensing board from policies adversely affecting social workers?
What about being part of a national movement to increase license mobility so you can move around and still practice?
What about providing you with legal, ethical and practice consultation whether you’re in private practice or working for an agency?
What about fair wages and fair insurance reimbursement?
What about affordable professional liability insurance designed just for social workers?
What about continuing education designed for and taught by social workers for licensure or for professional development with state-approved CEUs?
What about convening the state and national social work conferences, attending a must for professional social workers?
Who provides the professional social work perspective to schools of social work in the state and nationally?
Know any great social workers? What about a state and national awards program that provides the recognition that social workers deserve.
What about leadership development at the local level, the state level and the national/international level?
Just as the answer before, NASW.
NASW is the oldest and largest professional social work association in the world.
It’s not a union and it’s not government funded. It’s funded by members like me and you.
We pay dues because we believe in what professional social work stands for and because we want to have a united voice to speak up and to stand up.
It’s the best time to join NASW as a student with the very low rate of $57 a year. After graduation transitional student rates go up gradually and in you’ll have 5 years of student and transitional reduced dues. Need I say it? JOIN NOW. If you’re already a member, thank you and renew!
Thank you and have a wonderful year at this wonderful school and remember NASW is at your service.