Each spring, NASW-California celebrates Social Work Month in order to celebrate the field’s dedicated practitioners, as well as the profession as a whole. Appropriately, the theme for this year is “Social Workers are Essential.” This year’s celebration creates space to honor those who have worked tirelessly on the frontlines, managing human service programs, and advocating for systems reform. Social workers are indeed essential and despite experiencing the stressors related to the pandemic right alongside their clients, they continue to answer the calls to action time and time again.
NASW-CA is committed to honoring California’s social workers, and this annual celebration provides an opportunity for professionals to share their experiences & indispensable work. It also gives an opportunity to highlight the diversity of our profession, with social workers that come from unique backgrounds and lived experiences.
Christina Boatright, MSW
My name is Christina Boatwright, MSW and I am a macro Social Worker with the City of Long Beach, Department of Public Health. COVID has stretched me to grow in learn in ways I never thought possible. I graduated from USC in 2016, and I am Project Manager and have been part of the City’s COVID response since March 2020. During this time I have overseen a Resource Line connecting primarily older adults to resources like food and mental health. We have expanded our line to provide service to all residents in Long Beach and have now assisted those without internet access to make their vaccination appointment. Additionally, I am helping lead the creation of our City’s first city-wide mental health awareness campaign, providing clinical support early on at our isolation and quarantine sites, all while continuing to move our All Children Thrive Long Beach initiative forward. This project looks to address systemic issues and create a community where all children have access to the things that they need to thrive. During COVID, the work shifted to a mutual aid network and created interventions that responded to the needs of children and families as a result of COVID. For more information please visit: www.longbeach.gov/covid19
In November 2020, I was awarded “End Abuse Long Beach Annual Award” for work done to uplift children and families in Long Beach. http://endabuselb.org/annual-awards
In 2018, I cowrote our City’s Early Childhood Education Strategic Plan. http://www.longbeach.gov/globalassets/health/media-library/documents/services/directory/long-beach-early-childhood-education-program/city-of-lb-ece-strategic-plan-finalweb
Jennifer Vallejo, LCSW
A social worker is a person who does not waver in their commitment. Rain or shine, pandemic or no-pandemic, we are there. We stand by those who are homeless until they decide they are ready to have a dresser to place their phone and a pillow to rest their head. We call, we video message, we drop by, just to ensure our client has a warm meal. During the past several months, I have really admired the dedication, creativity, and resourcefulness of the social workers I supervise. I have felt fortunate to work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a Supervising Social Worker for one of Orange County’s homeless programs. My team works with formerly homeless Veterans who are putting the pieces of their lives back together. These are individuals who served our country honorably and with dignity. They have fought, they have defended our freedoms, and many have returned with unimaginable trauma. Their despair and hopelessness has often lead back to homelessness. Yet, my team of social workers does not quit. They persist until the Veteran realizes that they can trust and we won’t turn our back. This year has been extremely tough for our profession, but we continue to have a long-lasting impact. I wanted to take a moment and thank US for bringing hope to so many.
Jennifer M. Vallejo, LCSW
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Supervising Social Worker, Orange County
First Generation Latina
Tyler M. Argüello, PhD, DCSW
Tyler M. Argüello, PhD, DCSW (he/él/they), is a gay, queer, and nonbinary professor, who has been a practicing clinical social worker for over 25 years, primarily around community mental health, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ+ communities, and substance use. Currently, he is an Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Director in the Division of Social Work at California State University, Sacramento. In the Division, he instructs courses in advanced behavioral health practice, practicum supervision, psychodiagnostics, working with LGBTQ+ publics, and social justice, equity, and white supremacy. Dr. Argüello’s research and clinical work is a transdisciplinary project that concerns communicative practices, Queer Theory, and the production of intersectional identities, sex/ualities, and health disparities, namely HIV. Dr. Argüello studies intergenerational stress within Queer populations, and is the Principal Investigator on multiple critical theory driven and multi-media studies on “HIV Stress Exchange”, long-term survivorship of Queer men, and the nature of queer wellbeing through the production of built environments. He maintains a small private practice in Sacramento, is a licensed independent clinical social worker [LCSW(California) & LICSW(Washington)], a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), and he is a Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW). At Sacramento State, Dr. Argüello has received both the Outstanding Teaching Award and the Outstanding Scholarship & Creative Activities Award from the College of Health & Human Services, and the Phenomenal Faculty Award in the Division of Social Work.
Some of his recent scholarship includes:
Argüello, T. M. (2021, In Press). Consuming HIV: Cause marketing, the (RED) initiative, and LGBTQ+ welfare in modern times. In J. Gedro & T. Rocco (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of LGBTQ identity in organizations and society. Routledge.
Argüello, T. M. (2021, In Press). Heteronormativity and social work: The what that dare not speak its name. In S. J. Dodd (Ed.), The Routledge international handbook of social work and sexualities. Routledge.
Argüello, T. M. (2021, Under Review). HIV stress exchange: Queer men, intergenerational stress, and intimacy amidst the time of HIV.
Argüello, T. M. (2020). Decriminalizing LGBTQ+: Reproducing and resisting mental health inequities. In S. Stahl and K. Warburton (Eds.), Decriminalizing mental illness. Cambridge University Press.
Argüello, T. M. (Ed.). (2019). Queer social work: Cases for LGBTQ+ affirmative practice. Columbia University Press.
Jason Nery, MSW
Jason Nery has worked in healthcare/social services for over 17 years and is currently a Program Manager for MidPen Housing Corporation’s Health/Supportive Housing Division in the San Mateo and Santa Clara grouping. MidPen Housing is known nationwide as an innovative leader in the affordable housing industry, particularly in addressing the socio economic needs of its residents to ensure their stability and self-sufficiency. Their Health/Supportive Housing Division specifically addresses clients with mental health diagnoses, complex medical issues and/or those who chronically experienced homelessness.
As a queer, Filipino cis-male, Jason identifies as a Social Worker first and an experienced health/social services leader next. Jason believes in co-collaborative leadership with a deep commitment to: social/racial/LGBTQIA+ equality, inclusion/accessibility, disability rights, ethics and healthcare and championing equitable access to healthcare/social services. Jason has actively been part of LGBTQIA+ rights, advocacy and social services since 1995, starting first with volunteering for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in San Francisco and then professionally as a Social Worker at Castro-Mission Health Center, developing Substance Abuse treatment primarily for transgender youth during an epidemic of opioid and methamphetamine use in the LGBTQIA+ community. He volunteers every year (minus during the pandemic) for San Francisco PRIDE Festival as an EMT and also was nominated for a Commissioner for County of San Mateo’s LGBTQ Commission.
Reflections from Jason in his work during the pandemic: “Having briefly left the Social Work field for a few years to focus on family and also take a “mental health break” from the field, I was returned back to my long lost love: Social Work. It was a challenging time to come back – I was hired in April 2020 and both my hiring process and client contacts were all virtual. As a person who likes to hit the ground running in person, this was a bit jarring. I found my passion quickly, by being nominated to serve on the committee that developed service provision and protocols during the pandemic for our department systemwide. Since then, I also served/serve on committees/workgroups for: COVID relief funds for clients, COVID Response Team doing contact tracing, Systemwide Health Strategy Group developing direct healthcare services and health education for clients system wide and finally Governor Newsom led Project HomeKey, which creates new homes for those currently experiencing homelessness in converted hotels. I’m currently leading the opening of the first Project HomeKey site in San Mateo County!”
“Having lost my uncle on Martin Luther King Day 2021, COVID has hit me hard, but I find purpose in my work, knowing I’m helping save lives especially with COVID centered programs that I work on. Social Workers are truly the hidden heroes of healthcare and through reaching out to our most marginalized communities, meeting them where they’re at using language they understand, we’re literally saving lives. Happy Social Worker’s Month!”
Chisato Hotta, LMFT, LPCC, DSW-C
Although I am new in identifying as a social worker (I am a LMFT and LPCC who is working on a Doctorate in Social work (DSW)), I have been in the social services field for a long time. As a Japanese female, who grew up in a pretty traditional Japanese household, mental health was not something that we really talked about often. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had- volunteering as a rape crisis counselor, working as an in home advocate for intensive treatment foster care kids and a visitation monitor, working as a therapist, etc. I am currently working several jobs: For my new full time position, I am working as a Senior Project Manager for a court collaborative program. It is a new program and I am so excited to help it thrive with a wonderful collaboration and team. I also work as a program supervisor part time, helping to support staff in the back end.
My motto is: “the best supported staff are the ones that do the best work.” Furthermore, in my DSW program, my capstone is focused on commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). It is a three tiered program, one tier being education. I am grateful to share that it was county approved to run through a training collaborative program and have received kind reviews so far. So I do that on the side as well. In my personal life, I am a mother to twin boys who are both on the autism spectrum. They are my life and reason for doing everything. Due to their diagnosis, I use a lot of my skills that I learned through my jobs and education, to advocate for them and have a great team for them. I also run a blog about them to share with the world that autism is not something to be afraid of! I have been honored to have guest written for several blogs and interviewed for podcasts about this. As I tell my kids all the time: Don’t let anything or anyone limit or label you. Keep working hard, move forward and fly.