Exploring the power of social work

By By Sandra Vaughn and Marian Swindell / special to The Star
March 21, 2002
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan officially designated March as National Social Work Month with the purpose of honoring our nation's social workers. Since the first formal class in social work was offered in 1898, social workers have led the way in developing private and charitable organizations to serve people in need.
The social work profession has tremendously changed society over the last 100 years due, in part, to some notable social work pioneers. The list includes Jane Addams, one of the founders of the social work profession, who opened Hull House, a social settlement house in Chicago which became the most influential settlement house in the United States; Frances Perkins, the first woman social worker to head a cabinet department, who was appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Roosevelt; and Whitney Young, a charismatic civil rights leader and statesman, who propelled social work to be better, stronger and powerful. These pioneers remind social workers of their powerful foundation.
Events such as Sept. 11, 2001, also remind social workers of their power to improve life. Calls from the American Red Cross and the National Association of Social Workers went out across the country for all social workers who had been trained in disaster trauma work. The response provided services for New York city for months after the tragic event.
A human relationship between the social worker and the client, built on caring, warmth, empathy, acceptance, mutual affirmation and encouragement, is the tool that makes social work so powerful. In addition, each social worker must also adhere to another strengthening tool  the NASW's Code of Ethics. Included in this code, among others, is the requirement that social workers must support the dignity and worth of the individual and be committed to helping the client.
John V. O'Neill, MSW, news staff for NASW adds, "It's how we act for that one person that's pivotal to their success."
As professionals, social workers empower individuals through the inclusion of neighborhood, family, peer, social, workplace and spiritual relationships. Social workers help individuals understand their own power to overcome life's adversities by seeing the individual as the "expert" on their unmet needs.
Over a half million professional social workers in the United States share this responsibility and use their collective power to strengthen families and communities. Please join the 3,700 professional social workers of Mississippi as we celebrate National Social Work Month. Build a relationship; join your power with the power of this profession and make a significant difference on the well-being of the citizenry of Mississippi.
For information about earning a degree in social work from Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus, contact Sandra Vaughn, MSW, ACSW, LCSW or Marian Swindell, Ph. D. at (601) 484-0140.
Sandra Vaughn is currently serving as the interim chair of the Arts and Sciences Division, in addition to her roles as
Associate Professor and Program Director of Social Work at MSU-Meridian. Dr. Marian Swindell joined the faculty this past year as assistant professor of social work.

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