Looking for Leaders: The Crisis in Social Work
Maybe you’ve heard the old joke, “Social Work is the World’s Second Oldest Profession.”
Well, it’s true.
B.C. 1750 In Babylonia, King Hammurabi issues his code of justice, which includes a requirement that the people help one another during times of hardship.
B.C. 500 Philanthropy, from the Greek word for “acts of love for humanity,” is institutionalized in the Greek city–states. Citizens are encouraged to donate money, which is used for people in need.
B.C. 300 In China, the Analects of Confucius declare humans to be social beings bound to one another by Jen, a form of sympathy that is often expressed through helping those in need.
B.C. 100 In Rome, the annona civica tradition—in which patrician families distribute free or low-cost grain to all Roman citizens in need—is established.
A.D. 30 Jesus Christ teaches that people’s love for one another is God’s will. He emphasizes the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate (“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”).
400 “Hospitals” are developed in India. By 542, hospitals appear in France…and elsewhere in Europe.
650 The followers of the Prophet Muhammad are told they have an obligation to poor people and that paying a zakat (“puri-fication tax”) to care for poor people is one of the Five Pillars (obligatory duties) of Islam.
1642 Plymouth Colony enacts the first poor law in the New World.
1798 The U.S. Public Health Service is established.
1824 The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is established. It is the first federal organization to attempt to provide direct assistance in the welfare of some Americans.
1898 The first school for social workers is established. In 1917 the School’s is named the New York School of Social Work.
But now there is a crisis:
2010: At World Congress of Social Work, leadership gap is recognized publicly by leaders, saying that large numbers of older, experienced workers are retiring. And more workers will be needed by 2020.
So what’s the problem?:
The economic slowdown
changes in the political landscape, and
competition from other professions are threatening the future of human services.
The demand for services is increasing while resources are shrinking.
Low salaries and misperceptions about the nature of social work are keeping many people away from the profession.
The good news:
There is ample job opportunity for people who feel a calling to help.
650,500: current number of social workers in U.S. (census 2010)
19.7: percentage of employment growth for children, family, and school social workers between 2010 and 2020.
That translates to approximately 58,200 new social work positions to fill.
Why we need social workers:
46.2 million Americans living below the official poverty line.
The number of homeless students in this country crested 1 million at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.
Every year, there are 3.3 million reports of child abuse in the United States.
The pay is alright, but not terrific, for social workers. .
Average Salaries (as of Aug. 2013)
12 %: Average Social Worker salaries for job postings nationwide are 12% lower than average salaries for all job postings nationwide.
$29,000: average family service worker pay
$35,000: social service worker
$52,000: school social worker
$61,000: substance abuse social worker
$85,000: senior supervisory social worker
FACT: The best-paid 10 percent in the field earned a little more than $70,000, while the lowest-paid made approximately $26,190.
Best paying cities/regions for social workers
Nassau County, NY, $66,840
Danbury, CT, $64,700
Waterbury, CT, $64,270
New Haven, CT, $63,820
Leominster, MA, $62,750
Job Satisfaction of social workers:
Upward mobility: average
Stress level: high
Flexibility: Above average
Solution: How to develop leaders
Through collaboration: younger social workers will seek the wisdom and expertise of their older counterparts. More established leaders should be willing to accept the new ideas young people bring to the profession.
Established leaders then have to be willing to relinquish power.
Educational institutions must:
Prepare students to deal with the day-to-day realities of social work
Getting students involved in professional organizations
Connect students with professional mentors
Give students tools needed to make the case for social work
Nurture leadership at all levels of social work education
It’s Cool: Celebrities who were social workers:
Alice Walker: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (“The Color Purple”)
Samuel L. Jackson: “Star Wars”
John Amos: star of “Good Times” TV show
It’s cool to help others: Celebrities who contribute to social programs (might as well be social workers)
Angelina Jolie: Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, helps UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Kids in Need of Defense, the ONE Campaign and the Afghanistan Relief Organization.
Scarlett Johannson: contributes her time and money to USA Harvest, Make Poverty History, Not On Our Watch, World Aids Day, Oxfam and RED.
Bono: supports charities such as the ONE Campaing, Amnesty Internation, UNICEF and RED.
Taylor Swift: Winner of the DoSomething.org website’s most charitable celebrity of 2012.
Justin Bieber: his Believe Charity Drive, which supports City of Hope, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of America, Musicians on Call, GRAMMY Foundation, Project Medishare for Haiti and Pencils of Promise.