For National Professional Social Work Month, we asked members of Temple’s School of Social Work what they saw as the role of the social worker in today’s world. Here’s what they said.
Master of social work (MSW) student Rachel Lawbaugh with therapy dog Marley.
I believe it is important to recognize the flawed system that we work within. I have seen systems fail the people that they were meant to serve. I would attribute this to the fact that people of the targeted population are often excluded from positions of power and from the decision-making process which is contributing to the oppressive system. As a social worker, it is vital that I come from a place of cultural humility. This means recognizing my own power, privilege, and prejudice. It is important to understand that the client is the expert on their own life and that they are the expert when it comes to their own lived experience. Social work is about life-long learning. There is so much to be learned from our clients. We need to be listening.
To watch a video about the work Rachel does with Marley click here.
Toni Oliver, National President of the National Association of Black Social Workers and master of social work alumna
As in other fields in public health, I'm looking at outcomes for the population that I'm focused on. In any field where African American families are being served, you can identify disproportionalities and disparities. We want to say we treat all things the same; we want to say that whatever interventions we're using should work the same way on all populations, but the reality is that they don’t. Until we begin to really look at those populations that don't have the kinds of outcomes that we want, and determine what one population needs differently from another, we will continue to have these disparities.
Omar Martinez, assistant professor in the School of Social Work
In order to effectively address epidemics, social workers and health providers should continue to develop effective and science-based approaches to improve outcomes for all populations. In the United States, for example, the HIV epidemic continues to disproportionately impact sexual and gender minority populations; new or more effective approaches can improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum for both HIV positive and HIV negative individuals. Some of these approaches include the use of technology, promotores or lay health advisors, and community-based participatory research practices.
Master of social work (MSW) student Kiana Brown.
We have a responsibility to provide guidance, expertise, and show what we have learned here at Temple University—to the world. Each one of us has a unique story and brings individualized perspectives to the table. This table is not exclusive to the elite—it is up to us to stand up for what we believe in and voice our perspective to those in power. We deserve a seat at the table to discuss our thoughts and opinions to change policies, procedures, legislation, and more that affect all of us. We need to advocate for all communities to fight social injustices.
For more information about the School of Social Work visit: cph.temple.edu/ssa