Every March we celebrate National Social Worker Month. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that March is also National- celery month, caffeine awareness month, frozen food month, noodle month, peanut month and cheerleading safety month?
I had to laugh when I read these other things that are celebrated in March because I’m pretty sure most Social workers celebrate these things every month, well maybe not the celery, but certainly Caffeine Awareness. They are very aware of caffeine and where to get it in towns, cities and airports. In fact, lots of good social work takes place in coffee shops. Social Workers know that the way to break the ice with someone or create trust is over a warm beverage.
I am constantly impressed with the way Social Workers remain neutral regarding decisions made that affect their children and families. I know there are times when their hearts are breaking inside, but they deliver news with balance and even with hope. I’ve never met a Social Worker who wasn’t cheering for their kids and families. Even when it seems like everyone else has given up, they hang in there and hold on to the hope for change.
The other thing that I have observed over the years is how much anger and hostility towards the “system” that kids and families express toward Social Workers. As the bearers of news—both good and bad—they are so often singled out as the bad guys; as though they are personally responsible for a child being removed from their home or for a kid to be moved from one foster home to the next. I guarantee you, no Social Worker ever wakes up in the morning and says, “You know, I think I’ll take someone’s kids away from them today.” But when they get to work, they may learn that they do have to do these difficult tasks. And yet, they keep going. They keep hoping for the Good. They keep rooting for kids and families.
It occurred to me that men and women who are serving or have served in our military are often greeted with a lot gratitude, with people expressing this thankfulness with statements like, “Thank you for your service”, “thank you for your sacrifice”, or “Thank you for keeping us safe.” I honestly don’t know if Social Workers are given this same gratitude. I think this is a trend that needs to start today. Think about it--they are serving our families and communities starting early in the morning and ending late into the night. They travel miles in cars and airplanes to check on the wellbeing of the kids on their caseload. Families of Social Workers can attest to the fact that their loved one sacrifice a lot for others—ask them how much frozen food and peanut butter they eat because their loved one gets home too late to make a meal. And, yes, Social Workers help keep us safe—all of us. Our communities are safer because Social Workers are bringing child abuse and neglect into the light, and working towards stopping these cycles and bring healing. Their actions literally save lives every day.
I don’t want to paint a dark picture of what Social Workers “endure” because the beautiful thing is, they don’t see it as enduring or something they have to put up with. They do the work they do because they choose to. They choose to get up each day and advocate for Good. They choose to serve humanity. One of my favorite Social Workers often says, “I chose social work because I get to go home after work, while Resource Parents are at it 24/7.” The thing I know is that the heart of a Social Worker is never off duty. I don’t know if it could be any other way; it is who they are.
So, help me start a new trend. Let’s start thanking all the Social Workers in our lives for their service. Let’s honor them for holding the high watch and keeping people safe. It’s about time!