In observance of national Social Work Month this March, I have been thinking about what it means to me to be a social worker. Every time someone asks me “what do you do?” I hesitate and have an internal debate. Do I tell them that I am a “social worker” and let them assume that I am a child protection worker? That is the typical social worker they see in the news and in the media. Do I tell them I am the director of a national project, and explain that I do systems planning, training, and technical assistance on a program that helps people who are experiencing homelessness access Social Security disability benefits? No one knows what technical assistance means; they’ll think that I work with computers, and if I mention the “h” word that totally shuts down the conversation. Do I recount my complete resume so that they really “understand me” and where I am coming from?
Even though I always re-hash the debate in my head (Quickly! I’m not just standing there silent for a few minutes!), just about every time I proudly say, “I am a social worker.” For people who are interested in hearing more, I happily drone on!
Social workers are a diverse group. Not just in our personal demographics but in our chosen professional field and day-to-day activities. In graduate school we were separated into tracts and fields of practice. In our actual work we are further separated into countless positions, duties, and responsibilities. However, I believe that we all remain connected in the values in which we were trained and which we proscribe. I feel very fortunate that our core values as social workers are also core values here at PRA: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. No matter my employer or position, I will always be a social worker.