March is Social Work Month and this year’s theme is Social Work Breaks Barriers.
Organized by the National Association of Social Workers, Social Work Month casts a spotlight on social work and the nation’s more than 700,000 social workers – one of the fastest growing professions in the country. As the population ages, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for social work services will increase to more than 800,000 by the year 2030.
Today’s social workers provide an array of critical services to many sectors, from hospitals, mental health centers and schools to social services agencies, federal, state and city governments. This year’s theme highlights how the profession enriches our society by empowering individuals and communities to overcome the hurdles that prevent them from living life to the fullest.
The origins of social work can be traced back to Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star who opened Hull House in 1889 to provide social services to Chicago residents, especially its large immigrant population. Some other well-known social work pioneers include anti-lynching advocate and women’s rights activist Ida B. Wells; George Edmund Hayes, a social worker who co-founded the National Urban League; Whitney M. Young Jr. who helped break down employment discrimination barriers; and Arlien Johnson, UW School of Social Work founding director.