As social justice is one of the core values of the social work profession, it’s no surprise that many social work organizations and practitioners play a significant role in advocacy.
Generally, the goal of advocacy is to boost public support for a given cause with the aim of influencing policy. For example, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has worked actively to build support for the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015. Their work has involved close collaboration with Senators and Representatives committed to advancing the bill, which would increase access to critical services provided by clinical social workers.
Brooke Hamilton, a Social Work Preceptor at Limestone College, recalls her own internship lobbying at the South Carolina State House where she helped push for Medicaid expansion for children. Today, she enjoys seeing her own students get fired up about social justice and hopes to inspire them to get involved.
“I am very passionate about social justice issues… and [social work] is an area where you can really make an impact,” says Hamilton.
Beyond advocacy organizations, social workers can also participate in advocacy on an individual level. Through their work with vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society, social workers have a first-hand perspective on unmet needs or lack of resources that affect these populations. Many social workers advocate for these issues by writing op-eds, participating in community organizing, or even taking part in local protests or demonstrations.
As much of social work also involves working closely with social service agencies, a social workers’ knowledge of social welfare programs and policies is critical in both connecting their clients with appropriate resources and identifying service gaps they can advocate for. To that end, Limestone College requires students majoring in social work to take SW 204 – Social Welfare Program and Policy. This course provides a comprehensive view of diverse social issues such as substandard housing, poor health care coverage, inadequate social security programs, and populations at risk. Students will have an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the political and economic factors that affect social welfare policy and planning, as well as social and economic justice.