March is Social Work Month, and the theme this year is “Social Work Breaks Barriers.”
This theme resonates with Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) social workers because these employees are on the frontlines helping individuals overcome myriad challenges including economic inequality, reproductive rights, racism, and natural disasters worsened by global warming. Social work is one of the fastest-growing careers in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics and the profession is expected to grow by 12 percent by 2030. Why? As communities grow, there is an everlasting need for social workers to help those in need, at any level, where they are needed most.
F&CS currently has 112 social workers on staff employing Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) graduates for Case Manager and Care Coordinator roles. Master of Social Work (MSW) students have the opportunity to join the F&CS team as interns and complete practicum at the agency. At current count, there are 27 MSW students working under Kari Featherngill, LCSW, Director of Internship. Having placement at F&CS gives supervisors a chance to work with interns who later move into full-time positions. It also gives some direction to recruiters, supervisors, and Onboard Ambassadors as to how F&CS can better vet potential candidates for prime positions. And Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) work as therapists but are widely recognized for filling many clinical supervisor roles throughout the agency. F&CS Chief Executive Officer Gail Lapidus recently celebrated her 42nd year of being an LCSW.
Social workers have been protecting children and adults since the first days of inception. Within the child welfare system, social workers are lifelines for children dealing with demanding situations outside of their control. This takes the form of many jobs, but social workers do most of their work in assisting with foster care and adoption, helping families with resources, and advocating for children at institutional and government levels. F&CS dedicates approximately half of its Social Work staff to children’s programming, which serves clients throughout Tulsa and surrounding communities.
According to the National Association of Social Workers, more than 700,000 social workers nationwide entered the profession because they have a powerful desire to assist those in need and make communities, the nation, and the world a better place for all.
In Oklahoma, there were approximately 9,500 social workers in 2021. The governing body for this group is the National Association of Social Workers, which manages the licensing and continuing education of social workers in the state. The NASW-Oklahoma Chapter also provides leadership and guidance for local offices, which assist in advocacy, education, and leadership opportunities for social workers.
Social workers in Tulsa can be found in a variety of locations. Tulsa hospitals have dedicated hospital social workers, who help as patient advocates and assist families in need with services. Social workers also work at local shelters, advocate at Tulsa City Hall, and are involved in every nonprofit organization in the metro area. Northeastern State University and the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa serve as primary education outlets for the Tulsa metro, with OU-Tulsa’s International Child Welfare Exchange Program sending students to Israel for cultural exchange and fresh ideas across the social work spectrum.
Historical beginnings to present
The American social work profession was established in the late 19th century to ensure that immigrants and other vulnerable people gained tools and skills to escape economic and social poverty. Since the first social work class was offered in the summer of 1898 at Columbia University, social workers have led the way in developing private and charitable organizations to serve people in need. Social workers continue to address the needs of society and bring our nation’s social problems to the public’s attention.