Throwback Thursday: What Areas Would You Like The Social Work Profession to Focus On?

The following is an excerpted response from an interview I had in 2013 with Deona Hooper, founder of Social Work Helper after being asked what my aspirations were as a Social Worker, and what areas I would like the profession to direct more attention to.

I’ve noticed that I inhabit two spaces in my work: the academe and the community. So often on this path, I encounter “either or” comparisons asserting that one area of focus is inherently better than the other.

Even while I was pursuing my MSW, I noticed that there were at least two “camps” among us in terms of the directions that we each wanted to go in. I’m sure many people may have a preference that they lean towards more than another, as do I. However, I can see a “both and” reality in my practice in which elements of academics and community practice have an interdependent relationship with each other, enabling me to be an even better practitioner.


Long term, I hope to continue to be able to work in areas where I am able to work towards building more equitable and inclusive communities, and have time in the classroom that I can dedicate specifically to engaging social work students, practicing social workers, and other helping professionals in experiences that increase awareness of ourselves and our experiences in relation to others, and how those experiences can impact our lives and relationships personally and professionally.

There’s a quote I love that says “Because oppression is seen as systemic, we tend to absolve ourselves of blame, but unless someone chooses to identify themselves with institutions and systems, the act of honest confession will never take place.”  It’s easy to work against the ills of others, but I think what is even more important and necessary is to look at ourselves to see how we contribute to the chaos, so we can changes for the better. Engaging myself, other helping professionals, and community members in the important “personal work” required to build relationships that can allow us to create a better society will be a lifelong challenge that I’m proud to dedicate myself to.


In terms of what areas I’d like the profession to direct more attention to, I have a few thoughts: I think that in many ways, people are still unsure of what Social Work is, and what it does, so I would like to see more concentrated efforts to increase the visibility of Social Workers on the national stage. I do what I can with N.A.H., does a great job of highlighting the work of Social Workers, and I know that there are many others who are working toward increasing the visibility of Social Workers as well. I think this needs to continue.

One of the things that really resonated with me about is that it seeks to connect helping professionals internationally. I think it builds unity and collaboration, and linking up with other colleagues around the world for a dedicated purpose is very necessary and I think SWH deserves a lot of attention from the profession.

Lastly, I value title protection for anyone who has gone through and completed the education and field experience to be a Social Worker. I can see the merit of ensuring that someone with say, a degree in mathematics who does not possess another degree in Social Work is not able to identify themselves as a Social Worker, but I see Title Protection as it is currently enforced as excluding a lot of our colleagues who have earned the right by getting the degree, particularly those in community practice who see themselves being able to serve best in the community and not by taking the clinical route. In fact, some states only recognize the clinical license, leaving community practice behind. My colleague Rachel L. West wrote about an example of this at her blog the Political Social Worker. This is definitely an issue that I think deserves further exploration do determine if the way it’s being implemented is in service of all Social Workers.

For the full interview, you can visit Social Workers for Social Justice: Interview with Relando Thompkins on Social Work Helper’s website.

Also check out Deona’s article: Top 5 Reasons Social Work is Failing

Social Work is a needed and fulfilling profession. While it isn’t perfect, it can be improved through critical self-examination, reflection, acknowledgement, and action (Just like us, the people within the field itself).

Social Workers: What are your aspirations for yourselves as a worker, and what areas would you like the Social Work profession to focus on moving forward?


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW



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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Relando, Love your presentation on being a social worker….seems we are now assistants to psychology and psychiatry as ‘clinicians’….where are the white coats as these CSW’s judge, code, identify symptoms, followed with a Label–psychic tattoo for life (Disorder). We need community organizers more than ever….our society is upside down and our profession has literally lost touch with values, ethics and social justice. All of our social systems are broken and as you note, it is time for us to examine how we are contributing to this massive attack on our elders, poor, minorities, differences, Planet and continuing to incarcerate the wrong people….we know who they are and have been too quiet for too long. We need to discover what Right Action means while engaging our society and clients with principles we all accepted as social workers….right of self determination, no judgment, respect and dignity for all and, my favorite, “Make the Equal.” Our profession needs to awaken its consciousness and return to our Roots. Have recently written a log if you don’t mind my sharing about “Having the Courage to Be!”

    • It’s been awhile Gerald, Thanks for your comment. The “You can’t change what’s going on around you until you change what’s going on within you” quote applies to the field as well as the individuals who make it run through their practice everyday.

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