Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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There is No Easy Definition of Social Work

There has been a lot of talk recently about what it means to be a social worker, and how the title needs protection and the profession needs more defined parameters.

A headline in Non-Profit quarterly caught my eye:

Remembering the Philanthropist Who Wanted to Be a Social Worker

After a quick scan, intrigued, I linked to the main story in the New York Times to learn:

“Joseph Rosenmiller earned a fortune building a chain of radio stations and then donated tens of millions to promote causes that he felt traditional philanthropies largely ignored, like voting rights and the empowerment of domestic workers.

Mr. Rosenmiller told his sons that being a reconnaissance officer behind enemy lines in France and Austria in World War II had opened his eyes to social inequalities, as did his years after the war at Yale and then at Columbia University, where he did graduate study in social work.” Mr. Rosenmiller was unable to get a job as a social worker, so, in 1956, he and a classamte bought an AM radio station.”

Some years later, he “founded a nonprofit, Volunteer Opportunities, to match volunteers with needy organizations,” and in 1996 gave a grant to endow the Solidago Foundation, making gifts that eventually totaled about $40 million.

This story reminded me that social work cannot easily be defined and many of us would be compelled to pursue social work goals regardless of our titles. Does our profession deserve respect equal to that of other professionally defined, state licensed careers? Absolutely. But will the lack of jobs or arguments over professional definitions and titling keep social workers from doing good in the world and facilitating change in unique and diverse ways? Doubt it.


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