Matthew Cohen, MSW

Matthew Cohen, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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What is the GAF Score for Social Work?

I never thought this would be a problem. These people are relentless fighters, the kind of people who sacrifice money for a higher cause. If anything was certain, social workers fighting for social work should be in the bag. I’ve been fortunate to have a cat-birds seat on this. The benefit of a social media organization is that you have plenty of data, but as is so common in life sometimes things come down to a simple number, a telling metric.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were more than 600,000 social work jobs in the U.S. in 2012 and that was expected to grow by almost 20% in the next ten years. Logic dictates that there must be 600,000 social workers out there to man those positions. Perhaps there are more and maybe there are less (although I doubt it) but there is one indisputable fact: 600,000 is greater than 23,000.

23,000 is the number of signatures on the Social Work Reinvestment Act (SWRA) petition that SJS has spearheaded, in conjunction with the Congressional Research Institute of Social Work and Policy, for the last few years. It is a number that shows promise and commitment, a seriousness beyond the normal trivialities of the internet. But it also reveals a weakness in the structure of social work: why is is so hard for social workers to organize around a single important issue when it relates to social work itself?

The landscape of our profession is littered with dozens of organizations, over 30 according to the, more than enough to have a strong foundation for information dissemination and organization. The NASW has certainly done it’s part in supporting SWRA, but what has taken me back is the lack of cooperation between organizations. More often than not, there’s in-fighting and competition.

As SJS has struggled to do our part there has been minimal help, outreach, or communication from any of the 30 organizations listed above. This is not sour grapes, it goes beyond that. I do not hear the same message from the National Association of Social Workers as the Clinical Social Work Association. The School Social Work Association of America is not preaching the same message as the Council on Social Work Education. In fact, there does not seen to be any unifying force or issue binding social work together on the macro levels, the sort of foundation that would be needed to turn 23,000 into 600,000 virtually overnight, the type of commitment that could marshal the power of the social work profession into one goal.

The Social Work Reinvestment Act represents more than a piece of legislation that would codify this nation’s support for its social workers. It offers a unique opportunity for social work to create its own resource map, assess its own strengths and weakness and create a treatment plan for a profession that lacks the self-esteem that such a noble profession should garner. Our GAF scale goes from 1 to 600,000, and right now our score is 23,000 signifying an inability to manage our own affairs.

Maybe bringing the health of social work down to one number is a leap, after all, it’s not indicative of our mental health but only of our ability to function effectively. Regardless, I would like to leave you with two thoughts:

  1. SWRA has been introduced before every Congress since 2008 without movement. How many social workers know about it? If you do how did you hear about it?
  2. What do you think the GAF score would be if we were talking about the Teachers Reinvestment Act?

We love this profession, and we want it to have strength and health it deserves. Our attempts at SJS to do what little good we can are a reflection of that love. We are not saying we have the answer to this difficult question nor is this an attempt to lay blame. We simply want to bring some insight and awareness into our current circumstances. In therapy, sometimes the problems are so large, and the GAF is so low, that insight and awareness are the only goals that really matter until things sort themselves out.

Please sign the SWRA petition below:

Next Goal : 100,000

Social Work Reinvestment Act


23,604 signatures

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  1. ckahniea1 Connie April 7, 2015
  2. Matthew Cohen, MSW Matthew Cohen, MSW April 7, 2015
  3. Kathleen Gerry April 12, 2015
    • Matthew Cohen, MSW Matthew Cohen, MSW April 12, 2015

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