Essential and Valued: Celebrating Social Work Month 2021

Published on : February 26, 2021

About Social Work Responds
The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are committed to collaborating on the range of issues affecting the social work profession and the people and communities we serve.


CSWE proudly recognized Black icons in social work education throughout February. Dr. Iris Carlton-LaNey, professor emerita at UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work and social welfare historian, and Dr. Tanya Smith Brice, CSWE vice president of education, discuss these essential innovators and educators on CSWE's YouTube channel.

March 12 is the deadline to submit research proposals in response to ASWB's request for proposals (RFP) for a literature review of current research related to occupational and professional regulation. Learn more and download the RFP.  

NASW has scheduled two new racial equity town halls addressing the abolition movement in social work:

March 12: "Are Social Workers Abolitionists?"
April 9: "Creating the World We Wish to See"

Essential and Valued

Social Work Month begins on March 1 and marks an extraordinary milestone for the social work profession. 

We began our collective COVID-19 journey in March 2020. At the time, we had no way of knowing that we would spend an entire year having limited physical contact with friends, family, classmates, and co-workers, mastering completely new routines—all while trying to address one national crisis after another, from the horrific deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans to an insurrectionist siege of the U.S. Capitol.

As a profession uniquely equipped to mitigate crisis, we were immediately thrust into the national spotlight when public conversations turned to the intersection of law enforcement and emergency mental health services, widespread demand for and access to virtual therapy, student and family well-being during school closures and, most recently, vaccine public education.  

In the early days of the pandemic, social workers were deemed “essential” by federal and state authorities. Subsequently, our profession’s demonstrated expertise in helping people most affected by the profound consequences of the pandemic has increased our value to local and national policy efforts promoting economic recovery, public safety, and racial equity.

We are essential advisors.

We are essential collaborators.

And we are essential advocates.
Our purpose, in whatever field of practice or functional role, is to improve the quality of life for the people we serve—one individual, family, group, or community at a time. Social work remains the only professional workforce in our nation dedicated to studying and advancing basic human rights and social care options for those most likely to be excluded from society’s resources. It is hard, necessary, and rewarding work.

Although the majority of the 700,000+ people employed in the social work profession are practitioners and employers, our educators, students, and regulators fundamentally shape the values and scope of social work today and tomorrow. Therefore, during Social Work Month each of our organizations takes great pride in showcasing different strengths that make social work essential.

In the past year social work educators recommitted to finding a better way to educate future practitioners about becoming antiracists while teaching in a virtual environment in many programs. This essential work will help develop recommendations on making social work education stronger by integrating antiracism pedagogies and methods. Check out the initial recommendations on YouTube from CSWE's Task Force to Advance Anti-Racism.

The regulatory process values inclusiveness and welcomes diverse perspectives. During Social Work Month especially, ASWB celebrates social work regulators as essential workers. On the public protection front, it’s not easy to sit in judgment of a peer but it’s necessary to prevent harm from occurring to clients. In that respect, regulation is a form of social work practice. Service on a regulatory board is voluntary. Unless someone is in a paid regulatory position as an administrator or registrar—and some administrators are in fact social workers—regulatory service is an added responsibility. Social workers who request to serve on a regulatory board go above and beyond their daily work. Reasons to volunteer are as individual as the person answering the call: protecting the public, giving back to the profession, honoring the social work values of service and social justice. It is selfless, often thankless work. It is also rewarding, as ASWB members tell us with regularity. That dedication and commitment deserve recognition and a fervent thank you.

NASW’s “Social Workers Are Essential” campaign this year features a wide variety of virtual chapter conferences, advocacy days, and peer recognition celebrations, as well as online promotional activities and targeted media outreach. In a new series of video and audio testimonials, social workers from across the United States share why their work is essential in their community. To get involved in your state or nationally, visit   

In addition, IFSW’s World Social Work Day theme “Ubuntu” (I Am Because We Are) will be celebrated worldwide on March 16. Happy Social Work Month, everyone! 

Additional Resources

NASW is expanding its leadership development programming for members and all interested social workers. The new initiative will launch at the NASW National Conference held virtually this June. These efforts complement NASW’s commitment to advancing antiracist trauma-informed social work practice. More information is forthcoming on

CSWE looks forward to highlighting the essential nature of social work education and programs throughout Social Work Month. Keep an eye on and follow CSWE on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for updates and to share your own thoughts! 

Look for posts on ASWB social media channels during Social Work Month tying regulation into the theme "Social Workers Are Essential."