March is Social Work Month, and the theme this year is “Social Work Breaks Barriers.”

This theme resonates now more than ever. Social workers are helping our nation overcome myriad challenges: tackling the effects of racism, economic inequality, the fight for reproductive rights, the oppression of marginalized communities and natural disasters worsened by climate change.

More than 700,000 social workers nationwide entered the profession because they have a strong desire to assist those in need and make our communities, our nation, and our world a better place for all. Here in Maine, there are more than 6,700 (as of December 2022) licensed social workers with another cohort of prepared graduates matriculating in May at our state’s five schools of social work. Social workers in Maine represent the largest behavioral health workforce. In fact, there are more social workers in Maine than psychologists, psychiatrists, professional counselors, and marriage and family therapists combined.

For generations, social workers have broken barriers to help people live better lives, and they continue to break barriers by empowering people in tough situations.

The efforts of social workers over the last hundred years have led to the creation of a minimum wage, a 40-hour work week, and the implementation of Social Security benefits. More recently, social workers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. When many people were quarantined at home, social workers were out working in their communities – making sure children and at-risk youth were attending classes virtually, providing food and other resources to the elderly, offering resources to those experiencing violence in their homes, helping those with substance-use disorder get the help they needed to stay sober, and helping thousands of people of people stay connected to loved ones quarantined in nursing homes or at the hospital.

Social workers can be found everywhere in our state: in hospitals, mental health care facilities, child welfare agencies, schools, primary care medical offices, veteran centers and even in libraries, police departments, homeless shelters and within state and local government.


NASW Maine wishes to acknowledge the licensed social workers in Augusta who are tirelessly advocating on behalf of our state’s most vulnerable populations and on issues of health equity, behavioral health access, student-debt relief, workforce development and other issues of vital importance to our state. We also want to express our gratitude for those social workers across our state who are volunteering their time in other local elected roles, such as town councils and school boards, as well as those serving on different boards of directors at nonprofits all over Maine.

Simply put, social workers have transformed millions of lives. Chances are over the course of your lifetime, you, a family member, or a friend have been helped by a social worker. According to a survey released this month by Ipsos, 81% of people who have interacted with a social worker say a member of the profession improved their situation or that of a family member. The need for more social workers is reflected in data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which notes social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. An expected 800,000 social workers will join the profession by 2030.

Social workers need more of our support. They deserve higher salaries and more programs that make it easier for people to enter, work and remain in the field. Social workers also need the respect and encouragement of their communities during these times of political unrest and intensifying hostilities between polarized groups.

Take some time to learn more about the social work profession and what you can do to help assist social workers in their positive, life-affirming work. Reach out to a social worker to offer gratitude for the life changing work these individuals are doing in your community.

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