Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Face of NC Legislature & Social Work Practice

by Jack Register, Director of Advocacy & Legislation NASW-NC & Hull House NC Editor

The NC Legislature has transformed in recent weeks. From the scandals and resignations to the simple decisions of lawmakers to move on in their lives to new adventures. The face of NC politics is changing. I for one am glad to see it and be a part of it.

I believe now is the perfect time for all North Carolinians who care about their state, the citizens of the state, heck, even their own lives to become involved. NC faces the distinction of being one of the best places in the country to do business and yet one that struggles to care for its citizens who are sick, disabled, or poor.

So, what is an advocate to do? Well, getting involved is always a good place to begin. I for one am proud to be a social worker and live in NC. I am proud to be an advocate and member of the lobbying community who is a recognized member of the crowd of folk who wade into the morass of politics and try to make policy change.

What motivates me on a daily basis is the notion that something I do or say today to a member of the legislature, a staffer in state government, or to a colleague will shift their perception of what it means to need care. Polyanna I know, but it is what motivates me and I go with it.

Frequently when I speak to community groups of social workers I will ask them to remember what brought them to the profession. I ask them to remember what the experience was that said to them that they need to become a social worker. For many people it is an experience in their family of origin where they had the help of a social worker, for some it is a calling from their faith to give their lives to service, for some it is a duty based and grounded in a frame of social justice. For me, it is all of the above.

So as we continue to hear about our elected leaders leaving and the face of NC politics changes remember what brought you to social work. Remember why it is you go to work on a daily basis. Ask yourself what can I do or say today that may shift someone's perception. Then do it!

Simple advocacy steps to do everyday:

1. Write to some elected official who represents you. Local, state, or national it doesn't matter.
2. Identify yourself as a social worker and become a resource to them for social work practice issues and concerns.
3. Get involved in the social work community. Find a group, organization, like NASW, and get involved. Our work cannot happen without you!

Jack is the Director of Advocacy & Legislation for NASW-NC and the Editor of Hull House NC. He is the lobbyist and advocate for the association and represents NASW-NC in statewide advocacy coalitions, to the departments of state government, and is the lobbyist for the legislature. Jack is an LCSW and has practice experience in a wide variety of mental health, medical and addiction settings. He can be reached at the association by email at

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