By Jada Jinks | April 4, 2022
Photo Credit: Donald Trung Quoc on Wikimedia Commons
March is an extremely important time of the year.
Not only is it because of Women's History Month, but also because it’s the time of year where we celebrate social workers and all they do. March is Social Work Month. Social Work Month was created in 1963 by the National Association of Social Workers to foster public support for the profession. All of these factors bring us to today, where I interviewed Geraldine Gutierrez to discuss the essential practice of social work and what they bring to individuals, families, and communities.
The first thing we talked about is how Gutierrez got into social work. Gutierrez got into social work when she took an intro to social work course.
“As I learned more about Social Work, I realized my personal beliefs aligned with Social Work’s values and ethical principles of social justice, integrity, and recognition of the dignity and worth of all people,” she said. Geraldine explains that being a child of Dominican immigrant parents shaped her as well.
Her parents were always working to support their kids and give them a better life, which shaped how she viewed the importance of family and community.
“As I grew older and gained more exposure to the world, I learned not all families were like mine. And I learned how much support and privilege marginalized populations did not have access to,” she said.
This sense of family and community, learning that the core ethics of social work supported her values, and learning that the world was not always fair to families like hers, put her on the path to social work.
The next thing I asked her is what kind of values do social workers embody? She said that social workers embody many ethical standards in their practice, but the one that she personally embodies the most is “the importance of human relationship and equity.” What she means by this is that social workers must strive to connect with their clients and respect their worth as a human being. Social workers must not treat their clients as if they are above them, but instead talk to them on a shared level of mutual trust and respect.
Next, I asked her what she thinks is the most important skill a social worker should have. The answer she gave me is self-awareness. Self-awareness is vital to social work because you have to realize where you stand on certain issues and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Failure to do so might end up harming the client, as you can shift your bias onto them, or overlook a weakness of yours.
"Self-awareness will enable social workers to play on their strengths as well as the clients’ strengths,” Gutierrez says.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we talked about what social workers do to combat women’s issues and promote equality. Social workers combat women’s issues and promote equality on a multitude of levels. On the Micro level, social workers are concerned with helping women escape domestic violence by working in women’s shelters and supporting them as they find a new place to live.
On the Mezzo level, social workers are working as administrators who actively respond to the women who come seeking their help. Social workers in this level can set aside budgeting and funds for programs that support girls and women.
Next we discussed what laws and policies affect what she does as a social worker. Gutierrez states that social work has been affected by laws and policies since it was first created. The founders of social work, Jane Addams and Mary Ellen Richmond, had to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups, like blackAt the Macro level, social workers work as policy creators and help support policies that affect women like fair wage laws.
people. We see from the beginning that social work is affected by the politics of race, class, and gender, with social workers fighting to have certain groups be treated like equals. This fight still continues to this day, as we will next talk about people being discriminated against because of their sexuality and/or gender expression.
To keep in touch with current events, we discussed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill” and how this will affect social workers. “This bill would create unsafe environments for LGBTQ+ identifying children and families through censoring and stigmatization, which the bill explicitly and implicitly encourages. Social workers would have to develop new and unique interventions to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ students affected by this bill,” Gutierrez explains.
This bill would stand against everything that social workers fought for, like Gutierrez mentioned before, so social workers have to be ready if this bill gets passed.
For the next question, I asked something that was related to Gutierrez’s current profession. Along with being a Social Worker, she’s also the Student Services and Retention Coordinator for the School of Social Welfare. This is where she assists students who are having a hard time with obtaining their master’s degree and helps them to coordinate their school work. I specifically asked about modern problems students deal with like student loan debt and helping international students adjust to living in a new country.
Gutierrez said,“The best first step for me to help students is to provide information so they can make informed choices on their academic journey.”
It’s important for college students to know their options so that they can get the best option out of the degree program they’re in.
“When students have external challenges arise which negatively impact their academic performance, I rely on colleagues within my department and throughout the University to help me connect students with the resources and information they need to address the issues.”
“Some of this may look like directing them to scholarship programs, student groups for support and inclusion, Veteran & Military Student Services and the Counseling And Psychological Services Center at UAlbany amongst others.”
Gutierrez refers her social work students to a variety of resources to help them better adjust to college life.
For the very last question, I decided to ask her what she would say to someone considering a career in social work. Gutierrez responded by stating, “I would say visit our website to start and listen to some episodes of the Social Workers Radio Talk Show. There are so many opportunities within the Field of Social Work. If your passions are aligned with helping people, it is a great profession to explore.”
Social workers play an important role in our society as advocates, counselors, mediators, and so much more. It’s important that we recognize social workers for all that they do, and how they make life better for so many people, including here on campus.