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the best short summation of the changes that have overtaken social
work over the past 50 years was one I overheard at a recent Council
on Social Work program. "We knew psychotherapy," observed one veteran.
"They know computers." The observation provoked a hearty laugh.
But having witnessed the changes myself, I know there is more than
a grain of truth in it.
some things remain constant. The department's focus on issues affecting
the most vulnerable, disadvantaged populations is as strong today
as it was in 1958. Social work is still a profession largely peopled
by women, who make up about 80 percent of our current students.
And despite the lasting impact of the upheavals of the 1960s, clinical
practice remains the most popular course of study. The need for
trained social workers is still great: The U.S. Labor Department
projects there will be more than 650,000 social workers by the year
2005, an increase of more than 30 percent.
the challenges we face remain constant as well. I remember lecturing
the entering M.S.W. class of 1995 on the first day of a class titled,
appropriately, Group Conflict. Suddenly, in the middle of the session,
word of the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial arrived. Black
students rose to their feet and applauded; other students remained
in their seats, looking stunned, even shocked. It was clear the
divisions of race and ethnicity raised more than three decades ago
in the Watts riots were still very much with us.
at least we are no longer surprised by them. And who knows, those
students searching for answers within the Department of Social Welfare
just may solve them.
Kitano is professor emeritus of social welfare and sociology.