Chapter News

Herstand, Marc

Executive Director Blog

By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

September 2023


When Ada called, I always knew I was in for a long and fascinating conversation. Ada had the most amazing stories-whether it was meeting Eleanor Roosevelt, speaking truth to power to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit, organizing to save the Menominee reservation or running for Congress or Wisconsin Secretary of State. I always felt privileged and inspired after speaking with her.

Ada was the epitome of a fearless advocate and a most powerful voice for social justice and social change. From an early age, she was never afraid to speak up and ask for what she wanted! She was never intimidated by people in positions of power. She strongly believed the role of the social worker was as an advocate.

Ada had a lifetime of “firsts”. In 1957, she became the first Menominee citizen to graduate from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, earning a bachelor’s degree in social work. She was the first Native American to earn a master’s degree (in social work) from Columbia University. She was the first Native American to run for Congress in Wisconsin, in 1978 and 1992.She was the first woman to Chair the Menominee Tribe. She was the first woman to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs, after being appointed by President Bill Clinton. 1


After the federal government ended recognition for the Menominee Tribe in 1961, Ada helped organize the Determination of Right and Unity for Menominee Shareholders (DRUMS) which led the movement to return federal sovereignty to the Menomonie people. Federal recognition was restored in 1973. 2


Ada was always a great supporter of NASW and served as NASW-WI President in the late 1980’s.In 2010, Ada was recognized by NASW as a Social Work Pioneer for her work as an advocate and organizer on behalf of Native Americans.

Ada served as one of our keynote speakers for our Virtual Conference in 2020.Because she did not have the computer set up at her home to make this presentation, I picked her up at her house and brought her to the NASW-WI office for the keynote presentation. She wasn’t crazy about presenting virtually! The following year for our first hybrid conference, Ada presented a workshop entitled, “Courage, Hope and Leadership: A Lifetime of Social Work Advocacy”, that was extremely well attended. Our interns transported her back and forth to her house and had great conversations during the car ride.

I was greatly saddened when I heard she had passed away. We all need to find inspiration in her lifelong willingness to speak out and organize against injustices. May her legacy live in the actions of all of us to advocate and work for a world that provides social justice for all.

1. “Menominee trailblazer Ada Deer honored” Friday August 11, 2023

2. “Menominee trailblazer Ada Deer honored” Friday August 11, 2023

3. “Obituary Ada Deer, 88 Advocate for rights of Native Americans”, Wisconsin State Journal, Thursday August 17, 2023

By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW 

June 2023

“And don’t criticize what you don’t understand” Bob Dylan’s lyrics from “The Times They are A-Changin”

It is our role as social workers to keep up with changes in practice modalities to best serve clients. It has also been the role of social workers since the founding of our profession to be on the cutting edge of social change. We work with new immigrants as they come to our country with or without papers. We support and advocate for diverse groups with different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds and with different gender identities and sexual orientations.

Throughout history, groups that have diverged from the norm have been subject to violence, discrimination, bullying and general mistreatment by society. This treatment, which certainly exists today, is a result of prejudice, hate, fear, ignorance and political benefit among other factors.

Unfortunately, since the appearance of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President in 2015, and then his election, racist, antisemetic, Islamophobic, transphobia and other hatreds have increased greatly.

In terms of the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, although much progress has been made with societal acceptance of the LGB community, the same cannot be said of the T community. Much of the violence and mistreatment of trans people can likely be traced to ignorance and fear.

Despite the current level of ignorance and fear, divergent gender identities and sexual orientations have existed throughout human history. The Talmud, the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law developed between the third and sixth centuries, identified eight gender designations. Many Native American tribes make reference to individuals with the two spirits-both male and female.

Although divergent gender identities have always been part of human existence, most people do not understand the concepts of gender identity, what it means to be transgender, or non-binary. They have no idea why the proper use of pronouns is important. This has definitely been an area of needed learning and personal growth on my part. Although my younger son and daughter-in-law have tried to explain to me the concepts of non-binary and pronoun use, it has only been recently, that I am finally beginning to understand. I recently attended a Mental Health Summit in Lac Du Flambeau focused on LGBTQ issues, which was very impactful on me. The Summit provided me with first-hand information on issues of gender identity and the use of pronouns. In my presentation on LGBTQ legislative issues at that conference, while ad-libbing, I was told later that I misgendered one of the speakers, which caused me great embarrassment.

It seems to me that we all need to be on a lifelong journey to learn about, understand and accept differences. This is not easy. So many in our country are quick to judge, criticize, condemn and legislate against people with divergent backgrounds that they don’t understand. We all carry unconscious bias on race, sex, gender and other issues. Our work as social workers brings us into contact with individuals with completely different backgrounds that we might not understand. Our work calls us to this lifelong journey of learning and to constantly grow beyond our comfort zone.

Let’s all take joy in this lifelong journey.

And let me add, Happy Pride Month!

Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

March 2023

 “Stop the world, I want to come off!”

My father used to say this expression when things in his work were moving too quickly!

I can totally empathize with this statement, as I’m sure many of you can as well!

At the NASW-WI office, we are constantly juggling daily member calls and email, a super charged continuing education program (in January and February) our biennial Advocacy Day, March is Social Work month programs in Milwaukee and Madison (in-person and virtual), active lobbying on multiple social work and social justice bills, researching and reporting on all bills introduced that impact our clients and profession, planning for our 2023 annual conference and more.

In this work, I am so grateful to have an outstanding Office Manager, Kristina Jasmin, a new and great Membership Coordinator, Nadir Carlson, four excellent interns, Rob Brown, Olivia Saud, Liv Lacayo and Abbe Bivian an extremely bright, thoughtful and supportive President, Dafna Berman, a superb Board of Directors, experienced and committed committee chairs and many great volunteers.

What keeps us all going is love for our profession and a commitment to our clients and social justice.

March, the Social Work Month, is time to take stock of our work and feel proud of what we do! We are the only profession that lists social justice as one of our values, and our other values demonstrate the excellence of our profession-service, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence. Social workers are so often the conscience, advocacy, and ethical leaders of their agencies, sometimes to the detriment of the social worker. Social workers help clients at the most difficult moments in their life and confront some of the most seemingly intractable problems in our society.

Self-care is critical for our long-term involvement with our profession. I hope you are all taking time regularly with family, loved ones and friends, and engaging in those activities that give you joy and fulfillment.

We social workers are the glue that holds together our society and we have always been on the forefront of social change. We Break Barriers!

Happy Social Work Month and Best Wishes to You all!

Executive Director's Blog

December 2022


The results of the Wisconsin state elections were a huge relief to me. With the re-election of Governor Tony Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul and the inability of the Republicans to obtain a veto proof majority in the Wisconsin Legislature, our profession can be protected by Governor Evers from bills that could harm our licensure law or the standards of practice in our profession. In almost every session, there have been bills introduced that could harm our profession. In the last session, at our request, Governor Evers vetoed a bill that would have allowed Complementary and Alternative health care practitioners to provide psychotherapy without a mental health credential.

As we look to any possible legislative fixes to the racial disparities in the ASWB exam, we can feel some comfort that if there was any type of meddling with our licensure bill, we could ask the Governor to veto the bill. Speaking of issues of race, we can feel a sigh of relief that no so-called Critical Race Theory bills can now pass, that would have limited discussion in social work classes, technical college and university classes and in K-12 education on race and sex. Such a bill would have put school social workers, teachers, school counselors, social work and other university professors in a terrible position of not being able to do their job and uphold the values of their profession without potentially violating Wisconsin law. The same thing could have happened with “Don’t Say Gay” bills that would restrict discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in K-12 education. Also bills restricting medical care and sports participation by Transgender youth can be vetoed by Governor Evers.

Of course, any changes in state policy or the state budget need to be done in a bi-partisan manner. My hope would be that instead of playing political games, there can be efforts to work on a bipartisan basis to solve the problem of the huge backlog of licensing applications at the Department of Safety and Professional Services, to solve the challenge of social work practitioner mobility between states, tele-mental practice between states and provide increased funding for our public schools. I also would hope to see passage of Raise the Age legislation and possible movement on additional gun violence prevention legislation and the Child Victim’s Act.

As NASW-WI’s lobbyist, I will be meeting with both new legislators and key committee chairs in 2023 to gauge support on these issues and legislators’ willingness to work in a bipartisan cooperative manner.

At the same time that we can look with satisfaction at the state elections results (but not the US Senate race results), the significance of the Supreme Court spring election (see newsletter article) can not be overstated. If one of the two progressive candidates gets elected, it is possible the 2024 maps could be less gerrymandered. With less gerrymandered maps and more swing districts, you could have more legislators willing to work across party lines to solve problems. A progressive court could rule that the 1849 abortion law should not be enforced, which would reestablish reproductive rights in Wisconsin. A progressive court could also protect our profession’s ability to ban Conversion Therapy, if there is an attempt to permanently suspend our rule that bans the practice. For all these reasons, NASW-WI will be involved in explaining the stakes in the Supreme Court election and encouraging social work students and social workers in general to vote.

On a different note, I want to wish all of you a happy and meaningful holiday season and express my gratitude for your membership with NASW, your support of the social work profession and the critical work you do every day to heal your clients and our world.

Executive Director's Blog


We at NASW Wisconsin stand in grief and solidarity, both with our friends at NASW Colorado and with the LGBTQIA2S+ communities here in Wisconsin and around the world. Our hearts are broken by this act of violence and hatred, always repugnant but especially so during Transgender Awareness Week and on the eve of this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The LGBTQIA2S+ community faces violence and hatred way out of proportion to its percentage of the population. If this violence and hatred is to stop, the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, falsehoods and hatred spewed by politicians, certain media outlets and others must stop now. False and inflammatory statements about “grooming children” can easily lead to some individuals taking violent action against those they believe are evil. Words have consequences.

This incident also illustrates shortcomings in gun violence prevention laws. Although Colorado has a Red Flag law, it was not used with this individual who had engaged in a previous violent incident with this family. Why did not law enforcement or this individual’s family invoke the law? Secondly, why does anyone have access to assault weapons, which once again, were used to murder people.

All of us must continue to speak out against homophobia, transphobia, racism, anti-Semitism and other hatred in this country.

Executive Director's Blog

September 2022


Issues of institutional racism, election “dog whistles” and attempts to suppress discussions of race, keep popping up in our state and nation.

The recently released report by ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) show shocking racial disparities in social work exam passage rates nationwide. The pass rates are particularly low in our state for African-Americans, Asians (probably many Hmong applicants) and older returning students. It does not appear ASWB has ever considered the fact that their exam included questions, which consistently trip up diverse and older applicants. This has meant that many diverse applicants have been delayed or permanently blocked from entering our profession and have spent hundreds of dollars or more trying to get licensed. This is a big loss to our profession and the clients who need our services. It is not clear how necessary the exam is to ascertain competent practice, at least for the entry level bachelors and masters’ applicants.

This issue will be discussed at the October 18th meeting of the Social Workers Section. NASW-WI is continuing a dialogue with different groups in its membership about this issue. NASW chapters around the country have held statewide discussions on this issue. If you have some feedback on the national licensing exam, please feel free to email me at

This election campaign is raising issues of race that we should all be concerned about. There are attack ads against Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes that have darkened his skin. These ads have also used pictures of the “Squad,” four Congresswomen of color, who are supporting him. They have not used pictures of similarly supportive and leftist white male Congresspersons. There seems to be a subtle unspoken message here.

Finally, one of the issues that will be impacted by the Governor’s race is whether K-12 educational programs, colleges and universities (including social work programs) and state and local governments can include training and education on the history of racism and sexism in our country. Governor Evers vetoed legislation which would have prohibited any education, training or discussion that could lead to students or staff feeling discomfort, guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress. If he loses his re-election, or the Republicans get a veto proof majority in the State Legislature, these bills will pass and will undoubtedly suppress these discussions statewide.

In terms of the 2022 elections, we have hired two political organizers to help elect Mandela Barnes to the United States Senate and re-elect Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers. A major part of their work is to simply help students at the fifteen statewide social work programs understand how to register to vote, how to get a proper student ID and how and where to vote, including voting absentee. In addition to the logistics of voting, the interns and I have also presented information on the policy differences of the candidates. These policy differences include 1) Whether K-12 education, colleges and universities and state and local governments can provide education and training on racism and sexism; 2) Reproductive rights; 3) Banning Conversion Therapy; 4) Stopping anti-LGBT bills; 5) Climate Change; 6) Gun violence prevention; 7) Medicaid expansion; 8) Immigration and 9) Voting rights.

For those of you who are passionate about the stakes in our 2022 mid-term election, I would encourage you to not only vote, but to encourage your friends, relatives and contacts to vote and participate in canvases and phonathons in your area. For more information about NASW WI’s political organizing, please contact our Political Organizer, Oliver Wink, at If you are in the Milwaukee area you can contact our UW Milwaukee organizer, Angela Stadelman at

 By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Executive Director's Blog

June 2022


Racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, school mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, daily mass shootings nationwide, a barbaric Russian war against Ukraine, impending overturning of Roe v. Wade, increase in racism, anti-Semitism and other hatreds, worst inflation in forty years, worsening climate change, threats to our democracy, mental health crisis for children and youth nationwide.

Possibly with the exception of the Vietnam war protests and riots in our cities in the 1960’s, this is the worst turmoil in our country in my entire lifetime.

What are we to make of our world? How do we fight feelings of hopelessness and despair today? What is our role as social workers, human beings, responsible citizens?

At the times I feel most frustrated and despondent about the state of our country, the political structures that stifle critical change, the cultural and long-standing values of individualism, gun rights and suspicion and antipathy to government, I think of those quiet and unsung heroes of the civil rights movement who conquered incredible odds to move this country forward. I think of all of those who, against all odds, have fought over decades for civil rights, equal rights, dignity, environmental justice and other aspects of social justice. I am reminded of the social work value of social justice, the ethical standards in our Code of Ethics listed under 6. “Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society”, and on a personal level, the values taught to me through my Judaism.

As social workers, we can play many roles in efforts to make this a better world. It is said that “Whoever saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved the whole world.”1 The work that all of you do on an individual level for clients is a blessing for your clients, but in addition, it seeps out as a blessing and healing for your clients’ family, friends, community and beyond. On a spiritual level, there is a sacredness in the direct service work so many of you carry out every day. Those of you who serve as supervisors, managers or administrators have a different wonderful role of providing support to your staff so they can improve and change lives, and to your agency so it can be a difference maker in your community. Those of you who work as social work professors/instructors are preparing the next generation of social worker to provide the healing the world so desperately needs.

As a macro and policy social worker, who regularly supervises students, I try to keep a vision of the world that we should have in my head. This informs the social justice leadership roles that NASW-WI takes on, and hopefully, inspires the interns to pursue social justice as they enter the social work profession.

Many of you who are direct service practitioners have gone over and above your direct client support role, and contacted your public officials on issues of importance to your clients and our profession.

So, in answer to my original question of how we fight feelings of hopelessness and despair, we must keep on and stay the course towards the beloved community discussed by the late Congressman John Lewis and of our values for a just society.

Although we may not see all the changes the world needs during our social work career or even lifetime, as it is said, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it”2

By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

1. Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a)

2. Pirkei Avot, (2:21)

Executive Director's Blog

March 2022


Shortly after our June, 2022 newsletter is released, it is likely we will have a Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, which could overturn Roe v. Wade and effectively make abortion illegal in as many as half of the states in our country. This is because many states have enacted so-called Roe trigger laws that would automatically ban abortion in most or all situations, if the case is overturned. And some states, such as Wisconsin, still have laws on the books banning or limiting abortion that may be, once again, enforceable if Roe were reversed.

The legal situation in Wisconsin is murky. This article does not provide legal advice, but it explores certain possible applications of existing Wisconsin statutes.

There is an 1849 law, Section 940.04 in the Wisconsin Statutes (which, although unenforceable due to Roe, is still on the books), that makes the provision of an abortion a felony. However, it says nothing about the legality or illegality of someone only assisting a pregnant person to receive an abortion in our state. On the other hand, Wisconsin does have a “Party to a Crime Law” (Section 939.05 of the Statutes) that, theoretically, could be used against a social worker or other individual who helps someone receive an abortion in Wisconsin, if and when the provision of abortion becomes illegal in our state.

Wisconsin’s Attorney General, Josh Kaul, has said publicly that he will not enforce the 1849 law if Roe is overturned. The Milwaukee County District Attorney has said the same, although many other district attorneys have not yet taken a position. AG Kaul has also publicly raised the legal argument that the 1849 law may no longer be enforceable because of the age of the law. It is very possible that there will be legal challenges if any Wisconsin DA decided to enforce the 1849 law.

So, if Roe is overturned, what can and/or should a social worker do if confronted with a client who is requesting an abortion? We know that social workers have an ethical obligation to serve clients. We know that even if abortion is illegal in Wisconsin, it will not be illegal in Illinois, Minnesota and probably not Michigan. We also know that there is a medication option that is available to patients from out of state and even out of country. We can surmise that it would be legally fraught for a social worker to refer a client directly to a medical practitioner who provides abortions illegally in our state. Whether any district attorney would actually use the “Party to a Crime Law” against such a social worker, and whether any jury would actually convict someone, is another question. On the other hand, a social worker serving a client seeking an abortion procedure or medication abortion might refer the client to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin ( or Planned Parenthood of America ( It seems less likely that a referral for abortion options counseling would be found to make the social worker a “party to a crime.”

If one of the Republican candidates for Governor is elected this year, it is highly likely that the 1849 law will be strengthened and fully implemented. It is also possible that specific provisions might be adopted (following the lead of other states such as Texas) making it illegal for someone in state to assist a pregnant person to get an abortion either in or out of state.

Any social worker trying to navigate this murky legal environment should check with their malpractice provider and/or the attorney for their agency or practice, and otherwise keep themselves up to date on the latest legal developments in our state.

By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Executive Director's Blog


March 2022

I am currently sitting in my son and daughter-in-law’s home in St. Louis, visiting my first grandchild! It is an incredible experience seeing a new life, a brand-new baby and a new generation born. My grandson, along with all other newborns represents hope and belief in the future.

This trip is happening at the very same time a terrible tragedy is occurring half-way around the world with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here we are in 2022 and a country is engaged in a barbaric war of choice committing war crimes against their neighbor.

When I was young, I though that the world would always be on an upward trajectory and that my generation would make such a difference. I could not have imagined that we would still be experiencing hate, racism, Anti-Semitism and nations and individuals committing terrible crimes against other individuals and nations. I could not have imagined that there would still be attempts to suppress the vote in our country and suppress attempts to tell the true story of racism throughout our country’s history. I could not have imagined the existential climate change crisis we are all facing today and the continued resistance to make needed changes.

What it means to be a social worker, despite all the traumas experienced by individuals, communities and nations, is to have hope and faith that we can make things better. It is the belief that people can heal and grow and that we can make our communities and world a better place. We walk forward with our eyes wide open, yet optimistic and hopeful for the future.

Former President Barack Obama and the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr used to state that the “Arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. However, a better future is not inevitable. This statement is only true if all of us do our best to work towards justice and work towards healing. Change occurs in individuals, communities and nations with persistence and hard work.

Social Work Month is a time to honor all of you who persist in your commitment and belief that you and we can make a difference in the lives of others on an individual and societal basis.

And all of us have made a difference in our work as social workers with our clients, clinics, agencies and communities.

It is said in the Talmud1 (Sanhedrin 37a) “Whoever saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved the whole world.”

Thank you for your precious day to day work to heal your clients, your communities, our nation and world.

Never forget why you do what you do, let that sustain you in hard times and continue to inspire you every day.

Happy Social Work Month!

1 The Hebrew term Talmud (“study” or “learning”) commonly refers to a compilation of ancient teachings regarded as sacred and normative by Jews from the time it was compiled until modern times and still so regarded by traditional religious Jews.

By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Executive Director's Blog

December 2021


As I write this column, my family, along with Jewish families worldwide, is celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. This holiday celebrates the victory of a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, who were able to defeat the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who were trying to prevent the Jews from practicing their religion. After their unexpected victory, the Jews wanted to reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem but only had enough oil to last one day when it would take eight days to get more of this holy oil. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days.

Jewish families who celebrate Hanukkah, light candles in their Menorah for eight days, sing Hanukkah songs, spin a dreidel with their children and eat potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream, among other activities.

Jewish families often put their lighted Menorah in the window of their residence so others can see it.

The lighting of the Hanukkah candles has symbolism that certainly applies to our role as social workers. Some of its messages are:

1) Stand up for what you believe in

2) A little light goes a long way-your individual efforts can make a huge difference in the world

3) Go public with your messaging

As social workers, we serve as “lights” to our clients, agencies, our community and world. We are taught to be advocates and stand up for ethical practice and social justice. We are the conscience of our agency and our community, often without support from our superiors and many in our community. We lead efforts for social justice.

We shine our light by serving as role models for our clients and are there for them in their darkest moments. Whether we are helping troubled adolescents, protecting vulnerable children, helping challenged families, serving victims of domestic violence or sexual assault or helping clients in a hospital or nursing home, we offer hope and light to our clients.

As social justice advocates, we often struggle against seemingly impossible odds to fight against oppressive policies and promote humane policies.

We are leaders in our communities, state and nation against policies that harm diverse communities, our clients and the general welfare of our society.

After another day of setbacks for social justice in our country, one of our NASW-WI interns asked me, “How do you keep hopeful?”

My answer was three-fold:

One, we speak out and advocate because it is the right thing to do and we know we must do so regardless of whether we think we can be successful at the moment.

Two, we know if we don’t speak out, it only means it will take even longer for needed change to come.

Finally, as social workers we are always hopeful for our clients and our social justice work and believe change is always possible. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice”.

So, I want to take this time to thank all of you for being a light to your clients, community and world despite so many obstacles and challenges. You all give hope to me, our social work community, our clients and our world.

By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Executive Director's Blog


The Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers is greatly concerned about the community impact of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on all five felony charges. We believe this acquittal could send a message in our state and across the country that it is appropriate for private citizens of all ages to take a gun to a protest, public event, or other potentially volatile situation.

As social workers we understand the stages in human development, and we are well aware of research that shows that the reasoning part of a brain is not fully formed until the mid-20’s.1 To allow a 17-year-old to carry a military assault rifle into a volatile situation is a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, allowing any private individual to carry a loaded weapon into a public setting and act as a surrogate police officer is a serious mistake. Individuals can behave in harmful ways under stressful situations, and having access to high-powered firearms in these situations can have deadly consequences, as we learned in this case.

On average, 621 Wisconsinites die by guns every year. Gun deaths have increased 17% from 2010 to 2019. This represents an increase of 103 gun deaths over this period in Wisconsin. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in Wisconsin, the rate of gun suicide increased 6% and gun homicide increased 48% from 2010 to 2019, compared to a 13% increase and 26% increase nationwide, respectively.2

Instead of encouraging and allowing Wisconsin residents and visitors to our state to carry guns whenever they see fit, we need to pass laws that can reduce gun violence; including requiring background checks on all gun sales, passing an Extreme Risk Protection Order and passing legislation requiring a waiting period for the purchase of handguns.

The riots and violence in Kenosha where Kyle Rittenhouse killed two individuals and injured a third were ignited by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an African American father. To avoid similar tragedies, police officers need continuous training in de-escalation tactics and racial bias. There also needs to be much stronger accountability measures for law enforcement officers who violate police standards in injuring or killing members of our community. These changes could lead to more trust between the police and the diverse communities they serve.


The President’s Column

By Dafna Berman, MSW, LCSW

September 2023

Dear Chapter members,

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of traveling to Washington, DC, on your behalf to the NASW Association Leadership Meeting (ALM). I was joined by our regional representative to the National Board, and our former Chapter president, Kristi Wood, and, of course, our executive director, Marc Herstand. Coming together with fellow presidents and executive directors from states and territories chapters and the leadership of the National Office and National Board was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I was so proud (still am:-) of our Chapter’s accomplishments and ongoing work, which are on par with those of Mega Chapters.

We addressed pressing issues and challenges facing the profession and their implications for practice. The absence of the late Dr. Mildred Joyner hovered like a dark cloud the entire duration of the gathering. There was an unspoken consensus that things are just not the same without her. Her passing in the week that followed was a tremendous loss for our profession. Our Chapter was graced to have her as the keynote speaker of our 2022 Annual Conference, with her talk “The World is Ready for Social Work - Is Social Work Ready for the World?” Her monumental work during her tenure as the President of the Association inspires and strengthens us as we face an uncertain future. I was delighted to meet in person, at the ALM, our new Executive Director, Dr. Anthony Estreet, and inspired by his vision for ‘One Association.’ As an Association and as a profession, we could not be in better hands, and I have full faith that he is absolutely the right person to lead us into the 21st Century.

The highlight of our trip to D.C. was, of course, Advocacy Day! It was truly humbling to walk around Capitol Hill on our way from the office of one elected official to another. Unfortunately, Congress was not in session, and our Senators and Congressional Representatives were back home in Wisconsin! We had the opportunity to meet and connect with the Legislative Directors and Legislative Assistants of Senators Baldwin and Johnson, Representatives Moore, Grothman, Gallagher, and Fitzgerald. We asked them to cosponsor and support four pieces of legislation that directly affect practitioners and our clients:

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 838/H.R. 1638) will increase reimbursement rates for LCSWs from 75% to 85% of the physician rate and put us on par with other master’s level providers (e.g., Speech Therapists)

The School Social Workers Improving Student Success Act (H.R. 1415) will provide grants to schools to maintain the minimum ratio of student/social workers and establish the National Technical Assistance Center for School Social Work

The More Social Workers in Libraries Act (H.R. 3006) will fund internships for social work students in public libraries and employ social workers to oversee the interns

The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act (S. 1452/H.R. 3073) will establish CDC grants for community initiatives to enhance and sustain population-level mental wellness and resilience

As we wrap up a summer filled with many burning issues (literally and figuratively), I hope we can all find the inner peace we need to keep doing our important work. We are also approaching the Jewish New Year and High Holidays, a time for reflection, introspection, and soul searching. May we all find a way to be the best version of ourselves in the upcoming year!


June 2023

The sky is falling! …but not all the way.” I appreciate this phrase because it acknowledges the troubles we are facing yet allows for a dose of optimism and hope for the future. I am wrapping up my first year as the Chapter’s president, unfortunately, my statement in my very first newsletter, that we are living in unprecedented times is just as true now as it was then.

We are witnessing the unthinkable unfolding right before our eyes. Our democracy is falling apart, and our gains since the civil rights movement are so easily knocked down. Abortion bans, LGBTQ bans, book bans, we’ve seen it before. The parallels and similarities with Germany of the 1930s are too stark to ignore. As a Jewish person, I have always asked myself how it was possible for a country with such rich culture and enlightened intelligentsia to descend to the darkest version of humanity. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe that I would understand exactly how it happens, because I am witnessing it in my lifetime.

I want to suggest that we consider the State of Florida as a preview of a very realistic future for the rest of us. Parents who attend to LGBTQ children’s healthcare needs, often lifesaving, risk having those children taken into State custody. The State can press charges against people accessing lifesaving medical procedures in another state. History books that suggest our history is less than rosy are banned. The teachings and discussions of diversity, equity, and inclusion are prohibited in public universities. It has become impossible to practice and teach social work in the State. Travel advisories have been issued for Florida: unless you are white, heterosexual, and conservative, you are not safe. Florida is turning into a fascist regime, and the governor could very well end up being our president.

To top this off, we are dealing with a looming climate crisis and Artificial Intelligence that cannot be trusted to make ethical decisions. So, how do we sustain a hopeful outlook in this doom-and-gloom scenario? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? The Dutch philosopher and historian Rutger Bregman believes so. In his book “Humankind – a Hopeful History,” he argues that humans are in fact good and caring by nature. He argues that leaders in Western civilizations have falsely perpetuated the notion that people are motivated by self-interests over the millennia. He refers to the Nocebo Effect (opposite of placebo), in which expecting the worst of each other leads to self-fulfilling prophecies. He revisits critical historical events and narratives from a challenging point of view and dispels myths about how our evil inclinations drive us.

So what is the solution? What can we do in our everyday life? The answer may seem counterintuitive, but I believe it is love. Yes, unconditional love for all G-d’s creatures. In Judaism, our oral traditions teach us that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed some 2,000 years ago because of “sinaat chinam” – senseless hatred. We also learn that all suffering in the world will end when we have “ahavat chinam” – unconditional love for one another. It is very easy to love people who are like us in terms of beliefs and ideas. It is very difficult to love someone whose beliefs and ideas go against everything we stand for. Yet, this is precisely what we need to do. By being generous with our love, kindness, and compassion (without a reason, just because), we can overcome the senseless hatred brewing in our midst. Many faiths and spiritual practices share this concept. Spiritual practice is an essential component of self-care. How do we embody the change we want to see? In Hebrew, we greet each other with “shalom aleychem” – peace be onto you (“Salaam alaykum” in Arabic). The word for peace (shalom) is of the same root as the word for wholeness (shalem). Let’s remember that we, whether we like it or not, are all connected and greater than the sum of our parts.

“The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it,
if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

(Amanda Gorman – most recent scholar to be banned in Florida)



March 2023

Happy Social Work Month!

We’ve come a long way since Social Work instruction began 125 years ago. I am so proud of us! We are a unique bunch of go-getters and fierce advocates. We roll up our sleeves and get things done. This year, our theme is ‘Social Work Breaks Barriers.’ There is a long list of barriers we have broken over the history of our profession, of which we should be very proud. One aspect that I believe could use some improvement is learning to take credit for our accomplishments, collectively and individually. More than any other profession, we tend to experience discomfort around self-promotion. Sometimes we even have a hard time explaining what we do. That is, I believe because our impact is so much more than the sum of our activities. We are agents of change.

That being said, we mustn’t rest on our laurels. I believe our profession has arrived at a maturity level where we are ready to take a hard look at ourselves and consider ways we sometimes are part of the problem. To echo our President, Dr. Joyner, and her message at our annual conference – is social work ready for the world? What barriers do we need to overcome in the 21st Century? I would argue that at this point in our journey, our barriers within are what we need to examine.

Paradoxically, at a time when the need for social workers is most dire, we are the ones putting up barriers that are preventing people from entering the profession. The corporate world understands that diversity of cultural backgrounds, viewpoints, and perspectives is good for innovation and novel solutions. We could use some disruption and radical changes to how we conceptualize and approach societal problems. Our profession misses out on talent and transformation when we exclude BIPOC, neurodivergent, and older-wiser individuals. Our Western/Euro-centric perspectives have taken us as far as they could, and we must be able to think out of the box. Why, then, are we insisting that in order to enter the profession, one has to think like a middle-class white person? What is the benefit of that?

I believe we have an ethical obligation to work towards the decolonization of our profession and incorporate abolitionist practices. I also think it is time to reevaluate our problematic relationships with law enforcement, criminal justice, and child welfare (family policing). These systems are direct offshoots of slavery, Jim Crow, and white supremacy. They continuously cause more harm than good, and we remain unsuccessful in changing them from within. Being associated with them causes distrust from clients and increases practitioners’ vulnerability to moral injuries.

In the conversation around the ASWB exam pass rate disparities, there are voices concerned that our profession’s esteem is tied to having licensing exams. We have worked hard over the years to establish ourselves as equals among other professions and academic disciplines, and we have successfully leveraged this position to effectively advocate for our clients. That being said, we have an ethical obligation to follow our True North as the only helping profession whose vision and mission are primarily concerned with social justice. Breaking barriers is inherently an uncomfortable endeavor.

As we approach spring, many celebrate Ramadan, Passover, and Easter. Many know Passover to be a story of redemption from slavery for the ancient Hebrews. It is also a story of courage and faith that better is possible when we overcome and transcend our fears. The Hebrew name for Egypt (‘Mitzrayim’) means constraints. Our Sages teach us that we were redeemed from a state of constraints and narrow-mindedness. Our oral traditions also tell us that most Hebrews chose to stay due to fear of the unknown. For those that did leave for the long journey, the Red Sea didn’t actually part until they were neck deep in the water. This story might offer inspiration as we navigate uncertainty in our worlds.



The President's Column

December 2022

Dear chapter members,

I am writing this column on the Friday following Thanksgiving. The Holiday Season is once again upon us as we transition from a holiday of gratitude to a holiday of giving. There are communities amongst us that don’t share this sentiment and narrative. “Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”

How do we hold space in our hearts for the pain carried by so many communities? How do we acknowledge that our prosperity has, and continues to, come at the expense of others here and across the globe? I don’t have the answers. However, I believe that the value of these questions is more in them being articulated than in rushing to furnish answers with which we can live comfortably. The abundance that many of us enjoy in western countries is made possible through ongoing traditions of extraction and practices of exploitation. We consume disproportionate amounts of earth’s resources, and the mechanisms by which cheap goods and services are furnished to us are destroying the planet and making us sick in the process.

Those who attended our annual conference will remember that we began with land acknowledgment. We also verbalized intentions to respect the elders, past, present, and future, of the First Nations, whose land we now populate. What does respecting elders look like? Different cultures might have various traditions around that; one thing that comes to my mind is upholding the values and priorities that elders instill in their communities. As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to identify the traditional inhabitant of the area where you live and acknowledge that as you come together with family and friends.

As a profession, I believe we need to be more vocal and call attention to how climate change and extreme weather disproportionately affect poor and marginalized communities. What is the role of social work in addressing the consequences of exploitation of land, labor, and natural resources? The discourse on environmental justice is already ongoing and leading it is a natural place for our profession to be. Please reach out to me and let me know what New Year resolutions you believe we should make as a profession and as practitioners.

Wishing you a meaningful holiday season and a Happy New Year!


Mequon, WI – unceded land of the Potawatomi, Myaamia, Kickapoo, and Peoria People

Marya, R., & Patel, R. (2021). Inflamed: deep medicine and the anatomy of injustice. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The President's Column

September 2022

Dear Chapter members! 

I am honored to serve as the Chapter's Board President for the upcoming two years and humbled to be elected. Ever since I was in my BSW program, I have considered NASW to be the True North of our profession. The world has undergone many changes since I was a BSW student; for example, we now have internet… Fast forward to today, our profession continues to be challenged by old problems, albeit at times under new guises and new concerns. We are faced with scenarios that a few years ago were considered unlikely; events that we could not believe were ever going to happen are now part of our daily reality. We are learning to harness the potential of advanced technologies to improve the lives of our clients. However, we must also be acutely aware of how these technologies can and are being used to perpetuate and deepen inequalities and injustices in the twenty-first century. In the age of big data and artificial intelligence, it is imperative that we are proficient in and competent in navigating the mechanisms operating behind the scenes (i.e., algorithms and code) if we are to continue to advocate for social justice successfully.

Social Work as a profession is more committed than ever to taking a deep and hard look at ourselves and examining our complicated history of reinforcing racial biases, and allowing ourselves to be used as a tool in advancing the interests of white supremacy. The death of Queen Elizabeth affords us an opportunity to examine the monarchy's central role in expanding the British Empire to its many colonies. One would inevitably be curious and enchanted by life cycle ceremonies in the Royal Family. It offers a welcomed break from our hectic and stressful lives with its fairytale charm. However, I would like for us to hold space for the far too many communities worldwide that still struggle to heal from wounds and losses inflicted by the violence with which European Monarchies established their colonies. The violence was, at least partly, guided by an ideology that centers on whiteness and European ways of knowing, of being in the world, as preferred, superior, something to be modeled and aspire to.

For those of us who are the beneficiaries of white privilege, there is a growing awareness of the imperative to examine and revisit our assumptions, biases, beliefs, and origins. The voices calling for the decolonization of institutions, professions, and other aspects of our society, are growing louder, and I believe we should pay attention. With an ongoing commitment to addressing and eradicating racial biases, I believe our profession has the maturity and foresight to engage in difficult conversations about ways we might be part of the problem. As many of you are aware, recently released data from ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) revealed extreme racial disparities in licensure exam pass rates. Additional concerns have emerged with regard to ABSW's responses to valid questions and critiques. What does it mean to decolonize Social Work? I look forward to learning at our Annual Conference! We have what looks like a thought-provoking presentation on the topic on the first day, and I hope you can join me.

In the Jewish tradition, fall is a season of renewal and rebirth. We celebrate the beginning of the year on the Hebrew Calendar (Rosh HaShanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) ten days later. Many people are familiar with these holidays as the High Holidays. These ten days are dedicated to introspection, soul searching, and setting our intentions for the New Year to be the best we can be as individuals, a community, and a profession dedicated to social justice. A central concept in Judaism is Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We recognize that it is our responsibility to make the world a better place and that we must be proactive about it and intentional with our actions and thoughts. Repairing the world is hard work and involves a lot of discomforts. I want to wish all of us that for this upcoming year, we stay intentional about our profession's vision, mission, and ethics. During this time, we wish each other a good year. What can we do to make this a good year and be the change we want to see?

L'Shanah Tovah,


The President's Column

June 2022


By Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW

 From the Desk of The President

Summer in Wisconsin is a time for sunshine and warmer weather, trips to the lake, attending many diverse festivals, taking vacations, and spending time with family and friends. Summer brings on a time of change. In thinking about change, I think about our profession of social work and our work as social workers. Change, defined as a transitive verb in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means to make different in some particular way: a: ALTER; b: to make radically different : TRANSFORM; and c: to give a different position, course, or direction to.  As NASW-WI Board President for the past 2 years, I observed how NASW and NASW-WI altered and transformed our nation on issues that impacted marginalized and oppressed people and people, who are often viewed as having no voice. NASW-WI has taken a stance and advocated for change on issues pertaining to systemic racism; conversion therapy; gun violence; licensure issues (delay issues from DSPS); and  telehealth issues. The COVID 19 pandemic touched and changed all of our lives. Many people were impacted physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually.  At the onset of COVID 19 and during the pandemic, social workers showed the world how essential we are!  COVID 19 contributed to a change in how we communicate with each other and work. This new change contributed to social workers learning new skills in technology and new ways to reach and help people impacted by COVID 19, along with other social issues. We learned new ways to communicate with each other via Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. Our work as social workers didn’t stop!  NASW-WI held its first virtual conference in 2020, followed by a hybrid conference in 2021. Both conferences were well attended. One of my most exciting experiences as Board President for NASW-WI. was to participate in the development of a Leadership and Mentorship program for Graduate Students of Color in Social Work! The program welcomed a second cohort in January 2022.

As I reflect on change and the change that our world has experienced during the past 2 years, I think about gratitude. I am grateful for so many things in my life. I am grateful for my family, friends, colleagues and clients. I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as your Board President over the past 2 years. Serving as Board President during the COVID-19 pandemic was an interesting experience!  I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the decision making process as Board President, to help better the lives of social workers, people we serve, and the community. I am grateful for Marc Herstand, NASW-WI Executive Director, the NASW-WI Board members, the NASW-WI staff and interns, and the NASW-WI committee members for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to the mission and vision of NASW and to the social work profession. I am grateful for NASW-WI members, who, are out there working hard daily to help people and communities. Thank you for all that you do!

I want to thank you for your support, kind words, and encouragement that I received as your NASW-WI Board President over the past 2 years. I learned a lot serving in this role, and I am thankful for the opportunity! It will be bittersweet to facilitate my last board meeting this month. Although bittersweet, it is a pleasure and honor to turn over the seat to NASW-WI’s next Board President, Dafna Berman! She brings a love and passion for the profession, great leadership and advocacy skills, and a wealth of knowledge and experience. She will lead us as we continue to encounter change in the profession. I would like to end my last newsletter with a quote from Maya Angelou. Ms. Angelou stated, “ I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think this quote is befitting for the work that we do as social workers. We are catalysts for change.

Continue to shine and promote our wonderful profession, social work! I wish you well and enjoy the summer!

 By Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW

The President's Column

March 2022


“THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR SOCIAL WORK” is the perfect theme for Social Work month!  Daily, people are faced with challenges and barriers to social determinants of health (SDOH).  Social determinants of health are defined as “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks” (Healthy People. Gov website). The social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions that influence individual and group differences in health status.  Social determinants of health (Healthy People. Gov) include:

¨ Availability of resources to meet daily needs (e.g., safe housing and local food markets)

¨ Access to educational, economic, and job opportunities

¨ Access to health care services

¨ Quality of education and job training

¨ Availability of community-based resources in support of community living and opportunities for recreational and leisure-time activities

¨ Transportation options

¨ Public safety

¨ Social support

¨ Social norms and attitudes (e.g., discrimination, racism, and distrust of government)

¨ Exposure to crime, violence, and social disorder (e.g., presence of trash and lack of cooperation in a community)

¨ Socioeconomic conditions (e.g., concentrated poverty and the stressful conditions that accompany it)

¨ Residential segregation

¨ Language/Literacy

¨ Access to mass media and emerging technologies (e.g., cell phones, the Internet, and social media)

¨ Culture

Social Workers are pivotal and instrumental in helping people address the challenges and barriers to the SDOHs cited above.  We have the education, expertise, and skills to work effectively with people in a wholistic and person-centered manner to address and resolve challenges and barriers in life.  Currently, the United States is experiencing one of its worst economic downturns since the Great Depression.  As a nation, we continue to deal with two pandemics, COVID-19 and Systemic Racism.  COVID-19 and Systemic Racism impact the physical, mental, and spiritual health of a person.  As a nation, we witnessed the traumatic impact of the pandemics on people, especially, people of color.  There was a significant impact on the health of Black and Brown communities compared to other communities.  There was also a significant impact on the mental health and wellness of people.  People reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and adjustment.  Social Workers were and are on the front lines helping people to overcome the trauma and crises associated with both pandemics!  We are ESSENTIAL!

As you celebrate Social Work month, think about the contribution of our profession to our nation’s history and the contribution you are making to our nation.  Social workers fought for civil and voting rights for people of color; protested American intervention in wars; achieved the minimum wage and safe workplaces for poor people; expanded reproductive and employment rights for American women; supported marriage and employment protections for LGBT people; advocated for immigrants seeking asylum; pushed for sensible gun laws and anti-violence initiatives; raised awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; and fought for client privacy and mental health services (NASW).

As you celebrate this month, think about the legacy of Social Work, your legacy as a social worker, and diverse ways to promote the profession!  Take a few minutes to view the Social Work video for this month ( and take the social work quiz on the national website.  As social workers, we have a rich history and legacy in Social Work.  


Happy Social Work Month!

The President's Column

December 2021


According to Wikipedia, Gratitude comes from the latin word gratus which means "pleasing, thankful".  it is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, to the giver of said gifts. gratitude in the simplest form is the “state of thankfulness” or the “state of being grateful”.  dopamine and serotonin are two important neurotransmitters in our brain that are responsible for our emotions.  they make us feel good by enhancing our mood immediately, which makes us feel happy from the inside.  practicing gratitude daily can help these neural pathways to strengthen and eventually create a permanent grateful and positive nature within us, which builds our inner strength.  this is helpful in fighting stress (gratitude: a tool to reduce stress, north dakota behavioral health services).  gratitude is scientifically proven to have benefits on a person’s physical and mental well-being.  in psychology today, the article, 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude: you'll be grateful that you made the change (and you'll sleep better), written by amy morin, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of the best- selling book “13 things mentally strong people don't do” identifies seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. (psychology today, april 3, 2015)

the benefits are:

1. gratitude opens the door to more relationships. according to a 2014 study published in emotion. the study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

2. gratitude improves physical health. grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in personality and individual differences. not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. they exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

3. gratitude improves psychological health. gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. robert emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. his research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

4. gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the university of kentucky. study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. they experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

5. grateful people sleep better. writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in applied psychology: health and well-being. spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.

6. gratitude improves self-esteem. a 2014 study published in the journal of applied sport psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs - a major factor in reduced self-esteem - grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

7. gratitude increases mental strength. for years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. a 2006 study published in behavior research and therapy found that vietnam war veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. a 2003 study published in the journal of personality and social psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience, following the terrorist attacks on september 11. recognizing all that you have to be thankful for - even during the worst times - fosters resilience.

as i reflect upon the last 20 months, i think about how blessed my life is.  despite how covid -19 has impacted my life; the social injustices that occurred in our country; and other life changes, i am grateful and thankful for my health, my family, my cat, dixie, my church family, my sorority sisters, my friends, my home, my job, my clients, my colleagues, and professional networks.  i am grateful and thankful to serve as nasw-wi’s board president and to have attended, in-person, nasw-wi’s 47th annual conference, the first hybrid conference for the organization.  the conference was awesome!  i am also thankful and grateful for the civic-minded boards, councils, and committees i serve on that advocate for the rights of those who are vulnerable or often seen as “voiceless”. 

as we enter into the joyous holiday season, let us remember the importance of gratitude.  i wish you and your family a joyous, happy and safe holiday season!

the president's column

september 2021

from the desk of the president

autumn(fall) is one of my favorite times of the year.  the change of season from summer to fall is marked by changes in nature.  the temperature begins to cool down and the leaves begin to change from green to bright beautiful colors of red, yellow, and orange!  fall also makes me think about the concepts of change and transformation.  change and transformation that are observed both in personal and environmental spaces of a person’s life.  i read an article about the seven symbolic meanings of  autumn by kirsten nunez (2016).  the article focuses on how to embrace change that comes with the autumn season.  in the article, she talks about what she learned about the seven symbolic meanings associated with the autumn equinox. she talks about autumn as a time for self -reflection, change, and reconnection. the seven symbolic meanings identified in the article are:







letting go

heraclitus, the greek philosopher, is referenced for the first symbolic meaning of autumn(fall) which is change. heraclitus stated that “the only constant is change”.  fall reminds us that our minds, bodies, and surroundings are always changing.  we experience this as we begin to observe the changes in nature in fall.  the temperature begins to cool down and the leaves on the trees begin to change from green to bright colors of red, orange and yellow!   since change is constant, it is a good reminder to us to embrace experiences as they happen.  it is important to embrace them in the present.  life is short and we do not know what it will bring to us from minute to minute.  mystery is described as the outcome that comes from the day to day changes in life. change in life brings on new mysteries.  i like to view the new mysteries as new opportunities in life.  preservation is the third symbolic meaning in the article.  fall represents the preservation of life and its basic necessities.  the author discusses that during fall, animals begin to store food and find safe places for hibernation for winter. farmers begin to harvest crops for food for the winter.  as the weather begins to change(falling temperatures), we tend to spend more time in the safety and comfort of our homes.  this is a good time for us to reconnect with ourselves.  as summer switches to fall, we focus on protection.  protection is viewed from a physical lens.  we begin to dress in warmer clothes to protect ourselves from the cooler temperatures and focus more on taking care of ourselves so that we do not get sick. the fifth symbolic meaning of autumn is comfort.  as the temperature drops, we tend to look for ways to find comfort within our homes.  this is a good time to reflect on what makes us happy and what makes us feel safe.  balance is the next symbolic meaning of autumn in the article.  day and night are the same length during the autumn equinox.  ancient cultures associated the autumn equinox with the concept of balance in life.  during autumn, the author describes us harmonizing with the earth and drawing from the balance within ourselves. the last symbolic meaning of autumn in the article is letting go.  when we look within ourselves, what can we let go?

although the article focused on the 7 symbolic meanings of autumn (fall), i thought about how these meanings can be integrated within social work practice.  as social workers, we deal with change and transformation on a daily basis.  we are skilled in dealing with social issues on the micro and macro levels to help people who are often seen as “invisible” or “voiceless” in society.i challenge you to think about the concepts of change; mystery; preservation; protection;  comfort; balance; and letting go, and how you integrate these concepts into your social work practice as you help others and how do you integrate them within your personal life as a social worker.

by dawn shelton-williams, msw, lcsw