Chapter News


Herstand, Marc

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.

Herstand, Marc


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



By Dafna Berman, MSW, LCSW

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,


Herstand, Marc638029263569868386


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)


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


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 

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



“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!



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



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 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.



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