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Social Work Failing?

October 19, 2014

I read a recent blog post, filled with comments about social work failing.

I must have my head in the sand.

I graduated in 1985 and haven’t stopped working. I continue to sit on committees; I help organize conferences; I am active in the media; I collaborate with other social workers on a multitude of projects…

I also recognize that the human condition is such that a new crop of problems comes up with each generation, while many of the old problems will be chronic and likely forever lasting. That said, I do what I can individually, in groups and in my community to alleviate suffering and social injustice. I also continue to attend continuing education to expand my skill set, to be as best equipped as I can be to manage in a changing world.

From my perspective, social work is not failing. Social workers are like societal glue. We are integral to a functioning society. We work well in areas of uncertainty and know how to manage with limited resources.

Failure? No.

Tough job at times? That I can accept.

If you are feeling disheartened just consider the last client you helped and remember, helping is a lot like fishing. While we do help some, many more do get away.

However, for those we help, we make a difference.

I love my work and social work isn’t failing.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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  1. Christine Rossi permalink

    Amen brother!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. I would encourage you to watch Dr. Steve Perry’s speech ( if you have not already) it can be found at And two articles on Social Work Helper that elaborate on it… One by yours truly šŸ™‚ ..


    Not questioning the failure of individuals but more on the macro/mezzo level. We are the experts in a lot of areas but we are not organized and society does not view us as experts .

  3. All good.

    From my era, social work was all about grass roots development – bottom up.

    With that, we are the policy makers. If we don’t like it, then it behooves us to act upon it. Hence participation in our own organizations and thinking about how we in our everyday role, present the profession becomes key to how our profession is viewed.

  4. Certainly not disagreeing with your post. Like the discourse that the article about social work failing has caused

  5. Pleased.

    FYI – I can understand that it can be difficult for social workers to advocate for themselves. If we take time off work, go on strike, protest… our clients suffer in our absence.

    However, if we don’t take action and we don’t take care of ourselves, we can take care of no one.

  6. Aga Smies permalink

    Social work is not failing, some social workers do. Like in any profession there are those who are good and those forget what they learned. Thank goodness there those like you who keep reminding many of the standard for which to aim. aes

  7. I posted this comment on Social Work Helper in response to Sean’s post about politics and Steve Perry:

    What Dr. Perry was addressing is the macro side of social work that is often devalued withing the profession. Social workers need not only influence policymakers, we need more social workers to be policymakers. My organization grew out of efforts to enhance the presence of social workers in Congress through the creation of the Congressional Social Work Caucus. My organization sees expanding opportunities for macro social workers to intern in Congressional offices as a way to put them on a career path to be policymakers. And it has proven to be successful. Another effort to cultivate social workers as policymakers is to have social workers seek elected office. Nancy A. Humphreys founded an Institute for Political Social Work at the UConn School of Social Work. She has retired but her work is continuing under the leadership of the institute’s new director Tanya Rhodes Smith.

  8. Thanks Charles the work of is critical for social work and it’s role in politics is critical

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