Social Workers honor James Karls with the International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award

Jun 24, 2008

NASW Foundation celebrates Karl’s achievements at June 24 reception

Washington – The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is proud to present James Karls, PhD, LCSW, co-developer of the person in environment social work evaluation system, with the 2008 International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award.

The International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has significantly advanced the public image of professional social work. This monetary prize is made possible from an endowment fund established by a generous contribution in 1996 from distinguished social worker Rhoda G. Sarnat, LCSW and Bernard Sarnat, MD.

“Dr. Karls’ legacy of creating the first assessment system based on a social worker’s education and expertise is a legacy of pride for the social work profession,” says Elizabeth Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH, president of the NASW Foundation. “Long after his retirement from social work, Dr. Karls is giving back to the profession in profound ways.”

After serving in World War II, Dr. Karls began his outstanding 30 year career in public mental health services at the local and state level. He started the first mental health clinics in California’s Central Valley before becoming a director of many mental health programs in California and in the California State Department of Mental Health.

Perhaps what best defines Dr. Karls’ contribution to the public image of social work is his development of the “person in the environment” (PIE) assessment system along with Dr. Karin Wandrei, which allowed social workers to distinguish themselves from other mental health professions. PIE is built on the social work theory that the environment affects the person, and social workers can affect the environment to make situations better for individuals, families and communities.

The NASW Press published Dr. Karls’ books and CDs on PIE, which have been translated into numerous languages. Dr. Karls has traveled extensively around the world teaching international social workers about the PIE assessment system.

Dr. Karls has served as the NASW California Chapter President and the President of the Santa Barbara Mental Health Association. He founded the California Hall of Distinction that honors past and present great social workers in California and was inducted in 2008.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is extremely honored to recognize James Karls, PhD, LCSW with the 2008 International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award.

For more information about the NASW Foundation or awards, please contact NASWF via e-mail at

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