Families share love of social work

Mar 6, 2012

By Rena Malai, News Staff

Edith and Grace Abbott, born in 1876 and 1878 respectively, were sisters and
pioneer social workers who shared an interest in public service as they worked
closely together to tackle social problems and issues in public welfare.

 John Sorenson — director of the Grace Abbot Project at the University of
Nebraska — said the two Grand Island, Neb., natives were known for their
teamwork and collaboration as they jointly pursued careers as social workers.

“They enjoyed working together,” Sorenson said. “As Edith Abbott described
their relationship, they were sisters and comrades who were a powerful,
effective team.”

The Abbott sisters are just one example of how people find themselves
pursuing social work by following a sister, brother, parent or other relative
into the field. Children absorb the habits of their immediate families and
naturally transition into repeating actions that they closely observe, said
social worker Keith Liederman, executive director of the Kingsley House in New
Orleans which strives to improve the lives of children and their families in the
southeastern region of Louisiana.

“Our early childhood experiences have a whole lot to do with who we become as
adults,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say that often we seek to emulate
members of our immediate families who make an impression on us as children.”

The experience of growing up around family members involved in the social
work field can establish a mentality early on that provides the basis for a
potential career in social work.

“My mother, who was a social worker, and her social work friends did ‘talk
shop’ at times, so I was introduced to psychodynamic thinking very early,” NASW
President Jeane Anastas said.

“In the 1960s, there was a big upheaval and a lot was happening,” said Jack
Richman, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about social work at that time, but my father was a
psychologist, my brother was a Ph.D. psychologist, and with growing up in a
psychologist family social sciences were important. Just like in a family that
watches football every Sunday, the kids will grow up to see football as
important. We’re bombarded from the day we’re born with family notions, so I’m
not at all surprised to be in this field.”

From the March 2012 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.