Deona Hooper, MSW is Social Worker in the US. She has created an online magazine and professional network at www.socialworkhelper.com helping professionals and students. We have conducted an interview with her:
Your website is very impressive and professional. Can you explain how a social worker came to the idea to start such an IT based project?
I consider myself to be a geek with social skills. Life experiences stirred me towards social work. Otherwise, I would have been an engineer or systems designer. Social work is how I choose to exercise my civic duty to advocate for the less fortunate.
How would you describe the current situation of social workers in the US? What were the biggest challenges that made you to open an online forum for them?
I think social workers in the US are facing many of the same issues social workers around the world are facing. Currently, austerity measures threaten the existence of human services in the majority of our most developed nations. Our nations use variations of a social safety net to support the least vulnerable. However, we work very little with each other to share ideas, collaboration, provide support and/or share resources to enhance our human service programs. The purpose of this network is to make it easier for social workers around the globe to share resources, policies, practices, evidence based knowledge, training material etc. I believe barriers to communication prevent discussion which may develop into solutions.
What kind of support social workers can receive on your site? Is this site relevant for non-US social workers, too?
Not only does my network provide social workers with the ability to connect with other schools of social work in their local geographical area, professionals and students can meet other like minded individuals on the other side of the world.
Users can share projects, seek guidance, and support from others without having to search for someone who may understand the challenges of our profession. This network is designed to remove barriers preventing global connection. You will find social workers from five continents on the network. There are also groups to help users find each other in their local or specialty areas.
My last question is rather from the client's perspective. Many people look at social workers not as helpers but as representatives of a very repressive and punitive profession. Child protection takes your children, mental health professionals are locking people into institutions or hospitals. Is your online community dealing with these issues of oppression?
As to your last question and description, I believe social work has done a poor job in relaying the necessity of the profession as well as providing some transparency when possible. However, as poverty increases, so does physical/sex abuse, substance abuse, and the need for mental health services. It is my position that social workers have allowed politicians and non-social work professionals to frame the issues and implement legislation/polices that promotes oppression while increasing the burden of social workers to do more with less. It's imperative that social workers find our voice and get involved in the process to begin shaping the social safety net that we implement.
The online magazine component of socialworkhelper.com seeks to provide information and education to the public as well as other professionals on social issues facing vulnerable populations. I believe that our profession needs to be more visible in order to engage in these conversations which will eventually lead to positive change.