Social workers contribute to communities, but a shortage of their service is on its way

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - SFA social work students work hard preparing for a Health Horizon AIDS awareness walk. Just one of many services future social workers provide for the community. "For me it's like a gift to be able to give back," expressed Boris Phillips, a SFA social work student.

Field service is the SFA School of Social Work hands on approach. The method has trained nearly 1500 social workers in the last thirty years. The achievement was celebrated on Friday. The department's very first director recalls how a student's photo essay on poverty enlightened him. "It introduced me to the backwoods of East Texas and some of the challenges," recalled Jim Armsworth.

Today over 300 social workers discussed those challenges at the Mission Possible annual conference. Still not enough to handle all the needs. Federal studies predict a severe shortage of social workers will start in 2012. The reasons include veterans returning home, growing economic challenges which can lead to substance abuse and homelessness. Then there's the aging population, including social workers. Thirty percent of social workers are 50 years and older. "So the push is across the nation is recruitment and retention of social workers because the bottom will fall," expressed Freddie Avant, the current social work department director.

Idealism from those entering the profession offer hope the needs will be met. "A lot of people are having a lot of momentum because of the new administration and I believe social work is going in a positive direction because of that," said Sarah Francis, a social work undergraduate.

But change starts with solving one problem at a time. While the anniversary party was going on a group of students is addressing the prevention of spousal abuse. Another way a social worker is creating a healthier community.