Advocates' Forum 2023 Letter from the Editors
By Alexa Cinque
Undoubtedly, the past few years have been marked by upheaval, loss, and instability driven by the pandemic and broader economic, political, and cultural shifts. However, these challenges have also led to great moments of collective action, community, and care for each other in novel and remarkable ways. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, this past year has felt the most like a “return to normal,” as workers return to their offices, schools remain in session, pandemic relief programs expire, and large cultural events are resuming in full. In the face of all the great changes we’ve experienced the past few years, both positive and negative, I’ve been reflecting a lot about what it means to “return to normal” – can we really go back to our pre-existing status quo as a society, where inequities and injustices run rampant and were only made more salient throughout the chaos of the pandemic?
While this question looms for me as an individual, I believe it also looms for the field of social work. As we move forward into a “post-pandemic” world, it is imperative that social workers reflect on and grapple with our collective direction as clinicians and advocates to ensure we are reflexive, innovative, and committed to meeting the evolving needs of our clients and communities. In selecting the pieces for this issue of Advocates’ Forum, the Editorial Board wanted to highlight the versatility of social work and potential for interdisciplinary practice and scholarship to engage with some of the most pressing social issues we face today.
Within this edition of Advocates’ Forum, readers will find five articles that spotlight unique areas for social workers to reflect upon. Dina Rosin and Sarina Balraj illuminate a pressing gap in social work education: a need for more education focused on anti-fatness and discrimination, for both clinical and macro social work students. Tara Vahdani provides a comprehensive overview on the need for school social workers and mental health practitioners, particularly in the wake of the pandemic's impact on mental health and the labor force, and innovative strategies to address these shortages. Using data she collected from conducting interviews, Autumn Hagstrom centers the voices of three Black women leading diversity, equity, and inclusion work at various levels of government, challenging the long-standing invisibility of this crucial labor. Edith Zarco shares her experiences with stress and anxiety and her journey to learning how to show herself grace, a personal story with great lessons for everyone in our profession. Hannah Clague offers an intimate and vulnerable portrait of the parallels between herself and her Uncle Ben as they both grapple with identity, justice, and abolition of the criminal legal system.
These pieces also reflect the Board’s consciousness around elevating various forms of writing and analysis – from theoretical analyses to qualitative research to personal reflections – to highlight various and diverse ways in which our field can critically engage with scholarship. As an Editorial Board, we hope that these pieces inspire social workers and advocates for social justice to innovate and think outside the box throughout our careers, especially as we come to terms with our “new normal” as a society.
The publication of Advocates’ Forum 2023 would not be possible without the contributions of many stakeholders across our Crown community. Thank you to the authors who submitted their work, invested time in their revisions, and now offer us all with unique and vulnerable insights into our profession. Thank you to Professor Janelle Goodwill for her guidance and partnership as the Faculty Advisor, Daniel Listoe, PhD, for his continued engagement with the authors throughout the revision process, Julie Jung for her patience and support in finalizing the journal, and Robyn Dimaano for her unparalleled support in planning our meetings and events. Finally, I want to thank the members of the Editorial Board for their hard work and engagement throughout this process. Without their thoughtfulness and intentionality in providing feedback, this publication would not have been possible.