The National Association for Social Workers (N.A.S.W.) kicked off their annual conference, but instead of holding it in Jackson, they have come to the Gulf Coast. For some social workers, like Wayne Cullinan, the annual N.A.S.W. conference is about more than putting in the hours required to keep his license. Cullinan says, "It’s a great networking opportunity. You get to meet and see a lot of people that you went to school with, meet a lot of new people, do a lot of great networking, but there's also always good learning opportunities as well." Cullinan was also at the Cultural Context Seminar with speakers, Angela Bone and Page Pearson. Pearson says some social workers struggle when assigned to patients or communities different from their own.
Pearson says, "We are so used to and accustomed to surrounding ourselves with the things we know and understand that are like us, that when we come up against something that's not like us, that makes us very uncomfortable and we're really not sure with how to deal with it." Three intensive sessions that target issues social workers face every day were a part of the conference. Janice Sandefur, the Director of the Mississippi Chapter of N.A.S.W., says, "We have a very diverse world, a very diverse community here in the south and we've certainly had our issues down here in dealing with diversity, and we tackle it head on, and have from the beginning." The N.A.S.W. Mississippi Chapter conferences have been happening since the early 80s. Each year, they give updates on social work practices and target key issues that social workers want help with. One standing struggle is low pay and a growing client list. Cullinan also says, "I think that social workers are busier than we've ever been. There's a lot more necessary help. A lot more people are looking for help. A lot more people are aware that help is available and that social work as a profession is well equipped to serve the folks that need help."
Sandefur says they will serve almost 500 social workers in their opening talks Wednesday and sessions Thursday. Social workers from not just Mississippi, but Louisiana, Alabama, and even a few northeastern states, have come to the conference this year. Sessions will continue all day Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday.