Lifelines: A Media Project From The Frontlines Of Social Work

-Journalists and social workers change

Are you frustrated by the public’s limited understanding of the social work profession? Looking for a compelling way to illustrate social work’s role in serving society’s most vulnerable individuals?

Consider telling your public officials, funding agencies and colleagues about “Lifelines: Stories from the Human Safety Net” as a way of celebrating the work done by the nation’s 600,000-plus social workers.

Transforming Perceptions of Social Work

An innovative media project of the University of Maryland Journalism Center on Children and Families (JCCF), Lifelines seeks to shed light on the “unsung profession of social work.”

The project builds on the intuitive but underexplored relationship between social work and journalism. Both fields focus on the stories of individuals and communities: while social workers help people to improve their situations and take hold of their lives, journalists bring people’s stories to the public. By using journalism to shine a light on the important, unsung efforts of social workers, Lifelines builds awareness of how social workers change the lives they touch and broadens the impact of social work initiatives by reporting about them in a way that can engage and inspire a wide audience.

With support from National Association of Social Workers, JCCF sent 13 professional journalists across the country in fall 2014 to report on the broad, complex range of issues social workers address every day. Now housed on a dedicated JCCF website, the stories show social workers:

Connecting the rural poor to food and health care in Kentucky. Teaching special education students to manage turbulent emotions in Minneapolis. Conducting life-saving group counseling sessions for transgender clients in Denver. Helping a child formerly in foster care heal from sexual, physical and emotional abuse in New Jersey. Connecting a chronically homeless veteran to safe, permanent housing and family in Philadelphia.

A Multilayered Perspective in a Multimedia Approach

Using audio, video, slide shows, traditional news articles and even cartoons, the Lifelines journalists place individual stories of hardship and hope within broader contexts. Readers learn about the struggles of vulnerable people, the efforts social workers make on their behalf, and the economic, social and political issues that affect clients every day — whether it’s the loss of jobs in small-town America or the influx of meth in major cities.

Beyond compelling stories, the Lifelines website provides resources and insights for social workers who want to work more effectively with the media. In the Reporters’ Notebooks, Lifelines journalists reveal the “stories behind the stories” — providing clues on the reporting process and its constraints. Social workers will also find resources they can share to help local media cover issues that matter — including issues as diverse as parenting in poverty, obstacles to LGBT asylum and immigration. In short, Lifelines offers eye-opening journeys into the heart of social work today. Let’s use these stories to open both hearts and minds.