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Does an Air Force Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Qualify as a Social Worker?

Air Force 1st Lt. Brandon Alford is a weatherman who helps predict conditions at airfields scattered around the Pacific Ocean, according to this article on the Pacific Air Forces Web site.

The sexual assault of a friend prompted Alford to train to become a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. “I figured if I can’t stop sexual assault, at least I can help treat it,” he said.

Alford provides a commendable and very valuable service However, the article’s headline describes him as a social worker. Alford’s trainer told him to describe himself as a social worker, the article said.

Before decides whether to jeer this article we must ask:

Q: Does a Sexual Assault Response Coordinators’ duties put them on par with a social worker or is this a misuse of the title?

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  1. After reading the article, it seems clear to me that he is not a social worker. He doesn’t have a social work degree or license, as far as I can tell. To their credit, they put “social worker” in quotes in the title. Also, the comment about him being a social worker is part of a quote in which he is saying what someone else said to him. It doesn’t mean he is necessarily claiming to be a social worker himself, or even that the reporter is calling him a social worker. The words “social worker’ are used twice, both in quotes.

  2. I see it as a compliment to that Lieutenant, she called him a ‘Social Worker” because he has the empathy and skills to help people more than being an AF weatherman. With a statement like that and the passion that can come from being a SARC, I think that it could be a new educational beginning for him and the AF to grow their own Social Workers that understand where their clients are coming from.
    I was a SARC for the Army here in Germany, it isn’t an easy job because there are a lot of different regulations (for lack of a better term) in place for how and what gets handled for the victim in this population. And if he had a natural gift for it, being called a ‘social worker” may make him think that he should pursue it.

  3. BTW as a SARC we are called SARCs, in the Army it is a non-clinical position so even as a Social Worker I wasn’t called a Social Work and I don’t think that the AF actually calls them Social Workers either…but it is definitely food for thought as to what kind of things Social Workers do get to do.

  4. Agreed, Linda! The title social worker is thrown around as though it can have several meanings and definitions, all which have to do with helping people. But let’s get something very clear with reporters/writers, etc. If you have NOT studied the required Social Work curriculum at an accredited university and have NOT put in the internship hours required by each state, and have NOT graduated from an accredited university with either a BSW or an MSW – you are NOT a Social Worker!! you can call your self or someone a case manager, a social services worker, or any other title you want, but it is completely misrepresentative for an individual or a writer to use the title Social Worker unless the strict requirements have been fulfilled. Would a writer or an individual use the title Nurse or Doctor about an individual who worked with patients in a hospital but had not fulfilled the requirements demanded to earn either or those titles????

  5. I agree with you Kathy. In my professional career as a Social Worker, I have been in many positions in which collegues are called many different titles. Just because he works a a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator does not mean that he is providing the needed treatment. It should mean that he is making sure that the necessary services are available and provided. It would be an optimal opprotunity for a Clinical Soial Worker be the person who coordinates this program but in a military setting, it may be the only person available or is interested. They do provide some extensive traing for this program but a weatherman by any other name is still a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

  6. I agree …in fact I am also a nurse but cannot legally call myself one unless I am licensed…just because I went to school, received a BSN degree, does not mean I am a nurse…as a nurse I can wash a patient’s hair and fix it up but I can not call myself a hairdresser, I can put on their makeup but cannot call myself a cosmetologist either.

    This confusion of who is and isn’t a licensed professional is troublesome.

    Perhaps we should be flattered that so many people do not mind being referred to as social workers although they really are not. I wonder if they would jump in our social worker shoes so fast and accept the pay we receive for the countless hours of work that we do.

    This willingness to jump into shoes that we did not pay for, reminds me of an old expression of my grandmother’s…”would you jump in my grave as fast as you jumped into my place in line?”

  7. I agree with all of you. While this service members’ passion is commendable, unless he has received the education validated by the Council on Social Work Education AND graduated with a degree in said field, HE IS NOT A SOCIAL WORKER. As such this service member should bear the title of or call himself a social worker. Nor should his Commanders endorse such an act. Social Workers, past and present are given a bad reputation by working professionals who have little to no understanding of the foundation of social work.

    I am a civilian employee of an Air Force Base in the State that I reside. I work in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. My position that I was hired for is called Social Services Assistant. I am recognized as a Social Worker BECAUSE I have the education and degree. I am proud to be a social worker. Like many of you, I’ve earned that degree and title. It disappoints and angers me that our profession is not taken seriously as it should. No disrespect to our service members. However, it is my hope that this Service Member and his Commanders give careful consideration and thought to such an inappropriate action.

  8. Correction to the second sentence. It should read “this service member should not bear the title…”

  9. ABSOLUTELY not!!!! Despite all the kudos to the good lieutenant sexual assault crisis counselor training does not in any way give him the knowledge, skills, abilities or tools to do long term or wide ranging therapeutic work with clients. His role should be to provide fast support and then transition the client to those trained to treat them. It is much the same as a triage medical staffer in the emergency rooms around the world.

  10. While I commend 1st Lt. Alfords outreach efforts, I think that it is important to point out that in Hawaii in order to refer to oneself as a “social worker” one must have a degree in social work and be licensed as a social worker. I wonder if the trainer of the class who has “been doing social work for 30 years” has a degree in social work either. Again, I am not trying to downplay the important work that 1st Lt. Alfords is doing, but as a social worker I think that it is important in order to maintain the integrity of the profession that only those who can legally call themselves a social worker do so. Is anyone else slightly put off by the photo? Where the woman is on the phone and her name tag reads “victim”?

  11. The way around this is a double edged sword called the “therapist” Anyone with or without any professional expertise in any field, can call themselves a therapist. It is borderline fraudulent because many vulnerable individuals see that word, and are let to believe the person has some legitimate standing in a professional community. They could be crystal therapists, or whatever, buy they do not require specific training, nor a licensing exam, nor continuing education to retain the license.

    Just because someone does a good deed; calms a melting down mother of a two year old coming unglued at the mall, does not give them an honorary license in social work, just as I cannot call myself a nurse for cleaning and dressing a minor scrape from a fall from a bike. There are specific licensing requirements, and furthermore certain parameters within which social workers are permitted to work depending on their level of license.

  12. I agree with Linda and others: If one doesn’t have a social work degree or license, one cannot use the title “Social Worker.”

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