JoAnn McCachern Swart, MSW ’78, of Castle Hayne, N.C., has been named the 2010 Social Worker of the Year by the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
While working more than 40 years as a social worker with 35 years with the New Hanover County Department of Social Services,
Swart’s passion has been responding to the needs of children in the field of adoption and foster care.
She has been active in various statewide meetings, especially in the areas of adoption recruitment and legislative concerns. She has also been a valuable resource for adult adoptees searching for background information, birth parents wanting to learn about their adult adopted children and adoptive parent through support groups.
Swart volunteered as a field instructor for bachelors and masters in social work students from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University. Swart graduated from St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg and received her master’s degree in social work from UNC. After earning an MSW, she obtained the ACSW (1981) and LCSW-NC (1992) credentials. At the Spring 2009 State Adoption and Foster Care Annual Meeting, she led a workshop on the process for clearing foster children for adoption.
Swart has also been a driving force in the volunteer sector. In 1984, she was appointed to the New Hanover County Council on the Status of Women. As a member, Swart helped plan a workshop on family violence, a joint effort of the council and the Task Force against Family Violence. During this time, she began volunteering with the Women’s Resource Center, a coalition of the YWCA, the Task Force against Family Violence and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Having been recruited for the YWCA board, Swart was elected in 1986, became second vice president in 1988, first vice president in 1989, and president in 1993 and 1994.
Swart has been an elder for two terms in her church, where she has volunteered for Meals on Wheels for more than 10 years. Swart was active in the local National Organization of Women chapter and served as president of the Exchange Club of Greater Wilmington, whose mission is the prevention of child abuse. Last year she was recruited to serve on the board of directors of the Child Advocacy and Parenting Place Exchange Club Center Inc. In May 2009, Swart helped plan and execute its Flower Launch to recognize professionals and volunteers who work for the prevention of child abuse.
After 20 years of marriage with no children, Swart and her husband adopted a girl, age 9, in 1994. Two years later, they adopted her sister, age 16. These daughters shared many interests, especially a love for the ocean. In 2002, their oldest daughter, age 22, was caught in a rip current and drowned. Swart turned her grief into a mission to educate coastal residents and tourists about rip current safety. Swart wrote to many organizations in New Hanover County responsible for educating people who lived there or visited the area. She wrote to many rental companies urging them to provide a free pamphlet on rip currents. She also created the acronym “SCAPS,” which stands for Stay Calm and Parallel Swim with the shore.
In 2003, Swart became a charter member of the Rip Current Awareness Strategies Team. RCAST’s goal is to reduce the number of deaths by rip currents. In 2005, Swart was interviewed on the “Today” show, and in 2007 she made a public service announcement for the local schools’ TV channel.
Swart has been an active member in NASW-NC since achieving her ACSW in 1981. She served as co-chair for the local NASW about 15 years ago, and she continues to be a participating member in her local community. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Commerce National Weather Service gave her a Public Service Award for “significant services rendered for her promotion of Rip Current Awareness.” The New Hanover County Commissioners recognized her in 2006 when they affirmed the Governor’s Proclamation declaring the first week of June as Rip Current Safety Awareness Week. In May 2009, Swart was named the YWCA Women of Achievement recipient in the volunteer sector.