NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Ruby Morton Gourdine (1948 - )
Ruby Morton Gourdine has affected change throughout her career as a practitioner, a supervisor, an administrator, and educator/researcher through her deep commitment to social justice and creative utilization of systems within organizations. Her pioneering work has been in addressing the inequalities of service based on race and desire for change which has led to a pattern of advocacy in the workplace.
In 1969, Dr. Gourdine was hired as a probation officer in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Richmond, Virginia. She challenged the inequalities in case assignments due to segregated caseloads. While an untrained child welfare worker, she observed and questioned differential treatment of black children, which resulted in the availability of opportunities reserved for majority families. Encouraged by fellow social workers, she applied and was accepted at the Atlanta University School of Social Work, where she earned her Master’s in Social Work; Policy, Planning and Administration.
Upon graduation, as the first professional social worker hired by the Roxbury Children’s Center, she was confronted with an ethical dilemma. She was required to tell her 13 year old, 6 month pregnant client to have an abortion. She refused on ethical grounds, and was referred to the director. Her stand led to the assignment to develop the first adoption program at the agency. Furthermore, she was selected for an inaugural class at the University of Michigan, preparing foster care and adoption specialists. Subsequently, Dr. Gourdine was recruited by the Spaulding Group, which was setting up special needs adoption programs across the country. After coming to Washington, DC, she developed an extensive family recruitment program by partnering with the DC Department of Recreation.
In 1980, Dr. Gourdine began her career in the education of social workers. She enrolled in the Doctoral Program at Howard University School of Social Work, however, she continued to work on behalf of children with disabilities, through her role as State Supervisor for Social Work Services in the State Education Agency. In this role, she was responsible for monitoring social work services for the DC Public Schools and private agency programs. Her work in the school system alerted her to the need for social workers to better understand the area of children with disabilities. Since 1992, Dr. Gourdine has been a full time academic. She is currently Chair of Direct Sequence Practice in the School of Social Work at Howard University.