NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Sister Mary Paul Janchill (1920 - 2009)
Sister Mary Paul Janchill wrote one of the three seminal articles introducing general systems theory to social work practitioners in the late 1960s. Her 1969 article, along with papers by Ann Hartman and Carel Germain, formed the basis for much of the work of the past three decades on systems approaches to social work practice. Sister Mary Paul’s primary contributions to the profession, however, were in her roles as a social work practitioner where she was a model clinician, administrator,
Sister Mary Paul co-founded the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park in 1978, and also served as its co-director. The Center provides comprehensive, neighborhood-based family support, advocacy, and clinical services to a low-income community in Brooklyn, New York. Some of the outstanding characteristics of the Center are its focus on the family as the unit of attention; holistic, non-stigmatizing approach to services; integration of clinical and community services; 24/7 accessibility; frequent movement between case and cause advocacy; ongoing program development; and its developmental perspective on families and the community. The Center has been widely heralded as an actual embodiment of the ecosystems perspective on practice, which is so frequently taught and so seldom implemented, and has been cited as an excellent model or program in many professional publications and works for the general public.
Sister Janchill joined her order, called the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, in 1945. In 1953, she graduated from St. John’s University. She went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University, in 1955, and a doctorate in social work from Columbia University in 1968.
In her role as co-director of the Center, she pioneered many of its new approaches to practice, including the first neighborhood-based foster care program in New York City, a range of creative school-based service programs, and an advocacy clinic for neighborhood residents. She also served as a field instructor, supervisor, and role model for many students and workers, and is widely recognized in New York City as a constant advocate for improved policies and programs in the family and child welfare arena.
Sister Mary Paul was the recipient of several awards including the White House Award by President Ronald Reagan, “Private Sector Initiative Commendation,” for Exemplary Community Service and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. She also served as a member of the board of directors of the Citizens’ Committee for Children and Lawyers for Children.