NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Sarah Young Austin (1927-2015)
Sarah Young Austin was born on February 4, 1927, in Four Oaks, a small rural town in Johnson County, southeast of Raleigh. She was the youngest of seven children in a politically active family.
Miss Austin went to Women's College in Greensboro , which is now University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and studied sociology. After graduation, she returned to Johnston County to work for the Johnston County Department of Social Services.
After spending a year in graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Miss Austin applied to the social services department in Forsyth and Durham counties and at Family Services. She got job offers from all three and picked Family services.
She worked with unmarried pregnant women, placing their babies with infertile couples. She placed about 400 babies with adoptive families.
In 1963, Miss Austin went to UNC-CH, got her masters degree in social work and returned to Family Services.
Most notably in the field of social work, she received the Irvin B. Sperry Award in 1977 from the North Carolina Family Life Council, and in 1981, she was named Social Worker of the Year by the North Carolina chapter of NASW. In 1984, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the alumni association of the UNC Department of Social Work.
Governor Robert Scott appointed Miss Austin to a six-year term on the North Carolina Board of Social Services in 1969, and she was chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Social Services for five years, from 1977 to 1982.
She was instrumental in requiring that social workers get certification, which improved the integrity of the field of social work.
Miss Austin took over as the director of Family Services family division in 1979, and became the president in 1984.
Social Work Pioneer - 1995