NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Virginia Cardona Karl
(1916 - )
Virginia Cardona Karl was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 3, 1916. She attended the Girls Latin School in Boston and received her B.S. in Social Work from Simmons College in 1938. In 1941 she received her M.A. in social work from the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago.
Her social work experience has included serving as a social work trainee Boston City Hospital, medical social worker at the Evanston Hospital Association, and psychiatric and medical social worker with the American Red Cross stationed at the Walter Reed General Hospital. In 1944 she started her career with the Veterans Administration as a Employee Counselor at the Veterans Administration Central Office and in 1945 she moved to the Veterans Administration Regional Office D.C. and worked as a medical/psychiatric social worker and Supervisor and Acting Chief Social Worker. In 1949 she returned to the Veterans Administration Central Office where she remained until her retirement in 1974. During those years she worked in Social Work Service, as Chief, Administrative Standards & Services Division and Chief, Manpower and Staffing Division.
In this position, she was responsible for the administrative standards and management activities needed to implement the SWS programs in the V.A. regional offices and hospitals. For example, she assessed procedures and methods of work, as to their appropriateness, redeveloped procedures and methods in keeping with changing social work practices in the V.A. and social work profession.
She developed appropriate reporting systems regarding all aspects of social work program activities to serve administrative, supervisory, professional and budgetary purposes, initiated studies and plans in the beginning days of data processing for the use of automated systems and methods by social workers in the V.A. Worked on the development of a more meaningful method for measuring the quantitative accomplishments of social work programs for use in determining the manpower resources needed to accomplish the social work programs mission and to develop criteria for staffing requirements.
She fostered and nourished the development of the social work research program in the V.A., culminating in the establishment of the first social work research position within the V.A. She documented the establishment and development of the foster home program for the psychiatric patients in the V.A., collecting data over the years and publishing findings in V.A. publications. This program of care was in the vanguard and the data were basic for the field and used by many other professionals as reference points and resources in their program activities and development in this field of patient treatment and care.
She has said there is a life after retirement. Since retirement, she has built a second career as a public school volunteer working with students of all ages and grade levels from pre-school through high school with an emphasis for many years on teaching English to non-native English speaking children in the schools; participated in a demonstration "Elder-mentor" program with middle school students on a one to one basis, sharing life experiences, goals and activities as encouragement to learning and achieving; for the last 10 years volunteered in kindergarten, assisting these young beginners to learn the basics of numbers and the alphabet for their entry into the life of learning ahead of them.
She has also learned a new skill, ballroom dancing, and has become proficient at it- out of the "assistant" level, then at the "masters" level, heading for the "doctorate" level. She has performed such dances as the tango, mambo, paso doble, swing, etc. This was a decided achievement for this octogenarian but such a satisfying way to socialize all age levels and at the same time to promote fitness and well-being. Social work skills and attitudes were put to good use.