In Memoriam - Steve Kraft

It is with great sadness that we communicate to all of you that Steve Kraft, current Past President of IASWG, passed away just a few days ago. Steve was originally diagnosed with lung cancer almost 10 years ago; he survived the disease until now, enjoying an additional decade of productive years. Steve cherished his large and loving family, and he is survived by his lovely wife of many decades, Aura, his several siblings, and his many beloved children and grandchildren. Steve’s family shared with us: “He died very peacefully, surrounded by his family, visited constantly by close friends, and with a lot of love and joy...his incredible love of life, and his deep connection to so many people who loved him and whom he loved, enabled him to live almost ten years longer than any of the doctors predicted…it was a
great ten years, both for him, and for those of us lucky enough to spend time with him.” Steve was loved by so many in our IASWG organization. He connected warmly and passionately with many of us, and as IASWG President he was charismatic and dedicated. His love of social group work, and his commitment to the mission and values of IASWG, including the power of mutual aid, the importance of international outreach and development, and the need for global diversity and connection, were evident to anyone who had the pleasure to know him. He will be very much missed.

Celebrating Steve's Life






An obituary written by Steve's family:

Steven G. Kraft, 72, of Riverdale, NY, passed away on Wednesday, April 27, 2016.

Steve was a social worker, professor, attorney and handball grand master, having won 12 National Championships and 3 World Championships.  He was born in Louisville Kentucky and raised in Brooklyn, NY.  As a social worker, he was dedicated to working with troubled teens, running Syosset-based SCAN for a decade and working for Little Flowers, a collection of live-in group homes for teens, for many years as well.  He was also passionate about the therapeutic value of group work, and was the former President of the International Association for Social Work with Groups.  

He loved to teach, and was a professor of social work at University of North Dakota for 13 years.  He also taught social work at Adelphi and Stony Brook for decades.  As a lawyer, his practice was dedicated to defending and supporting those in need.  Early in his legal career, he argued and won a landmark case in front of the NY State Court of Appeals, forever improving women's ability to collect the child support they need after divorce.  

He was the Champion of Mott Avenue in every category ever conceived, and his sense of humor was second to none.  Together with his wife Aura, he was the foster parent of 22 children, and a baseball coach and life coach to many.  He touched so many lives in profound ways, and made those he knew strive to be better people. He was kind, philosophical, curious, selfless, and adventurous, and he treated everyone he came across with respect.  He saw and brought out the best in all of us.  

He is survived by his wife of thirty-five years, Aura; his step-mother, Miriam; two sisters, Maddy and Sue Ellen; a brother, James; his sons Jon, Matthew and Omar; daughters Debra and Joelle; son-in-law Chris; daughters-in-law Robin and Jennifer; his nephews Mitchell, Daniel, David, Jesse, Caleb, Kellen, Nicolas, Danny and Aaron; his nieces Jennifer, Jessica and Manda; and his grandchildren: Brandon, Jakob, Tyrese, Kyra, Amalia, Micah, Henry, and Rhiannon. 

He is preceded in death by his father, Norman, and mother, Minette.

Donations in his memory can be sent to International Association for Social Work with Groups (IASWG) at 101 West 23rd Street, Suite 108, New York, NY, 10011 or United States Handball Association (USHA), Attention: Matt Krueger, 2333 N. Tuscon Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716.


Additional biographical information about Steve:

Steve Kraft was a practicing group worker in social work agencies since 1962. In 1971, he received an MSW from Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and in 1972 he became the Executive Director of SCAN Incorporated, an outpatient substance abuse agency. The host discipline at SCAN was group work, and Steve worked directly with clients in addition to his administrative responsibilities. From 1974-1994 Steve served as a field instructor and adjunct Assistant Professor for Adelphi University School of Social Work. He also taught group work practice at SUNY-Stonybrook and at Wurzweiler School of Social Work. In the 1990’s, Steve became the Assistant Executive Director of the Educational Alliance; he had oversight responsibility for substance abuse programs, mental health programs, and camping programs. In 1996, he accepted a full-time faculty position at the University of North Dakota, and he retired from there in May, 2009.

Steve was a member of AASWG/IASWG for many years. He was the co-founder, along with Catherine Papell, of the IASWG Long Island Chapter, and for decades he was an ex-officio IASWG Board member in the role of IASWG Legal Counsel. He was also an active member of the IASWG Social Action Committee. He was a regular and popular presenter at our symposia.

In 2009, Steve was elected by the IASWG membership to be the President of the organization, and he served in this role until 2012. Since 2012, Steve has been on the IASWG Board in the role of Past President.

Upon election to be IASWG President, Steve stated: “It is humbling, and an honor, to be elected to a position that has been held by many of my professional heroines and heroes.” His stated goals during his IASWG Presidency included: “I will work to assist our Membership Committee in retaining and adding members; I will work toward increasing IASWG Board diversity; I will work to support IASWG chapter efforts to restore a social action component to our work, as I believe steps can be taken to encourage group workers to embrace our historical role as professionals for whom social justice is a priority and for whom community building is an important function; I will work to build and strengthen our own organizational community.” For decades, Steve has been an energetic and important presence for IASWG at our international Board meetings, Long Island Chapter events, and our symposia. This year at our 2016 symposium he will be very missed; we are planning a time during the symposium for reminiscing, recollecting, and celebrating what Steve meant to IASWG members.

In addition to his success in his personal family life, and his achievements as a creative group worker, Steve was: a productive lawyer (including doing pro-bono work for North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center, where he was awarded “the 2011 Community Advisor and Servant-Leader Award for his expertise, support, guidance, advocacy and generosity”); a gifted teacher; a many-times over foster parent (some 22 children); and a talented hand-ball champion (U.S. and World Champion.)

Some lovely member recollections about Steve have already been shared by email:

“Steve was the heart of our organization”;

“It is hard to envision the organization without him.”;

“He made everyone around him feel good”;

“He worked so hard to ensure our international inclusiveness”;

“He had an innate ability to connect”;

“He was an incredible leader for IASWG”;

“We were so fortunate to have him at the center of our community for so long”;

“No one could surpass his active love of group work which he engaged in everywhere he was”;

“Our Lithuanian chapter members are mourning for our dear friend and great leader”.

"Steve had a very significant impact on the group work association and brought, in addition to his warmth, intelligence and wonderful sense of humor, a real understanding of what diversity means in relation to the international community. I first met Steve at a networking dinner at the Chicago symposium in 2009, the night he became president. I had joined a group of AASWG members who were from other countries since it included Québécois from Montréal, where I am originally from, and from Québec City whom I wanted to get to know. I was very surprised when I realized that Steve was joining this usually marginal group for his first networking dinner as president. I happened to sit near him and Ginette Berteau, one of the group workers from Montréal and we struck up a great conversation about our relationship to group work. This started a very important friendship between the three of us. Recently, a week and a half before he passed away, Ginette came from Montréal to say goodbye to Steve. So the three of us were together again and got to share how meaningful the friendships between us have been. We also got to sing a couple of Steve's favorite French songs with him one last time. Steve became so fond of the group from Montréal that when we came together at symposium, he often spent much of his time with us, even though he did not really speak French. He also had very close contacts with the German groups and with leaders from Lithuania, among many other members from outside of the US, or immigrants like myself. He had a way to make all of us feel that we had a big place in the association."

"A very sweet man, hard working, loved kids always a smile but my comfort is knowing that he is in good company now."

"This is truly a great loss to IASWG and to the world. Steve was a great man."


We welcome you to share your memories, stories, and photos of Steve by emailing [email protected] or by submitting your recollection here to then be shared on this webpage. If you have any photos of Steve that you would like to be included in a slideshow at the upcoming symposium, please email them to [email protected]

To make a donation in memory of Steve, please click here.