What Do Social Workers Do?
"When I was younger, a social worker by the name of Ms. Betty used to visit my mom and I at home. We would also sometimes see her in her office. We were very poor and life was hard but after each visit, my mom always seemed to feel better enough to actually be able to laugh. Thanks to Ms. Betty, my mom was also able to get a better job and now, we’ve moved to a better place and are now doing pretty well. Ms. Betty died last year but somehow I am inspired by what she did and want to follow in her footsteps so I can also help other people. Can you please give me more information on this career? What do social workers do?"
asked by Billy M. from Lafayette, LA
All the work that social workers do is geared towards being able to help those who are struggling with life’s problems. From hospitals to nursing homes to substance abuse clinics to correctional facilities to child welfare agencies to schools, social workers identify those who need assistance and evaluate their needs and circumstances. They also help clients figure out who their support networks are and identify what their goals are.
After ascertaining and listening to their client’s needs and reviewing their situations, social workers then come up with plans to help provide solutions to their problems. For example, they may help single mothers look for childcare resources in her community or the poor retiree suffering from health problems to apply for Medicaid. They may refer someone who is undergoing divorce and about to have a mental breakdown to a counselor who can listen to his problems. If the primary breadwinner in the family has just lost his job and the family needs to feed all their three children, social workers may help them apply for food stamps and unemployment benefits.
They are usually the first on the scene to help victims of child abuse or neglect. In cases where the child’s life is put in danger because of a parent’s substance abuse problem, social workers take the action they feel will keep the child safe. They also help the parents seek treatment for their alcohol or drug dependency. They also conduct the necessary follow up with these clients to determine how they are responding to treatment.
Social workers also help couples looking to adopt a child. They introduce them to the procedures and requirements that they need to fulfill so they can add a new member to their family. They also perform the necessary checks to ensure that couples are fit to adopt a child. For parents with missing children, they work with law enforcement authorities to reunite them with their families.
Social workers who work in school settings have a different focus. They seek to enhance the academic and social development of students by working together with members of the school community such as teachers, staff, parents, school administrators and even the students themselves. They work one-on-one with students and their families to help determine why the student bullies other students, is aggressive towards others or is frequently absent or late from school.
There are also social workers who help patients dealing with physical ailments. Someone who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness may have a hard time accepting his condition especially if he still has young children to think about.
In this situation, social workers listen to their concerns, strive to give hope and help them focus not on their illness but on maximizing the time they have with their loved ones even as they try to look for possible treatment alternatives. They may also provide information on support groups and services to help families and patients manage the illness. Social workers may also help seniors who have sought nursing care for a few years because of a sickness and are now ready to go back to their homes and families make the transition as smoothly as possible.
There are also social workers who devote their time and effort to helping those who are abusing drugs and alcohol. They help families who want to help their loved ones seek treatment in a drug rehabilitation facility by providing information on the different treatment options for addicts that are available in the community. They also direct recovering drug addicts to support groups that can help them sustain a drug-free lifestyle for the long-term.
Licensed clinical social workers are mostly private practices social workers who focus on diagnosing and treating persons with depression and other mental disorders. By coordinating with the client, medical doctors and other healthcare professionals, they come up with treatment plans for patients and implement it. They monitor the client’s progress under the treatment plan. If it’s not working as it should, clinical social workers make the necessary adjustments to it. Aside from helping clients through group, family or individual therapy sessions, they also direct them to support groups who can help them or to other mental health professionals, such as a psychiatrist, who may be in a better position to give treatment.
Social workers affiliated with government agencies are also tasked with reviewing programs and services that they provide. They check if it still answers the needs for which it was built to address or if upgrades and changes are already necessary. Based on their assessments, they would then make the necessary recommendations to the agencies concerned so that steps can be undertaken to improve the delivery of these services.
Highly compassionate, social workers also need to be emotionally and mentally strong and stable as their every day work deals with people placed in very difficult situations. They also need to be able to empathize with their clients while at the same time have the ability to look at the situation objectively so they can provide objective and practical solutions to their problems. They also need to gain their client’s trust if they want them to cooperate with their suggested solutions. This entails excellent interpersonal and listening skills. Social workers have to work well with different groups of people and listen to what their sentiments are in order to provide the appropriate interventions.
Social workers deal with different clients in a day. They need to be very efficient and highly-organized. They have to document each case and even be able to commit the important facts of each to their memory. They also have to know how to manage their time very well so they can see all clients who are looking for their help.
Since social workers are often exposed to the dark side of human nature and the harsh difficulties faced even by the very young, their work can be very stressful. They may even have to work evenings, weekends and holidays in order to attend to the needs of their clients.
It’s a very rewarding profession since it puts them in a position to help different kinds of people each time they go to work.