Social work is a vast profession with many variables, but needless to say it is a crucial service for anyone marginalized, in poverty, experiencing domestic violence or a whole host of other possibilities. It is a profession founded on the values of human rights and social justice, which underpin every aspect of the field, and is committed to both individual and collective well being. Relationship with a client is key. Social workers provide vital guidance to those dealing with all kinds of personal and community problems, including drug abuse, criminal offenses, abuse, mental illness, learning or physical disabilities.
The vast majority of social workers are employed by government agencies, social services, NGOs or healthcare facilities. Depending on the setting, they either work as part of a multidisciplinary team or one-on-one with a client, and their duties may vary. They may work with child welfare agencies, investigate reports of abuse or recruit foster parents in a crisis. In schools they help kids adjust or deal with student-teacher issues to facilitate the child’s learning. In hospitals they are part of a treatment team and help the family access community resources.
You get the idea. Wherever they are, they are responsible as liaison with other agencies to resolve problems or find the right kind of support, while keeping up to date on changes in legislation, or social, economic or political trends that affect the lives of their clients. Here are examples to help you in your decision:
There are many reasons a social worker can help in this setting, including:
- Investigate cases of family violence, child abuse or neglect;
- Emotional support in times of stress or trauma, for family or child;
- Protective or remedial measures to protect the child if required;
- Recruit foster parents or monitor children in foster care;
- Work on adoption cases.
In this type of setting social workers focus on preserving or supporting the mental health of a client, contributing to care or rehabilitation as appropriate. They may help someone find a lawyer, advocate for a person in court, or represent them when dealing with facility staff. When a person is dealing with mental health issues, this is a godsend, as mental illness can often include feelings of isolation and abandonment that come with anxiety or depression. They also act as a liaison with family or staff.
Health Centers or Hospitals
Here, social workers are invaluable as well, offering counsel to both individuals and families. Some examples:
- Offering bedside manner in settings where it may be lacking;
- Helping a patient communicate clearly their needs & issues when speaking to their doctor or nurse & arranging appropriate care;
- Finding community resources that may be critical to minimizing their hospital stay & proper recovery;
- Counsel to those who are suffering;
- Help in decision-making when it comes to treatment plans;
- Assist patient with eating, taking pills or providing companionship;
- Translating patient’s messages to care takers or family when they are having trouble communicating.
In this case a social worker’s duties vary from agency to agency. They typically work with seniors in these settings but they do other important work as well, offering counsel to individuals and families on a wide range of issues. Some examples:
- Counsel with families experiencing difficulties in parent-child relationships;
- Facilitating group discussions on issues ranging from community violence to domestic abuse;
- Assisting in access to resources;
- Referral to community agencies or other professionals;
- Support in strategy-making for a wide range of social & personal problems.
Here a social worker’s job cannot be understated. Simply put, social workers help young or adult offenders with re-integrating into society, or societal rehabilitation. Given the condition of our detention centers and jails, adjusting to life on the outside can be brutal, and we all have a vested interest in keeping that person sane, stable and employed to avoid repeat offenses. A social worker may also work as a parole officer or classification officers, or attend court cases where a client is due to appear.
The government often employs social workers to assist with policy development and analysis in both federal and provincial departments and on social planning councils. They may also work as a researcher.
Schools, Colleges & Universities
Again, this area is crucial. Social workers will often work as researchers or teachers in an academic setting; more importantly, they help with conflicts between a student in their school.
Though social workers exist in all these settings and more, they also set up private practice on a fee-for-service basis. They may, depending on their other training, offer anything from psychotherapy to program development to meditation!