The specific roles and responsibilities of a social worker vary according to which field they work in and their specific role. However they broadly involve helping people in need by working with social services organizations and communities, as well as advocating for the needs and best interests of their clients.
Social workers and social services workers wear many hats and juggle a wide range of roles and responsibilities in any given workday. The exact nature of their job is of course dictated by which field they work in, at what level and the organizations and clients they engage with. A social work career offers so many diverse opportunities that can be guided by an individual’s passions, strengths and talents.
The Role of a Social Worker
Social workers identify vulnerable people in our society who are in need of help. They then assess their needs and develop care plans including finding support networks that can help people achieve better outcomes. Social workers also typically follow up with clients to evaluate how they have progressed and if the services and methods used to help them were effective. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental health, behavioral and emotional issues.
Whatever their area of expertise, the job of a social worker is to help people cope with – and ideally solve – problems in their lives. They do this by working within a wide range of settings, from schools, prisons and hospitals to government organizations, human welfare agencies and private practices.
A Day in the Life of a Child Welfare Social Worker
Child welfare social workers work with at-risk children, typically in situations of abuse or neglect, providing them with protection and advocating for their best interests. The issues facing children in their care may be physical, emotional, environmental or a combination of all of the above.
Typically child welfare social workers become involved when a child is under duress. They then work to provide a safer, healthier environment by evaluating their particular circumstances and coming up with a plan to help. This often focuses on case management and supervision, which can include home visits to assess a child’s living situation, assessment of their caregivers’ well-being and competency as well as an overall evaluation of a child’s environment.
Child welfare social workers may place children in protective custody, foster care or adoptive families when the home environment is considered too unsafe. They then work towards a plan to keep children in a safe environment for the long term, be it with their family or elsewhere.
Roles for child welfare social workers are often in government agencies but can also be within private organizations or charities dealing with child welfare. Specific job titles in this field include case managers, family support social workers, youth advocates, foster care specialists and child protection services specialists.
A Day in the Life of an Education/School Social Worker
Education and school social workers are employed in academic environments to help young people who may have issues that interfere with their education. These issues can include mental health problems, behavioral issues, emotional and environmental challenges or other special needs. They may work as school counselors or school crisis managers or be involved in educational policy development or advocacy for children and adolescents within the education system.
Besides working with educators and administrators, school social workers often work with social services organizations that help children under duress, assessing home circumstances and putting resources in place that can help at-risk children and their families. These resources may include anger management and coping skills for children, extra help for families that have children with special needs, referrals to psychologists and psychiatrists for children dealing with mental health and emotional issues or community assistance programs for families.
Education and school social workers also work with teachers and school administrators to help bridge any gaps in cultural understanding and awareness affecting pupils in their care.
A Day in the Life of a Family Services Social Worker
The goal of a family services social worker is to not only address the needs of a child but also to strengthen the family as a whole and build bridges to community resources that can help improve the family’s – and therefore the child’s – long-term outcomes.
Family social workers work across government agencies, community services and mental health agencies in areas including family case management and clinical social work. Their job is similar to that of child welfare specialists in that they help children under duress.
Family social workers conduct home assessments of at-risk children and adolescents and facilitate intervention when required. They help families to access benefits and aid programs, provide family counseling and education and assist families in better integrating into their communities.
The goal of a family social worker is to find ways to keep families intact, rather than removing children from the home into foster care or adoptive families. As a result their work ranges from immediate crisis intervention through to family therapy, community outreach and coordination of social services.
To find out more about pursuing your dream career in social work, and the multitude of career options available to you, explore our careers section today.