Across the nation, social workers are being recruited to apply their skills to the diverse human population at accelerated rates.
The overwhelming mental and socio-emotional health needs of individuals in modern society create significant demand for the professional skills that social workers possess. In some cases, the amount of available social work positions has expanded in response to changing circumstances and increased human challenges.
In other cases, social workers are being called to new areas of work and places of employment, in recognition of the need to attend to the bio-psycho-social needs of clients and customers in a variety of settings.
For the social work profession, this means that potential career paths have expanded and diversified. Social workers now have the opportunity to choose between a greater variety of workplaces beyond social service agencies and medical settings.
Social Work Expansion in Schools
While social workers have long been employed in school settings, but many social workers must split their time between two or more schools, leaving a shortage of social workers available. Now, schools across the United States are budgeting to recruit more social workers in response to recent school shooting events and the need for more supportive services for students to succeed. Hiring additional school social workers reduces student to social worker ratios to more manageable levels, and helps ensure that every student is able to access the services they need. Wake County, North Carolina has recently budgeted for more school support staff, including social workers. The School Superintendent in Union County, North Carolina has become an advocate for hiring more social workers in schools to support students social, emotional, and mental health. Legislation recently introduced in Nebraska aims to create a Collaborative School Behavioral and Mental Health Program, that would provide jobs for social workers in each educational unit for 3 years.
Social Workers Collaborating with Police
Police social work has received growing attention in the past few months with the introduction of new legislation in New York that requires a licensed clinical social worker in every police precincts. While that legislation didn’t pass, other states have recognized the value of hiring social workers to work alongside the police force, in police stations or on special initiatives.
In Erlanger County, Kentucky, social worker Becky Strouse was recently hired to follow up on calls related to mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. The Erlanger Police Lieutenant, John Sterling, believes having a social worker in the police station is a benefit to everyone, as social workers can more appropriately intervene to support people in difficult situations. Erlanger County is the second county in Kentucky to hire a social worker in a police precinct.
A social worker was recently hired to work with police in Rochester, Minnesota, as well. Megan Schueller plays an important role in de-escalating police calls, going on scene with the police force, and intervening to provide supportive services as alternatives to jail time or hospitalization. Schueller was part of a four month pilot program that proved successful in reducing repeat calls to the police and keeping people at home with support services.
In North County, Washington, social workers are collaborating with police on a targeted initiative – to address the problem of homelessness in the county. Together, police officers and social workers visit informal camps set up by people experiencing homelessness, and work to connect people to needed resources. The team of social workers and police officers assist the community’s homeless population with a variety of support services – transportation needs, getting proper identification, drug treatment facilities, and mental health treatment. The program’s goal is to reduce the homeless population so that the program is no longer needed.
Social Workers Hired by the State
State authorities have also begun hiring social workers to serve vulnerable populations. In Delaware, the State Division of Social Services recently hired social workers to support formerly incarcerated people as they transition back to civilian life. At regular visits with their parole officers, formerly incarcerated individuals now have the option of meeting with a social worker woh can connect them with resources and services to support their successful transition.
In the state of Texas, social worker Davina Hollin was recently appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to serve on the Family and Protective Services Council. Hollin has an extensive social work background working with youth in the foster care system, and will serve in an advisory capacity until 2021.
Social Workers in Libraries
Libraries often serve as community resource centers, serving a variety of community members, including those experiencing homelessness and suffering from mental illness. A recent panel at the Public Library Association Conference considered the ways in which social services can be administered at public libraries. The San Francisco Public Library was the first in the nation to appoint a full-time social worker, and many more have followed since. Social workers in library settings not only provide services to library patrons, but often also train library staff and create partnerships with local organizations.
Social Workers on Public Transit
In Los Angeles, the number of people experiencing homelessness has grown in recent years, and many of those people find refuge in the subway system. A new program – one of the first in the nation – employs social workers to provide outreach services on the subway, five days per week. The program aims to connect homeless riders, especially those suffering from mental illness or addiction problems, to resources. According to the LA Times: “Hiring social workers is a new step for transit agencies, where officials have traditionally dismissed homelessness as a societal problem that should be addressed through nonprofit organizations or other government programs, said Dan Boyle, a San Diego consultant who surveyed U.S. transit agencies on their approach to homelessness.”