A career as a social worker is a varied and rewarding role that requires a combination of knowledge, empathy and dedication. If you are considering retraining to follow this path, here is a look at some of the roles and environments you can work in and the positive impact you can have on people’s lives.
Working with families
Social workers play an important role in family settings, advocating for families and their needs. They provide emotional and practical support to families during challenging times. This may involve helping them access services to address issues such as poverty, addiction or mental health issues. They also provide advice and guidance on parenting skills and help families cope with difficult situations such as divorce or bereavement.
Many families need help or guidance but are afraid to ask. You will be building trust with them and encouraging them to take the help that is available. In many cases, parents have problems that make it difficult to meet their families’ emotional and material needs. One example of this is a single mother whose husband has died, and she is struggling financially on just one income. As the family social worker, you would help her meet her immediate needs with food banks and other help to keep a roof over her and her children’s heads, In the long term, you will help her find a job that provides for her family and direct her to after-school clubs and other services her children can attend while she is working.
You can be an important part of this work by retraining as a social worker through the BSW degree offered by Spring Arbor University. The coursework is 100% online, making attaining the qualification and changing careers as convenient as possible.
Working with children
Social workers have an important role to play in child welfare settings. They are responsible for identifying signs of neglect and abuse and intervening when necessary to ensure the safety of children. This may involve making referrals to relevant services or advocating for children’s rights. They also provide support to families and work with children to help them reach their potential.
In this role, social workers can be unpopular, but they have a thorough assessment process and only take children away from their families and place them into more suitable care as a last resort. Protecting the child is always one of the most important factors in a decision. This can be a temporary measure if the problem can be resolved, such as by one parent leaving the other abusive parent and setting up a home in a place where the child can safely live with them. Alternatively, some children may be unable to return home to an ongoing abusive environment. Your role as a social worker would be to support them through their education and encourage them to do well and give themselves a better future while ensuring their care placement is suitable for them and addressing any issues that arise.
Thorough checks are carried out on potential foster carers, and you will also help with this process, getting to know these carers very well before placing any children with them. This is crucial because most of the children will have come from an abusive or broken home and need a safe environment with trustworthy carers to ensure they grow up without further disruption and trauma.
Working with individuals
Social workers are responsible for providing resources and support to individuals who are struggling with various issues, such as mental health, financial difficulties, or homelessness. They work with individuals to identify their needs, make referrals to relevant services, and provide emotional support. This may involve helping individuals access services such as housing or legal aid, connecting them with support groups or providing counseling.
One example of this is working with someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This could be because of substance dependency, a lack of education, poor budgeting skills or mental health problems that make working difficult. You will deal with the problem to enable them to make positive changes and find a home or stay in their current home.
You might help someone access help for an alcohol or drug problem, help them return to education and earn a degree, assist with budgeting advice, or provide encouragement while they seek extra help for a mental illness. All of these actions can help the individual overcome their barriers and give them the best chance of living and working to provide for themselves.
Working with communities
On a wider scale, social workers play an important role in community settings, advocating for social change within communities and building relationships with community members. They help communities access services and coordinate initiatives, which can lead to positive change for individuals living there. This may involve developing programs to address issues such as poverty or addiction or advocating for the rights of vulnerable groups such as the elderly or disabled.
Working in the community is a job with a wide scope, covering outreach projects where people can get help with various issues, visiting clients in settings such as hospitals and prisons, attending meetings with or on behalf of clients, and much more.
The work you will do goes beyond helping specific individuals because as mental health services are improved, homelessness is reduced, alcohol and drug dependency are addressed and people are encouraged into work and education to tackle poverty, everyone in the community benefits.
The local area can be a better place to live and work if some of the problems caused by these issues are addressed. Businesses can thrive, increasing employment levels, taking more people out of poverty, and reducing the temptation to turn to drugs or alcohol.
Better mental health services allow people to live their best lives, and this can have a positive impact on the community, especially if they volunteer their time to gain experience or spend time around other people as part of improving their lives. These are just some of the many benefits to the local community and further afield.
The justice system
If you work in the justice system as a social worker, you will support children during court cases involving abuse. This can be particularly difficult for them because, despite being the victim, they may be worried about speaking out against their own family.
It can divide family units, so your role will be to encourage them to testify or make a statement without putting too much pressure on them.
You will help assess the risk and make detailed reports that can be used as part of any legal action. It is important to be thorough and work with other agencies as much as possible to get a clearer picture of the situation.
You may also need to work with adults who have had a tough start in life and are now at risk of committing or have committed a crime. You will help them turn their life around and access the relevant services to change the path they are currently taking. It can be equally challenging and rewarding, and it can have positive results for the wider community. Successfully helping someone to follow a different path from committing crimes makes everyone feel safer and saves money that can be better spent elsewhere.
Working in nursing homes as a social worker is another rewarding role. Some of the clients you work with will rarely get personal visits. Although you’re there in a professional capacity, you can befriend them and be someone they can talk to and discuss concerns with. Depending on their mobility, you may also help with organizing days out and specific interest groups. You might also be able to resolve issues that are preventing them from seeing friends or families.
On the administrative side of the role, you will be required to keep detailed records, attend meetings, advocate for your clients, and make regular assessments to ensure they are receiving all the care they need.
As a social worker visiting care homes, it is important that your priorities are the clients you are visiting rather than the nursing home. However, you can make suggestions if they seem to be struggling in any area of care. In extreme cases, you may need to take further action to protect the interests of your client, but this is extremely rare.
As you can see, social work is varied. There are a lot of areas to specialize in, or you can work in a more general capacity. Either option will ensure that your workload is diverse and that no two days will ever be the same.