In today’s society, there are many people experiencing overwhelming challenges such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, physical and mental illness, trauma, addiction and more. Luckily, there are highly-trained, caring professionals ready and willing to help these people overcome difficult obstacles and live a healthy, successful life.
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Social workers provide crucial support to children, adults and families in need. Social work is by no means an easy field to work in, but the job is extremely rewarding and full of meaning. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about social workers:
1. Social workers do more than just help people
Having a passion for helping others is important, but being a social worker requires so much more. People who are experiencing the most vulnerable time in their lives rely on social workers to help connect them with resources and find solutions to complex problems. Social workers use their skills and expertise to promote good mental health, strengthen relationships, and end generational cycles of trauma and substance use, ultimately creating healthier families and communities.
2. Social workers are in it for the outcome, not the income
Being a social worker is not going to make you financially rich, which is why many professionals are drawn to the field because they are passionate about helping others and doing meaningful work. That said, social workers deserve competitive compensation packages for the valuable contributions they make. At KVC, we continually look for ways to increase pay, benefits, training and support to attract and retain the very best social workers.
3. Social workers do NOT remove children from their homes
In the U.S., child welfare services are provided or managed by the government agency in each state. These agencies investigate reports of child abuse and neglect, and they work closely with the court system to decide whether or not to remove a child from his or her home. While social workers do provide their professional perspective on whether a child is safe in his or her home, ultimately a judge decides whether the child needs out-of-home care. Social workers then provide services to the family in order to resolve conflicts or disruptions and teach healthy skills so that children can safely return home.
4. Social workers contribute at all levels of society
Social work is a broad, diverse field where the work extends across many settings. Social workers work with individuals, families, schools, universities, nonprofit agencies, corporations, hospitals and government agencies. They are also active in national, state and local politics advocating for legislation and policies that improve the quality of life for vulnerable children and adults.
5. Social workers provide a majority of America’s mental health services
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), professional social workers are the largest group of mental health service providers. In fact, social workers are often the only mental health care providers in many rural and remote communities. There are more clinically trained social workers than psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric nurses combined.
6. The job is not a typical 8 hour work day
There is no typical day for a social worker and most of their time is spent out in the community rather than in an office. Their schedule often consists of attending court hearings, meeting with clients in their homes, supervising visits, completing training or advocating for their clients’ needs.
7. Social workers have to make hard decisions
Making decisions that impact peoples’ lives is a huge responsibility for social workers. Above all, safety is the number one driver of those decisions. Luckily, most social workers collaborate with families, fellow staff members and other stakeholders to explore all possibilities and make well-informed decisions. At KVC, social workers use a framework called Safe & Connected™ which provides a structured way to make decisions with and for the children and families served by the child welfare, juvenile justice and related systems.
8. Self-care is an important part of the job
Maintaining physical, mental and emotional health is vital for everyone, but self-care is an essential practice for social workers. The likelihood of job fatigue is very high in this field, so many organizations require social workers to schedule self-care activities that reduce stress and mitigate burnout.
9. There are men social workers
Social work is often referred to as a woman-dominated field, but there are men in social work and many are in leadership positions. More men are needed because the field of social work requires a balanced, diverse mix of people able to help a diverse population.
10. More social workers are needed
In the U.S., the demand for mental/behavioral health and substance use treatment is increasing in the midst of a well-documented national social worker shortage. Fewer social workers mean higher caseloads, burnout and turnover as well as decreased quality of services. More experienced social workers are needed and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of social workers will grow 16% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.
If social work sounds like a career for you, visit www.kvc.org/careers to view open positions in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky and West Virginia!