I didn’t choose social work. Social work chose me. Rigggghht.
How many times have you all heard that one? As much as I would like to give credit to an awesome social worker, I too am a victim to the cliche. See, what had happened was. Social work just popped up. In this hey girl, hey moment of taking medical sociology courses and health promotion, I was introduced to the wonders of Social Work (inserts stars and glitter).
Like most decisions I have made in my life, I pretty much stumbled across social work. Prior to my enlightenment, I associated social workers with child welfare agencies. I could not fathom how I would be able to utilize my skills in the profession. Luckily, my medical sociology and public health courses highlighted the role of social workers in community development and patient care. Interdisciplinary courses are the real MVPs.
After educating myself on the versatility of the MSW degree, I was extremely impressed at the endless possibilities and significance social workers have in our society. Yes, social workers are employed at child welfare agencies, but they are also educators, therapists, researchers, program creators and evaluators, activists and so much more. After reading biographies, research and literary perspectives of social workers in various fields, I was ready to sign up for graduate school.
I chose to obtain my MSW degree because I wanted to go beyond the cliche of helping people. I wanted to create programs that focused on self-esteem building for young girls and women of color, provide direct service to the d/Deaf community, host meaningful and educational health forums that address the needs of rural communities and a long list of other actionable tasks that would truly help people.
Why did you choose the profession of social work?
Hey! I assume you came from this post to address the asterisk found there. Well, I will address the awkward conversation a social worker or future social worker may have (or has had) when you have to professionally burst a non-social workers bubble.
One must understand that social workers are professionals of an applied science. Did you see how I emphasized professionals? Great, you are paying attention. According to the National Association of Social Workers, social workers are…
“Graduates of schools of social work (in the U.S.A. with either bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees) who use their knowledge and skills to provide social services for clients (who may be individuals, families, groups, communities, organizations, or society in general). Social workers help people increase their capacities for problem solving and coping, and they help them obtain needed resources, facilitate interactions between individuals and between people and their environments, make organizations responsible to people, and influence social policies. Social workers may work directly with clients addressing individual, family and community issues, or they may work at a systems level on regulations and policy development, or as administrators and planners of large social service systems (Barker, 2003).”
The asterisk was placed by the area of child welfare because this is where the lines of social workers and case managers/workers become misunderstood by individuals who are not social workers. There are thousands of social workers who work in the child welfare field, but not everyone who has the title of a case manager is a social worker. This title protection is essential to the field of social work because often times the profession is under attack when incidents occur with persons who are assumed to be a social worker, but are not.
Please Note: There are always a few bad apples in every profession. NASW takes action against social workers who violate the NASW Code of Ethics and/or the law.
Seriously, despite the myths and stereotypes–even the few examples of poor social work–we all need a social worker. In fact, you probably already have one in your life. Social workers work in both public and private sectors. They specialize in areas of child welfare*, health care, policy, academia, mental health, and much more.
My undergraduate courses served as wonderful resources for understanding the role of social workers. How could we humanize the medical processes in the healthcare realm? Well, a medical social worker should be included in the conversation. How can we create a partnership with the school, parents, and the community for our children? Well my friend, you need to talk to the school social worker. How can we get more mental health services to underserved and oppressed populations? Hey, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)!
I would like to elevate the traditional scope of social work to include how social workers can be utilized in businesses, such as Pepsi, to avoid the culture awareness fails seen in our advertisements and other media outlets. Yes, social workers! Walk into your consultant role. Your knowledge is needed and valid.
How do you think a social worker can impact your life, community, or business/organization?
*The asterisk in this post will be addressed here.