It’s an election year. Jobs and the economy are the top priorities that concern Americans. The government has made huge strides to prevent massive job losses for police officers, fire fighters, first responders, and teachers. Did you notice what was missing from that sentence? If you guessed Social Workers, you got it right. The National Association of Social Workers is a great organization who advocates and lobbies for increased standards in the mental health field. However, the organization’s focus primarily serves the interest of Clinical Social Workers or Administrators. This population is only a small sample of the vast majority of Social Workers that remain underrepresented in social services and public health agencies all across America.
Many argued that social workers in public agencies are not required to be classically educated with a social work degree, and therefore should not be able to hold the Social Work title. I say, “Let us remove the challenges and barriers preventing Child Welfare and Public Health Social Workers from seeking higher education and/or create an Accelerated 2nd Degree BSW program to incentivize higher learning”. If you are already a professional and carrying a case load, why must you complete an internship (for free) on top of your case load in order to enhance your craft by obtaining a Social Work degree? I will tell you why…. because there is no one advocating to reduce or change standards that only impose a hardship on the Social Worker and on his/her family. The failure to have minimum educational standards in all social services and public health agencies result in poorly trained staff, poor work conditions, poor supervision, high turnover, lack of nationwide documentation and tracking system, but most importantly poor services to children and families.
Nationwide, these agencies have broad discretion in what minimum education and minimum service standards are implemented. The underrepresentation of Public Sector Social Workers not only affect the workers, it overwhelming affects the families we serve. Administration of child welfare policies and procedures vary widely from state to state, and within those states each county agency approaches child welfare with equally different child protection philosophies. Whether a child receives a long term foster care placement, subsidized guardianship, financial assistance for their relative caregiver, reunification and support services, and/or prevention services: the county or state a child lives in should not determine the standard of care a family receives. Children in need of protection through a child welfare agency should have the same rights and privileges across the state they live in as well as the same rights and privileges as children in other states. Minimum standards in service delivery, policies, and procedures are needed in all child welfare agencies to secure equal access to services, financial assistance, and permanency alternatives. By imposing minimum standards in these agencies, it would help to increase better educated workers, higher pay for workers, better safety standards for workers, and better services to families.
Last month, a father killed himself and his two boys by blowing up the house when the Social Worker came for a supervised home visit. The Social Worker called 911 because he let the boys in the home while locking her outside. In this instance, they did not feel it was enough to warrant a police response. This Worker could have easily been hurt or killed, but she was very fortunate to live to tell the story. Who is going to advocate for better safety standards and agency supervised visits? The reality is that particular agency may impose an additional standard, but what about the rest of the Public Social Workers nationwide? The system is broken, but we are part of the problem. We must organize and advocate for ourselves. If the mechanism to gain representation doesn’t exist, we must create one.
This was my thinking when I created www.socialworkhelper.com. I know there are a lot of like minded people out there who feel the same frustrations as I do or people who may have a better argument as to why the status quo should be maintained, but how do we find each other? The blogger sphere and Twitter are great tools, but how do I identify Social Workers in my area of practice, how can I get immediate feedback or engagement, what if I want to meet workers in other parts of the world? I created www.socialworkhelper.com because I want to connect social work, social care and human services professionals and students around the globe with all the benefits of Facebook and Twitter without the headaches. Ambitious…maybe, but I was looking for forum to affect change. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I created it.
Join us on World Social Work Day (Tuesday, 20-March-2012) at 8:00 PM GMT / 4:00 PM EDT to discuss and explore the “Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development” in a rich and lively Twitter Debate @SWSCmedia.
Deona Hooper (@deonahooper) is a new MSW graduate from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Masters in Social Work as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management.